The war between owners of intellectual property owners and digital consumers is an on-going struggle. Customers demand content that copyright holders no longer wish to provide or want to provide in secure, constraining ways. Is there a way to make everyone happy?
Intellectual Property (IP) owners want strict control over their digital content to stop illegal distribution of their property. But consumers see digital content as a “cheap” means for these companies to provide the content they desire. Some IP owners are chastised for “locking down” content that customers want; such as Nintendo’s recent attack against game “roms” sites in Arizona. Just reading the comments, it is clear that people would like legal ways to buy these “retro” games, but Nintendo simply won’t provide the means to do so.
Digital piracy is an age-old issue and the detriments and merits of it have been explored in great details elsewhere. Some justify piracy in the form of “digital preservation”; that old games, movies and TV deserve to be preserved in their original format/versions. Many studies have show that piracy translates into sales that may not have been achieved otherwise.
As with all articles of this nature that I write, I’d like to point out once again that Herman’s Head is still not available for purchase or streaming by any means; disc, digital or otherwise. We now continue with the original story.
To IP owners; piracy is theft and there is no justification for it — even if they are unwilling to give consumers the content they want in the format they want it in.
Premium providers of content such as HBO are often the biggest targets of piracy. The hit show Game of Thrones often took the title of “most pirated TV show” in history.
There are a couple of truths we need to accept before we move forward.
One, piracy is going to happen. You cannot stop it. If you can see it, read it or play it — it can be pirated; one way or another.
Two, IP owners have no intention of releasing any IP that doesn’t make them considerable profit. That means old NES games or cult TV shows that “nobody” cares about are not on the next quarter release list from Nintendo or Fox Television.
We appear to be at a stalemate.
Understanding the Audience
Digital content theft happens via three “audiences”. To understand how Right to Use (patent pending) benefits everyone, we have to understand these audiences.
The Scummy Pirate
These are the people that refuse to pay for anything. It doesn’t matter how you offer it — what format or what sort of compensation you ask for; they aren’t paying, they are stealing and that is that. We can’t help with these people. Thieves are going to steal.
The “Unknowing” Thief
These are people that steal because it is super easy, convenient and they can probably justify it somehow. These aren’t lost souls (revenue) — they can be converted. You just have to find a way to get them what they want as easy as they can pirate it. Those that use Kodi boxes and use apps that aggregate “free TV streams” fall into this audience.
The Content Connoisseur
These are people that want the content they want but in the way that they want it. These are people that don’t want to fumble between 20 digital lockers, want to run their own Plex servers, prefer storing their own MP4 or MKV files of the versions of the content they want. This audience would pay if they satisfy their needs and be righteous at the same time.
Right to Use: The New License for The Digital Age
Right to Use is dreadfully simple. As a consumer, I pay the IP owner a fee for the Right To Use their content in a manner I desire. Obviously, you can’t leave that completely open-ended — but let’s keep this simple.
Let’s say a Right To Use license for Game of Thrones Season 1 is $20. I pay HBO $20 and I have the right to watch Game of Thrones Season 1 on whatever device and in whatever manner I choose to — in whatever format I desire.
$20 doesn’t get me the DVDs or Blu rays. It doesn’t give me a digital download. It gives me a LICENSE to use the content; the responsibility on how to obtain it is on me.
Let’s think about this.
IP owners have nearly zero overhead. They don’t even have to provide bandwidth to stream the show to me. They don’t have to manufacture disks. Heck, they don’t even have to send a license via mail. They need a basic payflow system to handle payments and a means to issue a “key” for positive tracking. This method is largely how big corporations buy software for the enterprise. They buy a piece of paper that says “2000 Seats” — and that makes it legal for 2000 computers to run it.
Consumers get to be fully legally. They can legally rip their own discs and store them on their phone, tablet or streaming server for their own use (no, that isn’t already legal; at least in the United States). Sure, they can acquire them from “questionable sources”, but that’s the beauty of the Right to Use license. It doesn’t matter where or how you get it. You PAID for the RIGHT to consume the content and you’re totally legal in doing so.
For those looking to play old NES games that Nintendo simply REFUSES to provide? Right to Use license let’s you play those games legally on your emulators — be it on PC, phone or even a hacked Classic NES Mini. Nintendo exerts their protection while still giving the retro gamer consumer what they want. Plus, they make money. Everyone ends up happy.
Because let’s be honest …
Whether Right to Use exists or not, IP is going to be stolen and used without compensation. A simple, inexpensive means of letting people “be whole” with this makes a lot of sense.
How much money is spent in pursuit of chasing down old game ROM sites or groups selling bootleg copies of Herman’s Head on eBay?