The music industry and Microsoft: A sign of bad things to come?

Does the music industry's licensing policy offer a clue as to Microsoft's own licensing policy?

The Register ponders the question, "Why does the music industry make licensing its catalogs so cost prohibitive?"

For years, the Big Five (now Four) have preferred to litigate rather than license their catalogues, but we were told that was no longer the case.

"We have to license... and think like the publishers," said UMG's digital chief Larry Kenswil back in January, setting the tone for the year.

The problem is that the music industry sets its license fees so high that its licensees are doomed to fail, notes Michael Robertson (in "Imeem gets license and death sentence"). Could this be Microsoft's game plan in its patent initiative? Put on the guise of cooperating while pricing its competition into oblivion?

As Mark Shuttleworth once noted, the difference between $0.00 and $0.01 for Microsoft is huge. Microsoft is particularly susceptible to open source's business-model innovation, given its heavy reliance on license fees.

Again, does the music industry's strangling of its young cousins portend Microsoft's own future with open source? It's very possible. It could be that Microsoft is just trying to get a fair return on its patent portfolio. But it remains an oddity in threatening open source. IBM, Oracle, and others also have huge patent portfolios - some much larger than Microsoft's - and yet they haven't staged a patent offensive against open source.

True, they have much to gain from open source. But then, so does Microsoft.

Tags:
Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

    Join the discussion

    Conversation powered by Livefyre

    Don't Miss
    Hot Products
    Trending on CNET

    HOT ON CNET

    Want affordable gadgets for your student?

    Everyday finds that will make students' lives easier: chargers, cables, headphones, and even a bona fide gadget or two!