I’ve occasionally heard or read (citation needed) claims that the ability to share “all culture” on a thumb drive/flash drive/USB stick will be a game-changer in the often symbiotic but usually presented as antagonistic relationship between pirates and freedom infringing (i.e., copyright) industries. I have doubts it’ll be that big of a deal and am certain there is not a single threshold, but the scenario is evocative anyway. I’ve commented on it briefly a couple times. 2012:
Technology (itself, not the industry as an interest group) is often assumed to be making copyrestriction enforcement harder and driving demands for for harsher restrictions. In detail, that’s certainly true, but for centuries copyrestriciton has been resilient to technical changes that make copying ever easier. Copying will continue to get easier. In particular the “all culture on a thumb drive” (for some very limited definition of “all”) approaches, or is here if you only care about a few hundred feature length films, or are willing to use portable hard drive and only care about a few thousand films (or much larger numbers of books and songs). But steadily more efficient copying isn’t going to destroy copyrestriction sector revenue. More efficient copying may be necessary to maintain current levels of unauthorized sharing, given steady improvement in authorized availability of content industry controlled works, and little effort to make unauthorized sharing easy and worthwhile for most people (thanks largely to suppression of anyone who tries, and media management not being an easy problem). Also, most collection from businesses and other organizations has not and will probably not become much more difficult due to easier copying.
“All culture on a thumb drive” each day comes closer to reality, with capacities increasing and prices falling quickly enough that differences in cultural context and infrastructure could swamp a 3x or even greater difference in wealth; in other words, physical sharing of digital content may become pertinent again, and it could easily happen first outside of the wealthiest geographies.
I’m reminded of this scenario today by a claim in SSD Prices In A Free Fall that “prices of solid-state drives [are] expected to reach parity with hard-disk drives next year”. Comments are skeptical of that prediction, but presumably parity will be reached within next several years, with capacity expanding and prices falling all along.
One slice of “all culture” is the YTS.to database used by PopcornTime, currently with 4199 titles. Round that up to 10k titles and assume 1gb per title, obtaining 10tb storage. Currently that capacity costs US$3500 for SSD and $400 for HDD. (But keep in mind the scare quotes. Browse All Human Knowledge and note 330k+ feature films, 34m+ notable artistic works of some types, figures which arguably still miss most of human culture.)
At what price will copying “all of culture” become mainstream in some culture, or will the media management never be figured out well enough for the practice to become mainstream? How much will the harshness of crackdowns effect the outcome? What will the outcome be for commons-based production of culture? Without intervention, presumably the same as the outcome of file-sharing so far: free/libre/open material will be absent, sharing serving to market proprietary material even as the proprietors (studios, etc) crack down on sharing.
It’s not clear to me that non-network distribution of digital cultural artifacts will ever again be anything but marginal but I’m also far from certain bulk copying with thumb drives of the future won’t become important. Given that the corpus of free/libre/open culture is relatively tiny, especially if we consider the feature film and other premium video slice, perhaps trialing bulk copying now would be worthwhile, both to decrease likelihood free/libre/open culture is absent from bulk copying and as an alternative use case and venue for peer production of cultural relevance for free/libre/open culture.
Many projects have attempted some form of curation of free/libre/open culture, including several pertinent to premium video. The only ones I know of that have given much thought to offline distribution are OLPC and various Wikipedia reader projects. Various ‘packaging’ and ‘enhanced album’ (or other artifact) from software, education and entertainment fields may also be relevant.