The victory that the AFL scored against Optus in its battle to stop them from making it possible for users to recorded sporting events via the mobile phone network could have a serious long term negative effect on the sporting organisation and this victory could ultimately lead to a defeat.
While the Federal Court might be right in claiming that Optus is actually doing the recording and not individual users and that as such the company is in breach of copyright, the reality is that the technology to record such events on mobile phones, tablets, smart TVs will see the development of new applications by some of the two million application developers around the world that will allow users to do this directly and as the ruling implies that is allowed.
So whether it is Optus or millions of individuals doing this the end result for the AFL and other sporting codes will ultimately be the same. All if not most of their traditional business models will need to be reviewed and changed in the wake of these developments, if they don’t they simply will become another casualty on one of the information highways.
I have previously questioned the effects of these recording services on the traditional sporting services. It is highly unlikely that users are going to massively gather around their smartphone to watch these games, so in that respect the value of the rights that Telstra bought will not be effected. Instead this application is an add-on, an opportunity for extra revenue, rather than one that is competing with their other services. However, the long term implications of new technologies will have an effect on the traditional services, with or without court rulings.
Rather than wallowing in the false security of the court ruling, any content provider should start looking at the opportunities that are now becoming available through the use of new technologies and start looking at new business models around it.
The music industry is an excellent example, the traditional industry was devastated by the onslaught of the digital economy and also refused to adapt and went into all sorts of legal battles trying to protect their traditional market. Ultimately they failed. Those involved in looking forwards, rather than backwards, started to develop new models and since last year the music industry is - for the first time in close to a decade - growing again. In that process Apple has become one of the largest players in this market with 220 million iTune users.
It will be impossible for any industry to stop the flow of technology and rather than fighting it, they should start looking at how they can adapt and develop new revenue streams. So far there is no sector that has been able to successfully stop the tide, there are plenty of examples in newspaper publishing, telecoms, film industry, broadcasting, retailing and others that they can learn from.
Paul Budde is the managing director of BuddeComm, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy company, which includes 45 national and international researchers in 15 countries.