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Panelists Debate P2P Filesharing at Digital Hollywood Confab

4 Oct, 2004 By: Jessica Wolf

The debate over peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing networks and their value or villainy to the packaged media industry got a little heated at moments during two panel discussions at the Digital Hollywood conference held in Santa Monica, Calif., last week.

The technology isn't going away, panelists said. And some of the problem with the filesharing industry, especially on the music side, is that content providers are often more focused on trying to find out how to change existing consumer behavior instead of looking for ways to “monetize” the filesharing process in some way, whether it's a strictly transactional method, through federally regulated collective licensing similar to radio, or is based on advertising sales like television.

“What the digital music consumer wants, and is already doing, is wildly divorced from what content holders are willing to provide,” said Elizabeth Brooks, SVP of Buymusic.com.

Other panelists like Michael Weiss, CEO of P2P site Morpheus.com, and Lee Jaffee, musician and president of Allnet.com, pointed out that P2P systems can be a valuable tool and discovery zone for emerging artists, which right now means mostly musicians, but will likely in the near future broaden to embrace burgeoning filmmakers and authors as well.

Labels and content holders don't dispute that benefit, but they also need to re-evaluate the way they equate a file trade; it's not necessarily equal to a lost sale, Brooks said.

Lawsuits, legislation and retribution are not necessarily the best ways to go about capturing the attention of P2P technology's vast and often rabid community, Morpheus' Weiss said, noting Harvard research studies that have shown that P2P users are among the most voracious packaged media consumers as well.

The gaming industry is already jumping on its consumer base of file sharers said Gabe Zicherman, VP of strategy and communications for Trymedia Systems.

“Three years ago, there was virtually no digital distribution of games,” Zicherman said. “This year, 10 percent of games were digitally distributed, and we predict by 2007 it will be 50 percent.”

The bottom line, technology pundits at the conference agreed, is consumers like, want and will use — and are, in fact, already using — this form of delivery, which means Hollywood film studios and record labels need to open the lines of communication and find a way to make the endgame a profit center.

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