I’ve been talking more about SOPA at work. Politics doesn’t usually belong there, but every time someone mentions the election primaries the ONLY thing I can think about is that damned piece of legislation trying to subdue a technology it can’t control. It got me thinking about some past lives I’ve lead.
Back when I was becoming a competent, nerdy teenager (around 2001), rampant file sharing was afoot. I was on the bandwagon for a long time, using the usual apps like KaZaa and Napster. I’d download a J-Pop album here, a Star Wars Episode II clip there, and I was happy. I was a rebel, knowing full well the danger. Clearly, I was a silly teen with no forethought to my future if caught. Through high school I slowly grew out of that phase, but college was right around the corner and I was about to have zero cash. “To Torrent or not to Torrent” was a question I leveled at myself quite often. One day I visited a friend at their dorm and noticed her computer had a red glow on the wall. I asked what the hell it was, and sure enough it was Netflix – a company barely anyone heard about but served up some seriously convenient entertainment. Hundreds of movies at my beck and call – with no need to wait for a file to finish downloading to watch my shows. I was hooked.
I found that Netflix (and subsequently Hulu, among others) provided me the right access which bested the pirate life I had before it.
This was a fantastic point that Nelay from The Verge made on TWiT just a few weeks ago. When print media was the primary way for content producers to get their work out to consumers, it was fairly easy to investigate illegitimate copy production: you confiscate the copying machine and you’re done. Business saved! Today, everyone has a copying machine. The keyboard command Control-D (or Command-D for you Macfolk) and all the steps in file sharing that follow. Business lost!
The challenge that poses itself to content producers today is not copy-protection, it’s access! This is why Netflix comes to mind as a prime example of this realization. When I ask myself the last time I popped in a DVD was, I can’t remember. When was the last time I bought I CD? Never; I’ve got iTunes. I consume nearly all of my entertainment online through Netflix and other streaming services, and it is good.
That’s my story for the day, children.
Also, to Mr. Newt Gingrich: STOP EMAILING ME. I DID NOT GIVE YOU MY EMAIL ADDRESS.