I haven’t blogged for a while. I’ve been a bit busy, with one thing or another. And tonight I’m supposed to be writing a book. But I just wanted to weigh in quickly on something that will interest possible three or four people who read this blog, but is bugging the hell out of me.
Now, there’s been a lot of comment on other blogs about the subject – quite a lot of it quite wrong (@Mashable: Moreover is owned by Verisign, not Viacom). My problem is not with the specifics of the case.
My problem is with the ridiculous – and growing – trend of companies using intellectual property lawsuits as an opening gambit in rights negotiations. We’ve seen the tactic used against Napster, we’ve seen it used against YouTube, we’ve seen it used against Google News and now we’re seeing it used against Moreover. Media rights owner panics about their inability to compete in the online world and decides a good way to make money is to get huge licence fees from aggregators. Media rights owner opens negotiations by suing for ridiculous damages. Aggregator is forced to negotiate on the back foot. Media rights owner gets more than they would in a more reasonable negotiation. Lawyers get rich.
My fear with Verisign is that – much like Google folded over Google News v Copiepresse because News isn’t their core business – Moreover isn’t core enough to Verisign’s security-focussed business to be worth defending too hard. The result: AP will get a relatively easy victory, and an increased licence fee. And the IP lawyers of the world will get even more encouragement to use litigation in place of negotiation.
Given Verisign’s lack of enthusiasm for Moreover, here’s what I’d love to see happen. I’d love to see an entrepreneurial – and synergistic (yuck) – white knight come along and offer to buy Moreover from Verisign right now, law suit and all, with a promise to fight AP’s nuisance suit tooth and nail.
Verisign would get some money for Moreover, and wouldn’t have to worry about a pesky legal action distracting them from their core business. The entrepreneur would get a really valuable service (I’m a huge fan of Moreover) at a knock-down price – and would immediately become a hero to those of us in the industry who believe in finding new solutions to new challenges, and now calling in the lawyers at the first sign of disruption. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
I’d be prepared to bet my hat that the case would be settled anyway (at a cost far less than the discount received from Verisign) and that all parties would find a new licence agreement they’re happy with.
Win. Win. Win.
So will someone step up to the plate? Do we have entrepreneurs with money *and* balls in this country?