blog Those of you with an interest in Australia’s digital rights dynamic will remember that back in January, search giant Google delivered a dose of good old-fashioned common sense to the federal Government over the ongoing Internet piracy issue. The company’s submission to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is available online in PDF format. It repeats the same message many of us have been trying to tell the content industry for many years:
“We believe there is significant, credible evidence emerging that online piracy is primarily an availability and pricing problem. Google takes many steps to work with copyright owners to protect the rights of copyright owners online. We would encourage the Government to promote new business models and a free marketplace for legal purchasing of content. We would be disappointed if the Government decided to go down the route of overly harsh regulation to combat piracy without considering the evidence from around the world that this would likely be costly for businesses to implement and with little effect.”
In short, Google is saying, if the film and TV industry would implement a system for video content similar to iTunes for music, Steam/Xbox Live/The PlayStation Network for games or Amazon’s Kindle Library for books, then all Australians could get on with the important task of consuming vast amounts of great content and paying for it. Sounds sensible, right? Well, not if you work for a large film or TV giant, apparently.
From the Sydney Morning Herald comes news (we recommend you click here for the full article) that Village Roadshow chief Graham Burke has taken notice of Google’s letter and is decidedly unhappy about it. The newspaper writes:
Mr Burke told Fairfax Media he was “outraged” that Google was seeking to “lecture” the Australian government when it “produced nothing” in this country and paid little tax. He said Google was “lobbying their heads off to protect their narrow business model, with arguments that are spurious”.
Well, your writer does not disagree with Burke’s argument about Google Australia’s tax situation (and, very likely, neither does the Australian Taxation Office), but the rest of what the executive is saying just doesn’t make much sense.
Sure, Google profits when people search the Internet for stuff. That’s kind of what it does. However, Google profits more when people search the Internet for legal things than when they search it for illegal, because then people can advertise legal services around those search results. Google would, in point of fact, love it if there were a bevy of content distribution companies (or even one large one) all selling Game of Thrones downloads online, because then those wanting to sell life-size Tyrion Lannister dolls could advertise their wares alongside on AdSense.
Burke’s comments, in fact, represent just another example of the fact that big entertainment in the film and TV sector still does not understand the commercial opportunity that comes from engaging with the Internet rather than trying to control it. Amazon, Valve and Apple never became giant content distributors by lobbying an Attorney-General. They just launched better business models and started scooping up profits. Now it’s time for the rest of the content industry to follow in their golden footsteps.
If you want more customers, Mr Burke, I suggest you stop yelling at Google and go and fix the problem that is your business. Make better things and distribute them better, and we will all pay you more — or at the very least, the same. Because if there is one thing the past three decades has taught us, it is that technology is marching ahead at a rapid pace. As The Innovator’s Dilemma taught us, you can either get ahead of that curve or fall behind. And only one way leads to future survival.