Löb Strauss, the gold rush and DRM

Everybody knows that the big winner during the 1849 gold rush was a guy named Strauss, who made jeans (he changed his first name along the way). He figured that he might not find gold, but everybody needed pants. Win or lose, he won.

If you want to really understand what’s going on with copyright and digital rights and all the fights about YouTube and radio, etc., it helps to think about Levi. It’s not personal. It’s just about billable hours.

Fred points out that the music industry is working to cripple internet radio without thinking the strategy through. Many others have reported getting notes from various lawyers that seem more like fishing expeditions than serious efforts to patrol copyrights. I even got a letter from Abbot and Costello’s lawyer.

Watch the money.

In most of these cases, the lawyers get paid by the hour. A copyright holder pays a retainer and the associates just churn and churn and churn. They’ve got a form letter and a whois lookup and they send out another letter. That’s their job. Not to win, but to keep the cycle moving. It’s a bit like selling jeans.

Nine times out of ten, regardless of the industry, strategy is a byproduct of a series of tactics.