Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A guest post from Paul Brislen

More on copyrights, copylefts and copywrongs. Paul Brislen has been CEO of TUANZ from early 2011:
 Since then he’s battled mobile termination rates, the threat of a 10-year regulatory holiday under UFB, international mobile roaming rates and copyright legislation whilst keeping a watching brief on the UFB and RBI rollout, spectrum auctions, content debates and the ultimate aim – a faster, smarter, more connected New Zealand. A journalist by trade, past roles include head of corporate communications at Vodafone NZ as well as the editorial spot at ComputerworldNZ.
So he has an informed view of copyright and digital stuff.  Plus (spoiler alert!) he is a very good bloke. Here is his response to last week’s speech by Paula Browning, CEO of CLNZ:
Much as I agree with Paula Browning’s comments regarding the necessity for good copyright laws (I spent many years making my living via copyright and would continue to do so but 40c/word is a killer rate), the arguments of the Fair Deal coalition aren’t so much about copyright as about the business model that currently is used to support it.
TUANZ is a member of the coalition and supports its work, not because we want to see an end to New Zealand literature but because we want to see an end to the ridiculous Hollywood system that breaks the planet up into regions and charges different rates for the same publications in different places and which stops customers (the audience) from getting to the content (film, TV, music and yes, in some instances, literature) and paying for it.
To demonstrate the Hollywood model, let’s forget about literature or television or music or the movies for a moment. Let’s change the product but apply the same process.
Imagine the All Blacks were playing Australia tonight and the game was being shown live all over the planet. The Brits could watch, the Americans (as if), the South Africans, the Aussies . . . but in New Zealand the broadcaster announced, “We’ll be screening that game at a later date. Coming up, some gardening show!”
There would be violence on the streets and a swift change to the law. Why? Because the idea of restricting access to content is nonsense.
Television content is often scheduled around a channel model that is no longer relevant to the audience. Gone are the days where we all sat down at six o’clock to watch the evening news on the state broadcaster.
Instead, I watch news as it happens via Twitter or various “breaking news” alerts that pop up and I, as a consumer of news content, love it. Other people are quite happy to watch the packaged news, but prefer a different time, a different provider or a different news feed altogether.
The idea that we need someone else to decide what we can watch and when is fast becoming hilarious in its naivety, yet the TV producers seem hell-bent on insisting on it.
The music industry underwent the same head-in-the-sand movement a few years ago when Napster emerged. Now that Napster is dead, the industry has realised it can’t continue in the old world order and so we have iTunes, Spotify and countless other outlets for music. You don’t even need to pay any more – you can subscribe (sounds like radio to me) or listen to ads as well in order to cover the costs.
Television is slowly waking up to this but all too often it still can’t figure out that customers don’t want to buy 58 channels of rubbish in order to secure access to the one show (typically Game of Thrones) that they do want to watch.
Customers want to watch the shows they pick. They want to watch them on TV but also on iPads and Galaxy Tabs. They want to watch them at midnight or lunchtime. They want to watch them one by one or back to back.
It’s this change of control that customers are after, not the destruction of creative content. Far from it.
Kevin Spacey said it much better than I can – give control of the timing and location of your content to your customers. You can read all about it here he’s entirely right.
I buy books. I buy a lot of books. I buy almost all my books via my Kindle these days for two main reasons: price and speed.
I recently bought a book by an author I’ve been following on Twitter for some time. We chatted, he and I, about his upcoming book and when Amazon said I could buy it I cheerfully plunked down my cash.
Not so fast, said Amazon. You can’t have that book until July – six months away.
I was gobsmacked, and so was the author – it’s an eBook, so why do I have to wait? Why does he have to wait for my payment?
We both had to wait because someone in marketing had decided that even though the promotional work to get readers to buy the book was taking place in January, readers in New Zealand couldn’t buy the book until July – for no reason at all.
It’s that attitude we want to change. We have money and we’re happy to spend it, but we won’t buy stuff we don’t want and we won’t wait.
The internet is, in effect, a giant copying machine. The words I write in this box on don’t get “sent” to you, they are “copied” to you. Actually, they’re copied to my ISP which writes a copy on’s servers which displays them to your ISP which takes a copy when you click on the link and finally a copy ends up on your computer where you’re reading it now.
That’s not going to change any time soon. Wishing the genie back into the bottle isn’t going to work. To keep publishing alive you have to embrace this movement and realise that it has the potential to be your biggest success instead of a tremendous threat.
We’re not fighting against copyright, we’re fighting against ridiculous business practices that stop authors and artists from connecting with the audience. We’re fighting to remove artificial barriers that are designed to push costs onto producers of content while denying the audience access to that content.
I’d recommend taking a leaf from the big computer-game company which had trouble with massive amounts of piracy in Russia. Every game the company produced was a huge best-seller everywhere in the world except Russia, where it was pirated out of existence. They couldn’t sell a copy, so great was the piracy.
Instead of spending millions on an ad campaign, instead of lobbying the government for harsher penalties and tougher sentencing of “criminals”, instead of all the usual responses to a copyright problem, they had a look at their publishing schedules. Someone, somewhere deep in the bowels of the company had long ago decided that the US market must get the product first, and then Europe, then Canada and South America, then the Oceania countries, then Southeast Asia, then the Indian subcontinent and then (finally) Russia, many months later.
Probably they had a good reason for doing this when you had to ship container loads of DVDs around the planet, but today everyone downloads games.
So they moved the publishing schedule up – Russians could buy the game on the same day as the Americans.
The result was that they did. Russians bought the game. Russia is now one of the biggest game markets in the world, and piracy is a thing of the past, not because everyone was scared or because the internet was broken to make sure they couldn’t pirate, but because the business model changed to suit the medium.
My fear with all this talk of copyright is that we are raising a generation of children who don’t value it. They don’t see that someone has worked very hard to produce the thing they love and that if they don’t get paid for it, they’ll go back to flipping burgers or some other demeaning job they don’t want (possibly in marketing).
That would be awful because, as I said, we value copyright. We’re living in a golden age of television with great content available on a daily basis. I read more comics than I have in years, buy more music than I have since I was a teenager because it’s easy to buy and yes, I read more books than ever before.
We shouldn’t throw all that away because the business model needs fixing. Copyright is too important for that.
The portrait of Paul above was supplied by him and is from the Listener, probably taken by David White. I have no idea who owns the copyright. It’s digital, so it’s free. Yes? No? Is me using it OK? If so, why? If not, why not? Discuss. 


Paula Browning said...

Here here! Well said Paul. You've raised something that I hadn't covered - the youth of today....we need to teach them about the value of content and how copyright relates to them being able to access quality content in future. Maybe we should start by teaching their teachers....

We hear a lot (way too much since a certain person took up residence in Coatesville) about Hollywood's business model and how it's broken. But we can't let this taint what we want and need in New Zealand to ensure that our creative community can be a strong contributor to our economy.

That's all I want - let our copyright discussion be about what's right for New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Unknown said...

Hi Paula, we can't teach them if we criminalise them for watching TV... what we need to do is provide an easy to use paid alternative and piracy will dry up.

Sure, we'll always have those outliers who will always steal content no matter what - that's a very small percentage. We need to offer a service to the vast majority who will happily pay for it.

When my mother in law knows how to use Pirate Bay and finds it easier than her Sky remote, the model is permanently broken. The business model, not copyright itself.

Russell Brown said...

On the other hand, "change your business model!" is quite often the lazy phrase for people who haven't bothered to familiarise themselves with the details.

I was appalled by the copyright session at last year's NetHui -- people expounding confidently on the basis of no clue whatsoever -- and resolved to run a music-and-the-internet session that was more grounded in reality this year. Which I did, and I hope it helped. Yes, the positions music people are sometime obliged to take on these issues are silly and irksome. But I need to write the rest of that for a keynote next week ...

For now: the book publishing industry needs to get out from under the wheels and look at what music is doing. There's the market of bits, and the market of objects. be in both.

Rick Shera said...

I was at a conference yesterday where the speaker noted that the Millennials are the first generation to truly think globally as a result of the way social media is embedded in their lives. I suspect that is also starting to apply to many so called digital immigrants (over 65s being one of the fasted growing demographics in social media).

So, while I agree that we are out for what is best for NZ, the fact is that many socially media attuned people take as much notice of what is happening overseas as they do of the NZ scene.

My point being that respect for copyright is severely impacted by what is happening internationally no matter what genre - books, music, film, TV, games etc. Stupidity like Warner Music fighting to retain its copyright monopoly in "Happy Birthday" doesn't help in this regard. Respect for copyright suffers. Perhaps you could do something about that.

In that light though, it is great to see you taking up the cudgels Paula rather than leaving it to the likes of the US MPA in NZ as has happened in the past (although sometimes I wonder if you're channelling them in your constant references to the fact that I live in Coatesville).

But, let's get specific - what does the CLL/copyright council want in terms of copyright law changes to provide authors with the income that you say copyright protects? And, does that mean no scope for an expansion of fair dealing a la Singapore style overlay of fair use?

Asking for a friend.

Paul said...

"We have money and we’re happy to spend it, but we won’t buy stuff we don’t want and we won’t wait;" but most people of Internet do not want to spend money. Internet culture was founded on the principle of getting stuff for nothing, immediately. It is not a matter of flawed "business models" (like Russell, I reach for my revolver when I read this phrase, nor of millenials thinking globally; it is a mater of people wanting stuff for nothing. They don't give a stuff about the artists, whom they have demoted to the status of "content providers," as if writers and musicians were like vending machines. Their response to pleas from the artists is "work harder" and "change your business model." They are selfish and stupid. The theme of our times is self-absorption.

Lyndon said...

Yet somehow, unnaccountably, people still buy stuff. Even copies of files over the internet, when the marginal cost of each of these is basically zero.

Something about Paul's counterfactual non-solution might need some rethinking.

Paula Browning said...

Hi Rick,
As much as I like to think I can make a difference, I wouldn’t dare to presume that my “reach” goes as far as Warner Music! But you’re right, while Warner’s may have their reasons the average person who’s not into IP won’t get it. The book sector has its own ideas on what changes are needed to NZ law to make to ensure that authors and publishers are able to continue to make a valuable contribution to our economy and our culture – but given that we’re all passionate creatives we’re getting the legal beagles to work through the specifics with us at the moment. The bottom line, though, is that books, music, movies, TV and games make an economic contribution to New Zealand, not just a cultural one. This fact is too often missing in the copyright debate. What I’d like to see is a robust evaluation of what the business impact is of the likes of the Singapore-style changes. What difference did it make to their economy and was it a planned approach where they knew what the outcomes from making the changes were going to be before they made them, or was it a “let’s try this and see how it goes” approach, or the worst-case scenario – were they completely swayed by a loud and well-resourced group to make changes that mainly benefited those in the group? In NZ we already have a lot of “fair use”. Although we don’t use the terminology, many content users are already getting a fair go under our existing legislation.

You can tell your friend that I’m not picking on Coatesville. A Ponsonby girl just wouldn’t dare……

Monsterlemon said...

It's easy to see why Paul (not Brislen; the commenter a couple of comments up) might come to the view he has. And there may well be some users who are as he describes.

However, on the whole, that view is misinformed at best; it might also be lazy and stupid. The Russian example in the article is just one demonstration of that. The success of Steam is another. The fact that those who pirate most also apparently tend to buy most (sorry, can't remember the reference) also tends to suggest that he's got the wrong end of the stick.

The most egregious stupid is not on the part of the would-be consumers.

Brenda Wallace said...

it's so utterly frustrating to live in NZ and be denied access to your peer's work. To be a creator who must "consume" only in the past, only seeing fellow creator's work that is 6+ months old.

Modern communications means people are talking about what was released to the majority of the english speaking world this week, and my immigrant colleagues who stil have their foreign creditcard and account can access it all, while I in NZ cannot access it due to... what? "business models"?

It would serve creators like myself and my colleagues in NZ far better working to bring down these artificial geoblocks, allowing us to truly compete and truly participate in the modern world.

If you're fighting the copying machine with "you ought to be more patient", you're gonna lose.

Paul said...

Lazy, stupid, counterfactual? infamy, infamy, the've all go it in for me.

We do not have to look far for proof of my position. Never far from us is the vast, complacent, mass of Kim Dotcom, a criminal in a number of fields before he came across the money-making wheeze of storing and trading other people's stuff.