Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Streaming.... the answer to an industry's prayer?

According to industry figures digital music sales are rising.. the result they say of increased legislation and the introduction of new services like Spotify that meet users needs .. And to be honest it is not a bad thing if commercial music services do appear that provide what consumers want. About time you might say.

That streaming can be the death of pirating is the subject of an article by Mercedes Bunz in the Guardian - pointing to the possibilities that streaming services can bring. But streaming comes at a price - and in any case is not the panacea it seems. Cory Doctorow has an excellent piece on why streaming might make the industry happy, but ultimately won't make copying go away. Basically, from a technical stand point, saving a streaming film or music track is a very small step.... (think radio and tape recorder)

The risk is that this sparks another technology war between the user community and the copyright lobby - with ultimately the only way to enforce copyright being through gross intrusions on your privacy.

More though - streaming is a bad solution when it comes to practical use of the Internet - particularly streaming when on the move. It places very high load as everyone wants to stream at the same time.. Stored tracks on your MP3 player are much more effective.

That last issue is one I've been thinking about for some time. Peer to peer trafiic - downloads - happen in the background. It doesn't matter if they take a bit longer - and you don't need the traffic to get there in real time. It can be low priority in the operator's network - and operators can and do throttle p2p traffic to keep their networks running.

Streaming traffic is live, and time sensitive, and needs to be high priority in the network to get an acceptable service. Not only that but downloading is a 'do once use many' activity, whereas streaming takes bandwidth every time you want to play something - even if you've heard it before. So total traffic will rise - and traffic mixes will shift to make handlling peak loads much more difficult. Streaming is bad news for telecom operators - it is likely lead to them needing to build out capacity to cope with streaming traffic - or disasterous impact on network quality.

Which means that, on top of the bill for monitoring user traffic and policing peer2peer use operators are likely to be stuck with significant costs for network upgrades as streaming music, and particularly video, becomes more popular. They (and we the subscribers) take the cost for the media industry's gain.

Is that how it's going to be in the Digital Economy?

(When I get the time I'll try and make a guesstimate of just how much that extra investment might be....  but it's not going to be small...)

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.

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