What's Innovation and What's Piracy?
From the San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2008
Innovation is a two-way street. Wrapping yourself in the flag of "innovation" does not excuse you from respecting economic rights or legal accountability online any more than it does offline. Most public companies are beginning to agree with Serge Sasseville of Canadian communications giant Quebecor that public companies answer not only to CEOs, shareholders and creditors, but as "a good corporate citizen, (we) cannot remain insensitive to the piracy problems affecting the survival of content producers and rights holders."
Contrast Sasseville's admonition with RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser, quoted in an Associated Press story on RealDVD: "If you want to steal, we remind you what the rules are, and we discourage you from doing it, but we're not your nanny." The differences are obvious.
Innovation that allows a win-win business model to flourish ultimately benefits consumers in the long run because it attracts investment in both distribution models and also the media that consumers want. While the media business got off to a slow start online 10 years ago, consumers now have a variety of ways to enjoy video content when they want it, where they want it and how they want it - legally and safely.
One real-world example of win-win innovation is Hulu.com, a video streaming site backed by the NewsCorp and NBC Universal. Hulu is a huge success and is loved by fans who can watch full episodes of hundreds of shows like "30 Rock" and "The Simpsons." Fans can also get thousands of movies through cable and satellite video-on-demand services as well as instant rental, download or ad-supported streaming through sites such as Apple's iTunes, Amazon and Netflix - all licensed, all safe and all based on win-win innovation.
I hope that this lawsuit doesn't obscure the refreshing cooperation happening between creators and technologists, because artists are energized by opportunities that flexible and immediate distribution methods give them. Innovation can and should be a sustainable extension of artistic creativity that will bring plenty of opportunity for creators and great content for fans.
While the case is heard in court in San Francisco, I hope the court balances concerns about the misappropriation of the labor value of creators and false innovation in fashioning justice. Good policy encourages the optimistic goal of cooperative innovation that respects economic rights and labor value and facilitates sustainable win-win businesses.