Kevin Kelly: Better Than Free

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74 Responses to “Kevin Kelly: Better Than Free”

  1. Antinous says:

    Downpressor,

    Its a few hundred channels of pre-programmed playlists that are mostly hit rotation…

    That’s kind of my point. Television (pre-strike) offers new material and tells you when it’s coming so that you must subscribe to get it fresh. Serialized writing does the same thing. The music industry tends to just stir the same pot of leftovers. Why can’t a musician sign a contract to produce twenty songs to be released every week or so? Of course, they’d all be recorded before the beginning of the season, just like television shows.

    And can you use names or quotes instead of numbers when addressing somebody. It’s a bit of a nuisance having to go back to the original.

  2. ab3a says:

    Uhh, guys, next time you need to doctor up a picture of telecommuncations media, don’t doctor up pictures of power transmission lines. m’kay?

  3. outerjohn says:

    Wouldn’t you be happier back home at Little Green Footballs?

    Isn’t that the one mainly about Israel? What does this have to do with that?

    What has failed and is utterly broken is Chicago School Neoliberalism…

    Hi, name drop. Anyway I never said corporations should do whatever they want. But they shouldn’t be obliterated and controlled in response to piracy, which is what the anti-DRM herd wants, along with free stuff.

    This breaks old economic models but that’s ok, we can create new ones.

    Who says the old models aren’t working well? The people and *smaller* corporations being sued for p2p theft? The tiny minority willfully bricking their iPhones for esoteric reasons? Doctorow’s vague theory of “folk-copyright”? Or any of the unconvincing others I HAVE read on boingboing?

  4. Antinous says:

    Outerjohn,

    This is so presumptuous and misguided on so many levels.

    Feel free to list them.

    Downpressor,

    I’m sure that it would take a lot of thinking to create a working model and there would be a lot of failures. I’m just inclined to believe that there is at least one business model that would work, at least for a decade or so, until the next technological advance knocks everybody down. Realistically, the vast majority of businesses fail. It’s not pretty, but it is how business works.

  5. billy68 says:

    One point a little missed in the debate here is that KK is mostly trying to explain what _is_ happening rather than proclaim what _ought_ to happen.

    Then, like the capitalism-friendly techno-optimist he is, he’s adding the obvious spin that there are business opportunities for those who know which way the wind is blowing. It’s not rocket science.

    @j

    I’m not sure he’s got it all right either.

    I reckon the super-aggregator models he picks for Accessibility (Acme Digital Warehouse) and Findability (Amazon and Netflix) are vulnerable in the not-so-long term to the niche community/search/index model where the content is not centralised. A mix between passive and active searching where the content, and even the portal, is distributed.

    They’re vulnerable partly because we all know it’s possible to get sharper, more ‘authentic’ recommends within particular communities of interest. But more because these tips usually also lead to free content.

    Some kind of dedicated meta-tool for users to run their own community-based aggregation seems to make sense. I guess it must inevitably already exist, and I predict its rise, whatever it is.

  6. manuelmartensen.com says:

    When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.

    Nope, it only seems so.

    Because worthless would equal zero. The internet is not making anything worthless, it just scrambled up the known rules on how we make money, how marketing works, who we bill and how we try to sell stuff and to whom.

  7. outerjohn says:

    @ 53

    And it’s good for the artists, the real artists, because it keeps them creative and producing.

    This is so presumptuous and misguided on so many levels. This fundamentally changes the art form… a fact that escapes the coders & naive socialists who back free culture.

    @ 54

    I spent some time with a co-op gallery here in Mnpls… America is one of the more culturally illiterate countries in the world.

    America is a melting pot; there is no longer an easily-discernible cultural heritage. At least not one as obvious as Hispanic cultural heritage, including orangey still-lifes of clay pots.

    @ 55

    Do we need a music tax?

    Oh, dear, god.

    @ 56

    from now on, whenever anyone says “socialism”… I’m gonna scream “feudalism!” back at them for insisting that the local lords have a basic right to it all.

    Most of my favorite artists are on small indie labels that are not owned by feudal lords. Artists have the right to everything they create… not the unpaying public, which is what Creative Commons/ free culture advocates seem to believe.

    @ 57

    Music is almost the only branch of the entertainment industry that hasn’t really exploited this idea.

    Because the music album, like the novel, is rarely created by the artists in track-after-track serialized form. And the music industry IS allowing people download options on the day of shelf release, even giving the choice to buy individual songs! But people don’t buy when they can get something for free via piracy!!

    @ 64

    How much would I pay to have my beloved’s favourite musician do a custom birthday piece?
    As much as I could afford…

    And it would be the worst piece of music I had ever heard. The very idea disgusts me.

  8. Downpressor says:

    Antinous,

    until the next technological advance knocks everybody down

    The problem of piracy is not a technological one its a problem of ethics and morals. There just isnt a way to justify around it. We are not born with a god given right to be entertained or to have everything our little hearts desire. None of the “free culutre” blather or “information wants to be free” crap changes that.

    As you say, most businesses fail, but overall industries do adapt and go on. There isnt that big of a market for buggy whips but there are plenty of companies providing accessories for the personal and commercial vehicle industry. The recorded music industry has changed in many ways over the last 20 years or so and will continue to change. I wouldnt give good odds to subscriptions or personalization being a big part of the future though.

    I listed some business reasons why doesnt scale well enough to be a really viable model, lets see what Outerjohn comes up with.

  9. Geof says:

    if all digital media were completely free, everyone would benefit. I’d like to hear a historic example where this has ever been true.

    Seriously? Science. Mathematics. Early blues and jazz music.

    There are many goods for which property regimes are inferior to other arrangements. The management of fish stocks, for example, air pollution, and road networks – public goods in other words. The cost of taking ideas, which are public goods, and treating them as private goods turns out to be very high – and increasing. At some point the costs exceed the benefits.

    The example of Russia is spurious. We need protection for land (for example), therefore we need protection for ideas? That’s a rather strained analogy. Why not extend it to feelings and create property rights over love?

    The costs and benefits of rights over ideas are best understood by examining rights over ideas (and over particular kinds of ideas – music and software are not the same), not by drawing vague comparisons to other concepts. For specific analysis, see Coase’s Penguin and The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler, and Property, Intellectual Property, and Free Riding by Mark Lemley.

  10. noen says:

    Isn’t that the one mainly about Israel? What does this have to do with that?

    When you start a sentence with “The fact is…” and end it with “it’s socialism” to me that is a flag that screams troll. And I was being quite honest. Why come here when you’d be happier elsewhere?

    Anyway I never said corporations should do whatever they want. But they shouldn’t be obliterated and controlled in response to piracy, which is what the anti-DRM herd wants, along with free stuff.

    If technological advances make you obsolete then why shouldn’t they go into the dustbin of history? Isn’t that the magic hand at work? And yes, I do think that we need to regulate or control business. It’s what any responsible government does. Are you sure you read the article? Because Kevin does not say businesses should be obliterated

    “But since findability can really only happen at the systems level, creators need aggregators. This is why publishers, studios, and labels (PSL)will never disappear.”

    I think you are over reacting.

    Who says the old models aren’t working well? The people and *smaller* corporations being sued for p2p theft? The tiny minority willfully bricking their iPhones for esoteric reasons?

    Which is it, a herd or a tiny minority? You seem to want things both ways. But yahhhh… everything is just fine.

  11. The Reverend says:

    “Then artists should take it upon themselves to sue and go to court and change the corporate model.”

    Often not possible, when the band was required to sign away the right to sue as part of thier contract. In other cases, the cost of litigation outweighs the actual sums involved. And this is without even factoring in the millions of dollars that the industry has paid lobbyists and campaign fundraisers so that the laws would favor them. Good luck with that.

    This is not by accident- it is a result of the practical monopoly that the labels have had on distribution. As a musician 15 years ago, your options were 1) continue playing local bars for gas money and free beer, or 2) bend over for the label and be happy with whatever crumbs they choose to throw you.
    Our level of technology has changed that. I can now produce CDs in any quantity, with a cost per unit down to $1. 15 years ago, there would have been a minimum $10,000 investment to do this. For less than $5000, you can have a recording setup better than anything Hendrix or Elvis ever saw in thier lifetimes. Anyone with a computer and a mailbox can now have a worldwide distribution model, where a few years ago it would have taken a multinational corporation.

    So, yes, this DOES break the old economic model, even BEFORE you factor in piracy. And not through lawsuits, but through new innovation. The fact is that we can either change the old model of doing business, or restrict the new technology. Any guesses which of these two principals this whole capitalism thing was built on?

    The internet is the “better mousetrap”. The rest are fuedal lords trying to keep the peasants from revolting. Only one of these concepts is consistant with the values this country is built on.

  12. Antinous says:

    The problem of piracy is not a technological one its a problem of ethics and morals.

    Well, that would be the scary part of the equation, wouldn’t it? That’s far harder to deal with than technology. If the economy continues in the current direction, it may be a moot point, anyway. Although entertainment did quite well in the Great Depression.

  13. dougrogers says:

    RHB, That’s fascinating. No really.

    The net is disintermediation. It destroys the old models of distribution, and what it’s attacking, and what Japan attacked transistor-wise was the cherished American concept of property, what the Western economy was built on, what made it spread, and what is and will be it’s destruction – the concept of concrete objects separate from context.

  14. outerjohn says:

    Still not hearing any serious proposals, just attitude.

    Not really, it’s obvious from what’s been said. Also the burden of proof is on the person saying “we can create new economic models.” Also you started with the “attitude.”

    On the largest scale, the RIAA and MPAA should continue to combat orgs like Pirates Bay & What.cd through the likes of Media Defender and legal action.

    More close to home, sites like boingboing (increasingly political) should reconsider their self-righteous stance about “Free Culture,” and condemn piracy for what it is, and come up with better explanations of how, for instance, The White Stripes or Regina Spektor will get paid when they get sick & cancel live tours (I had tickets to both). Oh, I should re-read Kelly’s article? Rambling through a litany of vague, nebulous ideals like “Patronage” is absurd, and nobody will heed it (and he’s wrong about “patronage” anyway– only 38% of listeners paid ANYTHING at all for the new Radiohead).

    Of course, people such as Doctorow, whose work isn’t even very good, don’t care about artists. They care about feeling idealistic.

    In a word, socialism.

  15. Takuan says:

    Socialism. There goes any argument. Labels are so handy, they save so much thinking.

  16. Downpressor says:

    I did recall a semi functional example of personalization: in the reggae music world, the norm is for singers & players to do “work for hire” receiving a one time payment for recording a song for a producer. Popular vocalists sometimes supplement their income by recording “specials” for sound systems (a sound system is equivalent to a “DJ” and equipment plus the people who operate the equipment). The “special” is where the vocalist praises the sound system by name. These unique recordings are used in “sound clashes” (essentially popularity contests between multiple sound systems).

    Once again however, this does not scale meaningfully. These personalized tracks must be recorded over an already popular “riddim” (music bed of a song) to be of any use. As mentioned above producers are the ones who fund the creation of new riddims and the money for this comes from sales of recordings. No sales, no new music (or certainly a great reduction). No new popular riddims, less work for vocalists. This is already happening in Jamaica.

    Brit,

    Regarding games and embodiment, in Korea at least people actually do gather to watch someone else play games. Otherwise I’m pretty much in agreement with you that the article was mostly techno utopian hot air.

  17. outerjohn says:

    Socialism. There goes any argument. Labels are so handy, they save so much thinking.

    Nope. It’s reasonable to assume that erring on the side of “free culture” in a discussion of copyrights will sound to most people like you want to repossess artistic works for the sake of the public, via technology (art is just ideas, anyway! it wants to be free!)

    Socialism.

  18. Takuan says:

    no. you’ll just cut yourself again.

  19. outerjohn says:

    @ Geof

    The cost of taking ideas, which are public goods, and treating them as private goods turns out to be very high – and increasing.

    Music recordings, films, and books aren’t just “ideas.” Each represents the hard work and greatness of individuals, something that shouldn’t be stolen on behalf of the “public.”

    @ Noen

    If technological advances make you obsolete then why shouldn’t they go into the dustbin of history?

    Oh please, P2P isn’t some inevitable technology like the printing press. It’s useful, but right now it’s mostly just being used to steal stuff.

    @ The Reverend

    Okay, so record companies were a bad deal for the bands, and home recording + a website make self-publishing superior. Nobody’s trying to ban self-publishing. If that’s why the record companies are failing, so be it!

    But no, they are failing because people are stealing from them. This issue really is that trite. The “new technology” doesn’t = piracy. I work in computers & a media department, but I don’t download music without paying. Why? Because I’m an American. Doctorow wants to hand his stuff out for free, fine, and make it easy for people to mash it up or whatever, fine, but who is he to speak for all the creators of the world?

  20. Antinous says:

    Also the burden of proof is on the person saying “we can create new economic models.”

    Flawed thinking par excellence. There is no burden of proof. Just economic forces. You can ride in the truck or be dragged behind it. Your choice.

  21. Smoobly says:

    Am I the only one who noticed that–in the illustration–these digital copies are flowing over power lines?

    Was I snoozing? Is BPL/PLC/broadband-over-power already upon us? Where do I sign up?

  22. Takuan says:

    yup, something will emerge, no tears for exploiters like the RIAA, they made what they could while they could.

    Some rough sledding for the artists until this unforeseeable future firms up. I still can’t see which will be the dominant force. The artist is driven to produce (create), but can always get a day job. The end consumer might suffer but won’t die without art. At least not right away. … no one cares about large, soulless, greedy corporate users.

    Most people settle for distressingly low quality in cultural products. Did broadcast (free)television produce the dreck we still live with today? For the undiscerning masses, will advertising be buried in what will come to pass for popular music?

  23. noen says:

    Oh please, P2P isn’t some inevitable technology like the printing press. It’s useful, but right now it’s mostly just being used to steal stuff.

    No, I was talking about the subject of the article, P2P is your thing.

    But no, they are failing because people are stealing from them.

    Citation Needed. (from an independent source)

  24. Takuan says:

    I do not follow that last “Why? Because I’m an American”

    What does that mean?

  25. Antinous says:

    It’s interesting to me that persons who laugh at Intelligent Design for evolution try to apply essentially the same idea to the economy. I suppose there’s somebody somewhere still trying to make buggy whips a viable industry long after the buggy’s gone extinct.

    One possible model is the media subscription, like premium cable. Music creators, for example, would have to stop producing albums and dole out songs one by one to keep you subscribing. As long as there’s another episode of the Sopranos coming up, people will keep subscribing. They’re not going to wait for you to tape it and lend it to them in a week. They want it when they want it.

    Why couldn’t that be applied to music. It’s good for the consumers because there’s a need for constant fresh content. And it’s good for the artists, the real artists, because it keeps them creative and producing.

    The RIAA would prefer to sell five billion copies of one album. It’s cheaper for them. A system that really demanded fresh content wouldn’t support billionaire mega-bands, but it would likely bring paid work to a lot more performers.

    And for books – introducing Mr. Charles Dickens. He serialized his novels very successfully. Yet, the fact that his books appeared in the newspapers hasn’t really hurt his sales in the long run.

  26. noen says:

    “Most people settle for distressingly low quality in cultural products.”

    This isn’t true for everyone Takuan. I spent some time with a co-op gallery here in Mnpls in the poorer but definitely Hispanic part of town. They support the arts far more than whitebread America does. A friend of mine from that gallery decided to move to Spain because he sold much better there and spoke the language. Asians are also more aware of and supportive of their cultural heritage than we are. America is one of the more culturally illiterate countries in the world. (In my opinion, as far as I can tell, YMMV)

  27. Takuan says:

    You would have to create the idea in the music buyers mind that he or she MUST have it right away or it will go bad. Not difficult, already used quite a bit.

    Hey, how about a system where people with taste have their music paid for by slobs that will buy anything so long as they are assured it is THE thing to buy?

    Oh wait, that’s kinda already here…..

    Guaranteed income to all artists in a distributors stable, whether their stuff sells or is even made?
    A mixture of pablum and talent? For the right to piggishly enjoy the market, the producers have to subsidize some good stuff?

    How is it in Mexico they have good funding for symphonies and classical music?

    Do we need a music tax?

  28. The Reverend says:

    “Nobody’s trying to ban self-publishing. If that’s why the record companies are failing, so be it! But no, they are failing because people are stealing from them.”

    Really? Go out and find the hard facts on how much money illegal downloaders spend on CDs vs people who don’t download. I used to buy about 4 CDs a year. When Napster came out, I downloaded hundreds of songs and began buying 1-2 CDs per WEEK.
    Next, go look at how many CDs local bands in your area are selling. Contrast this with the music industry’s own “losses” for the last 10 years. You will learn something:

    THE RECORD COMPANIES AREN’T LOSING SALES TO PIRACY, THEY’RE LOSING MARKET SHARE TO INDEPENDANTS.

    And that is the real reason they want to shut down P2P- because it breaks thier monopoly. In the old system, you listen to the radio for free, then buy the music you like. In the new system, you listen to MP3s for free, then buy the music you think is worth paying for.

    While the record industry whines about how much sales are down, I personally know bands whose sales are up over the last 5 years from zero to 2,000 units. Every band I know sells at least a few dozen CDs per year, and that’s just in the NH seacoast. Multiply that by however many thousands of unsigned bands there are in this country, and you get a rough picture of where the industry’s profits are really going.

  29. Takuan says:

    from now on, whenever anyone says “socialism” when aome kind of generally beneficial compromise is suggested,I’m gonna scream “feudalism!” back at them for insisting that the local lords have a basic right to it all.

  30. Antinous says:

    Is socialism an insult? Not to me.

    You would have to create the idea in the music buyers mind that he or she MUST have it right away or it will go bad.

    What if you knew that the new Clay Aiken song was coming out on the first of next month and you needed that subscription to hear it the moment that it first plays. There are your drooling fans who’ll pay anything not to be left behind. Hell, you could do it for sermons, Ann Coulter rants, anything that attracts the rabid.

    Music is almost the only branch of the entertainment industry that hasn’t really exploited this idea. Television does it. SF lived in periodicals for years before becoming a fully realized ‘book’ industry.

  31. KlokWerk says:

    It will be interesting to go back to a model of music where artists must work for donations, commission or concert tickets. It will hearken back to the days of yore, when all those excellent musicians in the 1600′s, 1700′s and 1800′s prospered. Even though most people can only name 2 or 3 of them (if that).

    Like it or not, the music recording industry and record sales created an explosion of musical culture as more and more singers, musicians and songwriters found it possible to focus on writing music for a living to the extent that actually PLAYING the music was almost secondary to simply creating it. Its given us an incredible richness and variety of music within the last century. I wonder if this trend can continue for much longer?

  32. Takuan says:

    music’s derivative. When we lived small and tight, you knew all the local tunes (all five of them). This big recent splash got everybody listening to everyones else’s five tunes. Seems like a lot, but the more you hear the more you realize it starts to sound familiar. I hope I die before I get through it all.

  33. Takuan says:

    Carmina Burana is about beer drinking and lust, most of what I hear on that country channels is just horsecrap. “Elitist”? Try “possessing auditory taste buds”. Also, large, soulless, greedy corporate users reproduce by injecting their eggs into human children – where they develop into record-producer larvae.

    Re: personalization; web based custom song writing? Used to be the Emperor, King or Pope had a ditty composed for each significant day of their life (birth, coronation, marriage, conquest, rape, death etc.) How much would I pay to have my beloved’s favourite musician do a custom birthday piece?
    As much as I could afford, as much as expensive jewellry… there is something there.

  34. noen says:

    Still not hearing any serious proposals, just attitude.

  35. Antinous says:

    Try Purcell’s Odes and Welcome Songs. That’ll keep you going for a couple of months.

  36. Brit says:

    #43 posted by noen , February 4, 2008 10:00 AM
    Still not hearing any serious proposals, just attitude.

    So, do *you* have anything to contribute? I listed a number of things. You seem to be content to drag your feet to maintain the piracy status-quo.

    New technologies have enabled people to steal on a whole new level. People’s conscience is one possible buttress against stealing. Unfortunately, a number of “data isn’t property” people want to eliminate any sense of guilt associated with piracy. Funny how you don’t even spare a breath to even complain about this “philosophy”, it’s effects, and the obvious one-sided selfishness of it. Cracking down on the uploaders and facilitators is important. (And, to get back to piratebay: they’re working on an anonymous system so that people can steal things with less concern for getting caught. Again, you don’t spare a breath to condemn these actions.)

    People keep bringing up music companies to legitimize sticking it to the man by stealing music, but digital media isn’t just music. Even the tiniest companies that have nothing to do with the music industry get pirated. Pirates don’t care about which company they’re ripping off, and are probably not even aware of which company their ripping off at any given moment. I know one guy who runs a one-man company (no other employees) and he gets pirated.

    Since I work in games (which is digital, and therefore easy to rip off), let’s look at Kelly’s list to see if there’s any realistic advice for the games industry.

    Immediacy – claim: people can get legitimate copies more quickly through legitimate channels than through piracy. This is barely true – and it’s only true for major companies selling big-budget games (e.g. Halo 3). Companies have to push the hype to make people want to get the game within days. Anything longer than that and it will be available on pirate-websites. Speaking of Halo, perhaps that’s not the best example. A pirated copy of Halo 3 was available a few days before its official launch, and a pirated copy of Halo 2 available about a month before release. Does this mean that the “immediacy” bullet point favors piracy over legitimate sales? (Microsoft did strike-back against the pirates: when the XBox “phoned home”, it identified people with pirated copies and banned them. Making people connect to your servers for various value-added things like multiplayer matching is at least a useful strategy for fighting piracy – assuming the game can incorporate some value-added online stuff. Hopefully, they won’t manage to duplicate the servers.) I should also add that DRM actually *helps* with the “immediacy”. If it takes a week to crack the DRM, then you have an immediacy advantage (of one week) over the pirates.

    Personalization – is anyone going to customize games at the “factory” level for each individual user? I think not. We can allow the user to customize things on his user’s end – but that means the pirates have the same abilities. Asking game companies to customize games before they reach the hands of the consumer is not realistic. For one thing: what do we know about each individual user before he has a copy of the game? Second: if we did customizations he’s talking about, they would be permanent. Giving the user the ability to customize things to his preferences or customizing them after installation is far more useful for real users.

    Interpretation – make people pay for support? Hey, that might work fine when you sell your software to rich companies, but what kind of support would we possibly charge for when selling a game? Quite frankly, it’s better if everything works intuitively and has good documentation. (One of the problems I have with this model is that it incentivizes software companies to make software that is difficult to use, or causes user-interface issues to be given lowest priority because it undercuts selling support.)

    Authenticity – “might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted”. Right – like an “official” copy is somehow more bug-free or reliable than a pirated copy made with the exact same digital bits of information.

    Accessibility – you have to keep your software “tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up”. If someone is pirating a game and their hard-drive crashes, they can just get another copy from the same internet they got their first pirated copy from.

    Embodiment – you want to see it on the big screen, so you go to a theater instead of pirating it and watching it on your home computer. Okay, but when does anyone want to play “your favorite (free) game with 35 others in the same room?” Kelly sounds out-of-touch with reality if he thinks 35 people want to stand around watching people play games. And exactly what percentage of game users would want to do this, even if it wasn’t zero? And how, exactly, would game companies profit from some occasional eccentric guy renting out a movie theater to play Halo?

    Patronage – “audiences WANT to pay creators”. I think this is overrated. I have friends who have written shareware (i.e. pay the owner if you want). If you want some spare cash, fine. It certainly isn’t going to pay your mortgage. This model will reduce game company earnings to a fraction of their current value. Kelly’s example of Radiohead? The average donation per download of their album was $2.26. Admittedly, that’s probably not bad relative to the money they’d get from a record company. Although, that’s not quite fair since one of the main jobs of record companies is to increase the volume of sales through marketing, advertising, and existing media contacts. An artist getting $10 per sale on 1,000 sales is a lot worse than getting $1 per sale on 100,000 sales. Radiohead is famous and they used their donation model to drum up *a lot* of free publicity. So, assuming it worked out well for them, it only shows that established bands with existing media interest and an uncommon sales strategy to drum up publicity (while it’s still uncommon) can profit from the strategy. If you want to add all the advertising costs into it (along with everything else publishers would have done, but now you have to do yourself), that $2.26 is going to get a lot slimmer.

    Findability – yeah, like you can’t search for digital media if you want to pirate it. Most of this is about ways major corporations (Amazon, TV networks) can direct viewers to other things they might like.

  37. Takuan says:

    I’ll do that then. Thanks for the referral.

  38. Comedian says:

    A little Oscar Wilde seems appropriate:

    “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

  39. Downpressor says:

    @The Reverend #35

    Please dont confuse your personal CD buying habits with the habits of others. Personally, I’d love to see “hard facts” in this area but all I’ve seen to date is puff pieces on the pro piracy sites.

    As far as your claim of indie labels gaining market share at the expense of the majors, theres no doubt that a few labels are showing growth but there are many possible reasons.

    My experience running a small label that does not compete with the majors since we serve a genre they dont has been that we do loose sales to illegal copies, DJ mix CDs and Russian MP3 sales sites. In the same genre, I’ve heard the same complaints from every other small label owner I’ve talked to.

    Truth is indies have a much harder time getting product in front of customers. Even the Internet is not a complete replacement for having your CD/record/tape right there in front of the customer when they got money in hand and are ready to buy. That plus the fact that unless you can cut a deal with an aggregator or direct with large online retail, the costs of doing your own payments processing can be prohibitive, especially outside the US.

    In regards to the article itself, I dont see anything new said there. Every one of those aspects has been done in one form or another by sales campaigns in many industries for many years now, yes, even in the music business. Dont much see how any of it relates to smaller content creators or companies without big number budgets to perform those services.

  40. Downpressor says:

    @45

    You described aspects of Findability but those are not “producer” things as much as distributor/retail things. The distinction is important.

  41. Takuan says:

    thinking really hard on it

    just about impossible to come up with something useful from prior art.

    social aspect, not tech, will be it

  42. The Reverend says:

    “Please dont confuse your personal CD buying habits with the habits of others.”

    Agreed- my bad. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who share my habits, but that is purely anecdotal- any facts I have at the moment are limited in scope to people I know personally.

    I’m primarily concerned with unsigned artists- As much as I will admit that most indie labels are a vast improvement over the majors, they still tend to serve more or less the same function, and I don’t really see what they have to offer. (What I imagine as a future business model is more of a co-op where individual artists pool buying power to negotiate better prices for goods and services- but this is purely an idle thought.)

    The one thing I will argue though, is the very notion of “lost sales”. Just because you put a product out there, it doesn’t mean that it will sell, and there is little reason to believe that the people involved would purchase said product even if they couldn’t get it for free.

    Basing an argument (or worse- legal proceedings!) on a hypothetical “if X hadn’t occurred, Y would have” scenario is shaky at best, and dangerously abusive at worst. e.g.: “I just lost money because BoingBoing is free- If you had to pay to read my post, I would have made $X, so really, you owe me $X.”

    The concept just doesn’t hold water.

  43. j says:

    Great article. Regarding two of the generatives:

    Immediacy
    The peer networks are already more efficient than convention distribution, when measured by release date.

    Unreleased movies, software, and especially music are routinely available. This is in part due to artificially imposed marketing-driven delays.

    Assume we can eliminate these delays and release to subscribers immediately at the time the work is produced. It’s then just a short hop (currently minutes) from subscriber inbox to peer network. Competition between warez groups will squeeze this time asymptotically close to zero.

    You also have to contend with mid-production leaks that occur before a work is mastered.

    In short, I don’t think there’s much of a win for producers available in terms of immediacy.

    Findability
    I’d break this down further into active and passive findability, and there are big producer opportunities in each area.

    Active findability is when you search for a torrent on the Pirate Bay. The user experience is very poor, especially for long tail searches. If you’re looking for a blockbuster, you’ll find it. Something niche, good luck. In both cases, you have another barrier to contend with if you succeed: encoding and language issues.

    iTunes Music Store’s findability/price proposition is an example to be emulated.

    Passive findability is the business Netflix is really in. Think recommendation engines, collaborative filters, last.fm, etc.

    Recommendations, a queue, and passive delivery have made Netflix one of the first hugely successful companies in the public eye whose real value proposition is an attention discount.

    Passive findability is presently the producers’ battle to lose. They have the budgets, they have the metadata, but if they continue to waste time suing customers to protect expired business models, the vacuum will be filled by the pirates.

  44. noen says:

    Ok Downpressor, outerjohn, let’s hear your solution. DRM doesn’t work, it gets hacked as fast as they can release it. What should we do? Should let the NSA and AT&T sniff every single bit on the internet and if you’re caught off you go to jail? Should we let Sony and all the other corps put their root kits on every customers’ machine and let them all spy on us so they can be sure no one steals a single song? What should be done?

  45. Downpressor says:

    @52

    Most people settle for distressingly low quality in cultural products.

    Good to see elitism is alive and well! How’s your latest symphony going? Seriously though, most music isnt art by any stretch of the imagination nor are most musicians or performers artists. The mass market stuff is entertainment and believe it or not songs about beer drinking and lust are just as much cultural artifacts as the Ode to Joy.

    As for your hatin’ on “large, soulless, greedy corporate users,” dont forget that even those people have families and children to feed ^_^

    @53

    They have cable radio subscriptions here in Japan. Its a few hundred channels of pre-programmed playlists that are mostly hit rotation just like any Clear Channel radio station in the US. And its not any better for the musicians because theres a separately negotiated royalty rate. Then again most musicians for the big labels here work on a very twisted salary system from their management agencies and dont end up ever seeing much in the way of direct royalty payments anyways.

    I know some guys who work for Sony Music whose 9 to 5 is to go in every day and lay down tracks in the style thats on the day’s work orders. Of course the downside to this is they are subject to layoffs just like anyone else with a job.

  46. Downpressor says:

    Antinous,

    Why can’t a musician sign a contract to produce twenty songs to be released every week or so?

    That was kind of my point with the Sony Music salarymen. There are a few problems with this idea relating to scale however. Music as a trade is at least as technical as many IT jobs. To do it at the level where you can put out 20 market worthy tracks a week that are not all remixes or variations on a theme takes alot of talent and discipline. You have to be able to play several instruments in a variety of styles and keep your chops current with market tastes.

    There are not so many musicians who can work on that level. Realistically you cant pay them by the piece you have to pay them salary. To run that sort of production shop you need a few of them on staff, so in addition to salary you have all the associated employment costs, insurance, taxes, etc. About the only way to support this is to deliver mass market product to a corporate distribution infrastructure, or in short, the standard Hit Parade or backing music for commercials, grocery stores and dentists offices.

    What happens in these cases is not so different from the old Tin Pan Alley system, its just larger and better organized.

    Takuan,

    How much would I pay to have my beloved’s favourite musician do a custom birthday piece?

    Well tell us please, how much would you pay? The rich still commission famous musicians to do new works or performances for special occasions. Costs run from 5 to 7 digits in USD. Your local bar band can be hired to cover The Beatles version of Happy Birthday for much less. Heck you could just go down to your favorite Mexican resteraunt and slip the leader of the mariachi band a Jackson to play something special for your sweetie. Whether were talking Elton John or Bar Band, in both cases the extra income is nice but its not really a way to make a living.

    The truth is 99% of the listeners dont want a custom personalized song, they want to enjoy the song that all their friends enjoy or that they already know, thats why we still go listen to cover bands at bars or pay outrageous money to hear the Rolling Stones play their best hits of the last 30 years. Sure people need something new, but I’ve yet to meet someone who listens to nothing but new music.

  47. historyman68 says:

    the whole point of the article is that the services people are, and increasingly will be willing to pay for, are not distribution, since it can and will happen for free, but “generatives” which will become more valuable than simply “free”: such as “immediacy”, “personalization”. Read the article, it’s not that long.

    The reason DRM feels so counterintuitive, according to this logic, is because it violates the “accessibility” generative: it essentially means you’re paying more to do less with something, when you could have paid nothing to have more options.

  48. Downpressor says:

    @#37

    Some small labels are essentially co-ops, allowing one or more musicians or groups to share the working knowledge required to get something out there. The label I work with is like that.

    I’ve got a pretty simple definition of a “lost sale”. I believe that we are essentially selling the experience of hearing the music, not the delivery vehicle. If someone obtains a copy of the vehicle without paying and chooses to experience it more than once, thats a lost sale.

    So basically, the person who downloads once and never listens or listens once and deletes is not a lost sale, they got no value. The person who downloads and puts it on their portable player and listens X amount of times, thats a lost sale.

    I refuse to split hairs about hearing the song on the radio or checking it out from the library or a mix tape from a friend. Thats about fair use, discussion of lost sales is about transactions.

    @#38

    Whose this “we” you are talking about? The “we” I’m involved with sells records to distributors & stores and contracts with various digital resellers and has no illusions of changing the world but wishes we didnt get ripped off so much.

    Also not sure why you conflate the NSA, AT&T and Sony into this since question as I understand it is really does the Better Than Free article offer any real insights.

  49. Takuan says:

    An old story about a matter duplication economy; what becomes valuable are “uniques” (certified never copied)

  50. mankyd says:

    “When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.”

    Doesn’t a statement like that sort of claim that DRM is a good thing? I mean, the entire idea of DRM is to make things non-copyable. Similarly, a statement like that could help support the institution of laws that prevent fair-use copying and derivative works, thus “adding value” to those works.

    I understand the though behind this statement, but it seems flawed on some level to me.

  51. Brit says:

    If a Russian website wants to sell tracks for pennies then, given the GDP in Russia, then that is the nature of the interwebs.

    What Russian Mp3 websites were doing was theft. No one outside of Russia got any money from any sale. It’s the equivalent of me selling my ripped MP3′s on the internet and pocketing all the money. I never bought music from that website, and told other people to avoid it as well, because I knew they were ripping off the people who created the music.

    I won’t assume I know everyone’s position on the matter, but I’ve seen a lot of anti-copyright people on the internet. For example, on a recent thread (“Galactic Civilizations II: big budget game, no DRM”), peterus made the claim that “Data isn’t property.” The only logical conclusion of that statement is that all digital media is free to everyone. I can’t help but feel like a farmer living in Russia during farm collectivization, and a mob has arrived on my door claiming I have no right to my property – and it’s going to be taken from me and added to the collective because it’s “better for everyone”. Even worse, they have no obligation to pay me anything – unlike the USSR which paid bad government wages to everyone. (And the fundamental flaw with communism is that they didn’t take into account that people don’t like working for the collective; they want to profit from the sweat of their own brow, not have their reward stolen away by the collective. The “digital media isn’t property” crowd wants to do that to digital-media creators.) Ironically, many of the anti-copyright people use an argument similar to the communists: big, bad capitalists are abusing the common worker, which sounds a bit like “music companies are screwing the musician”. First of all, music isn’t the only digital media. Second of all, while I don’t particularly like the music companies, the RIAA, or the ridiculous copyright extensions, it’s a convenient excuse for pirates to grab free stuff.

    When Napster came out, I downloaded hundreds of songs and began buying 1-2 CDs per WEEK. Next, go look at how many CDs local bands in your area are selling. Contrast this with the music industry’s own “losses” for the last 10 years.

    And, what’s the point? No one is stopping small bands from uploading their stuff to the internet. If this is truly a viable strategy, then companies will want to take advantage of it. Don’t steal stuff off the internet, and claim you’re doing the companies a favor.

    Take this blog as an example. BoingBoing has been around a long time and everything on it is easily copied, reproduced and distributed around the world. So ask yourself what about this blog can’t be easily reproduced? Hint: it isn’t the content.

    Yes, someone could steal the content and put it on another website, but people come for the regular updates and also the server-side code that permits commenting, too. (So the thief would need to copy BoingBoing regularly and write his own server-side code.) But, what would make his website better than the original? Why not come here directly, instead? If you charged for access, he’d compete with you on price. I’ve actually seen people rip off websites, by the way. There is a software-development website I used to visit. People would upload articles on software development, and it grew into a great resource with thousands of articles. Every once in a while, someone would write a script that would copy the entire site. He’d then duplicate the website on a different domain and put his own ads up. It was actually pretty irritating that someone would come and rip-off a website that people had spent years building up.

    Second, not all digital products can be supported by ads like BoingBoing. Do you really want your games, word processors, and movies showing ads to eek-out a living? They’d never make much money, and that means everything would be low-budget. Don’t assume your model, based on a website, can possibly work for all forms of media. For example, I own one piece of software that costs over $3000. It’s remarkably powerful, took an enormous amount of work to create, and do you really think they will generate $3000 worth of ad-revenue from me alone? Do you think that selling access to web-community centered around this software is worth $3000?

    Ok Downpressor, outerjohn, let’s hear your solution. DRM doesn’t work, it gets hacked as fast as they can release it.

    I think you need to begin making some finer distinctions. First, I think it’s important that people recognize that they don’t have a *right* to every piece of digital media for free. People worked hard on creating this stuff. Simply reducing the percentage of piracy is important, and people’s conscience can play a role – but that *only* works if people understand that piracy is wrong.

    My number one irritation is with the piracy advocates. The “data isn’t property”, “I don’t believe in intellectual property”, “you can’t own culture” ideas that are just other ways of saying “digital media belongs to everyone, not the author, artist, or worker who created it; therefore – mine, mine, mine!”. At least if people are going to rip off digital media, they shouldn’t have the convenience of believing that what they are doing is right. I recently read an interview with the creator of piratebay, and the interview was completely neutral. He was said something to the effect that ‘People think we hate copyright, but the truth is that we simply don’t care about copyright.’ I was appalled that those kinds of ideas and the creator of piratebay get completely neutral, non-judgmental treatment from a magazine. Fundamentally, they are saying that if I spend a hundred million dollars and my entire life creating a movie, music, software, or any other digital product, that it belongs to the public domain, and I have no more right to profit from it than any random person on the street. I think that’s pretty galling. I find it galling that people *preach* that it’s the way things *should* be.

    Second, if people are going to take digital media and facilitate it’s theft (like piratebay), I think we should all recognize that it’s sleazy and needs to be illegal.

    What should we do? Should let the NSA and AT&T sniff every single bit on the internet and if you’re caught off you go to jail? Should we let Sony and all the other corps put their root kits on every customers’ machine and let them all spy on us so they can be sure no one steals a single song? What should be done?

    Saying things like “sniff every single bit on the internet” and make sure “no one steals a single song” are clearly unattainable goals. Don’t propose ridiculous “solutions” to try to make your position look like the only sensible one. If I came to you and said, “Burglary is bad, we need to catch these them”, would you roll your eyes and say, “oh, gee – what are we going to do? Hire a million cops and put video-cameras on everyone’s houses to make sure not a single burglary happens anywhere at any time?”

  52. lennyb says:

    He’s talking about thing that by their nature cannot be copied. DRM makes copyable items harder to copy, but by nature they are still copyable.

    I think one example (without RTFA) is transient things, like the experience of being at a concert. Being there is now increasingly more valuable than listening my large collection of mp3s, which are arguably worthless (since they were free).

  53. Tarmle says:

    It’s such simple reasoning that it becomes increasingly difficult to comprehend why so many either fail to understand or refuse to accept it.

    I’m reminded of the scene in the end of HHGTTG when the colonists decide that the currency of their new world will be leaves, and to prevent everybody becoming instant billionaires they have to start cutting down all the trees.

  54. KlokWerk says:

    RHB, you might be interested in reading Alan Greenspan’s book, The Age of Turbulence. One of the concepts he expands on in that book is how the success of the western style economy can be partially attributed to protections for property rights.The truth of this became very evident in watching both the collapse of the USSR and the struggles Russia has faced post-collapse. Russia dropped central planning but they didn’t engage legal protections for property rights, which is why their economy is still so far behind ours. Basically, without legal protections for your stuff, the desire to make new stuff largely goes away. Instead of a rich economy of competition based around protections, it’s all cut throat and theft; the economy stagnates.

    The hope for digital media is that this isn’t the case, and if all digital media were completely free, everyone would benefit. I’d like to hear a historic example where this has ever been true.

    Personally I don’t think DRM is the solution and I’m not sure there is a solution, but rather, there will be an inevitable paradigm shift in that digital media is incapable of being anything other than free. I’m not really looking forward to the effect this may have. There will be no more book publishers because everyone can publish books, although nobody will be able to sell them. As much as I would pay Orson Scott Card to keep writing books, I wonder whether I’d have ever heard of him if he had to juggle book writing with his paying job down at the factory.

  55. Stephen says:

    Sort of like how the printing press made books worthless and cassette tapes made music worthless, and of course, the way VHS made TV and movies worthless.

  56. Geof says:

    It’s important to distinguish between copies and the idea itself. When copies are abundant, the copies become worthless – but the idea itself increases in value (at least in most cases – secrets become worth less when they are abundant). This value can compound very rapidly due to network effects: examples are MS Windows, the English language, the song Happy Birthday.

    When I say value, I am not talking about price. Many of the things we value most in life are free. DRM may increase the value of copies, but it generally diminishes the value of the idea itself, resulting in an economic loss.

  57. outerjohn says:

    @KlokWerk

    “I wonder whether I’d have ever heard of him if he had to juggle book writing with his paying job…”

    In the post-DRM world, the great minds of our time will watch their creativity stolen and distributed by spoiled, anti-capitalist masses.

    The fact is, aside from the publicity some artists (Radiohead) receive by being the first, this WILL eventually destroy the professional artist and writer. Socialism does that.

  58. Brit says:

    > When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.

    Depending on how you read that, it might be an extremely simplistic and ridiculous statement. When copies are super-abundant, you can’t charge anyone for a copy. However, they can still be extremely valuable. Take OpenOffice as an example: is it worthless? In the sense that you can charge people money to get a copy, it is worthless. In the sense that it helps people, the answer is a definite “no” – it’s NOT worthless. I recently uploaded an application (which I wrote) to my website. I’m giving stuff away for free, and plan on giving away other stuff for free. Does that make them worthless? Don’t be ridiculous. I give them away because I hope other people find them as valuable as I do. I think adding to the common-domain helps people, and helps to build the world up.

    > DRM may increase the value of copies, but it generally diminishes the value of the idea itself, resulting in an economic loss.

    I really don’t understand the thinking of the anti-copyright crowd. It’s an economic loss compared to what? Everyone ripping off the creator? In many ways, I can’t help but look at pirates as motivated by anything except pure selfishness – the desire to steal the works of others as if they have a god-given right to it. The fact of the matter is that a DRM-laced software is more valuable than non-existent software. And if people constantly rip-off the creators, then what is the ultimate fate of the creators? They won’t produce any more software. Like I’ve said before, there’s no point in my writing software if piracy is so bad that mowing lawns becomes more lucrative. So what do you want: do you want me to write software, get paid, and help thousands of people benefit from the fruit of my labor, or do you want me to spend my days mowing some stranger’s lawn. It would be a huge waste of my mind and my talent, but if pirates and piracy-promoters don’t get their head on straight, then you’re making that choice for me.

    The pirates are just a mob of people who want to kill the golden goose, but think that killing the golden goose = golden eggs for everyone, instead of figuring out that killing the golden goose means no more gold eggs. Here’s a thought for all you pirates: by pirating, you increase the incentive for creators to use DRM. This means YOU are responsible for DRM in the products you buy. This is because NO creator would even consider using DRM if piracy wasn’t happening. YOU are the ones at fault for this situation.

  59. Geof says:

    Wow. I didn’t expect my argument to be linked to piracy. When I said that DRM diminishes the value of the idea, I meant that the value of many ideas derives largely from their popularity. Windows, English, and Happy Birthday are examples of this. If only I spoke English, it wouldn’t be terribly useful. Ideas like this are most valuable when they are most abundant (though in the case of English, that logic has the unhappy side-effect of driving other languages to extinction).

    This is not an all-out attack on copyright – simply a restatement of economic orthodoxy. (Economics has its failings, but it is what we are talking about here.) The intent of copyright is to incent creation at the cost of economic inefficiency. Unfortunately, there is a lack of empirical evidence for or against protection. We really don’t know how well it works, what level would best encourage creation and maximize distribution, or whether alternatives would be better. Yochai Benkler writes,

    both in theory and as far as empirical evidence shows, there is remarkably little support in economics for regulating information, knowledge and cultural production through the tools of intellectual property.

  60. Geof says:

    Oh, I see. I should have said “copyright”, not “DRM”. I was disputing Mankyd’s suggestion that DRM increases value and is therefore good, not advocating piracy.

  61. The Reverend says:

    “When copies are super abundant, they become worthless”

    I think that the whole contextual point of this statement is thus: what is more valuable- a CD of the Jimi Hendrix experience, or having been at Woodstock? A mass market paperback or a hand copied fourth century manuscript? A cast resin ornament or the original work of art it was molded from?

    I would almost argue that this is the whole point of BOTH the pro- and anti-copyright crowd. That the experience of listening to music is worth inherrantly more than the value of a 5″ plastic disc.

    I count myself as a member of the anti-copyright crowd, and I’m a musician, artist, and craftsman. Of course I feel that people should be paid for thier work, but the reality is that 1) Copyright law no longer protects the person it was intended to, and 2) The economic model has changed drasticly. Copyright is SO broken that it just isn’t even a good idea anymore.

  62. noen says:

    You haven’t really thought it through Brit and it doesn’t sound to me like you’ve read the article. “The golden goose = golden eggs for everyone” well sure but… so what? Gold is worthless anyway. The only reason it has value is because it’s pretty and it’s scarce. In an economy where gold is free, hoarding it is a useless activity.

    Take this blog as an example. BoingBoing has been around a long time and everything on it is easily copied, reproduced and distributed around the world. So ask yourself what about this blog can’t be easily reproduced? Hint: it isn’t the content.

  63. outerjohn says:

    “Copyright is SO broken that it just isn’t even a good idea anymore.”

    Many people have said the same about capitalism in general. The alternatives are far worse.

  64. pinup57 says:

    Interesting, of course but I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that this is not a US-specific subject:

    The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports — that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage.

    We’re living in a global world now, and US is not universal….. this theory could apply to any economy on earth.

  65. Jeff says:

    People seem to have a hardwired need to place things in a catagory. Values are ascribed to things so we know how to fit them into our ecconomic model that’s running on our culture. If everything becomes copied, and the copies do not contribute to the ecconomic health of the culture, then all we’ve done is help create lots of negitive worth. Try running an ecconomic model where more and more object value ends up as a ZERO. Trouble. It’ like growing more and more cheap food with little or no nutritional value. EAT all you want, but enjoy starving.

  66. Patrick Dodds says:

    How does:

    “This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth.”

    Tally with:

    “When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.”?

    The quote seems contradictory.

    And, @ Brit, while I agree with some of your statements about the “anti-copyright crowd”, I think that what a lot of music fans were / are annoyed about is the fact that the music industry has tried to pretend that we are still living in the 1960s. They have tried to deny that the means of production and distribution have changed and, since there were no signs that they were prepared to reflect this in their pricing structure, they were ultimately forced to do so by outside agencies. They aren’t going down fighting of course, but the game is up. If a Russian website wants to sell tracks for pennies then, given the GDP in Russia ($14,600 ; USA $46,000 – both figures 2007 from CIA World Factbook; and lord knows what the median income is in Russia – woeful I should think), then that is the nature of the interwebs. Protectionism doesn’t work.

  67. The Reverend says:

    @OuterJohn

    “In the post-DRM world, the great minds of our time will watch their creativity stolen and distributed by spoiled, anti-capitalist masses.”

    In the centuries leading up to that, the great minds of our time will have watched their creativity stolen by spoiled capitalists and resold to the masses.

    I don’t know What Orson Scott Card makes in a year, but a fair number of bands have written and performed original creative works that have earned millions for the label, while the company pays them less than they would have made waiting tables.

    Mind you, I’m heavilly PRO-capitalism. I just feel that creator’s rights should take preceedent over copyrights, and that the corporate law centered system we have does more harm than good. The fact is that by not being a part of the existing corporate system, I make as much profit from selling 10 CDs at a gig as most pop acts make from selling 1000. I may never make a platinum album, but I’ve already made more money from my art than the Backstreet Boys.

  68. silpada says:

    I definitely enjoyed reading this post.Thank you.

  69. Shanjaq says:

    The image looks like (economically)free energy :)

  70. RHB says:

    point one, copyrighting is a western concept invented by corporations to protect and allow amortisation of their capital investment. Asia has never bought the concept, Japan sent spies to copy transistor technology in U.S. then produced quantaties of superior product and eventually shut down U.S. radio manufacturing. If you speak in abstracts you must recognize that the concrete applications have significant effect on econimies.

    Point two, copying reduces the value of given original but makes it immediately more accessable to more individuals, thereby increasing the intrinsic value of copying itself. Providing disemination of ideas and thought is deemed a “value” in itself over ownership.

  71. outerjohn says:

    “…a fair number of bands have written and performed original creative works that have earned millions for the label, while the company pays them less than they would have made waiting tables.”

    Then artists should take it upon themselves to sue and go to court and change the corporate model.

    The masses taking it upon themselves to take an artist’s work without paying them is still theft motivated by socialist sentiment.

  72. Patrick Dodds says:

    Some valid points Brit – thanks for the reasoned response.

    I was confining myself to the music industry because that’s the one (amongst those going digital) that appears to be the most greedy and deliberately short-sighted, although that may only be because it is first – file size and no loss of usability (an MP3 player does the job and you get what you want, a song in your ears; Kindle, not so much) means it has gone off the cliff before printed media, but they’ll go too in due course.

    I agree with you that it makes no sense to say that copyright over digital content is wrong per se – there wouldn’t be a music, photo, film or publishing industry if every piece of code just went into some common public pot. However, the rapacious greed of the music industry over the years, and the grotesque legal adventures of the likes of the RIAA, mean that they get zero sympathy. Apple charging more for downloads in the UK than the States; the British Phonographic Industry (yep, they call themselves that – that’s how in touch they are with the times) forcing CDWow! to put up it’s prices because they were importing CDs to the UK from the “wrong” part of the globe; the years of waiting for the record companies to give people music in a format they wanted and could easily use; the (admittedly anecdotal) stories of numerous bands with worthless contracts forced to sue to get out of them: the list of woes goes on and I stand by my original point that the industry has clearly indicated that it has to be forced to change, it won’t sort itself out. If the music industry had been responsible for car manufacturing, most of us would be riding horses.

    It will be interesting is to see what lessons the publishing industry (magazines / books / newspapers) has learned from the way in which the music industry has (mis)handled this upheaval in the means of production, but it is clear that of course the days of the magazine and book are numbered. In fact, most newspapers have already, as we know, given up the paywall in favour of the advert. Interesting times….

  73. noen says:

    outerjohn
    “The fact is, aside from the publicity some artists (Radiohead) receive by being the first, this WILL eventually destroy the professional artist and writer. Socialism does that.”

    Wouldn’t you be happier back home at Little Green Footballs?

    “Many people have said the same about capitalism in general. The alternatives are far worse.”

    No, there are many varieties, many economic systems that can be tried. What has failed and is utterly broken is Chicago School Neoliberalism that says corporations can do whatever they want and government should just get out of the way.

    “The masses taking it upon themselves to take an artist’s work without paying them is still theft motivated by socialist sentiment.”

    It’s only theft under the antiquated system. We have created a machine, the internet, that makes reproduction and distribution virtually free. This breaks old economic models but that’s ok, we can create new ones. We have that right. It is our system and if we find that it isn’t working so well in the internet age then we have to right to change it so that it does work.

    Copyright is broken. If you read the article and this blog, which I doubt you do, then you would know that there are alternative systems of copyright that many feel would work better with the new technology.

  74. kerim says:

    might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind.

    - Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936

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