Does Litigation Drive Innovation In Media Piracy?

image from 1.bp.blogspot.com The harder the cultural industries drop the hammer down, the better infringers seem to get at avoiding detection and designing more robust file-sharing clients. For instance, LimeWire remained a rather mediocre service, one many sharers left years ago, and in its killing, a better and more efficient "Pirate Edition" emerged. It makes me wonder, do our attempts to stifle media piracy drive the efforts, at least in part, to make it better?

After all, there's no real need to improve a client that works fine and millions of users partake in. Terminate that client or site and it motivates the crowd to create another one. This correlation may be casual. Obviously, no one is going to stop pursuing the takedown of these sites. Yet, it seems worth asking, does litigation drive innovation in media piracy? Or, do our efforts stifle the innovation side too?

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  1. Kyle, it may well be possible that the innovative software to fill the void created by the litigated one has been created with litigation already in mind. After all, it’s only natural that a better version of what has died does emerge and eat up its (former) market share.
    It’s strangely intriguing that the same thing does not apply when it comes to format wars. LP and CD are still around today. Yet, VHS aficionados are scarce 😉

  2. interesting! I proposed this as a panel for SXSW 2010 (last year) but we didn’t get picked! I had executives from the aviation industry who agreed to sit on the panel to explain how litigation drove their industry into deep technological innovation. From the “did you know file” – did you know that flight patterns are Intellectual Property? Maybe I should re-propose this panel for another conference?! great piece, hypebot!

  3. I don’t see how litigation couldn’t be driving innovation. It seems like it is time for the industry to realize that piracy will always exist in some form and totally focus on improving the quality of its products.
    In my experience, it is those who have more time than money (high school and college students) that engage in piracy most heavily. Many of them aren’t going to be paying music customers anyway.
    Going after the pirates is just a game of whack-a-mole. I suppose the industry would say they are trying to create a deterrent for those who might engage in piracy. But to me it seems that deterrent effect is being offset by the innovation in piracy tools that the litigation creates.
    That’s why I think the focus should be on keeping honest people honest and creating the best product possible. For the vast majority of consumers, an easy to use, inexpensive, legal solution will always be more attractive than illegal options and all the baggage they carry.

  4. I am going to say for a select few, those that want to stick it to the industry specifically or out for a technical challenge, sure. But for the most part I would hazard no it doesn`t. I could be wrong here, I am basing a good chunk of my argument on Napster`s founding, but I don`t recall any such ligation behind Shawn Fanning developing the service. He simply wanted a better way to share and find music. Straight innovation.
    And looking at private torrent sites. The first I was part of was Oink. I am not aware of any ligation that spurred its`development but again could be wrong (or maybe the prevailing ligation happy industry was part of the reason it was founded as a private network). But in my eyes it was simply music fans looking for a better way to share music again and the industry ignoring them.
    And even those sites such as waffles today show more innovation and customer service than the best legal models. Show me on Itunes where I can request music not on the site and then receive an email alerting me to its` availability?
    I can`t even think of a good bit of industry innovation that I use regularly. And I look at all the best services in my mind for finding music – for me they have been Napster, YouTube, GrooveShark and private sites such as Oink – and what is the one thing they all have in common? Industry backed lawsuits.
    The music industry needs more music fans running it, the innovation will follow.

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