A 12-step program to redeem Big Media

The ongoing war between Big Media and Internet users shows no sign of de-escalation. When I write "Big Media" I mean the likes of the Motion Picture Association of America (the MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (the RIAA)  and a number of other organizations.

Over the last few years Big Media has executed a campaign of harassment, extortion and prosecution of alleged pirates. This offensive has targeted corporate entities such as Napster, which was squeezed and sued into oblivion, and private citizens such as Jammie Thomas Rasset, who was fined $1.92 million for downloading 24 tracks (which she could have got from iTunes for just over $12).

Indeed, the extent of the RIAA's prosecution of consumers is impressive, involving actions against more than 30,000 individuals with the majority settling out of court for around $5,000 each.

The problem with what Big Media is doing is that they can't win. If the U.S. federal government is pouring billions of dollars into the "war on drugs" with little or, as some would argue, no results, what can the well-heeled members of Big Media achieve against the piracy of non-physical property?

Big Media vs. everyone will not work because the marketplace has changed and the digital world has made their way of business untenable. They are enormous, lumbering analog dinosaurs in a world of nimble, digital mammals. What they need to do is change their business models, but to do that, they must change how they think about their business and themselves.

I have a 12 step program for them:

1. They must admit that they are powerless in the digital world -- that their business models have become unmanageable (and unfeasible).

2. They have to believe that the Public, which is greater than them, will drive them to insanity if they continue as they are doing (some might argue this has already happened).

3. They must make a decision to turn their business and their profits over to the care of new business models that don't involve hostility towards and gouging of customers.

4. They must make a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves (this might be asking a lot).

5. They must admit to the Public, to themselves, and to each other the exact nature of their failings.

6. They must be entirely ready to change all of their defects of character.

7. They must humbly ask the Public to pay reasonable prices for excellent content.

8. They must make a list of all persons they have harmed and be willing to make amends to them all.

9. They must make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except where doing so would injure them or others (this will most likely not happen, but it would be nice …).

10. They must continue to take personal inventory and, where they were wrong, admit it.

11. They should seek through prayer and meditation to improve their conscious contact with the Public as they understood Them, praying only for knowledge of what the Public actually wants and the power to deliver that.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, they must try to carry this message to all other owners of decaying business models, and to practice these principles in all of their affairs.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the MPAA, the RIAA, et al, we'll have the first meeting at my house. Please leave your lawyers at home.

Gibbs steps up in Ventura, Calif. Make your commitment to backspin@gibbs.com. (Thanks to Tony for his input.)

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This story, "A 12-step program to redeem Big Media" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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