For the last few days, I've been engaged in some usenet debates about copyright law and intellectual property. I have issues with the RIAA. I don't like them. I also don't like the DMCA and all that, so I've made the personal choice to opt out of the whole mess (Creativecommons.org).
That's an easy enough step for me to take - after all, I can still sell swag, like dilvie t-shirts (don't all order at the same time, now!), and of course, I have a neat little tip button at dilvie.com. Good enough for me, but is it right for everybody? I don't think so.
See, it costs me about $600/year to keep my music gear fairly current. Once in a while I have to pony up $1,000 for a major upgrade. The rest of my money goes to stuff like food and rent.
This isn't the case for movie studios, or game studios, for that matter. Sure, they can still sell swag, and the movie studios have their ticket sales (for now) - but if the studio's IP rights suddenly vanished (a reality they might just face in the not-too-distant future, isn't filesharing great?) ... how could they be assured that they would even see ticket sales? Currently, they can sue theaters that run movies without paying them for it, but if people like me had their way, IP would all be public domain, for the most part.
In other words, the business model that the movie theaters have relied on for ages would vanish from beneath their feet. So now what?
How will they pay for their multi-million dollar productions?
Maybe they'd have to do something horrible - say, pay their leading players a little less than the customary $15 - $20 million dollars, but that's not the only expense they face. Is there a business model in a world without IP that could sustain hollywood-style productions?
What about videogames? In a recent comment on slashdot.org, I mentioned the idea that game studios could stage official game tours - kindof like concerts in the music industry, with an interactive twist - traveling network parties, where each player is scored, and the scores are tallied at the end of the tour to announce an official national champion. These tours could even be extended globally for companies like VU games, who have the financial backing to pull off something really big. I think it would be cool to be able to announce a world-champion half-life player.
It would also be a terrific opportunity to sell LOTS of swag. =)
A fun way to launch a game, too. I know I'd be there if something like that was planned for Doom3.
So video games might not be entirely doomed by the fall of IP... but I'm still a little puzzled about movies. How will the post-IP world operate? Copyright has a lot of enemies. We should probably start working on some viable solutions... and we'd better hurry. You'd have to pry P2P out of the cold-dead hands of 60 million Americans, and a couple hundred million other people as well.
This problem isn't going away any time soon.