AMBC Music Conference: Kevin Burmeister and the new Altnet / Kazaa - back to the stone ages of digital content? Deep packet inspection? DRM? R u Serious?
Welcome to Content 0.0? I am in beautiful Sydney Australia for a keynote speech at AMBC, the Austral-Asian Music Business Conference; for a keynote on Music 2.0 and the Digital Music License tomorrow (August 21, 2009). AMBC is a great event and I am very happy to be here, but for the past 30 minutes we were subjected to one of the most bizarre, desperate and - sorry to be so frank - ...mad schemes of how to turn digital content into money on the Internet - and of all people, by one of the original Kazaa guys, Skype investor, and CEO of Altnet and Brilliant Entertainment, Kevin Bermeister. I have recorded some of his speech on my iPhone voice-memo recorder, and may make it available later, but here is, in a nutshell, what Kevin and his company, Altnet, seem to propose (and be sure to read their recent press release on the relaunch of Kazaa):
- Put a Cisco 'Copyrouter' into the network of each ISP, everywhere
- Have the Copyrouter (ouch... that word alone gives me the chills) look at all traffic that is based on or runs on certain P2P protocols, and define what's being shared via the unique hashtags that each file represents. Deep packet inspection... go!!!
- Block all traffic with hashtags that have been flagged as 'unauthorized' (i.e.... all?), and replace them with files that are DRM'ed (yes... really) and that can be downloaded only if you allow a charge to be levied by your ISP.
I won't even attempt to delineate what I think is wrong with concept because there are so many issues that they would fill this blog for the next 30 days. But the mere fact that this kind of scheme is being presented in a keynote at a leading music industry conference is, frankly, making me feel quite hopeless on the future of digital music. But maybe I am wrong... you tell me (comment box below)
Anyway, first, Kevin seems to want all our traffic to be deep-packet inspected (i.e. monitored) so that a automatic determination of it being lawful or not-lawful can be made. That, in itself, is a bizarre and utterly unfeasible concept has already been rejected by the European Commission and almost all governments around the world (except for France), because it only points in one direction, and that is towards CHINA's version of the Internet. Police-states, Censorship and severe lack of freedom of expression and speech. Are you serious, Kevin? Is this what you want so that the major labels and studios can keep or shall I see regain total control over distribution of content rather than to license it to everyone, and share in revenues (as is, strangely enough, happening with Google and the record labels in China!)? I hope not.
Second, Kevin seems to want to have the illegal files (again.... that means all files, really) be automatically replaced with copy-protected files (did you think those were retired, too...?) that must be purchased by the user, via the ISP.
In other words, let's just re-insert Total Control back into the system, and force every Internet single user to a) pay whatever the price is (without having any say on that) b) use ONLY approved devices that can play back the DRM'ed content. If that's future of digital content... count me out (along with 98% of the online population I would say). Put that Content under the rock again!
This scheme is too painful even to just contemplate; I mean it's so far out that it hurts... so, over to you guys, for comments, please.
My final thought: this reminds me a lot of the recent Onion video ('Google Opt-out Village') that makes fun of how you can regain 100% of your privacy on Google. Watch it and make the connection;). More on this, soon. Update: Read GigaOm's take.