As William Patry in his excellent book “Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars” states, most of what the content industry has been doing for the past decade is a campaign of spreading moral panic. They have consistently claimed that the end is nigh, and that the internet, piracy, and modern times are about to annihilate them. There is certainly no denying that times are changing. They always have.
Vaudeville is a sideshow now, hardly anybody listens to radio plays, you don’t need a band anymore to listen to music, and breaking news no longer needs to be printed as a special issue. Technology creates markets, and the next technology takes some of it away. Trying to halt this development is foolish, anti-competitive, and most often, fortunately doomed.
Yet that is exactly what the content industry has been trying again and again. From campaigns against the player piano, which was going to destroy music in America, to statements to congressional committees that the VCR would be to the movie industry what the Boston strangler was to women, every new development signaled the end if it wasn’t stopped. None of them did when they weren’t.
So it’s always good to see reports, or read about them, that make clear that life goes on for the content industry as a whole, such as the one referenced in this ars technica article. As this, and lots of other studies and statistics make clear, there is change, there is redistribution, and the pie may shrink some or grow some, but its certain that not everybody has turned to piracy, people still have a budget for content, and there is still money to be made with the right content and business model.
So the next time the content industry demands that we break the internet to prevent piracy, to shut down people’s internet connections based on mere accusations of wrongdoing, or any of the other insanity they are in the habit of asking nowadays, let’s all remember that there is no real reason for their panic. We’ll still be able to enjoy content we pay for if we ignore their cries and don’t buy into the world behind the looking glass that they want us to create.