Despite my occasional rant about the immorality of stealing digital content I do realise that our current understanding of copyright is probably incapable of surviving the new digital reality. I stumbled across a terrific blog article this morning dealing with that very issue. Clay Shirky's piece deals specifically with journalsm and the newspaper industry but just about everything he says applies to media publishing in general.
Its a long piece but some of the key things I got out of it are:
The "positive returns to scale" which gave rise to the growth of large scale publishing have been destroyed by the internet.
Therefore the publishing industry has become irrelevant. Attempts to preserve existing structures with DRM, new payment models and through aggressive legal action are doomed to failure because a revolution has come and the industry they are trying to preserve is "visibly going away".
The society of the future won't need publishers but it will still need some of the services that publishers used to provide (in this case journalism).
Clay Shirky doesn't say what the new journalism will be but predicts a few decades of "overlapping special cases" as people strugggle to "do whatever works". He expresses the hope that "over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need."
As I said all of this is about newspapers and journalism but I think you could easily substitute music publishers and music or game publishers and gaming or book publishers and writing - the arguments still apply.