How to Save the Content Industry

The secret, and it’s a big secret: stop acting like belligerent, entitled, megalomaniac dinosaurs, accept the reality and the benefits of file-sharing, and be a force for good in the culture.  I dunno. Seems reasonable.

ACTA is falling apart, says Zeropaid. Oink got off. The latest strategy of co-operating with ISPs seems doomed to failure just as much as every other stupid thing they’ve tried. Their overzealous plans to make content hosts –well, anyone screen for copyrighted content are, if not impossible, just going to push people toward other options. Sure, Freenet sucks but it’s a decent idea. TOR is a hell of a thing.  nd those are just the rough drafts available if things get worse for sharers.  If there were a better motivation for the masses to adopt ubiquitous encryption, I can’t think of one. And I know how much governments around the world would like that.

Even if these blind and ignorant dinosaurs-on-steroids-on-acid did somehow get the thousands (millions?) of ISPs in every country on Earth on board, every new and harsher step just seems to alienate more people and convince them of a deeper evilness. It seems that they have a dual problem: 1) how to overcome human nature, and the wholesome desire to spread beauty, truth and joy 2) resentment for the scorched-earth/hardball strategies used trying to do so. The answer, of course, is just give up because that’s a ridiculously awful problem. The business model was broken and they never accepted it. It’s impossible — I.M.P.O.S.S.I.B.L.E. — to control things like they used to.

Here’s an idea: play nice. Don’t use your established position to crush new competitors and stifle ideas. There’s room for everybody, especially if new people are making new room. How about you encourage people to buy things by being a force for good, by respecting the customer, by putting out quality content? Why go through such elaborate steps to market crap just because you can have more control? Your modus operandi as a for-profit company is to make money, not maintain control. Accept that personal politics in the future will have a good deal to do with one’s opinions on the corporations and production methods one is supporting — thus the expression, vote with your dollars. Example: green movement, Food Inc, cc authors like Doctorow. Can you imagine what immense goodwill there is for the first big content provider to say the following:

We will never sue our fans. We still want their money and for good reason — that’s what we do. Outside of our promotions, we won’t help share content for free because that’s the fan’s job. We know that it is, on the whole, good for society. We are morally, financially, and legally against anything that tries to buttress an outdated system at the cost of our own culture. We need that culture healthy so we can continue to survive. And this will make it better.”

What to Do Now that Oink is Dead

Shit happens.

Sometimes you spend years setting up a highly successful, community-driven website based on equal trade and high standards and someone breaks in one morning and takes all your servers and arrests you and threatens your users by posting an intimidating message on your front page. Sometimes, your system is set up to rip off more of the lower-profile musicians than even a normal ripper-offer and you might even actually be doing something illegal. Oink, R.I.P.

Here’s what I did. Ripping-offing aside, I think what they had was a good thing. What a nice place. People were held to the rule that if you take, you also should give. Metaphor for life, baby. Contributions—if you don’t participate what’s the point? Well, it might be to steal music. It might also be to encourage people to go out and buy the rarer stuff they like, specifically so they can upload it and share it with, like, three other people.. which is what I did. You’re welcome, Esma Redzepova; you’re welcome, three other people.

So, while I don’t care what to use now that Oink’s dead, I think that more of the same spirit would be nice. Know what I did? I bought a t-shirt. Yeah. It’s got a little pig on it with headphones and stars exploding out from a shield bearing a Union Jack—$20 going to Mr. Oink. Know what else? If most of the cool stuff I downloaded from Oink’s Pink Palace of Musical Exclusivity mysteriously appears elsewhere, don’t be all that surprised. The greater number of us deserves to hear this stuff, too.

Good things never last forever. Oink didn’t; I don’t see it coming back. Find something else. It’ll come around. Someday, maybe everyone else’ll come around too.