O'Reilly: Insights On Piracy, File Sharing And Publishing

The OiReilly networkis OpenP2P.com carries an article by publisher and founder Tim OiReilly himself, looking at the lessons heis learned from book publishing and applied to peer-to-peer file sharing. The article, Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution, raises a number of interesting points regarding the way P2P sharing is actually affecting business, the missed opportunities that the entertainment industry should recognize, and how the loaded term ipiracyi is not necessarily the right term to be using in this discussion.

Lowering the barriers to entry in distribution, and the continuous availability of the entire catalog rather than just the most popular works, is good for artists, since it gives them a chance to build their own reputation and visibility, working with entrepreneurs of the new medium who will be the publishers and distributors of tomorrow.

I have watched my 19 year-old daughter and her friends sample countless bands on Napster and Kazaa and, enthusiastic for their music, go out to purchase CDs. My daughter now owns more CDs than I have collected in a lifetime of less exploratory listening. Whatis more, she has introduced me to her favorite music, and I too have bought CDs as a result. And no, she isnit downloading Britney Spears, but forgotten bands from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, as well as their musical forebears in other genres. This is music that is difficult to find -- except online -- but, once found, leads to a focused search for CDs, records, and other artifacts. eBay is doing a nice business with much of this material, even if the RIAA fails to see the opportunity.

Meanwhile, there are a number of parallels to be drawn between online media and other services that weire all fairly familiar with.

A question for my readers: How many of you still get your email via peer-to-peer UUCP dialups or the old "free" Internet, and how many of you pay $19.95 a month or more to an ISP? How many of you watch "free" television over the airwaves, and how many of you pay $20-$60 a month for cable or satellite television? (Not to mention continue to rent movies on videotape and DVD, and purchasing physical copies of your favorites.)

Services like Kazaa flourish in the absence of competitive alternatives. I confidently predict that once the music industry provides a service that provides access to all the same songs, freedom from onerous copy-restriction, more accurate metadata and other added value, there will be hundreds of millions of paying subscribers. That is, unless they wait too long, in which case, Kazaa itself will start to offer (and charge for) these advantages. (Or would, in the absence of legal challenges.) Much as AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, Cnet, and many others have collectively built a multi-billion dollar media business on the "free" web, "publishers" will evolve on file sharing networks.

While the article is by no means a final answer to the problem of peer to peer sharing, itis certainly offers a number of excellent points. Anybody with an interest in these issues is strongly encouraged to read Tim OiReillyis thoughts on this in his article at OpenP2P.com.