Content industry vs content delivery providers: who is the customer?

One of the common problems you will see in policy discussions is that many people are focused on their narrow issues, sometimes even tiny edge-cases, and not investing any time looking at the bigger picture of how different policies interact. This leads to the solutions to these edge cases sometimes causing even worse problems for the proponents.

We had one of those moments at CopyCamp when I tried to demonstrate a bigger picture issue by adding in “Net Neutrality” related discussions into a narrow discussion of business models for authors.

When you talk about the Internet with an author who is more familiar with pre-Internet thinking about business models for creators, you get a very familiar story. They believe that Internet service providers (ISPs) are making money “on the backs” of authors. They claim these ISPs would have no value without the works of the authors they represent, and they believe that they deserve to get a (large?) cut of the revenues from ISPs.

On the other hand, some “ISPs” have stated that they believe that the content industry is delivering content on the backs of the network providers, and believe that the network providers should have the right to charge higher rates for delivering this content. Those creators who don’t have the money to pay the distribution networks the premium rates will be put onto the “slow lane” of the Internet, with these content creators ending up with smaller and smaller audiences. This forms the core of what is often called the “Net Neutrality” debate.

Each of the content industry and content delivery industry believe that they have the more valuable product/service and that the other industry is unfairly benefiting and should be charged a premium. Each of them consider themselves the supplier and the other industry the customer.

Which is right? In my mind there is a bit of truth to what each is saying, but that both of these sectors are largely wrong. In both cases you really need to look at competitors to understand what is really going on.

The “ISP” companies that are most visibly using this rhetoric are companies like Vid

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