ROUNDTABLE THEME: Content in the cloud - what de-centralized data storage and new devices mean for intellectual property
May 25, 2011

While many may agree that the Cloud has offered huge conveniences for consumers to access content, it has also opened a new avenue for content distribution.  In many media and entertainment industries, content distribution was always restricted to carriers (eg. ISP,s CDs, DVDs, etc.).  With cloud-based content, some may argue that there is simply no need to ‘own’ discs, papers, or hard drives that contain content if it’s available easily through different devices.

Cloud computing does, however, expose a new range of questions regarding rights and ownership. When content is accessed across country borders, whose laws are governing this transaction? Are there any liabilities if the cloud provider’s service is being disrupted and content cannot be accessed? When consumers are adding content they have previously purchased to a cloud based ‘locker’, should content owners be compensated for any of those transactions?

When accessing cloud-based content and information, the device that acts as the information gateway is suddenly in a powerful position; device manufacturers may decide to block access to certain cloud content services or charge for it. They may insist on receiving parts of any revenue that content creators may generate through these devices.  Device platforms may also not support certain technologies and, therefore, directly influence how cloud-based content is distributed to the consumer.

The consumer’s relationship with their devices (and, therefore, their relationship to content) has been changing rapidly over the last few years.  With the continual innovation of more capable and compact mobile technologies, consumers tend to be much closer to their devices and, in many cases, have them nearby at all times. Consumers have become accustomed to having instant and constant access to information and entertainment as a result, and this places content owners under pressure to constantly ensure their output is available once it has been created. Unlicensed sources may be preferred if their legal alternatives do not yet offer the access to desired content. This may suggest that there has been a huge power shift between consumers and creators of content – with new devices occupying the space between them.

While lack of control may be perceived as an obstacle in cloud-based distribution, this isn’t a subject matter that’s out-of-the-ordinary with content owners.  In fact, consumers have been able to easily share digital content since the advent of network computers. Nevertheless, new and open channels of distribution can also be seen as opportunities to access new consumer bases and find new revenue streams for media, entertainment, and other content-based industries.

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The cloud will be hacked. Sometimes in really disruptive ways. Not infrequently. No matter whose cloud it is - Amazon, Google, Apple and others. The cloud is convenient for content creators yet it generates the same issue as apps - getting noticed. It will be a work in progress for years.

by john parikhal ( / May 26th, 2011