Software and website usability is not simply a matter of ease of use. In my essay Three Factors of Usability: Understanding Ease of Use, I show how designers and developers can think more broadly about user interfaces and user experiences.
The entertainment industry declared a huge win after a Swedish court convicted the founders of Pirate Bay of copyright infringement. But a win isn’t always a win. The ruling helped galvanize Sweden’s Pirate Party, increasing their numbers by more than three times and helping them win two seats in the recent European Parliament elections.
The Pirate Party seeks to reform intellectual property laws to be more balanced with consumer and civil rights. Further support for the party came after Sweden passed a law requiring ISPs to turn over user information upon request (even without a warrant or evidence), leading several ISPs to refuse to save any user records.
The Pirate Party party won its seats with more than 200,000 votes, approximately 7 percent of Sweden’s voting population (and 19 percent of voters under 30). The party has risen to being the third largest in Sweden.
So even though the entertainment industry can claim a win in the Pirate Bay trial (for now at least, since the judge is being investigated for bias), that win helped awaken a social movement against the industry and its causes. Maybe the entertainment industry will start realizing harsh copyright laws and obsolete business models are not the best ways to build a customer base.
Controversy swirled last week on allegations that Last.fm’s parent company CBS gave the RIAA user data for possible use in civil and criminal cases. All those involved in the story have denied these allegations, though Techcrunch stands by the story.
It’s impossible to filter the he-said she-said right now, so instead let’s look at all the good that can come from the RIAA looking at Last.fm’s data. First, it’ll be almost impossible to make any case based on the data – Last.fm shows what music people listen to, but not the source (whether its legal or pirated). Instead, the RIAA could use this massive amount of data on real listening behavior to find new revenue streams and marketing opportunities. The RIAA could see exactly who likes one thing and then listens to another, helping to plan concert schedules and other events (like they already do with piracy data).
What would be even better is if the music industry took this data and used it to find new musicians and bands that fit the listening tastes of music fans (the ones listening). Using actual user actions can be much more efficient than focus groups or other market testing, but rarely is that data available. Of course, this is another benefit of the internet’s cheap and easy distribution – easy market testing. Post a new song to Last.fm or YouTube and see what happens. Do a little self promotion and you might have the next Susan Boyle on your label.
Of course, the RIAA won’t do any this. They’d much rather claim they’ve stopped suing people then continuing on suing. More money there than actually finding new business models.