The way that people consume media has been evolving throughout the 20th century. The advent of commercial radio in 1920 followed by the first television station in 1941 were seen as milestones in the evolution of entertainment. Fast forward to the second half of the century and the evolution of our media consumption has evolved at an unprecedented rate. Radio and phonographs evolved to audio cassettes which evolved into 8-tracks and eventually compact discs. Terrestrial television morphed into cable and satellite, which was eventually recorded onto VHSs, DVDs, and BluRay discs.
Even the 21st century has made a leap into a new format which was not even conceivable until recently. In 2000, the way that music was being consumed drastically changed as a result of downloading services such as Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire. From that point on, the digital download started taking a larger foothold in the marketplace of the music industry. Within just a few short years, as personal computers and internet capabilities advanced, streaming services began to flood the marketplace where downloads had just recently taken over.
Nowadays, high speed internet delivers unlimited steaming capabilities right into our hands, anywhere in the world. Streaming media still continues to evolve with resolution and quality constantly reaching new levels. But with anything new, comes new problems. The earlier years of internet media and in particular, downloadable content, brought a new wave of piracy into the world. Copyright infringement soon became as easy as the click of a button. While the music and motion picture industry are constantly battling to thwart online piracy, streaming media has not only caused those industries new headaches, but has also created these headaches for others.
Take for example some of the recent sporting events that have taken place. On May 2nd, the world watched the “boxing match of the century” featuring Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao. Pay-per-view orders of the fight in the U.S were around $100 per order. The revenue earned from just the video on demand sales sky rocketed to reach record breaking figures. But it wasn’t just the paying or legally watching customers who were able to view the fight.
In the beginning months of 2015, well known and easy to use live-streaming applications have started to transform people’s ability to transmit content around the world, live. While the purpose of these applications are to facilitate the distribution of user made content or to broadcast certain events, these applications are more commonly being used to distribute the content of others illegally. HBO and Showtime, the co-producers of the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, had done all they could to attempt to eliminate the possibility of people in the crowd streaming the fight for free. Other live-streaming concerns include movie premiers, sporting events, music festivals, concerts and other pay-to-view events.
With the spread of the popularity of these types of applications, it is difficult to see how content producers will be able to keep their content from being distributed for free. But, going back to the beginning of this article, this isn’t exactly the first time that these content makers have had to deal with this issue. Starting with programs such as Napster in 2000 and torrent downloading software thereafter, content producers have been in this struggle for a while.
Perhaps most hardly hit has been the music industry. Albums featuring 10-15 songs were at one point able to get a premium sale price of $20 per unit. With the explosion of downloading software, the business models have had to shift and now iTunes sells songs for just 99 cents and streaming sites offering music for free.
But the music industry hasn’t collapsed because of this, and in fact, new artists that would never have been known are now starting to thrive due to the free distribution of their music which has allowed consumers who would not have usually purchased their music to become fans. Where the future of streaming content goes is anybody’s guess, but what impact it has on the entertainment industry is up to the consumers.
For more information about the legal issues involved in streaming media, contact Biletsky Law.