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Rethinking Licensing

Last week, I attended a music industry conference that was presented by the Berklee College of Music in association with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Harvard Business School. Rethink Music examined the business and rights challenges facing the music industry in the digital era, with topics on licensing, cloud, and alternative business models factoring prominently in the discussions.

The music industry (much like the software industry) is going through profound change driven in part by digital distribution models and consumer shifts in demand. Just as in software, much of the debate focuses on enabling new business models while protecting rights holders and ensuring fair compensation along the value chain.

I attended the conference in search of some golden nugget of information that I could apply to my research on the software industry. Although I did come away with a few new catch phrases, like "ubiquitous legal consumption," and "it's not about how you compete with free, but how you turn free into paid", I am not sure that I found a singular piece of information that produced an "a-ha moment". There are no easy answers. However, I learned something in every session that helped me put some more pieces of the puzzle into place. Here are some of those puzzle pieces:

I believe that licensing can play a role in enabling new business models while protecting rights holders and ensuring fair compensation along the value chain. Here is what needs to happen in order for this to occur:

Personally, I like a challenge. One of the reasons I've enjoyed researching licensing for so long (a little over 10 years) is the fact that the problems are complex and multifaceted. Solving them will involve a cross-disciplinary effort that takes into account behavioral economics, copyright law, technology adoption, and cultural preferences. And, every member of the ecosystem, including you, will play a part in finding the rest of the pieces of the puzzle.

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