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Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense: Who'd be a copyright lawyer? Not me...
Imagine, just a few years from now, being able to store every film and song ever released on a single device. Now imagine content companies can't come around to embracing that. Peter Cochrane isn't shedding a tear...

Having successfully killed Napster they have turned their attention to P2P, ISPs and box shifters. Yes, PCs, cameras, hi-fis, PDAs, in fact every conceivable hardware box, past, present and future is coming under the gaze of the copyright soldiers. They are on the warpath, on a mission to constrict and constrain human creativity, and marshalling political resources to take on all potential violators with their outdated laws.

Producers of PCs, DVD players and hi-fis are being pressured by the music and movie industries to build in hardware and software disablers to prevent copying. This is control freakery on steroids! Don't they get it? Don't they see that this is hopeless and futile?

I am writing this on the Ipswich to London train. Opposite me are a couple of youngsters operating laptop computers back to back. What are they doing? Swapping huge music files. This is pure, unstoppable P2P. Who needs the net?

In the same way software viruses only need four or five hops to infect every computer on the planet, the same is true of music tracks. Or ones worth listening to, at least. When these youngsters alight the train they will pass on their new gains to other friends, and inside a week the music will be around the planet. P2P is not just across a table/room - it is planet wide. Can it be stopped? Not a chance.

Will the music, movie and book publishers - and their lawyers - continue their futile crusade? Oh yes! But at every turn they will be out-maneuvered and confounded by millions intent on realising the freedom to select their individual choice of track, clip and page, and not being forced to buy unwanted material in huge quantities. No matter what hardware or software fixes they come up with, a work around will be on the market within days and their control standards will be systematically usurped.

Do I believe in copyright? No! But I do believe in paying and people receiving just reward for their work. Producers need rewarding or ultimately there will be no material to copy. What is fundamentally wrong is the current industry model. Copyright restrictions are out of touch with modern society.

The entertainment industries fought the audio and videotape, and indeed the CD, to the death but they have brought them great wealth. They are now trying to cripple and prevent direct copying but they will fail here too.

And their flawed logic is being applied to the net for the same misguided reasons - it is all about control. They argue the artists and writers are being ripped off but the bloated music and publishing industries have been ripping them off for decades. A CD complete with plastic box and cover costs less the $1 to manufacture and deliver to the shops but we all pay $20, and the artist will be lucky to get $1 in royalties.

The wrong thinking of industry is that all those P2P transactions can be translated directly into $$$ sales. Sorry but it ain't gonna happen. I am 56 years old and still have a conscience. I still pay for my books, music and videos. But once those bits are mine they get ripped, stripped and stored on multiple hard drives that I own. Bluntly, I object to buying a music CD full of crap to get at the two tracks I really want but I pay, rip the tracks and then trash the atoms. The important fact is this: young people don't give a second thought to going well beyond this.

The new consumer has the ability to inflict huge damage on any industry foolish enough to launch devious products such as content controlled CDs or regionally limited DVDs. No matter what an industry does there will be workarounds. Encrypt or disable tracks to prevent direct copying and somewhere there is a kid smart enough to screw the system and find a solution.

So what can be done? Industry needs to think through its business model, to recognise disruptive technology is seldom less than fatal to those who do not adapt. They will have to sell bits direct, they will have to reward artists and writers more effectively, and they will have to give customers what they want. Music tracks at $1 a time on the net will sell but not at $20 on a CD! The clock is ticking.

Finally, for the industry and lawyers I would like to post a warning. It really is going to get much worse. Within a decade computers will have clock speeds 1,000 times faster than today and holographic DVDs (for want of a better name) will have a storage capacity far in excess of 1,000,000GB. I predict we are close to getting enough capacity to store every movie and music track ever recorded. Ouch! I wouldn t be a copyright lawyer for anything. Fellas - it might be an idea to move on. This column was typed on my laptop on the Ipswich to London train and dispatched to silicon.com via my GSM phone from Starbucks on Regent Street.