content‘Content’ seems to be the buzzword of 2015 so far—first, there was the content ‘glut’ story I posted on January 3 and then yesterday, the issue of international users who avail themselves of VPNs to watch the American version of Netflix. Also yesterday, our friends at GigaOM wrote about the ‘commoditization’ of books and had this to say:

“So where does that leave authors? The same place it leaves everyone else in media: namely, trying to adapt to a marketplace where supply is almost unlimited, but demand has remained approximately the same. That’s not Amazon’s fault. If anything, I think it’s trying to help authors and publishers adapt — although it may not look that way.”

The story is worth a read—they had other things to say on whether it’s Amazon’s fault or not, and how some authors are trying to adapt to the ‘new’ marketplace. But I have spent the last two days debating the Netflix story with some of my friends, and we have reached a  bottom-line conclusion.

Let’s assume that you are the rights-holder for a media property—movie, tv show, book, whatever. I want to begin with the premise that you have the absolute right to license that content as you please. You do. It is a legal right you have, and I am not disputing that. I personally think it is foolish of you to avail yourself of that right by, for instance, invoking a territorial restriction. I think that is you turning away money that people would willingly pay you. But you do have the ‘right’ to do that.

I also want to put forth the assumption that I, as a customer, have rights to. I am not even talking about the grey areas here, such as the VPN workarounds. If Netflix will not license a movie for viewing in Canada, I have plenty of legal options to acquire it, such as borrowing it from the library or buying it at a second-hand store. I can make these choices with the full support of the law and that is the right I have.

So my bottom-line conclusion is this: all debate aside, all arguing over the rightness or wrongness of this choice or that one, or if Netflix is evil or if Amazon is, or if they aren’t, or if I should be allowed or not allowed to do or see or partake in whatever, it’s all noise. The inescapable end-result truth is this:

If you are the rights-holder, and I am the customer, and I want to interact with your content, there are only three possible outcomes.

1) You make the content available to me (i.e. you license it to Netflix, or Amazon, or whenever) and I buy it from you, and you get money

2) You do not make the content available to me, and so I buy it, but not from you (e.g. second-hand market) and you do not get the money

3) I decide to purchase other content instead, and you do not get the money

That is my argument, therefore, against the antiquated system of territorial rights and having American vs Not-American versions of things. It’s not about encouraging the pirates (although let’s be honest, that is a factor) or whether VPNs are fair to use or not fair to use, or legal or illegal or whatever. It’s a plain and simple truth that out of the three possible outcomes of the customer’s desire to have the content, only one of those three results in you, the rights-holder, getting the money. You have to make it available, via the channels the customer can reasonably access, or you will find that they will not be your customer. That is not a threat. It is an inevitability.

Image credit: DigitalRalph under a Creative Commons license

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


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