Monday, February 2, 2009

Captain of sinking ship offers boatbuilding advice

The Boston Globe has a thinly reasoned editorial attacking the recording industry's litigation strategy, and calling for "the industry to shut down its punitive campaign entirely." The digital music strategists on the Globe editorial board seem to think the industry's troubles would never have occurred if only they had bought -- rather than sued -- Napster:
The industry missed an opportunity to turn informal file-sharing into a profit center when it failed to buy Napster, the first of the popular downloading services, when it had a chance in 2000.
No word from the Globe how "the industry" would have been able to generate revenue from this purchase, or how they would have cleared all the rights to the millions of songs available through Napster -- many of which they didn't own or control. (Shawn Fanning never bothered with such trifles.) Nor does the Globe tell us how the labels and publishers were to have navigated the major antitrust obstacles to having "the industry" collectively buy what was then the dominant means of Internet distribution. And what was "the industry" supposed to do if Napster users migrated to some cool new p2p service that had no subscription fees or advertising, or faster transfers, or just featured really bitchin' graphics on its home page? Should "the industry" have bought them too, or would a lawsuit have been OK?

Before the Globe starts dispensing its wisdom on Internet business models to the music industry, I can think of some other problems that need solving, much closer to home.

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