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Monday, May 08, 2006

The Long Tail Of Infringement

With Chris Anderson's book coming out, I was thinking about how marketplaces and commerce don't by any means have a lock on the long tail. The dynamics of copyright infringement must also follow a power law curve, with massive bootleg software/music/movie operations situated somewhere near the top, but the majority of infringing acts happening out among the rank and file — probably largely unknowingly, certainly without harmful intent — on the tail.

As a rule, these long tail infringers aren't out to do something unlawful; they're out to do something (e.g. use, time and/or place shift, create), and, to the extent they're aware of potentially running afoul of copyright laws, a quick cost-benefit analysis tells them that out there on the tail they're likely to fly under the radar. To the extent they know something might be amiss, they'd prefer not to have to operate on the fringes of the law. But, they're practical — and driven by the prime directives of convenience and speed.

David Prager has some dead-on insights along these lines in TWiT Episode 51. David is the practical, business manifestation of something I've realized for a long time: that those adopting Creative Commons and other permissive licensing models are going to start sucking market share away from from locked-down media faster than an eight operator HSI with QLP pulse jet filter. David isn't about about, "let's give it away for the common good." David is about, "let's exploit this undeniable opportunity." He and his colleagues at Revision3 have the long tail of infringement squarely in their sights in precisely the way smart businesspeople should — not as potential defendants, but as potential customers.

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