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Conversations regarding IP and DRM, by Tony Shawcross

A few weeks back at the Beyond Broadcast Conference, amongst various conversations regarding IP and DRM, I told Pat Aufderheide I'd contribute to this fledgling blog when I attended the Digital IP Summit in Denver (which ended today).

I planned to follow through on my word, but to tell the truth, there wasn't much to report on.

The first annual Digital IP Summit was held at the BEAUTIFUL new Cable Center at DU, with high-ups from HBO, Turner, Time Warner, Cox, and others in attendance, I was ready to be enlightened. The audience was likewise full of old-school industry folks, and it didn't take long for me to realize that the main focus of the attendees (and many of the panelists) was how to resist the wave.

The few academics who spoke about approaches for "riding the wave" were dismissed in large part, because most of the audience wasn’t there to learn how to "share" or how to find revenue-models that accommodated the digital revolution, they were simply looking for tech tools to make the changing world fit into their old paradigms of rights management and Intellectual Property.

The conference couldn’t have been more of a stray from the perspectives represented at the Beyond Broadcast Conference, which was full of small broadcasters largely eager to embrace the new models and behaviors becoming possible in a Net2.0 world.

AU's own Robert Kasunic was a bit of fresh air, as were CU's Phil Weiser, Maine's Christine Galbraith, and Princeton's Ed Felten, but it seems much of their words fell on deaf ears... and while it disappointed me that I didn't have more wisdom to glean from the big-industry folks, in the end, the conference was encouraging.

Its somewhat refreshing to realize that big-industry is spending millions on fighting the market tendencies. They continue to hold tight to outdated mantras, like "Content is King, Distribution is Queen". Meanwhile, they ignore what the people want, and open the door for little guys like us to step in. Some huge competitive advantages that came to mind in these discussions:

1. They don't want to share, and we do. Lowell, MNN, Cambridge and others (now including Denver) are looking for ways to expand the level of sharing between Public Access stations. Free Speech TV is making their content more accessible, and our use of Creative Commons over traditional Copyright is making it easier and easier for more people to see our content. And on the web, the more mainstream media dismisses (or attacks) YouTube, FireAnt, OurMedia, etc, the bigger becomes our opportunity to embrace them as avenues for getting the message out.

2. They care about advertisers, we care about the content: Corporate Media will only pursue distribution methods that support advertising. We actually care about the message of our content and want it to get seen, which opens up some distribution avenues to us that they will never adopt.

3. While they listen to advertisers, we can listen to the market: They listen to big advertisers who want to have a 1-stop shop for reaching the entire country, while we can listen to the people, who want more choice and more localized content, which makes things harder on the advertisers.

4. Search is King: Its no secret that Corporate Media's King and Queen are falling (Content and Distribution). With the oncoming glut of content available through the web, Search is poised to be king. I asked Cox, HBO, and others how they plan to standardize their metadata tagging systems to make their content searchable, and Vince Groff explained that its largely a "secret." They don't WANT a standard for search. They provide the tags that the Electronic Program Guides need to function in Digital Cable and Dish systems, but they are resistant to accept a standard because they have proprietary approaches that "game the system" and help make their programs float to the top, or get more attention. That approach will backfire if search tools utilize standards like MPEG7 or PBCore that us little guys are eager to adopt to make it easier to let viewers actually FIND WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE.

5. Technology Development: Those guys are all re-inventing the wheel and keeping it secret from each other. The only way they know how to cooperate in Tech Development is to merge (which they do). But they'll never adopt open-source programming, and that gives us another competitive advantage. We here at Denver are looking to join a growing number of Public Access stations who want to cooperate in developing a complete, modular, web-based public access infrastructure. From membership tracking to training, to equipment reservation and broadcast, every little broadcaster in the country who wants to join the club is free to benefit from our development, and the door is open for hundreds of Drupal geeks in their basement to "code a little piece of the revolution". Together, we're likely to mobilize a development team that rivals the size of the big-boys, though each of us only have to shoulder a small percentage of the costs.

More info on this project to come at http://www.pegspace.org