The best part of all this is it centers around an aging but still vital heavy metal band called Iron Maiden. The story in brief is this: in the course of tracking illegal file sharing activity of the band’s music it was determined that there was much higher-than-imagined activity in Central and South America. So did they point their lawyers south of the border?
No. They started booking concert dates. Read about it here, it’s a fascinating story, it’s written for businesspeople and it’s short.
The lesson is not the triumph of heavy metal, but rather how an entrenched business model becomes turned on its head by technology, and that savvy businesspeople figure out how to adapt.
When a company elects to deepen their online operations, the risk of inappropriate use of that company’s intellectual property compounds. There are countless different ways that a company can protect its assets, most of which involve the insertion of some heavy duty software and/or hardware into the data path between the company and the outside world. Apply liberally the threat of legal action, and a company can consider itself just about as protected as possible.
In many cases this doesn’t work. To this day the music industry remains flat-footed when it comes to having an effective approach to illegally copied and distributed music files. That is because the music industry cannot afford for the music entertainment business model to change as it has. The model is one of being the gatekeeper, but owning the means of production (i.e., recording and pressing physical copies) is no longer anywhere enough to protect an organizations interests.
The real upshot here is not simply that companies should take a fresh approach to the value of their IP. IP is subject to the same business model fluctuations that affect all other company assets. Whether it’s the music industry or any other type of business, relying on an infrastructure gap between the producer and the consumer is an increasingly short-lived proposition.
Business would we well-served to continue to exploit what I would call the creative gap – the difference between what an individual who is truly unique and talented in a given pursuit can do, and what an average person can produce in the same milieu. Put another way, it’s cheaper for me to pay someone who’s artistic and clever to sell me a gift card than for me to come up with something witty and warm, and then match it to a graphic.
It’s the principal of comparative advantage put to everyday use.
For those in the know, Iron Maiden may seem to be a bit past its prime as a musical act. But these six guys are nowhere near as obsolete as the notion of the middleman in business. Organizations whose model is to exploit an infrastructure gap should probably run for the hills.