I fear to utter the word “paradigm shift” because it is overused (and often misunderstood). However, 2008 is promising to be a year of true changes in the media environment. If the markets shift, will we get the regulation of the new market right?
Why do I say that the media environment is changing? Change has been in the making for a while, all of the techno-shamans feel it in the air, casting their digital bones to try to see in which direction it will go. The download generation is coming of age (next year will be a decade after Napster, a decade!) This means that there is an entire market of people who have never and will never own a CD. This generation watches YouTube more often than they watch TV, and are more likely to have the attention span of a guppy, and therefore are notably promiscuous with their tastes. Witness the dawn of the Long Tail generation.
This was evident in the very good article in The Guardian about the stars of video bloogging. When thousands of UK teenagers show up for the recording of DiggNation, you know that there is something big going on. The new media environment is a nebulous, niche market place, where no two people have the same likes, and talking to someone from outside your area of interest is akin to talking to someone from Mars (if there were such thing as people from Mars, but I digress…)
So, the new economy is driven by IP protection, right? After all, the creative industries are all about intellectual property maximalism and its twin objectives: protection, regulation, and control (fine, not twins, more like triplets, but I digress again…) The problem for IP maximalists is that the last decade has seen the rise of the free society, or as Chris Anderson calls it, freenomics. The creative industries have to compete against free competitors, as the cost of copying digital works approaches zero. Think of the problem using the old goods vs services dichotomy. We have different systems of law to govern provision of goods or services, because they are very different in nature. Intellectual property sat uneasily between both worlds. While copyright works were sold as goods, they displayed a lot of the features of services. We even had case law which dealt precisely with the question of whether software was a good or a service.
However, digital technology has shifted that duality towards services. As we see more and more methods of providing creative works online at negligible cost, these works become services. Amazon still sells goods, but it is also providing an aggregated service through which I can download books and music (or I could, if I lived in the U.S., grumble, grumble…) When the copyright industry finally realises that we have shifted almost fully into the services economy, then we might see some real change. In the meantime, we are stuck with laughable attempts at controlling old media through outdated regulation methods, such as copyright term extension for performances, or the much-maligned ISP liability reform.
I’ll now be off to punish myself because I used the phrases “paradigm shift” and “long tail” in the same post (at least I withstood the temptation of using the word “zeitgeist”). Forgive me reader, for I have sinned.