Last week, n°1 private European TV network, TF1, announced it was suing both the French version of YouTube and its competitor DailyMotion. Claim : €100m for
the first, €40m for the second. Before firing up its lawsuit, TF1 took the precaution of removing from its own video-sharing site all dubious video (for sure, no one is immune).

By this action, TF1 wants to protect is juicy TV series. Heroes, TF1 said, has been viewed 80,000 times on both video sharing sites, and the network estimates the loss in advertising revenue at €66,000 per episode ; the company states also that for 100 illegal viewings of the platform, it looses 20 download on its video on demand service.
Sounds widely optimistic.

In France, managing the convergence between culture and digital access is a special issue in which the repression has been elevated at the level of a national principle.

Three weeks ago, a report suggested to intensify the pressure on the internet access providers to prevent file-sharing ; the report, commissioned by President Sarkozy, was produced by Denis Olivennes, the CEO of the biggest seller of books and records on the country, called Fnac. Basically, it’s like asking Monsanto to defend organic food. Fnac — like everybody else — has not evolved significantly toward the digital era. Funnily, “Fnac” was, last october, the most searched terms on Google France, which sounds as a major failure in terms of brand awareness – especially for an url that is simply “fnac.com” (please, fire the communication director!).

No wonder why the main recommendation of the report is to increase the use of the stick.

This view failed to grasp three factors :

- The all digital food-chain abhor vacuum. Once it decided he want something – wether it is a song, a TV serie, a videoclip -, it finds a way, like nature. Tools emerge, they are diverted. Take the Bit Torrent protocol for instance. It was originally designed to facilitate the transfer or huge computer files among Linux programmers. It is now the most used tool for illegal downloading, and Hollywood is considering using it for legal offering of movies. I checked Mr Olivennes report : there is NOT a single reference to the Bit Torrent protocol.

- Interface is key. More than ever. For the exploitation of a cultural good, the question is not killing piracy but rather to maximize the amount of money that can be drawn from it. The response lies much more in Apple strategy (since 2001 : 100 million Ipod sold and 3 billion songs downloaded) that Mr. Olivennes government operated baton. The poorer is the availability and the quality of the interface, the bigger the illegal downloading will be.

- The very notion of value is a fluctuating one. And it’s not only a question of supply and demand. The value of a good varies dynamically upon the way it is made available to the public. By extension, the “free” notion, describe as an “illusion” and a “lie” by President Sarkozy as he was introducing the Olivennes Report last month, should not be such a scarecrow. It’s part of the dynamic pricing system of the intellectual property. Without this “free” evil, a large part of the internet economy would not exist today, and many software widely used would not have found their way to a marketable existence. Ignoring such fact is a blunder.

PS : One example of the significance of the interface : last week, as I was working on the Monday Note, I purchased a law book on Amazon even though it is was legally available for free on the Internet – simply because reading 300 page on a book is a much better experience than on a screen interface ; I paid €15 for a music album on iTunes – because the buying interface is great and time is money; but at the same time I illegally downloaded a TV series on the painstaking Bit Torrent stuff because it’s not available on any paid interface. The value I granted for a product fluctuated from 100% to zero simply because of the access conditions.

Further readings in intellectual property issues :

The excellent report written by Andrew Gowers, former editor of The Financial Times now at Lehman Brothers. This report ruffle many feathers on some copyright related issues.

> see the full report here
One of the greatest thinker on the evolution of the intellectual property is Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig, the inventor of the Creative Common license (the variable Copyright). The Economist profiled him last week.

> story here
A summary of the lawsuit : TF1 vs. YouTube & DailyMotion
> story in the weekly Le Point(in French)
>The Olivennes Report (in French) carried by Le Monde

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