Opinion: There are ways to make me pay for digital content...

By Derek du Preez
31 Jan 2012 View Comments
Derek Du Preez is a reporter on Computing

...but blocking access to websites suspected of infringing copyright should not be one of them

I find it amusing that it took a 24-hour blackout of Wikipedia for governments to pay attention to the damage they are causing to the internet through legislation such as SOPA and PIPA in the US, and the Digital Economy Act in the UK.

Further reading

Years of analysts, digital campaigners, ISPs and lobbyists complaining, blogging and shouting from the rooftops wasn’t enough to raise any sort of significant awareness, but the closure of a popular website – something these bills and acts promote – caught the attention of many.

Now, I’m not supporting Wikipedia’s hiatus because I like downloading music and film illegally and wouldn’t want legislation to infringe on my criminal activity, but I am pleased that it managed to highlight to the general population that some governments don’t have a clue when it comes to the internet.

An analyst informed me last week that when the Digital Economy Act got passed in the UK, about six per cent of MPs turned up to vote, and of these only three MPs actually understood the technical ins and outs of what was being proposed. Now, does this seem appropriate considering this bill affects one of the most influential global innovations of our generation?

But I can’t claim to have all the answers – I just know they don’t lie in legislation and blocking websites. Copyright holders, or the extremely profitable organisations that claim to represent copyright holders, such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), need to stop applying pressure on governments and instead invest money in coming up with innovative ways to develop commercial models that solve this problem. 

Companies such as Spotify and Netflix prove there are commercial models out there that work in harmony with the general public’s growing appetite for using the internet to consume content. These paid-for services are flourishing because they are unrestricted, reasonably priced and flexible.

Even some copyright holders recognise that the old model of paying high prices for content isn’t the way of the future. Angst-ridden gloom mongers Radiohead, for example, in 2007 offered their In Rainbows album on the internet for whatever price people would pay for it. This caused outrage in the music industry, claiming it devalued music. However, it was later revealed the band made more money from In Rainbows than it did from its previous album, Hail to the Thief.
By looking to preserve old models, bodies such as the MPAA are encouraging the very behaviour they seek to prevent. People consume content in new ways, and new commercial models need to be developed that support this.

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