Early 1999, “MP3” overtook “sex” as the World Wide Web’s most searched term.
File-sharing service Napster came online right on time and became the fastest-growing internet service in history up to that point. But it did not take long before the music industry incumbents closed down the loophole.
For some time now, the advances in digital technology seems to have brought online video streaming to a similar transition moment. Two not entirely unrelated phenomena caught our eye.
In 2007 already Google’s YouTube set up Content ID, a service that helps content producers generate revenues from clips that could infringe copyright by selling advertising on those clips. This week, YouTube reported that it has already forked over more than 1 billion USD to participating content producers. In other news, Google settled another billion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit with Viacom. Today’s incumbents, primarily the world’s media groups, appear to have reached a consensual modus vivendi with the video site. YouTube is increasingly being integrated in the companies’ marketing campaigns. Piracy is monetised (and tracked) rather than blocked.
Then there’s Popcorn Time. The movie torrent streaming service in some countries today counts more users than its respectable counterpart Netflix. Overwhelming demand from Apple users has driven time4popcorn.eu to make the service available for iOS too – as long as those devices have been jailbroken. The next “big mission”, Popcorn Time’s developers stated, was to come up with a way to make sure usage of the software could not be detected by the user’s internet service provider. Piracy-as-a-Service.
The media groups are not amused. The original application was hosted by Kim Dotcom's Mega file-sharing service. But that only lasted a few days, after which the installer file was taken down, presumably after Dotcom was friendly requested to do so by the movie industry. But according to Popcorn Time, "[pirated content] is part of the Internet and no one can block, regulate or suppress the Internet. This is important."
And so the streaming wars rage on.