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Guy Goma, YouTube and the BBC

How copyright has to leak

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It never worked. All it really achieved was to sell software to people who over-wrote the regional control data in their DVD players, and put money into the pockets of counterfeiters who had a clear run at the secondary regions in the weeks while the copyright owners were daydreaming in their primary markets.

Instead, we are now looking at a different type of copyright. Not copyright, but firstright.

To succeed as a firstright owner requires a completely different approach to intellectual property. That approach is summarised in one word: "agility." If you can't stop the stuff leaking out into public ownership, you can at least try to make sure that it's easiest for them to get it from sources where you earn revenue.

So you actually give it away. You give your songs to radio stations, and tell them to play them - as long as they tell people they can get the thing from you. You put chapters of your book - in Ascii form - free on your web site and tell bloggers to quote you - as long as they link back to you.

The vital part of the meeja chain is speed and agility. Reach the maximum number as quickly as possible. Make sure that people know what's available as soon as it is available, and have a good price - one that makes money for you - even if it isn't the highest possible price.

So the BBC is putting its copyright material up on YouTube. Not because YouTube is paying the BBC a fortune for this material, but because it will encourage people to come back to the BBC and say: "Hey! you do some good stuff, and I want to see more of it." And, realistically, because the BBC can't really stop YouTube from putting it up, anyway.

Well, nearly right. I suppose the BBC could stop YouTube. And then a hundred bittorrents will launch and the material will leak out anyway, through sources which don't acknowledge the BBC, don't link to the BBC website, and don't have any way of paying the BBC even if they could be found and invoiced.

The pipeline of intellectual property has to leak. Stuff has to get out, so people know what's in it. If you try to seal it off so it doesn't leak, quite simply, no one will be interested. And, probably more significantly, you won't succeed anyway. ®

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