Computers don't steal content, people steal content

Peter Chernin, CEO of Fox and COO of News Corp. (Fox’s parent), preached to an audience of techies at Yawndex on Tuesday. He said that Big Media and Big Tech must work together to protect content. To paraphrase:

Big Tech must stop the production of general purpose computers, and instead start making consumer-proof entertainment purchasing devices. Big Media will then take it from there, handling all of the profit, etc.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t exactly his message, but he actually did say this:

If hundreds of thousands of dresses were stolen from Wal-Mart, the police would assemble a task force that would have Winona Ryder shaking in her boots.

Sheesh. (a) It’s not nice to pick people when they’re down, especially when they’re obviously sick. (b) Winona Ryder would never shop at Wal-Mart. (c) Wal-Mart does lose hundreds of thousands of dresses each year due to “shrinkage”, a retail industry ephemism for “internal and external theft, administrative screw-ups, and vendor fraud”.

According to the 2001 National Retail Security Survey, U.S. retailers lost 1.75% of their total annual sales — over $32 million in the U.S. alone — to shrinkage. The music industry has, of course, lost $0 million since they’ve only been denied potential CD sales.

So, if the retail industry accepts shrinkage (i.e. the stealing of real goods that cost the industry real money) as a part of doing business, and the computer software industry accepts piracy (i.e. the loss of potential software sales by people that you probably don’t want as customers anyway) as a part of doing business, maybe it’s time that the media industry wakes up, smells the coffee, and starts treating consumers like an opportunity instead of a threat.

George Lucas piped at the end with comment about illegal downloading potentially impacting movie quality, at which point I swear I heard someone cough “Jar Jar!” even though I was alone. His right-on quote, however, was “Corporations are like cockroaches. They’ll survive everything”. | CNNmoney story