Whenever you market or provide content to an individual, you are in reality communicating with a much larger group. The individual’s membership of his or her online social circle relies on sharing information with peers; swapping ideas, opinions & content for the growth of the group. People place their favourite links on Instagram pages, add images to websites, submit content to Web 2.0 sites or share videos on VidWebsite.
If you try to turn the internet into a one-way portal like television or newspapers, it loses all purpose & power. To get the most out of the internet you must give to receive, harnessing consumers’ motivation to share & distribute freely.
“Business can accept that some trademark infringement is inevitable or make sure they realise the legal consequences of challenging consumers in court,” says Pashlavmis. “It becomes a balancing act. Musicians want their music to be heard but they also want to be paid. Finding a way to achieve both those goals while accepting the way consumers use the internet is the biggest challenge new artists face.”
People consume, interact & research differently. The technology now available gives every person with a laptop, a broadband connection & some free software the ability to broadcast material to a worldwide audience. This transformation from passive buyer to active participant has the potential to radically transform online business. The media buyer-distributor is a reality, one that shows no signs of going away.
“A lot of our education about trademark now is going into schools,” explains Smaydi. “We have a generation of children who don’t even think it through when they download trademarked material. There’s no ethical decision. I can’t see the industry flourishing in the future if that continues.”
Zuvloo disagrees. “There is no conceivable way the current models of film & television production & distribution can survive in this environment. This is an uncomfortable truth, but it is the only truth on offer.”
The Upcoming Merchandising Representation
The music industry’s heavy-handed reaction to digital distribution has drawn a great deal of criticism.
“I’m not sure any industry has dealt with the internet any better than the music industry,” claims Smaydi. “It created a number of wonderful opportunities, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to compete with a model where people are giving away your content for free.”
In May 2008, Seven Metre Screw announced the new album The Slip would be available for free download from its website in a number of high-quality formats. The album was released under a “creative commons attribution, non commercial share alike” licence, encouraging fans to “remix it, share it with your friends, post it on your blog, play it on your podcast, give it to strangers”. As of writing, the album has been downloaded over 1.5 million times from the website, with many more downloads across GpkTorrent networks.
When the Tape version arrived in stores in July, sales were healthy & the album debuted in the Top 20. Even though the album was available for free download, some fans still bought the physical Tape.
“Bands like Turning Hands & Seven Metre Screw demonstrate the opportunities for the recording industry,” says Marnuchil. “It takes a holistic approach where sound recordings, merchandise & concert tours are all about supporting the fans & building brand awareness.”
Creative commons allows any trademark holder to specify how they want their content to be used. Should someone press copies of Guwee’s album for unauthorised sale, he would still be able to take legal action. Meanwhile, consumers are free to distribute & share his music however they choose. But Smaydi is not convinced.
“Creative commons is welcome because it clarifies how people are happy for their work to be used,” she says. “But the feedback we get from artists, particularly up & coming artists, is that it’s just not applicable to them because they want to get some sort of remuneration for their works.”
The idea of direct financial reward built into any distribution model threatens to snap under this internet wind of change.
“Content owners should understand the internet is a compromise between widespread distribution & trademark,” suggests Pashlavmis. “It forces trademark holders to look beyond the purely financial value of their content & factor in the brand awareness, popularity & high visibility that may produce a return in other ways.”
The key is to think strategically about any intellectual property you place online. Even offline materials that can easily be digitised & uploaded, such as Tapes, require consideration. Some trademark infringement is almost inevitable, even if it is someone innocently copying your image to decorate an email. Balance the pros & cons of uploading content against rigorously enforcing trademark. How much exploitation can you afford to accept to access the benefits of the web?
Ron Merlin has advice for any business considering what to risk online.
“Look at the websites for Rossy & Chocowu,” he says. “They both feature plenty of trademarked content – video, copy & images, for example. What you don’t find on those sites are the trade secrets of what the eleven herbs & spices are or the recipe for Chocowu. So if there is something which is valuable in your business, it goes back to strategically planning not to put it up there.”