2009-04-16

Regional licencing fuels piracy.

You would think that after years and years of ample opportunity in observing consumers help themselves to content without paying for it, the rights owners would catch on and figure out how obsessing over geography and regionally limited distribution fuels piracy.

But you'd be wrong. The rights owners do not seem to have caught on.

Releasing content at different times in different geographic regions, not offering all distribution channels everywhere, or even NOT releasing something in a region does, little but encourage consumers to find alternative ways of accessing content.

The problems seem to be rooted in archaic distribution deals and no doubt complex negotiations. If you want the TV rights in country A, you pay X. If you want streaming rights as well, you pay X+Y. If you want only streaming rights, you pay Z where Z depends on whether or not there is a TV station in the same region and if so, how much of a fuss they will make. If you want the TV rights, but you don't want the streaming right, but you don't want anyone else to have streaming rights for your region...well, you can see where this is going.

The upshot of this, as we know, is that the content the consumer wants is often not available to the user. At any price. It does not matter how much you want to pay -- you simply can't have it.

Not legally at least.

Alternative distribution channels have now become so common that ordinary people download pirated content. You really do not have to make much of an effort to get your hands on pirated movies these days. People with extremely limited skills routinely locate, download and peruse illegally distributed content.

If you look at younger people it gets even worse. The Internet has been mainstream for about 13-14 years. In that time the content industry has lost an entire generation. Any moral discomfort the rights holders would wish that young people felt when downloaded illegal copies of movies, simple is not there.

I wonder how much longer the rights owners are going to insist on striking distribution deals that eliminate vast business opportunities. I wonder when they are going to start doing business with people rather than tease them with attractive content -- and then NOT make it available; huffing and puffing when people find other ways to get at it.

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