Former Scour Exec Changes His Tune

Travis Kalanick has puzzled many of his former friends and supporters by making an appearance at the MPAA press conference. Here’s his excuse.

Thank you for the introduction Jon. Certainly I have a unique perspective on the litigation. The last time I was in a room with the MPAA was in a courtroom on the other side of a $250B lawsuit. Since then I’ve certainly turned a corner as a technologist. And though I have my own opinions on litigation and its effectiveness, I’m not here to discuss lawsuits.

So, what am I here to talk about? I’m here to tell you that P2P technology is good for the content owners and the media industry. And I’m here to communicate how the industry can better fight piracy by beginning to promote and adopt the positive, non-infringing uses of the technology.

This process of assimilation of distribution technologies like P2P is familiar. From the Xerox machine, to the tape-deck, to the VCR, and even the DVD, each of these new distribution technologies has been initially seen as a threat to content creators. The advent of VCR technology was challenged and ultimately resolved by the Supreme Court. Ultimately, the film industry turned their immense creative talent toward building business models around the VCR technology, and they found an entirely new billion dollar distribution window waiting for them, bigger than all box office receipts combined. An equally lucrative opportunity exists with non-infringing business models built on P2P.

That enormous opportunity in P2P is the holy grail of digital distribution. High Quality. Low Cost. Universal Access. Instant
Gratification. Without P2P, digital distribution of film and video is not viable. With P2P, billions of dollars in network upgrades can be spared, and higher quality entertainment services are possible many years sooner.  Even in its short, controversial history it clearly has shown the kind of prodigious demand for digital distribution that represents another billion-dollar opportunity latent in waiting. Red Swoosh is a tangible example of the beginning of harnessing that demand. Across the almost 100 media customers of our technology, we are distributing millions of files of promotional studio content every month.

With all of the noise of litigation there is a very important story that unfortunately won’t make it to the headlines. That story is that the media industry is beginning to see the power of P2P. Like Shawn Fanning with Snocap, and myself with Red Swoosh, the media industry too has begun to turn the corner. They are now embracing P2P’s non-infringing applications as flashpoints for innovation in their own businesses. The MPAA’s statement to the FTC is illuminating and I quote: “it is quite possible that P2P technology could become the DVD of the future: offering great content to consumers with protections that preserve the rights of creators”. We should still be realistic. The roads between the technologists and the media may be converging, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us.

The message we are sending to the entertainment industry is bold. The tools in the fight against piracy are no longer exclusive to litigation.  In this new phase of technology adoption, it is time for the entertainment industry to actively support and utilize the non-infringing applications of P2P. By doing so they can set the course so that legitimate distribution will soon dwarf illicit distribution, in the value delivered to consumers, and the commerce generated with new business models.  Eventually, the power of the partnership between traditional entertainment and innovative technology will win out and piracy will fade into the
background. The message to the entertainment industry is that the next phase is about to begin, and the new secret weapon is to embrace the technology once feared most. In the arms race against piracy, supporting and promoting the non-infringing uses of P2P will prove one of the most effective strategies.

On the eve of the P2P FTC hearings, we believe there is also a role for regulators as well. With malicious intent of certain actors there have arisen malicious business models from some of the more infringing applications of P2P. The harm caused by the bundling of adware, spyware, malware, and their kin has resulted in billions of dollars in real damages. The abuse of users’ trust and privacy though has had a much greater negative impact on society and technological progress. Because of
the aggressive and surreptitious activities by bad actors in the marketplace, consumers no longer feel safe online and now are reticent of participating in technological progress. We cannot expect major investment in new technologies and new innovations when the mass consumer and audience fears of damage to personal property and the misuse of their personal information.

A marketplace that consumers are afraid to take part in is not a marketplace at all.  The curtailing and constraint of these more malicious online activities will go a long way in convincing the stakeholders to participate in what will ultimately be a powerful marketplace indeed.

In closing I would like to thank the MPAA for having me join them at this event. It shows that while they protect their members’ copyrights, they are also making strides in understanding and promoting the productive uses of P2P technology.