The Tenth Anniversary of the All Things D conference, which recently came to a close, was attended by its usual spectacle of key people in the technology industry – from Google to Spotify to Apple.
One speaker of particular note was Ari Emanuel, a Hollywood 'super agent' and Co-CEO of the William Morris Endevour agency. The most interesting part of his interview (with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher) was in the Q&A section in which The Verge editor, Joshua Topolsky, posed a question about content road-blocking, and who is in charge of "blocking content" on the Internet.
Shortly after, Topolsky described the transaction on The Verge:
The gist of my question was simple: does he think that in order to fight piracy, it's AT&T, Verizon, and Google's responsibility to create a roadblock to that content? Instead of answering or addressing the complication of the issue, he resorted to what amounts to an ad hominem attack.
Ari's response involved comparing the wrongness of stealing copyrighted material to viewing and trafficking child pornography. This is a convoluted response. As pointed out recently by TechDirt's Mike Masnick, there is no 'legal platform' for child pornography in the same way that there is a legal platform to obtain copyright material (i.e. purchasing music through iTunes). All forms of child pornography are illegal.
In essence, the comparison is meaningless and really only serves as a way for Ari to yell his way out of the discussion.
Ari is under the impression that somehow, somewhere, there exists a magic switch which once flipped, makes all illegal content (such as child pornography) disappear – and that this switch exists at search engines and ISPs.
What Ari seems to forget, and what maybe politicians and the film and TV industry seem to forget is the last time piracy was a flashpoint between the entertainment and tech industries, the problem was not solved by sledgehammer legislation. Or takedowns. Or yelling. It was solved by the music industry accepting that their old model was broken, and technologists figuring out a new way to do business.
Ari's legacy business model doesn't see that there needs to be a way to fit consumer habits (in terms of purchasing) and content providers. For him, the business of selling content just needs to find smarter ways of monetisation while working within an outdated framework – i.e. the Game of Thrones debacle. In other words, instead of changing the existing business model, Ari Emanuel wants to change everything around him, including and not limited to, how the Internet 'works.'
I'll concede to one point of Ari's frustration: this is a tough problem to solve. No one yet has a solution to the problems within television content.
While I've always agreed with Steve Jobs's 'price it aggresively and go for volume,' I do share Topolsky's closing sentiment on the matter: adapt or die.