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Selling HD Content To A Generation of Thieves That Honestly Don't Know Its Wrong To Steal

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Generation_of_Thieves.gifIn a world dominated by Apple and the iPhone, I actually cannot have an iPhone because where I live, high up in a canyon in Los Angeles, there is no service from any cell carrier other than Sprint. While Sprint's service is notably solid, even in less-than-populated areas often not covered at all by other providers - up until recently their selection of actual phones left a lot to be desired. Today, Sprint still lacks an iPhone; however as a non-emailing, non-texting user of a Blackberry, I finally went down to the Sprint store to check out the HTC Evo 4G phone which I found out is a lot like an iPhone and is leaps and bound better than my former Blackberry.

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When I got to the store at around 11 AM on a Monday morning, I was enthusiastically greeted by a Sprint salesperson who personally owned the aforementioned Evo 4G phone. I asked him if there was a way to get the phone to run the iPhone application for Daylite, the contact management system that Luxury Publishing Group uses, and he went into an anti-iPhone tirade. I listened to him rant and rave about why the iPhone sucks (never mentioning how many dropped calls come via AT&T in the Los Angeles area, which is the real reason why an iPhone sucks). Then he got to his main point. He was angry that as a former iPhone owner that he couldn't connect phones and share copy-protected music files. In fact, he was furious about the issue.

By the time he got to this point, another customer from the movie business was standing there. We both tried to explain to him what copywritten material was and why you can't just steal it from one phone to another. He had a blank look on his face as did the clerk next to him. When we explained the business model of selling downloads or CDs he just came back at us with a Nigel Tufnell-like response: "But, I just want to get all my buddy's files from his iPhone onto my phone." I suggested to him that he could buy them right from iTunes and he got a little more agitated. I had inadvertently said a dirty word in "buy" as he had no intention of buying anything. I left the store with my new Evo phone, shaking my head, wondering how we could sell HD music and movies with tens of millions of kids feeling this way.

Days after speaking to this well-intentioned salesman, I couldn't stop thinking about his view on software, music, videos and content in general. As a member of Generation Y, the largest demographic in U.S. history, he doesn't know a world without the Internet. He doesn't know the idea of collecting music that isn't stored on a hard drive. He lives in a world where being a hacker is considered "cool" despite it being blatantly illegal. Finding ways to get software for free is viewed as more of a challenge than it is a crime. This is the culture of a big group of tech savvy, youthful consumers. They speak with a loud voice. Or at least they will once the generation becomes more widely employed.

Going forward into the new economy, there is no way for a specialty electronics company and/or a media conglomerate selling movies, music or TV shows to succeed without dollars from this generation who thinks it's OK to literally rip off artists, labels, studios and beyond. Now I am not backing the RIAA and their mindless lawsuits of their customers or anything of the like, but I am suggesting that people who create content for sale deserve to get paid for it at some level or another. Apple has proven to us that they can convince the market to buy worse-than-CD resolution downloads over HD audio formats like DVD-Audio, SACD or even the 24/96 tracks sold on HD Tracks. Quality is taking a back seat to convenience. Need more proof?

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