Saturday, October 22, 2011

WSJ: Steve Jobs saved the music industry!

Ed Nash as an important op-ed (subscription) in the Wall Street Journal Friday Oct. 21, “How Steve Jobs Saved the Music Industry”.  The specific innovation was the iPod and iTunes software in 2001, and the iTunes store in 2003.  Jobs made it convenient for customers to pay for content legally in small bits (99 cents a song), and easier to acquire legally than by theft. 

The article discusses how average users were unfamiliar with intellectual property law, and how the recording (and to some extent, the movie) industries were set up in a hierarchal or layered manner with middlemen.  The industry did not see the Internet coming and floundered with a variety of draconian and unsuccessful lawsuits against consumers.  

Back in 1999, Time Magazine had run a cover story about Shawn Fanning and Napster (anticipating its 2010 person-of-the-year piece on Mark Zuckerberg), and how kids could destroy the business models of whole industries without even understanding they could do so. 

Of course, the other big problem for business was low-cost competition from “amateur” content creators, a concept that downstream liability limitation (Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor) helped protect.  We’ve seen the flailing aginst this with the whole Righthaven lawsuit mess.

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