File Sharing in the Future

FILE SHARING IN THE FUTURE….I have a thought experiment I’d like to propose to everyone who thinks that the trillion dollar content industry doesn’t really need any additional help from the Supreme Court in their relentless battle to crucify teenagers who are trading a few songs for their iPods.

Here it is: The year is 2015 and Columbia has just released Spiderman 7. The next day, 10 million people with no technical savvy at all go to their computers, stick a Blu-ray disc into their DVD drive, log on to Movies4Free (incorporated in the Cayman Islands), and click on the Spiderman icon. Three minutes later they have a 100% perfect DVD, beautifully silkscreened in the drive with the movie logo. They go to their living rooms and start watching.

Or, it might not even be that difficult. Maybe you just turn on your TV, click the mouse a couple of times, and the movie plays.

So here’s my question. I think this is pretty much where we’re headed. As bandwidth increases, DVD technology improves, and software becomes as easy to use as a toaster, every piece of digital content on the planet will be available within minutes. It’s possible that the movie industry could survive for a while based on the dwindling band of old farts who like to sit in theaters, but that’s about it. Unless a movie has enough cross-promotional potential to make the production worthwhile all by itself, it will be impossible to make any money in the movie industry. Ditto for music.

Is this OK? Or do you have a different vision for the future? If profit-based movie/music distribution becomes essentially impossible, do you think the content industry will somehow adapt and get its revenue elsewhere? Or will content creators continue creating but just make a lot less money at it? Or what?

I’m genuinely curious about this. I’m willing to concede that the content industry is handling the digital revolution badly, but at the same time I also suspect they may be seeing the future a bit more clearly than their opponents ? which explains much of the panic they feel. Do you agree? Disagree? Or do you think I’m asking the wrong question altogether? Comments are open.

POSTSCRIPT: Chris Nolan has more on this: “The Supreme Court has given geek determinism ? the often adolescent belief that technology will triumph and that anything that stands in its way is lame, brain dead, foolhardy and stupid ? a well-deserved smack upside the head.”

Matt Yglesias weighs in too, and I expect he’ll have more to say over the next few days.

UPDATE: Matt responds here.