Can the Digital Content Guide website help curb piracy?

Digital Content Guide
A blatant lack of rum in this possible cure for piracy

Yesterday, the bigwigs behind all the industry associations you associate with copyright officially announced the Digital Content Guide, a website designed to help consumers find legal options for the content they want to consume.

The new portal breaks down the different types of content you might want, from music to movies, from video games to ebooks, and conveniently links to all the places you can legally acquire that type of content in Australia.

The list of companies behind the site sound like a who's who of anti-piracy crusaders. APRA AMCOS, The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), The Australian Screen Association (ASA), Copyright Agency Ltd., News Corp Limited, Foxtel and Village Roadshow Limited all get namechecked.

Perhaps for the first time these names appear to be associated with a positive step to help provide education around legal options for content in Australia, instead of litigation against pirates or lobbying the government for ridiculous copyright-protection laws. And that can only be a good thing, even if the website itself is effectively useless.

A pointless attempt, or an attempted point?

The site has sections dedicated to music, movies, video games, ebooks and sports. Each link points through to all the legal digital purchasing options in that category.

Perhaps the most surprising element of each option is just how many legal alternatives are available to Australians when it comes to digital content. 27 music providers, 25 movie and TV options and 19 game-download services show that there's no shortage of places to acquire digital content in Australia.

But what the Digital Content Guide fails to do is actually recognise the content itself.

As this excellent post over on Reckoner points out, it's not so much a lack of services available so much as an incessant delay on availability of content, coupled with a lack of options.

With over 50 per cent of the shows Reckoner studied not being available at all on any digital store in Australia, having a link to all those stores seems like a somewhat redundant option.

Guided message

Which raises the question of what the point of the guide is, when it doesn't offer any indication of what content you can get? If the point of the guide is to raise awareness, then surely a more detailed database would help sway consumers.

Being able to search for Game of Thrones and know which store to head to would be a much more useful site than what's currently on offer.

But the truth is that if the Digital Content Guide actually did that, it would quickly highlight the fact that, simply put, we still don't have an open, democratic system for digital media in Australia -- especially when it comes to TV and movies.

Instead, we have a series of traditional players slowly moving into the 21st century through initiatives like the Digital Content Guide.

It's not a bad thing - it sure as hell beats the strategy of suing everyone for downloading a few songs - but the chances of this doing anything to affect piracy is next to none.

Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.