Tag Archives: techdirt

Two Great Examples of Free Content Boosting Bottomline

Poster for Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Image via Wikipedia

Two stories caught my attention, both of which add evidence to the idea that giving your content away for free can actually increase your overall potential for montization – or as I like to say, Cashification.

First, Mashable has some follow-up to Monty Python’s innovative approach to combatting pirated clips on YouTube – they made their own YouTube channel where they posted everything they’d ever done for free.  They also provided links to the actual DVDs and CDs for sales at Amazon and iTunes.  Can you guess what happened next?

Monty Python’s DVDs climbed to No. 2 on Amazon’s Movies & TV bestsellers list, with increased sales of 23,000 percent.

Still not convinced.  How about this from TechDirt in their story about idpendent musician Coery Smith, who both offers his music for download free on his own site and for money via iTunes:

However, as an experiment, they took down the free tracks from Corey’s website for a period of time last summer… and sales on iTunes went down. Once again, this proves how ridiculous the claim is that free songs somehow cannibalize sales.

The fact that there are so many stories like these makes it ever more difficult to accept the current business practices of the major music labels and studios.  While they spend more time and money on hunting down and prosecuting their one-time customers their current customers are running our of patience and will jump ship, too.

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UK’s Nation Sport Theatened by Justin.TV? I Think Not.

Premier League

Image via Wikipedia
(ps – I am pretty sure this is an “unlicensed” use of their logo…)

TechDirt has some thoughts on a GuardianUK article that questions whether people “illegally” streaming local broadcasts of soccer matches over services like Justin.TV is a threat to the financial well-being of the sport since it could impact the licensing fees networks currently pay for the exclusive broadcast rights.

However, as TechDirt so eloquently points out, the piracy only exists because of a big demand that the true rights-holder is failing to meet.  It isn’t that people are unwilling to watch legally sanctioned broadcasts of their favorite team but, unless they happen to live in a very small geographic area, they simply can’t under current conditions.  Thus, they seek out other ways to watch the match.  Are they doing this to hurt the sport?  Of course not!  Their willingness to go so far just to watch is direct proof of a deep love and need.

Not ones to just complain, TechDirt adds:

“Here’s a novel idea: instead of trying to crack down on the likes of Justin.tv, why not require rightsholders to offer free streams of games as parts of their deals? Then, the Premier League and its broadcast partners get to serve this demand, instead of Justin.tv or Chinese P2P services, and get to capitalize on it through advertising or other means. It might have some effect on pay services by giving fans with the least willingness to pay a free service to use, but again, I’d argue that most people would still prefer to watch their teams’ games on a bigger screen and in higher quality enough to pay for it. And the additional fans the services would reach could make new converts to paid services as well.”

From their lips…

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Emily the Strange, Wishbones and the Endless Complications of Copyright, Patents and Property

Two very interesting posts that explore the difficulties and challenges faced by all of us as we try to contend with the issues of copyrights, patents and intellectual property.

First, over on BoingBoing (a site that continues to devote serious time and attention to these sorts of things) has the curious case of Emily the Strange. Emily is a drawing that became something of an iconic logo on all sorts of stuff one might buy at Hot Topic if one were a disaffected suburban teen.  Well, it turns out the drawing, that the artist claimed to be original, is clearly a extremely minor adaptation of a pre-existing work.  Here are the two images so you can judge for yourself:

Picture from BoingBoing

Picture from BoingBoing

The left is the original from the 1978 children’s book “Nate the Great Goes Undercover, by Marc Simont.  The one on the right was “originally” produced in 1991 by Rob Reger.

The question is what does Marc now deserve in return for Rob’s obvious reuse of his original work without consent or compensation.

Now, one could argue that Marc had already gotten his due from the book and the art contained within.  He never thought to take the image and place it into a comletely new context, thus reigniting it’s monetary value.  That’s what Rob did.  Rob’s big mistake was not the idea of repurposing some cool art from the 70’s but that he claimed it was his own and did not both to credit or compensate the original artist.

So far, I can find no official response to this “discovery” by either party but it will be interesting to see if any legal action is taken, and if so, what the courts find.

Clearly, Marc should be compensated in some way, but how much is a far more complex question.

The second story falls under the complications of copyright infringement – something I am learning more about while reading James Boyle’s insanely great book “The Publc Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind.”

According to TechDirt (another killer site for following these kinds of issues) a man successfully sued Sears after he sent them a prototype for a plastic, reusable wishbone and then discovered Sears was selling a similar item from a different manufactured.  As TechDirt points out:

“The lawsuit was over copyright infringement claims only, and Sears made two good points that should have prevailed, in our opinion. First, you can’t copyright something occurring in nature — such as a wishbone. Second, the wishbones that Sears ordered were in different colors and sizes than the ones supplied by the original company.  And, in fact, that’s exactly how competition should work. Sears pushed another manufacturer to innovate, designing different (and, in their opinion, better) wishbones. That’s competition and that’s how innovation works.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As we move deeper and deeper into the digital age and reproduction and distribution become cheaper and easier – um, have you seen the 3D printers?! – there will be some major choices to be made to balance the free flow of ideas with the need to compensate those doing the thinking.


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Hollywood Like Old Soviet Empire

TechDirt sounds off on Hollywood’s ongoing inability to create a customer-friendly distribution system:

“And the reasons they’ve flopped are frankly pretty obvious: high prices, restrictive DRM, and no easy way to move videos to the device of your choice. I won’t re-hash those arguments, but I think it’s interesting to compare the anemic development of the digital video marketplace with the rapid development of digital audio a decade ago.”

This is more of the “canary in the coal mine” argument that I’ve mentioned.  I like the additional comparison they pull out of an excellent paper by Tim Wu, Columbia law professor:

“Wu’s basic insight is that too much centralization of control over any one part of the economy can lead to poor decision-making. In an extreme case, such as Soviet Russia, a government can try to run a whole economy by central planning. But the same principle applies on smaller scales.”

Well, we all know what happened to the USSR…

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“Pirate” Journalism

Ok, I’ll admit I might be over-using the term “pirate” on this blog to describe anything that seems to go against the mainstream methods of marketing and consumerism but, darn it, it’s fun to associate everything we’re doing to being pirates on the high seas!

TechDirt has an interesting post about the fact that the very first “news” organization to break the story of last week’s minor earthquake in the UK was Twitter-based.  He draws a number of ideas from this, including:

“…the line between professional and amateur journalism is blurring, and will continue to do so. Someone we would ordinarily consider just a blogger can break news if he happens to be at the scene of a story or he happens to be the first to notice newsworthy happenings being reported elsewhere on the Internet. “

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We Pay for Free

There is a really cool piece over on TechDirt about a series of experiments designed to look at the effect of “free”

“Ariely discusses an experiment he ran with children at Halloween. He first gave them all three Hershey kisses. Then he held up two Snickers bars — one tiny one and one large one. He offered to trade them the small one for one kiss and the large one for two kisses. Most kids quickly made the trade for the larger Snickers bar — which is a perfectly rational move.

He then changed the terms of the experiment. He offered to give kids the small Snickers bar for “free” or the large one for one Hershey kiss. Most kids now took the free small Snickers bar — even though they are worse off in that case. Having two Hersheys kisses and the big Snickers bar providers more chocolate than three kisses and the small bar — but the impact of “free” got them even more interested. Ariely ran more similar experiments (economist Tyler Cowen wrote about one recently) and found that again and again people overpay for free. ”

This is another fantastic example of the ways in which all of our long-held beliefs about marketing, sales, advertising and the economy are coming into question.  And for good reason.  It’s not that we are suddenly responding differently to the idea of “free” but that what can be made free and how that can be incorporated into new schemes is growing rapidly.

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