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Does Antipiracy = Content Protection?

Oct. 23, 2009, 12:41 p.m.
Michael Inouye, Principal Analyst

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The equality seems to make senseprotect the content, stop piracy; however reality is rarely that simple or clean.Take for instance the idea of protection.By its very nature, protection entails some form of restriction and while the extent of these limitations varies, in many cases it stands counter to the general direction that content has been moving that is towards its liberation.Does this mean protection is wrong or that content should be free?The answer, unequivocally is no.

Too often our first inclination is to try to stop or end conflict, rather than determine why it arose in the first place.Conflict is an omnipresent facet of our society; it is part of the human condition, but it isnt necessarily bad.When it arises it is often simply indicative of situations where the status quo may no longer best reflect the needs or demands of society or in this case the consumer.Neither side is implicitly wrong or at fault, but in most cases change is inevitable.Changenot an easy answer to swallow but a necessary pill nonetheless.

In a relatively short period of time content has undergone a radical paradigm shift.What was once a controlled substance to be doled out in defined pieces, content has become a veritable smorgasbord.Consumers therefore expect content to continue to move in this direction and what started with music has certainly come to video.By now all of this is old news and yet there are those who wish to put everything back into Pandoras Box unfortunately its probably too late.

The remedy?If only a panacea existed, but as often is the case there is no easy cure-all.When the shift towards the Internet/online started happening in earnest a few years back many likened the Web 2.0 movement to the Wild West a market typified by experimentation and bringing justice to the lawless.But too much of the experimentation was focused on containment rather than unique and fresh ways of looking at the distribution of content.Dont get me wrong, content protection is certainly important, but the notion that all consumers will inherently choose to steal/pirate content instead of paying for it is already outmoded.

Consumers will ultimately embrace what is easiest and best suits their needs and if they can reach this state of content contentment then they will certainly be willing to pay for the opportunity to do so legally.All you have to do is ask yourself, why is Hulu successful (when so many thought it wouldnt work) or Netflix, YouTube, and Apple (among others) for that matter?Yes we can point to the low hanging fruit and say Hulu aggregates premium content in one location, Netflix is supporting a wide array of devices, YouTube gives their users the freedom to share and view a wide breadth of content and Applewell for starters they offer a few devices that consumers seem to like.But taken in aggregate all of these pieces remain fragmented in other words were either missing some pieces or they just dont fit togetheryet.

The industry needs to come together and formulate a unified plan.Things are too disconnected and confusing for consumers to fully embrace the market as it currently stands.I can get faster download speeds but I still have capsdoes that mean I simply get to my limit faster?I can play this piece of content on this device but not that one?How do I transfer my content to my new device?What do you mean, theres an error authenticating the user?

Content protection, while vital, is not the answer to the question but rather only a piece of the puzzle.As expectations develop the need to accelerate these business models only becomes more pressing, because once consumers begin to establish their expectations it becomes increasingly difficult to change their habits.Consumers are savvier than ever and they will ultimately find a way to get the content its up to the industry if its through a virtual storefront or a back-alley network.