I hope that we look back on the issue of how we handled copyright with bemusement and shame.

The trend seems to be turning a knee-jerk response into a range of all-powerful legal super-powers. A great example of treating the symptom while remaining stubbornly oblivious to the cause.

In days gone by, people of my (old) generation would copy records to tape, make compilations, lend trusted friends our records and even buy and sell second-hand records.

Today I could choose to share my music not just with my friends, but with the whole world. The scale has changed enormously.

In days gone by I could sell or give away my unwanted books, and as a teenager probably owned more second-hand books than new.

But I can’t share the many books that are on my Kindle, nor can I pass them on to someone else when I’ve finished with them. And there’s even a chance that something I paid for will one day no longer be available on my device.

If we address crime in our cities by building ever more sophisticated security systems for our homes, and choose to ignore what’s happening beyond our walls, we risk turning our homes into fortresses and eventually into prisons.

We’re not going to save the software/music/book industry by punishing existing users, or by stamping down on the people who facilitate the crimes. This is as ineffective as criminalising drug use and stamping-down on drug dealers.

The industry needs to accept that a profound change is long underway, and momentum of this scale cannot be stopped or ignored. You can choose to either adapt and flourish or resist and disappear.


Comparing a website to a physical store is over-used, tired and incorrect.

When I walk into a store I need something that it sells. If the price and terms are reasonable, I’ll probably buy it.

I can’t instantly transfer myself to the other place that had a slightly better price or shorter queue. I wish I could.

I can’t instantly check other stores to see if the price is reasonable.

And because physical stores are…. well… physical, I am more of a captive audience.

In a physical store I can see, smell, taste, touch, feel and admire the product I’m interested in buying.

Your website, on the other hand, is a click away.

Your visitors can decide to come back later, can be distracted by their email, check your competition, research your company and more.

The physical store might steer their customers to more-profitable items. But they don’t need to push the reason for being in the store.

It doesn’t matter how niche your market, enticing your copy or inept your competition.

Your website competes with everything.

Your website needs better marketing.

Online privacy has moved from the paranoid to the reasonable, and another scare story emerges at most every few months. The media pounce, the public is outraged, calming & apologetic statements are issued, and everyone forgets.

Only two days ago the BBC reported that feeds from thousands of Trendnet home security cameras had been breached, allowing anyone access to the feeds online without a password.

More disturbing was the company’s admission that despite only 5% of their users registering the products (making them impossible to contact), no formal media statement had been issued after knowing about the problem for more than three weeks.

So we have companies who are not only irresponsible with the information we share, but also abuse the trust that we place in their products and services.

And this is apparently acceptable. It must be, because where is the great outcry?

Here in the UK we’ve seen an endless torrent of staggering IT stupidity. Government ministers and bankers carry incredibly sensitive and private information, unencrypted, on USB memory sticks and laptops, then leave them in bars, trains, taxis and planes. Despite the cost of data encryption starting at £0.

At some point the bubble has to burst.

At some point enough people will be hurt badly enough to move from shaking their heads to taking action.

Customers wield more power with their collective credit cards than any government legislation. Now might be a good time to remind your customers how much you value their trust and safeguard their privacy.

Update: From the BBC news website:

“The makers of two iPhone apps have apologised after it emerged they had uploaded users address-book information without explicit permission.”

iPhone apps Path and Hipster offer address-book apology