Confession of an ex-pirate

We are not surprised that Netflix subscribers are now eating up a larger percentage of bandwidth than the blackguard Blackbeards who comprise peer-to-peer networks, are we? You know who I'm talking about: the bittorrent pirates who might spend hours trying to find a not-unbearably slow yet reliable source for movies, music videos, and even e-books.

I alienated more than a couple of friends when I vomited insane defenses for my own illegitimate uses of those networks. Always I asserted that if, for example, Peter Brook's The Mahabharata was available anywhere else in a faster and more reliable manner (and at least expense), I would happily pay for the ease of access and the comfort that comes from knowing that the creators of that marvelous work are somehow being rewarded for the effort.

"These movie studios, recording labels, publishers, and creative artists could generate BILLIONS if they would just make their work available! WE ALREADY HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY!" I screamed back in the naughts. I figured each movie studio and record company would digitize its bodies of work and also sharpen the edge of innovation regarding content delivery.  I assumed they "got it" but now I understand that not only didn't they get it, they still don't get it (no matter how many times Radiohead, Grateful Dead, and Nine Inch Nails fans might ridicule them).

What I didn't understand is that the big boys couldn't accept the feral feel of a one-to-one relationship among a billion people. They love the control that a one-to-few relationship brings. They love and find easy to understand the "big deals" where a European or a couple of North American release and distribution plans will produce a fixed amount of revenue. The wildness of out-of-control one-to-one deals simply didn't fit with the early-20th Century business models that are so obviously moribund today. It didn't matter that openness and direct relationships would invite outrageous fortune, those simply weren't the ways they had been doing business the past 70 years.

One of the best pieces of advice is, I think, this: "Sometimes, a risk doesn't need to be managed." If you'll suffer my presumptuousness, I'll offer this advice to the big houses: Your artless attempts to assign value and probability to the risks of expression-sharing technology is rooted in an unmanaged emotional excess. Quell your paranoia. The people who pirate your content are the ones who pay for it -- or would, if it was available. Open your minds and your content. Make a billion little deals instead of nine big ones. You will profit, and it will make my life easier, too.