A friend just sent over this post on how the newly elected Chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association, said that illegal P2P filesharing is the greatest challenge facing entertainment retailers and urged members to lobby Government for a crackdown on a problem he said “is bleeding our industry dry”.
Speaking at the association’s annual general meeting, Quirk said, “Too often the debate over illegal filesharing is portrayed as an ideological battle, but for us this is a commercial matter. Illegal filesharing is damaging our businesses, both physical and digital, on a daily basis, and the Government needs to tackle it swiftly and decisively in order to protect jobs, businesses and investment.
“First the filesharers targeted the music business and the Government did nothing. Now the filesharers have come again for TV and movies. Unless action is taken the filesharers will come for computer games, books, in fact anything which can be digitised and what will be at stake will be not just the entertainment industry but huge swathes of the UK economy. We need action now.”
I was visiting with my Dad last weekend and thought of an interesting parallel between digital music and encyclopedias.
When I was a kid, my father had a summer job going door to door selling Comptons Encyclopedias. He would carry a couple of these huge books under his arms and try and get the husband or wife to buy the complete Comptons collection for the kids. This was big business and my dad made a healthy living during the summer.
Over the years the encyclopedia book business began to dry up. To start it all off, Comptons put their entire encyclopedia library on a CD-ROM and sold it via a new company they formed, called Comptons New Media. They put the CD-ROM in a chipboard box and sold it at Comp-USA, Software Etc and other retailers for $200-$300. It became big business for a while in the early 1990’s, and Comptons New Media flourished and was eventually purchased by the Tribune Co for a lot of dough.
It didn’t take long before some hackers cracked the CD-ROM and then pirated versions of the whole enchilada began making their way into stores and online outlets. By now, of course, the multi-volume Comptons Encyclopedia Book business had gone the way of the dinosaur, and countless pavement pounding salespeople were no longer going door to door selling encyclopedias – and the entire book business basically went away. Gone in a matter of a few years. I think they still sell some to schools somewhere.
The same thing soon happened to Comptons New Media as digital competitors emerged, from Microsoft “Encarta” and others, and soon price competition and the internet gave way to this information moving online for free.
Now we have something called “Wikipedia”.
The information contained in the encyclopedias is still being researched and published and edited by now, tens of thousands of people who put it online in a living, dynamic format. By and large, no one is getting directly paid to do this work, yet no-one can dispute the fact that society in general is benefiting from Wikipedia and other community-based information resources. You might even notice that there is a lot more information being produced and updated and cross referenced than ever before. This is all without the infrastructure of the past (ie Comptons) being in-place anymore, and almost no money changing hands.
Just like Comptons, the record industry digitized all of its assets and put the entire thing out there for the public to enjoy. And just like Comptons the record industry in now suffering from price erosion, shifting formats and piracy. They can try and hang in there and bash the problem away with legislation, or they could seriously consider other methods of delivery and renumeration, or they could sell off their remaining assets and shut down. No matter what, the game they have played is over, caput. Time to face the music and change.
There are no guarantees in business that things will remain the same. Indeed, the only real constant is change and businesses that try and hold onto the past will be crushed by their own weight and failure to adapt, or in some cases, to just shut down. Nothing is forever except change. People should stop complaining about it and start working on creating a future that benefits us all.
Do I know exactly what that future is going to be? Of course not. I wish I could say with certainty but I can’t – for now. But I think it will look a lot more like wikipedia than comptons encyclopedia sets.