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Google Businesses Music The Almighty Buck Technology

Why Google Should Buy the Music Industry 472

Posted by Soulskill
from the alright-larry-here's-a-project-for-you dept.
Glyn Moody writes "According to one story about Google's attempts to launch its own music service, 'the search giant is "disgusted" with the labels, so much so that they are seriously considering following Amazon's lead and launching their music cloud service without label licenses.' So here's a simple solution: Google should just buy the major record labels — all of them. It could afford them — people tend to forget that the music industry is actually relatively small in economic terms, but wields a disproportionate influence with policy makers. Buying them would solve that problem too."
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Why Google Should Buy the Music Industry

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  • Don't be evil (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What part of "Don't be evil" do you not understand?

    • Re:Don't be evil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:47PM (#35834642)

      What part of "Don't be evil" do you not understand?

      If Google would buy one or more of the music labels they would simply refine their definition of 'evil'. Many companies to it every day (and the Google may have already done it once or twice itself).

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Or they'll turn it into a fair business that doesn't attack it's customers?

        no no, clearly they must be evil.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Or they'll turn it into a fair business that doesn't attack it's customers?

          no no, clearly they must be evil.

          That can't happen. The valuation of the music labels is too high for there to be any profit in buying them, then changing their business model so that they make less money. Remember, Google is a for profit company with shareholders. They can't purchase something expensive, hemorrhage cash on it, and expect the shareholders to accept that. It seems that the legacy business model of the labels just isn't viable with cost of reproduction and cost of distribution (even cost of storage) approaching zero. So, sto

          • Re:Don't be evil (Score:5, Insightful)

            by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Friday April 15, 2011 @08:45PM (#35835830)
            Who is talking about hemorrhaging money? Pretty much all of the evidence shows that if the record industry adapted with the times their profit margins would increase.
            • by nabsltd (1313397)

              Pretty much all of the evidence shows that if the record industry adapted with the times their profit margins would increase.

              The same holds true for the movie industry.

              The music companies basically handed over a huge chunk of potential profit to Apple instead of opening their own online store. In the same way, the movie studios let every other company make a lot of money renting movies (with Netflix being analogous to Apple for music) instead of taking the profit for themselves.

              The reason both industries did this is that when they previously tried to do similar things, they made it so useless to consumers (*cough* "Plays for Sur

      • by timeOday (582209)

        they would simply refine their definition of 'evil'.

        ...as if a concept like "evil" could simply be defined once and for all.

        New situations arise all the time. The chances of google and any given individual (such as yourself) agreeing every time are nil, regardless of intentions.

        So, is "don't be evil" completely worthless? No, but it is going to be judged by the principals of the company, not Internet-wide consensus.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I would say buying the legacy music industry and fixing them would be expressly non-evil?

      • by h4rm0ny (722443)
        Monopolies are bad.
        • Re:Don't be evil (Score:4, Interesting)

          by king neckbeard (1801738) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:11PM (#35834952)
          True, but we already have an oligopoly (major labels) that only exists because of state-backed monopolies (copyright), and the purposes of the acquisition would be to reverse the harm that said oligopoly has caused. In this hypothetical, Google might not even be trying to make any money off of the acquisition, since basically, the music industry's pigheadedness costs them more than the value of the music industry.
        • by AndrewNeo (979708)

          Buy it, flip it, sell it!

        • Re:Don't be evil (Score:4, Interesting)

          by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:14PM (#35834984)

          They could buy one major and lead by example. It'd probably be all that's needed to drag them all into the 21th century. I'm not sure I'd trust Google not to use the opportunity to take a low blow at Apple though and that's one thing the industry doesn't need.

          • by hedwards (940851)

            I think Google should take a blow at Apple. It's not like St. Steve hasn't been behaving evil himself as of late.

          • I'm not sure I'd trust Google not to use the opportunity to take a low blow at Apple though and that's one thing the industry doesn't need.

            Which industry? Music or computing? How does one qualify a low-blow?

            Are you familiar with Apple's interactions with smaller companies such as CDBaby? Was that a low-blow?

            I'm genuinely curious as to what you mean.

            • Re:Don't be evil (Score:4, Interesting)

              by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:35PM (#35836448)

              Which industry? Music or computing? How does one qualify a low-blow?

              The music biz, and a low blow would be something like locking Apple out of catalogues through pricing or by just not allowing them on iTunes. Apple's the one who for the large part made buying music on the net legit, popular and reasonably priced through the iTunes store. If Google moved in to the music business and they started to feud, carrying the fight from the computing industry over into the music business, it would strengthen the position of the traditional music companies that Apple has succeeded to cow into making concessions. That wouldn't be good for consumers I think.

              I don't know of the CDBaby story. I googled it and it just came up with a one-sided story [sivers.org] by the CDBaby founder, 7 years after the fact. I'm not saying it didn't happen that way, there's a ton of stories like that and Jobs can certainly be a ruthless bastard, but anyway it worked out OK for them in the end it seems.

        • Re:Don't be evil (Score:4, Interesting)

          by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:34PM (#35835216)
          Yes, but they could buy one major label and have it work in a less evil manner. If that turns out to be profitable and/or attractive to the talent then the others will be forced to follow suit to compete. There would have to be some compelling reason to give the the shareholders (and the only reason most of them will find compelling is "it'll make us a pile more cash"), of course, and Google would have to be careful not to change things to far from the beaten track too quickly lest they get hauled in front of a court to prove they are not abusing their position in other markets.
        • Re:Don't be evil (Score:4, Interesting)

          by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:35PM (#35836444)

          > Monopolies are bad.

          No they aren't. Like anything else, they have the _potential_ to be used constructively or abused.

          Currently, essential services, like Government, Electric Company, or Water company all have monopolies. Replacing them with corporations each with competing standards would be worse.

    • Re:Don't be evil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geobeck (924637) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:35PM (#35835230) Homepage

      It's "Don't be evil, not don't buy evil.

  • Thats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrQuacker (1938262) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:37PM (#35834512)
    so crazy that it might just work.
    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:38PM (#35834526)

      It's a million to one shot, therefore inevitable.

    • Re:Thats (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MrHanky (141717) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:02PM (#35834860) Homepage Journal

      It's so crazy that it would inevitably lead to anti-trust bullshit and Google would be split into search and a bunch of different record labels. In other words, it wouldn't happen.

    • Re:Thats (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:24PM (#35835114)

      Why buy what is broken?

      All Google has to do is BECOME a music label, by offering better contracts, more royalties, better artists rights, world wide reach, world wide digital distribution. Add DRM free any-platform playable formats via a free on-line music locker. Allow you to download to any device having your Google credentials installed, and stop worrying about the piracy. Partner with music stores (remember them?) or Best-Buy type geek stores or Walmart, for burn-to-cd (or stick, or MicroSD) while you wait for those people wanting physical media without doing it themselves.

      Sign a few big names, and watch people jump ship from the labels. Artists are just as sick of the Labels as the rest of us.

      Few companies have Google's reach. They are about the only company that could do this, but even they would need partners for world wide direct to media outlets. At least until they put up Google Media Kiosks in every mall.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You'd consider buying a record label because you're buying a catalog of existing recordings, contracts with current artists for their future recordings, and a bunch of employees who know how to do all the marketing and distribution. (Not that you necessarily want them to do exactly what they've been doing before -- but it's a lot easier than hiring them one by one.) Even if it's partly broken, it might be faster and cheaper than starting your own publishing business from scratch.

      • Re:Thats (Score:5, Insightful)

        by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday April 15, 2011 @08:11PM (#35835600)

        Why buy what is broken?

        The libraries aren't broken, that's what Google wants. The good music is stuff that's older and established, and for Google to stream that they have to make a deal with the labels, who aggregate the key rights holders.

        All Google has to do is BECOME a music label, by offering better contracts, more royalties, better artists rights, world wide reach, world wide digital distribution.

        Big G could care less about new music, artists have to be found, promoted, and then once they finally get popular they just start their own labels and sell the music themselves. Nobody wants to get into the recording industry now, all of this wrangling is over music that the record companies hold the key distro rights to. Because of utterly destructive copyright extensions in the US, the music business is now 95% about controlling library rights and 5% developing new acts. Occasionally there are co-branding deals with retail outlets a la Paul McCartney and Starbucks [foxnews.com], but these are just for sales, not for distribution, no "big acts" worth their beans ever signs away rights, let alone to a Google.

        What does Google know about entertainment promoting? That's what production is now; it isn't just as easy as putting up a ton of music on YouTube, 90% of music promotion is telling people what to like, and Google has shown very little skill at consumer marketing or trendsetting; just because they know how to get millions of people to use free stuff doesn't mean they can figure out how to sell people coolness, hipness or identity. You suggested they market music, and "selling cool" is what marketing music is.

  • I don't know why Microsoft haven't a decade ago. Unless it would just be such an obvious target for Antitrust types...

    • Re:Honestly... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:42PM (#35834580)

      You know, I wonder about this sometimes. Despite the epic saga which is Microsoft, Bill Gates actually seems like the kind of guy who wants to make the world a bit better (for instance, see Project Tuva). If I was a man with a hundred billion dollars, I'd have no qualms spending half of that to make several very real and important problems in the world simply "go away."

      Political backpressure shouldn't be a problem no matter what you do, since with that much cash you could easily buy the government along with whatever else you want to buy.

      • One reason might be that while the movie and music industries insanity is a disadvantage for them, it's a disadvantage for everyone else as well, and essentially raises the barrier to entry for competition. They have to deal with the RIAA's garbage, but comparatively, they are harmed less than their competitors, and thus gain a competitive advantage.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170)

        You know, I wonder about this sometimes. Despite the epic saga which is Microsoft, Bill Gates actually seems like the kind of guy who wants to make the world a bit better (for instance, see Project Tuva). If I was a man with a hundred billion dollars, I'd have no qualms spending half of that to make several very real and important problems in the world simply "go away."

        Political backpressure shouldn't be a problem no matter what you do, since with that much cash you could easily buy the government along with whatever else you want to buy.

        Do keep in mind that Bill developed a conscience after departing the helm of Microsoft. Doing good works after being a ruthless business man (to accumulate a vast fortune) is a time-honored tradition, usually something to do with trying to polish a turd .. I mean legacy.

        • by dave420 (699308)
          Bill started the foundation in 1994, when he was solidly still at Microsoft in a very hands-on position, and stayed there for a rather long time.
  • Great idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nebaz (453974) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:38PM (#35834534)

    You think there are rumblings about monopolistic practices now, imagine if the owned the whole music industry. Plus why would you want to buy the music industry? That would be like buying cattle with mad-cow disease.

    • Re:Great idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gman003 (1693318) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:43PM (#35834600)
      How about if several companies split it? Google's not the only one who would like to remove the RIAA. Amazon could buy some, and Apple might like having its own artists for iTunes. Microsoft. Netflix. All the companies that make MP3 players. All of them (and the consumer) would benefit from control of music being transferred from the current owners to themselves.
      • by mrxak (727974)

        Except then instead of iTunes having music from all the labels, they'd only be able to sell the music from just their own label. Better to win market dominance in selling all the music vs. the other stores, and use that pressure to make higher profits for yourself.

        • Re:Great idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Xeno man (1614779) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:37PM (#35835260)
          Your still thinking the old way. With digital distribution you can easily have cross label agreements. Say apple owned a 1/3 and Google owned 1/3. Google can agree to allow Apple to sell any albums Google owns digitally any way they see fit in exchange for the reverse. Similar agreements can be made with the final third even if it was broken up by a dozen different companies. Basically it would be the same agreement that ISP's have with each other that allows data to use the others network in exchange for the reverse.
    • by praxis (19962)

      Are independent artists not considered part of their industry?

    • You think there are rumblings about monopolistic practices now, imagine if the owned the whole music industry.

      Yes, but they could certainly buy significant interests in publicly traded music companies... They need not buy the whole thing to influence corporate policy.

    • Re:Great idea... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by maugle (1369813) on Friday April 15, 2011 @08:06PM (#35835540)
      Don't buy all of them. Just buy one major music label... and turn it into a nonprofit organization, The effect on the rest of the labels would be devastating!
  • by Cjstone (1144829) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:39PM (#35834550) Homepage
    A very, very bad idea. Google has enough power over content as it is. I'd hate to see them gain even more. Google already controls the most popular search engine and the most popular video hosting site (at least in the US. I'm not sure about the rest of the world.) Imagine if you could only find, say, music videos as youtube "rentals," or had to use a Google TV box for streaming internet radio. Sure, a lot of those technologies are open right now, and Google's motto is "do no evil," but do you really believe that Google wouldn't be able to lock their content down in an instant if their shareholders demanded it?
    • by RoFLKOPTr (1294290) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:27PM (#35835144)

      A very, very bad idea. Google has enough power over content as it is. I'd hate to see them gain even more. Google already controls the most popular search engine and the most popular video hosting site (at least in the US. I'm not sure about the rest of the world.) Imagine if you could only find, say, music videos as youtube "rentals," or had to use a Google TV box for streaming internet radio. Sure, a lot of those technologies are open right now, and Google's motto is "do no evil," but do you really believe that Google wouldn't be able to lock their content down in an instant if their shareholders demanded it?

      I agree with the basic premise of what you're trying to say: Monopolies are generally bad. But I do not agree with all you're saying.

      Shareholders cannot simply demand things. Google's duty to its shareholders is to make money, plain and simple. Shareholders have absolutely no reason to demand anything specific of Google if Google is making money, and they would have no ground to stand on making such demands. Google's system is obviously working. They are making money by the metric fucktonne. Why would they drastically alter the way they do business by performing a complete 180-degree turn in their policies and the ideas they've so strongly based themselves upon?

      Again, monopolies are generally bad, but Google doesn't have to buy all the major labels. All they need is one. If they buy ONE of the "big four" and start offering sane licensing agreements that the world has been searching for (for both the content distributors AND the content producers), and start allowing their music to embrace this new possibility of distribution called the "Internet" (it's this fancy thing that's been around for a couple decades that none of the record labels like to acknowledge the existence of) other labels will simply have to follow suit or they will very quickly become irrelevant.

  • Music, Movie. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unity100 (970058) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:39PM (#35834554) Homepage Journal
    They should just buy those industries, and get the world rid of a plague. These industries' interest pushing is preventing all kinds of technological innovations and breakthroughs. A LOT of them affect major internet companies like google.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:40PM (#35834560) Homepage

    Microsoft, Google and Apple should buy them all, share the IP rights and then liquidate the corporations. Can you imagine the "W.... T.... F....." reaction in this country if the tech industry finally said "ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT!!!" and brought to bear its ~$1T in net worth to bear on this $50B pest?

    • by mbkennel (97636)

      And all the artists under contract sue Google.

      • by pclminion (145572)
        What's the sum value of those contracts? Pay them off.
      • The lion's share of artists never see any money from their records past the initial advance, so they wouldn't really see any harm.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        That depends on the contract now, doesn't it? And if it's like many contracts they won't really have any recourse.

        However, I don't think it would be reasonable to liquidate recent artist. Maybe just everything over 14 years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geek (5680)

      What makes you think Microsoft, Google and Apple would behave any better?

    • by SomePgmr (2021234)
      Right now I'm picturing the totally meltdown on slashdot. Not just because we'd all be overjoyed to see the music industry annihilated and rebuilt, but because we'd actually have (at least in part) Microsoft and Apple to thank for it.

      Oh it's fun to dream silly dreams.
  • by cplusplus (782679) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:41PM (#35834574) Journal
    ...would be hostile.
  • by ugen (93902) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:49PM (#35834656)

    If Google bought music labels - then there is little doubt that Amazon music service, iTunes and other direct Google competitors services would be out of licenses and out of business shortly. Isn't that obvious? What interest would Google have to provide these competing services with creative work licenses? None whatsoever.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      And why would Google take actions that would be seen as blatantly anti-competitive? Even Microsoft was more subtle than that.

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:09PM (#35834936)

      If Google bought music labels - then there is little doubt that Amazon music service, iTunes and other direct Google competitors services would be out of licenses and out of business shortly. Isn't that obvious? What interest would Google have to provide these competing services with creative work licenses? None whatsoever.

      Google sells eyeballs to advertisers. If Google were to make all major label music free as in beer, then itunes et al would no longer be competitive but not because of monopolistic advantage by Google but for the same reason no one makes money selling air.

      No one seriously complains that WebM being free hurts the market for 4C's h264 patent portfolio. Or that WebP hurts the JPEG patent holders.

      • No one seriously complains that WebM being free hurts the market for 4C's h264 patent portfolio. Or that WebP hurts the JPEG patent holders.

        That might be because I've never heard of those.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:50PM (#35834676)

    Host a completely free website for artists. They can post new songs that the artists own the copyright, sell them on the site, 100% revenue go back to the artists. Google will eat the transaction charge. Google will also invite top the chart (google's chart) artist to preform at Googles' campus, sponsor them to play at colleges.

  • Part of the music industry (OK, a rather small part now) is about producing a physical product - actual albums. Google really doesn't have experience in that; the most significant physical product they ever made was a phone and it was a bomb. If they took the music industry and then abandoned the practice of making albums in favor of making all new music download-only, they would only further disenfranchise certain types of listeners.

    And few companies are worse at recognizing the significance in custome
  • by martinux (1742570) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:54PM (#35834730)

    Hear no evil?

  • by Rivalz (1431453) on Friday April 15, 2011 @06:54PM (#35834732)

    I think that the music industry is already grossly overvalued and would not be a wise investment.
    The US Government on the other hand that would be a valuable investment if they could just find a way to buy them off in bulk.
    Lets do the math.
    1 Prez, 1 VP, Chief of Staff, Secretary of state ect, Cabinet lets round that to 65 for ease
    100 Senators
    435 House of Rep
    As of January 2009, a total of 3,200 Fed Judges
    So we have about 4,000 monkeys to buy. Per year
    Average salary is probably around 180k. So we will offer them 10x the amount per year or 1.8 Million per worker.
    For only 7.2 Billion per year I think I could effectively own the entire federal government.
    I think google can swing that.

  • Major acquisitions like that would be subject to a regulatory review, and would never survive it. The threat of buying up an entire industry is exactly why anti-trust laws were created.

    I would shed no tear for record labels if they disappeared, but it won't happen by one company buying them all up.

  • First, its called a monopoly. And already government scrutiny is strict when large record labels merge, much less when a company like a Google goes out to buy them.

    Second, labels are ultimately as good as their artists. Even if hypothetically Google were able to overcome the international regulatory scrutiny to create a music monopoly, it doesn't guarantee that future artists will necessarily sign with the Google label. The reality of course is that in a competitive market new labels will arise, which th

  • I for one welcome... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:00PM (#35834820)
    Why is the solution to every problem of the Information Age a benevolent Google dictatorship?
  • by bored (40072) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:04PM (#35834872)

    Think Sony, made nice hardware for a fair price. Then they started buying "content providers". Turns out the content providers took over and Sony has been going downhill for two decades now.

    Google or Amazon buying record labels would ruin Google/Amazon

  • I don't know why Google, Apple and MicroSoft don't create a consortium to do this, something akin to the RIAA. Maybe like the CIA-A. (Content Industry Association of America). That would alleviate any "monopoly" concerns.
  • Before you post a comment about how the antitrust authorities would never permit Google to buy all the music industry, read TFA or at least this extract:

    Of course, the anti-trust authorities around the world would definitely have something to say about this, so it might be necessary to tweak the idea a little.

    How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies - Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. - jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non

  • This actually makes a lot of sense. Consider.

    Either Google music service can make money (ad supported or whatever) or not. Either they're making a profit on the backs of the music industry, stealing the very food from Howard Stringer's grandchildren, or they're not. If not, Google should be able to own the entire industry and make money from it.

    Alternately, they could buy the music industry, dissolve the companies, and put the entire catalog on their servers. New content would then come from much smalle

  • by BuckaBooBob (635108) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:08PM (#35834928)

    Why not just approach all bands popular that have due contracts and sign them and start their own less restrictive label and bring change to the industry...

    This will cause the Music Industry to Panic and make bands sign very long term contracts with very restrictive conditions which will make bands turn away from any label associated with the RIAA..

    Once Google has success things will begin to change... and its highly likely Googles success will also been seen by artists unlike what goes on with the RIAA labels where artists see is the short end of the stick of success..

    (Is that coffee I smell... I must be dreaming)

  • by ChronoFish (948067) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:20PM (#35835050) Journal
    Buy each in series....

    For each label do the following:

    Buy label, replace management, place Google employee's on the board of directors, spin off label.

    Google doesn't have to own them all simultaneously. They just need to get rid of the industry management and replace them with people who are friendly to the customers and search engines of the world. Google could hold a major stake in each company - but keep the % low enough not to warrant a fed investigation.

    -CF
  • EMI is for sale. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:23PM (#35835082) Homepage

    EMI [guardian.co.uk] is for sale, as of three days ago. They're owned by Citicorp, the bank. A venture capital firm defaulted on their debt, and Citicorp ended up with EMI. Citicorp wants to unload that unwanted asset for cash.

    There was talk of Warner buying EMI, but Warner has financing problems of their own. Either Google or Apple could easily pick up EMI right now.

  • by rabtech (223758) on Friday April 15, 2011 @07:39PM (#35835274) Homepage

    I always wondered why companies like Microsoft and Intel gave a crap about DRM or what the movie studios/music industry wanted. They are much bigger and have a lot more cash on hand.

    It is obvious why Sony cripples all their products - because they are also a studio. But if you adopt a different model - one of selling online services or hardware, the content just becomes a value-add. Then you can enable whatever you want and tell the other studios to get on board or go to hell. On-demand, DVD, etc just needs to cover your costs.

  • by 200_success (623160) on Friday April 15, 2011 @08:01PM (#35835504)

    The music industry has already lost. They lost it in 1979 when the compact disc was released. At the time, there were no PCs, 650 MB was a huge amount of data that couldn't be stored cheaply by other means, producing a CD required a factory, and strong encryption was hardly possible to implement in a consumer-grade CD player. As soon as the CD-R was invented, it was possible for average users to make cheap lossless copies. When the Internet became popular, all modern music was already digitized; sharing it was just a trivial matter of compression and hosting. You might argue that the current legal framework lets the music industry inflate their prices, but really, it's hard to beat the convenience of being able to download almost any commercially available piece of music imaginable, DRM-free, for around $1 per track. The music industry was the first to be digitized on a large scale, even before the movie and book industries, and are in a relatively weak position as a result.

    The movie / TV industry was lucky to have the DVD come out after all those technological innovations, and learned from the music industry's misfortune. Today, the video market is so consumer-unfriendly that one could reasonably argue that piracy gives you a better product with fewer hassles. (If you pirate music, though, you're just a cheapskate.) For example, just try to purchase a movie without DRM, region coding, or unskippable segments. Try to purchase computer or video equipment without Macrovision, region coding, or HDCP. We don't even have a mainstream patent-free video codec. It's all those technological encumbrances that make the movie industry an even greater threat to the future of computing and media consumption than the audio industry ever was.

    Surprisingly, the e-book industry is even more technologically backward than the movie industry. In addition to DRM, it also suffers from marketplace fragmentation. The display technology is new, and the handful of hardware manufacturers are as eager to control the distribution mechanism as the content publishers. The stakes are higher, too. If the music and movie industries manage to strangle themselves, we mainly lose a corpus of entertainment. If books are replaced by specialized gadgets with uncopyable, unlendable, unprintable, and remotely erasable e-books, that would be a serious step backwards for humanity.

  • This is just another example of the natural human tendency to try to solve problems by throwing money at them.

    I think I'd rather see a different course tried.

One man's constant is another man's variable. -- A.J. Perlis

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