[T]he digital era is giving birth to one of the most remarkable transformations in business history. The Customer is King? No, the Customer as Enemy.

So writes Michael Schrage in his latest column in Technology Review that echoes some of the points from yesterday’s posts on academic journal publishers and the limits they’re putting on electronic access to journals.

As intellectual property increasingly becomes the critical value-added component of competitive innovation, the fear that it may leak or seep away through inappropriate copying is completely understandable. Similarly, wrapping services such as remote monitoring and tracking around the products companies sell may seem like an eminently reasonable way of maintaining ongoing relationships with customers.

But the business consequences of customer-as-criminal mindsets are inevitably perverse. For customers, the prospect that vendors are looking over their shoulders to track whether this copy is authorized and that usage is approved creates a powerful disincentive to embrace innovation.