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April 24, 2008


Bruce Boyden

This doesn't seem inherently different than what happens any time a service goes under, e.g. Iridium.


Beth Simone Noveck

Yes, I think it is different...to an extent. With Iridium, you were subscribed to a service and then that service got canceled. Here, you bought the music. It's arguably as if you purchased a set of CDs and then the seller came to your house and repossessed them after purchase. The music was sold as a product not a service.

Bruce Boyden

"The music was sold as a product not a service." That's so 20th century!

In all seriousness, the conceptual model for content distribution is still up in the air, and probably won't settle on a single answer. I pointed to Iridium not just because it was a service, but also because you got a physical good with it--the Iridium phone--that then became a brick when the service went under. But obviously the service was the main selling point and the good was an adjunct. No doubt many, perhaps most, consumers think of music acquisition as good acquisition via a high-tech mail-order catalog. I think that concept is in tension with how most of the music services actually operate. To the extent the content-as-good conceptual model persists, I think it will have to include limits somehow on redistribution, which does not necessarily but probably means DRM, albeit in a form that does not need constant refreshing, e.g. DVDs. But there are other models. Music in particular could go to a wire-service type model. AP does not care if you the licensee redistributes their news in your newspaper--indeed, that's the whole reason you're paying for it. What you are paying for is time-sensitive access to constantly refreshed high-quality and a broad breadth of material. Music could go that route; television maybe, although library sales seem to increasingly be where the money is; films probably not. Then there's the service-as-library-access model. That also would seem to require some restrictions on distribution outside the library. On that model, there's nothing surprising about losing access to content when your subscription lapses or the library goes under. When you can no longer get into the library, you no longer can read its books (if you can, well, then it's not really a library we're talking about but something else, e.g. a wire service).

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