Were content owners right to open the online stable door?

17 07 2007

Barely a day after the 25th anniversary of the computer virus comes news that the BBC’s iPlayer, or at least the Microsoft-supplied DRM solution it has chosen to use (probably the most robust, widely available one out there) has been hacked. Hardly a surprise that something produced by Microsoft (or anyone else) has, but more worry for the BBC just 10 days ahead of its public launch of the iPlayer product.

The BBC has been characteristically stalwart and low-key its response: no official release on its press office site, but clearly a line against enquiry: problem, what problem? The iPlayer launch will go on.

DRM was made to be broken. Organisations like the BBC have already gone on the record about how its model is better lent to a world without restrictions, but given that it isn’t the sole owner of all rights invested in any production, this won’t fly (yet).

Many question why an organisation like the BBC, with its unique market position, isn’t being braver about a tougher stance on this right now. The answer? It wants to make available the broadest possible content… now. It’s taken years for EMI to wake-up to the fact that DRM-free content via iTunes is possibly a bigger business opportunity; the music biz is years ahead of the curve in this respect.

Content licensors are right in their assertion that both they and the talent they represent should be justly rewarded for their efforts. It’s something that Hollywood talent unions are still wrestling with, with no easy solution ahead for either side in the negotiation.

The problem remains: everyone wants to own consumers, while consumers don’t particulary want to be owned. Time to dust off the business models (cue: social networks), appreciate we live in a plurocracy, but simultaneously devise profit-driven ideas which sit comfortably. True convergence can’t happen without it.

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