No wonder they call Economics the Dismal Science. At the Internet Video Policy Symposium in Washington yesterday (co-sponsored by Content Agenda), a chorus line of academic economists postulated that content owners face a far more difficult challenge than they know in monetizing their content on the Internet, and that the odds that we can build our way out of the current debate over how to manage scarce online capacity are virtually nil.The most enthusiastically glum was Gerry Faulhaber, a professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chief economist for the FCC. According to Faulhaber, copyright is a dead letter.
“Copyright is a very big issue in the legal world today, but in the business world, when you talk to consumers about protecting copyrights, it’s a dead issue,” he said. “It’s gone. If you have a business model based on copyright, forget it.”
Provocative, I suppose, though it sounds like an overstatement, and not necessarily all that logical. The copyright regime has never depended on the opinions of non-stakeholders, merely the ability to penalize them for infringement. The technological / legal dance is far from over. I would say that the Microsoft business model, to give one example of one that is “based on copyright” at least in part, is not exactly in “forget it” mode, and will not be all that fast.
But that’s not to say it looks good for copyright as a linchpin of monopoly-type business models in the future. No, no, no.