My Solution to the File Sharing Puzzle

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Let’s face it, the physical medium of CDs/DVD/Blu-ray, even books, is dead. For decades production distribution and sale of the physical medium allowed studio giants to sleep easy at nights. In the old days a second generation copy of a VHS movie was pretty lousy and so was a knocked off copy of an audio cassette. People happily paid the premium for the genuine article and got what they paid for. However, fast forward to today, and you find two things happening.

The high street retail business of books and movies has dried up. The online sale of books and movies has generally replaced this business model due to the lower distribution cost, which can be passed on to the consumer as savings. In fact, where I live even the movie rental business has all but disappeared, and has been replaced by video on demand dished up by my local triple play service provider.

The problem now is not the grand scale availability of pirated material, but the removal of consumer choice, which is driving this market. Here’s the problem. I’m a fan of foreign indie films for example. However, my local triple play provider only keeps Hollywood blockbuster films for its video-on-demand (VOD) service, which does not interest me.

Forget the video store, it is the same situation as my service provider. Yes, I can order the film from Amazon or other online stores at a premium price and wait up to two to three weeks for delivery. However, in the meantime someone has posted a copy of the film on an online download site free of charge. And, from the description, it is an almost identical quality copy of the Blu-ray original.

This is a global problem. I believe that instead of taking the owners of illegal distribution sites to task, the studios would be in a much better position if they legitimised the downloading service. This way, they could control the content and artists would get paid. I am not talking about running the movie in some controlled format, streaming at lower resolution across the web either.

I want to have the choice to download the entire movie onto a USB memory stick and watch it on my 46″ TV. Stream it to my PC or to deliver it by VOD via my service provider. Furthermore, I should be able to choose distribution providers for whatever content interests me and have the ability to shop around as I used to when there was a music store on every corner. In this era of “right now, right here” I don’t want to wait by the letterbox for my movie or CD to turn up in the post!

So here is how I see the whole eco-system working.

Studios should produce the content, not lawsuits

File sharing sites like the Rapidshare and Megaupload should become licenced distribution partners of the studios, however, would eventually evolve more into an IMDb site but with downloads. The service providers which supply broadband connections should have a content caching agreement with the distribution partners. Nobody wants to wait for a movie to be pulled half way across the world.

The consumer, namely me, should have the choice of watching on demand movies and TV episodes with local commercials inserted into the content by my service provider for free like the way TV works except on my schedule. There should also be premium latest release content streamed by my service provider from whoever my distribution partner is, or I should be able to download it at a different cost for something I want to keep.

To me, this seems like a no brainer. I’m not wedged into content delivered by my local service provider. I have a choice as to whether I want to take the commercial free option or pay a premium or take the commercials and view for free. I have an option to pay a bit more and download a movie and store it on my terabyte USB drive and because these services are so interactive and straightforward, why would anybody want to pirate content any more? However, in order to make it work properly, the three major players – content providers, distribution partners and local ISPs, have to play nice together.

I can see the stumbling block to the solution still being the content owners, who still believe in the notion of a physical medium as the corner stone of their business. The reality today is that the physical disk medium is becoming obsolete, the industry as a whole needs to discover new methods of content distribution where the incentive to illegally file share has been removed.