Amorphous Content Licensing

A little over a year ago, during Microsoft’s first big push of portable video players, Steve Jobs was widely derided for his lack of vision on the potential for video on mobile devices. Jobs was criticized again during the launch of iPod Photo, when it became clear that the highly anticipated device could only render stills, instead of supporting video.

Of course, Jobs is no fool. There’s no point in promoting or selling what you don’t have, especially when the resurgence of your brand is tied to a device (iPod), that while clearly a leader in ease-of-use, is falling behind the competitive feature set (the two need not be mutually exclusive).

With the pending beta launch of MTV Overdrive (*), content that complements the portable video form factor and suits the (primary) target audience will arrive en masse: music videos. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone grinding away on an elliptical climber who’s been forced to endure an hour of Home Shopping Network flipped on by some bozo at the gym who thinks April is the right time to start on their Christmas shopping… While the PR for Overdrive doesn’t talk about portable playback, it’s clearly just a matter of time; the cries for a multimedia, wifi and camera enabled ‘vpod’ are already making the rounds.

But here’s the rub for me; I don’t want to have to pay for the same content again, and again, and again. The RIIA got away with this the first time by playing off of changing mediums; buying the same song on 8-track, record, tape and CD. With distribution going digital, they’ve tried (with little success) to resell us 5.1 and other “enhanced” versions of the same damn content. You can bet that they’ve got high margin hopes for downloadable video (standard, director’s cut, high-def and on and on).

Enough is enough. It’s time for Amorphous (Perpetual) Content Licensing. I want to pay for a song once and get a perpetual license to an on-going stream of “versions” of that song that will provide maximum fidelity with whatever playback device I’m using at a given moment. This fits neatly with an emerging vision (at least in my head), which marries services liked Orb (now free, thanks Elle!) with componetized I/O devices that leverage ‘nearby’ resources to create a richer experience. (If you’re not familiar with Bluetooth Device Discovery [one of many possible approaches], especially as appearantly implemented in the ‘leaked’ Windows Mobile 2005 ROMs that made rounds a few months back, you should definitely check it out.)

Of course, the RIIA isn’t likely to offer such a licensing scheme, and if so, certainly not at the individual song level (they’d rather sell you a $50/month service). The question is, have consumers wised up to the game, and if so, will they demand a licensing scheme that gets them off the versioning treadmill? I can only hope so…

(*) Yes, I know iTunes and Yahoo! Launch offer videos… but MTV is pop-culture and trend generating machine with huge reach.

UPDATE: It looks like Kottke and HackingNetflix agree. 😉

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One comment on “Amorphous Content Licensing
  1. Anonymous says:

    Eh. I don’t want to pay 60 bucks for the right to remember that I have the license for something later. I can’t even keep track of my extended warranty on my lawn mower.

    Cool idea, though, and good for you for addressing this. I actually recall the original Super 8 with clips from the movie.

    And will I buy the originals when they come out on DVD? You bet.

    I am a moron. But, dang it, it IS Star Wars we’re talking about!


    Moron Sheep Consumer/Lucas Lackey