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Sunday
Apr062008

Bus company sues maids for carpooling - sound familiar?

This post is a quote directly from the book Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

In 2005, a French bus company, Transports Schiocchet Excursions (TSE) sued several French cleaning women who had previously used TSE for transport to their jobs in Luxembourg. The women’s crime? Carpooling. TSE asked that the women be fined and that their cars be confiscated, on the grounds that the service the women had arranged to provide for themselves - transportation - should be provided only by commercial services such as TSE. (The case was thrown out in a lower court; it is pending on appeal.)

This strategy - suing former customers for organizing themselves - is precisely the one being pursued by the music and movie industries today. Those industries used to perform a service by distributing music and moving images, but laypeople can now move music and video easily, in myriad ways that are both cheaper and more flexible than those mastered and owned by existing commercial firms, like selling CDs and DVDs in stores. Faced with radical new efficiencies, those very firms are working to make moving movies and music harder, in order to stay in business - precisely the outcome that the bus company was arguing for.

Reader Comments (3)

Nice find, Derek! It sounds especially ludicrous when you see the same story in this context. Suing your customer is a losing strategy. It's always the sign of a business in decline.

I've gotten a somewhat better understanding of why the music industry is in this state of distress since doing all of the research for the Indie Band Survival Guide. One of the people that I talked to who worked at a label (both of which need to remain anonymous, which I respect) said that the labels had been trying all kinds of new ideas to generate new income streams. The problem was, prior contracts had handcuffed them. This individual said: "We get cease and desist letters all of the time for new businesses that we try out."

That doesn't mean that the labels are right to sue customers, far from it. Here we live in an age where you can nearly instantaneously get almost piece of music ever released in a matter of minutes. A statement like that was only found in science fiction stories a handful of years ago. In spite of these business limitations that they found themselves in, we should have been saying this: "Wow, once the 'net really took hold, the music labels have found more ways than ever to make music a part of our lives." But instead of being at the forefront, they are fighting it. And the rate of change today is so fast that they may not be able to catch up. I expect to see a major label in bankruptcy in the matter of a year or so.

One of the better articles on this topic is Music Labels Might Still Be Shorts by Cody Willard writing for RealMoney.com. This is a financial magazine, not a music magazine.

He wrote the following:

I’m sorry, but what year is it? You’re telling me that in July 2007, as industries’ revenue has fallen double digits this year, as the entire music industry is collapsing into possible bankruptcy, these guys are still actively suing college kids trading music files?


Revolutionomics 101 dictates that those who empower, win. Those who protect, lose. It also states that there’s no stopping the total empowerment of the end-user; but that there’s potentially unlimited monetization of that total empowerment.

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power"

April 8 | Unregistered CommenterJuan Zelada

Derek: I saw your post on the Clay Shirky book, and I realized I had listened to a great interview of Clay done by Glenn Fleischmann from the TIDBITS site:

Clay Shirky interview

The link to the podcast is down a bit on the page above.

Anyway, it really gets you to thinking whose side the labels were always on. They are definitely swimming against the current right now, but I can't think of too many ways they can slow us indie musicians down. The possibilities of slow, steady progress on selling downloads -- with no cash outlay -- are really opening up tremendously, thanks to folks like you at CDbaby, Nimbit, Tunecore, and others. I will just keep plugging ahead gradually day by day, and work on getting my stuff available wherever it makes sense.

Thanks for all the tips at CDbaby --- it took me a whole afternoon to digest that stuff, and it really helps a lot!

April 10 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Rockwell

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