After Hours

Peter Cochrane's Blog: The MP3 Wars, part 2

Loaded iPods create headaches - and opportunities - for record labels and Hollywood

Written and edited on BA 219 flying London to Denver and dispatched via a free hotel wi-fi service in Boulder, Colorado

Just when we might have thought the MP3 wars were over and all the problems had gone away, up pops a new point of vexation for the music, movie and broadcasting industries.

MP3 players, and iPods in particular, are now being sold and traded complete with content on auction sites and across bars and tables. And it isn't just a few individuals who are engaged in this trade, there are now companies specialising in 'nearly new' pre-loaded players.

The pre-loaded content ranges from music to movies and TV shows. It seems the whole package, player plus content, typically sells at somewhere between one and a half to two times the new price of a player. Ouch - is this legal? It seems the lawyers can't decide yet! And oh boy, is this complex.

Some traders are selling iPods with all the original CDs and DVDs used to fill the hard drive, whilst others are not. As for the off-air TV recordings, is it any different to a VHS tape or straight-to-disc copy? Would you and I be committing a crime as individuals selling our old and fully loaded players? Or is it just the companies engaged in this trade who are under scrutiny?

This really is a can of (legal) worms, and whilst the lawyers debate and the courts deliberate, this trade will grow exponentially, and will probably outflank them. Personally I think the genie is really out of the bottle and ain't going to go back in.

The content industry needs to get on the case quickly and get into the legitimate pre-loading game before it is too late! There is obviously an opportunity here for meeting the needs of many customers who want to short circuit the process of selection and loading. But more importantly for the content folks, there is a new business and business model to be established.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.