Monday, June 14, 2004

Content Ownership: Don't Write it Off. In Fact, Write it Up.

The Seattle Times opines on the fate of content ownership in an era in which downloads are changing the perception of ownership value. It's a conjectural piece, but paints the current conventional wisdom that content ownership is dwindling away. Yet many trends point to the contrary: CNET reported on Friday that a group of major music retailers have backed off plans to support a Web portal that would support music downloads, noting that the USD 11.2 billion in CD sales in 2003 still dwarfs the USD 245 million for online music downloads, which pulled even with cassette sales. Even taking a key example from the Seattle Times' own account, the ability to have permanent content archives and on-demand printing is likely to create demand for content that would otherwise be serviced intermittently at best by traditional publishing methods. Storage and ownership, however, are becoming less connected, as the ownership of rights becomes a more important factor to content consumers than exactly how we clutter up our disks and shelves. Humans are "thing"-ish creatures, though, so whether its a cache in an iPod, a hard drive at work or some petabyte-scaled storage system on the Web, people will want to have an ownership relationship with content in many instances for the foreseeable future. Being able to change our virtual ownership into new forms of physical ownership conveniently has become as important as creating collections of content itself - something that consumers figured out long ago and that publishers are just beginning to grapple with.
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