Piracy or Patronage?

The Issue

Piracy. A word we hear too often in today’s tech and media golden age. Government officials throw the word around like it’s going out of style. Media companies are publishing report after report detailing how piracy is killing the music, film, and arts industries.

With the recent explosion of live-streaming as a new form of social media, the blogosphere has entered uncharted territory with its copyrights and infringement issues — the same that once plagued YouTube.

Take this scenario for example: A Meerkat user is live-streaming to his followers. In the background (insert current popular song here) is heard. The question posed to us now is whether or not the inclusion of said song would be considered infringing on the copyrights and trademarks of the original owners of those songs.

To give a more current example, Meerkat’s rival, the newly Twitter-fied Periscope, enabled people to pirate Saturday’s fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, getting the thrill of the year’s biggest bout without paying the $100 pay-per-view tab.

Many of these users posted about being able to watch the event on Twitter, where Dick Costolo, the social-media company’s chief executive officer, pronounced Periscope the night’s victor. Executives from HBO and Showtime asked Periscope and Meerkat to take down the streams as the fight was happening.

While Saturday’s piracy is unlikely to dent the millions made by Time Warner Inc.’s HBO and CBS Corp.’s Showtime, which partnered to produce the fight, it fosters a potential problem if more people use live-streaming apps to watch pay TV. HBO previously asked the service to take down streams of the season premiere of its hit show “Game of Thrones” when it realized people had used Periscope to stream it for free.

This newly revolutionized technology poses a serious issue — how can we prevent what is essentially piracy from invading this nascent social platform?

The Solution

Let’s regulate live-streaming, you say. It’ll decrease the frequency of piracy, you say.

Impossible, I say.

Regulation of such a technology is nearly impossible. We can no more regulate live-streaming than we can regulate the things that occur right before our eyes. Events happen in an instant. Sure, with the boxing match as an example, one can say that the stream is ongoing, and therefore open to regulation. However, this will add another financial burden to social media companies, and if we want this technology to remain free to the public, we need to prevent that from happening.

So what’s the fix?

Here’s my proposition — formulate a revenue stream.

“How?” you ask. Well let me tell you:

Suppose some sort of huge event is going on — one which you can only see if you pay a fee to watch. I’d sooner hop on Meerkat to watch a live stream of the pay-per-view event than I would pay the fee to watch the event on my home TV.

But why not charge patrons a small fee — $1, say — to watch the live stream that includes the copyrighted material. The media companies would still receive their pay days, and viewership might skyrocket! Media companies like HBO and Showtime can get ahead of the curve by taking advantage of this revolutionary technology, which is free, and turn it into a source of revenue.

Only time will tell what sort of regulatory procedures, if any, this social media platform will be exposed to. Until then, most people will sit back and enjoy the shows being put on by the live-streaming apps.

Oh, and PS — If anyone at HBO or Showtime is reading this, reach out to me. I’ve got some ideas for you. ☺

Follow me on Meerkat, and we can get to know each other, schmooze a little bit, and hey — you may even pick up a few tips from an entrepreneur! I’ll be live-streaming a lot over the coming weeks, so you won’t want to miss out!

Brandon Rubinshtein, the author of this article, is an entrepreneur based in New York City with vast experience in startups. His latest venture is Verre, a “polished black car alternative that operates a cut above the industry standards”. Check it out!