October 24, 2004  ·  William Fisher

Larry has kindly offered me the opportunity to host his blog for a week. My plan is to use the opportunity primarily to catalyze a discussion of the current crisis in the entertainment industry and what potential solutions to it are both attractive and practicable. I recently published a book on the subject: Promises to Keep � Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment. The Introduction, which lays out the argument of the book as a whole, and Chapter 6, which has proven to be its most controversial piece, are available online. The book itself can be purchased through any online bookstore.

I thought I�d begin by briefly summarizing the argument of the first chapter, and then ask whether, particularly in light of some recent articles and developments, the argument holds up.

Here�s the argument in a nutshell: In combination, three technological developments � digital recording and storage systems, compression/decompression systems, and the Internet � have created dramatically new ways of making, keeping, sharing, and enjoying audio and video recordings. Full exploitation of those new techniques would have many social and economic benefits: large costs savings (enabling consumers to get more entertainment for less or artists to be paid more); greater convenience and precision in the ways that recordings are delivered to consumers; a sharp increase in the number of musicians and filmmakers who can reach global audiences and make decent livings; enhancement of the diversity of materials available to the public; and a dramatic increase in the number of persons who participate in the making of culture (a trend for which I use the term [not of my own invention] �semiotic democracy�). The same developments, however, pose three serious dangers: corrosion of the systems by which artists and intermediaries have traditionally made money from their recordings; threats to artists� �moral rights�; and destabilization of the cultural icons in reference to which we partially define ourselves. The chapter concludes with the claim that we ought to strive, through a restructuring of the legal system and associated business models, to capitalize on the opportunities created by the new technologies, while minimizing the concomitant hazards. (The rest of the book then goes on (a) to argue that we�ve failed to achieve that goal thus far and (b) to sketch some ways in which we might.)

Before addressing the particular ways in which I and others have tried to solve the crisis, it might be helpful to consider whether my characterization of the crisis is fair and balanced. One potential line of criticism would point to the recent paper by Oberholzer and Strumpf, �The Effect of File Sharing on Music Sales (http://www.unc.edu/~cigar/papers/FileSharing_March2004.pdf) (which appeared after my manuscript was set) as evidence that I have seriously exaggerated the extent to which the new technologies (in this case, P2P services) have, at least thus far, threatened traditional business models. Another potential line of criticism would argue that moral rights (artists� interest in the integrity of their creations and in being given appropriate credit for their creations) are overblown � either in general or with respect to digital recordings, of which unlimited copies may be made. I�d be curious to hear reactions on these or any other pertinent issues.

Two unrelated procedural points: First, unfortunately, on Monday I will be on planes from roughly 1:00 am to noon Eastern time � and thus, unable, during that period, to respond to comments. But thereafter, I�ll be back online. Second, it may be impossible, given the importance and imminence of the election, to keep a conversation going this week about online entertainment. If so, I�ll have to adapt in some way.

Terry Fisher

  • http://locut.us/~ian/blog/ Ian

    Your proposal in Chapter 6 sounds like an effective nationalisation of the entertainment industry. Given the spirited resistance met by even the smallest attempts to increase the goverment’s role in the US health system by those who fear “big government”, I really can’t see this making much headway.

    Before we consider such drastic measures to save the entertainment industry we should ask whether society really needs it. The free software movement has taught us that creativity does not suddenly grind to a halt when creators are denied (or voluntarily reject) the control afforded to them by copyright.

  • http://www.nerdylorrin.net Lorrin Nelson

    “Another potential line of criticism would argue that moral rights (artists� interest in the integrity of their creations and in being given appropriate credit for their creations) are overblown”

    I think burden of proof is on the other side. Why should artists have such rights? It is a limitation on others’ freedom, afterall. It seems to me copyright is a tool to foster creativity and not a moral right.

  • Roshan Abraham

    Do you mind filling me in on where you learned the term “semiotic democracy”? It’s a concept I’d like to look further into.

  • Ethan

    Looking up “semiotic democracy” I ran across an interesting point on a wiki — social contract as applied to copyright. Given the points raised at the bottom of the page, can copyright be forced onto a market? Consumers were more or less willing to *give* that freedom away in the past, but I fail to see what reason(s) they would have to renew it after recent developments.

  • http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/dotan_oliar Dotan Oliar

    It seems that attribution is an important artistic interest. Recording artists have for years signed “standard” contracts from which they got no income (pp. 55-58 in Promises to Keep). The basic economics of this deal seems to give each that which they appreciate more relative to the other – money goes to the labels, fame (attribution) to the artists. This is not to deny that payment is important to artists, and that artists may sign such contracts in order to be able to make more money later once they are famous, but hope for future riches does not seem to explain such contracts fully.

    One possible way to examine the importance of attribution and integrity would be to see how many Creative Commons contributors choose the attribution and the derivative works licenses. It would show that attribution and integrity are more important to some people than money. Also, it shows (in response to an earlier comment by Lorrin Nelson) that moral rights may serve as an incentive to create and disseminate.

  • http://dmusic.com Tom Barger

    Greetings Terry and Ian:
    I asked the question of Neal Netanel and Jessica Litman if the implementation of the NUL system or the simpler EFF proposal would be mischaracterized as being merely a tax. And in this climate, it’s hard to defend any talk of taxation at all.

    I applaud the proposal of the Entertainment Coop. Count me in. Artists are united in opposition to granting an exemption for the restraint-of-trade to Sound Exchange/RIAA and Harry Fox. This would graft onto the digital era the gangster accounting practices of the analog music business.

    My understanding, Terry, is that you feel it would be more likely that these reforms would be welcomed first in other countries such as Brazil. I feel that pending US legislation to create a panel of three Federal Music Judges would be the proper place to implement your proposals.

    I gave a copy of Netanel’s NUL proposal to my Congressional Representative, Rep. Rick Boucher. On Feb. 10, 2004, he sent me his reaction as follows:

    “If the entertainment industry approaches the Congress with a request for the enactment of a statutory license along the lines recommended in the article, I have no doubt that the Congress would respond positively. Over the opposition of the entertainment industry, the passage of such a bill would be impossible.

    I tend to agree with the author ofthe article that a blanket license may be the most efficient way to assure that songwriters, performers and record producers receive value for their creative works in view of the rise of peer to peer networks. I will await with interest the industry’s response to this recommendation.”

    As to the term “semiotic democracy,” (page 247) Fisher says, ” One of the main aspirations of the new regime is to foster semiotic democracy and more broadly to free consumers and artists to reproduce, modify, and redistribute recordings. Permitting copyright owners to impose partial restraints on their creations would limit our achievement of that end.”

    The book goes into detail about the popular dissemination of editing software that makes active participants out of fans; and several fascinating examples (pages 28-31) such as the appropriation of George Lucas’ footage for the “Phantom Edit” spoof.

  • Terry Steichen

    I’m not sure it’s an effective blog ice-breaker to ask readers to read a couple of chapters in your book so they can understand the crisis you’re describing. Perhaps you might want to take one or two key points and push them out in a pithy way? Is this a monumental problem that will require huge institutional changes? Or is it something that smaller groups or individuals can influence?

    And, regarding the two references you cite that question some of the underpinnings of your work, do you agree with them? If not, why not?

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/palfrey/ John Palfrey

    Terry Fisher once wrote a bit more on “semiotic democracy” here and here.

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/palfrey/ John Palfrey

    Oops:

    here and here.

  • http:thomashawk.com Thomas Hawk

    When the RIAA begins suing grandmothers but letting one of their own, Peter Buck from REM (an artist per se), get away with “loaning” out thousands of songs from his digital library I say that the gloves are off. It is too late. The current media situation cannot be saved. The media conglomerate and their henchmen over at the RIAA and MPAA are no longer worth trying to deal with.

    If artists want to continue to associate themselves with the pimps that run the RIAA and the music companies then fine so be it… but recognize it for what it is. If artists, like the Pixies, want to try and remain independent and find alternative ways to make money in the new music economy, then I applaud that.

    Other than that, I suggest that consumers basically go on strike and find “alternative” ways to acquire their music.

    http://thomashawk.com/2004/09/rems-peter-buck-gives-away-ipods.html

    See my post on Nine Things the RIAA, MPAA, Apple, Walmart.com, el. al. Do Not Want You to Know… or How to Build a Large Digital Library on the cheap.

    http://thomashawk.com/2004/08/nine-things-riaa-mpaa-apple-walmartcom_12.html

  • http://westciv.typepad.com/dog_or_higher John Allsopp

    Terry,

    while the general concept of revenue collection has merit on several ground, and to an extent too demonstrably works (in the case of collection agencies for public and radio performance in many countries) several criticisms of your specific proposal come to mind (I have not done you the courtesy of a detailed analysis, so all this might simply be off track).

    While getting even one jurisdiction on board would be tricky (Ian’s observation above seems very realistic), it really doesn’t seem to scale internationally. Would this be administered by the WIPO? Given US and other nations attitude to the UN and other international bodies, that doesn’t seem realistic.

    Secondly, with such a top down approach, you have to spend an enormous amount of money, and you have to get it right from the outset.
    Once set up, what incentives would their be for efficiencies in the system when it is a single monolithic entity collecting the fees.
    I there research into the efficiency of such collecting agencies on the whole? How much is returned to the creators on the whole?

    What flexibility to change and adapt might there be built into the system?

    Given that the distribution curve of popularity when it comes to entertainment appears to have a very long tail (for instance, a very significant percentage of overall revenue from downloaded music services comes from a large number of songs downloaded a small number of times, the so called “long tail” of this recent WIRED article http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html) how likely is it that there will be fair compensation for those many many contributors to the long tail?
    Even as individually they may contribute little, overall, they make for a much more viable entertainment ecosystem.

    The ones missing out for now appear to be those creatives whose contributions belong to the long tail. If as it appears possible they contribute somewhere approaching 50% to the overall value of the system, an approach would be for a bottom-up “go it alone” system.

    I get more than a little disappointed to see independent labels clamoring to get on board iTunes and other such systems. There is an incredible opportunity there to “start your own revolution, cut out the middle man”, rather than continuing to add value to the tired mainstream, and add to the power of RIAA and similar organisations, which is essentially what independents do when they get on board those systems.

    Another point of value in the system few people ever speak about are ISPs, from AOL on down. Their value comes solely from the content on the web/net. Without that content, few if any would use their services. Yet what contributions to ISP make to this content? Directly and indirectly very little. It might be argued that they are close to parasitic in the ecosystem. Mind you, that’s possibly also a fair characterization of most net/web users too.
    All traffic passes through ISPs. A system that anonymously tracked contents through ISPs gateways, and perhaps taxed ISPs for the content that went through them strikes me also as an idea worth exploring.

    Anyway, its your blog, not mine, so I’ll shut up now.

    Thanks, will read your work in closer detail, and doubtless discover you have covered all this already

    john

  • Justin Levine

    “[new technological] developments, however, pose three serious dangers: corrosion of the systems by which artists and intermediaries have traditionally made money from their recordings; threats to artists� �moral rights�; and destabilization of the cultural icons in reference to which we partially define ourselves.”

    Why are these “dangers” exactly?

    Although I am still not entirely clear what you mean by the last of these so-called dangers Professor, I think you need to re-think the issue from the ground up, rather than just assume that direct payment from recordings or “moral rights” are somehow worth preserving. I have never found the case for “moral rights” to be persuasive – even before the digital revolution.

    Many of us have always thought that it is the creation and widespread distribution of works that is the end goal of copyright schemes. Payment to authors is merely a means to that end that the country has promulgated. Your statement would seem to imply that such payments are an end in and of themselves. If anything, the digital revolution poses a challenge both to your implication as well as the notion that direct compensations for works is the best means for the ends of distribution.

    Perhaps there are strong arguments to be made for preserving the such a system. But it seems to me that the current technology has placed the burden on you to first explain why they should be preserved at all before you begin arguments as to how such systems should be reformed in order to accomodate current technologies.

    (And assuming the case can be made for preserving the status quo in paying authors for their recordings, why should such a system also need to apply to “intermediaries” as you seem to imply in your statement?)

    If one were to go back nearly a century and write about the invention of automobile technology, they could easily begin their essay by proclaiming, “New technological developments, however, pose three serious dangers: corrosion of the systems by which horse and buggie carriers and intermediaries have traditionally made money from their services; threats to horse breeders and the horsetraders in general; and destabilization of the cultural icons in reference to which we partially define ourselves.”

    Do you see where I am going here? Your bias, if I may call it that, unfortunately seems quite widespread among many of your collegues in the legal and academic world.

    Admittedly, I have only read the segments of your work that are currently on the Internet, but I respectfully submit that you need to think even further outside of the box.

  • http://www.netmesh.info Joaquin Miller

    ” The book itself can be purchased through any online bookstore” or at your neighborhood or downtown independent bookseller. Please.

  • http://tfisher.org Terry Fisher

    In response to Ian:
    �Before we consider such drastic measures to save the entertainment industry we should ask whether society really needs it. The free software movement has taught us that creativity does not suddenly grind to a halt when creators are denied (or voluntarily reject) the control afforded to them by copyright.�

    This is indeed a strong argument vis-�-vis at least some portions of the software industry. But if denied similar control, the film industry, at least as we know it, probably would �grind to a halt.� If the current videotape and DVD sales and rental markets were displaced by P2P sharing of movies, the revenues of the industry would drop by roughly half. If home viewing of files shared on the Internet came to seem as pleasant and attractive as going to the theatre, then the revenues would drop precipitously. To be sure, copyright law is not the only vehicle that might be employed to preserve the ability of film producers and studios to raise the many millions of dollars necessary to finance a film, but some mechanism seems imperative.

    Your argument has a good deal more bite when applied to the music industry. There, the costs of generating high-quality recordings are much lower � and are dropping, for the reasons explored in Chapter 1. Several people (e.g., Eben Moglen, Yochai Benkler) argue with some force that, in such an environment, recorded music could be produced �for free� � in other words, generated by musicians either for the love of it or as advertising for performances, from which they earned a living. Not a crazy position, but such a system would create a bias against types of music for which there exist only modest performance audiences but large audiences for recordings. More seriously, it would be unfair. Suppose that kindergarten teachers were sufficiently devoted to their task that, if paid nothing, they would continue teaching on a volunteer basis. Surely, we would nevertheless object to a regime that deprives them of the ability to earn salaries. Why should musicians be treated differently?

  • http://tfisher.org Terry Fisher

    In response to Lorrin and Dotan:
    �It seems to me copyright is a tool to foster creativity and not a moral right.� This essentially utilitarian justification of copyright has indeed been the dominant point of view in the United States. (It finds expression, among other places, in the Constitutional clause upon which copyright rests.) But in Europe, the competing tradition of �moral rights� has long has greater sway. Briefly, that tradition sees the identities of artists as intimately bound up with their creations. In the core case, it�s thought to be an affront to the �personality interest� of a painter for a purchaser of one of her paintings to deface it, destroy it, or remove the name of the painter. This basic attitude has been gradually gaining strength in the United States and today finds expression in the federal Visual Artists Rights Act and many state art preservation statutes.

    Whether the �moral rights� tradition is fairly applicable to digital recordings (as opposed to paintings) is surely debatable. Certainly, film directors think so � and that view largely explains their hostility to Cleanflicks and other systems for modifying films. It also, as Dotan nicely argues in his post, seems to underlie the �choices� that many musicians have made in the past. My own view, explained at some length in Chapter 6, is that the creators of digital works do indeed have a legitimate interest in proper attribution � being given appropriate credit for their creations and not being blamed for unauthorized modifications of their works � but much weaker interests in the �integrity� of their works. (The former interest can be adequately shielded by trademark law.) But the staunch resistance to this view by several artists prompted me to accept an intriguing suggestion by Jamie Boyle that artists hostile to unauthorized modifications of their works be offered a separate, less lucrative �track� in an alternative compensation system.

  • three blind mice

    first sentence of the introduction:

    “In August of 2000, “Napster” was a household word in the United States. Millions of Americans were using the Internet-based file-sharing system of that name to exchange “MP3″ versions of copyrighted sound recordings.”

    hmmm.

    should we read more?

    we ask ourselves… is the author dealing honestly with this issue, or is he just another shill for the anti-property movement?

    “exchange,” according to webster’s new world dictionary (the 1967 book version) means “to give, to hand over, to transfer…. in law, a contract by which parties agree to exchange one thing for another.”

    no one who posted an (a?) MP3 file to Napster gave up their original. there was never any “exchange” any “sharing” or any “lending” going on.

    what Napster facilitated was illegal copying – “simple and plain,” to quote chuck d.

    william fisher until you can wrap your head around that basic concept – or confront it honestly using clear, precise, unambiguous terminology – you’re not going to get anywhere advancing your arguments with people who do not already agree with you.

  • http://mediagora.com Kevin Marks

    Surely the way forward is to come up with a system that aligns incentives for customers with creators. I described one such a few yeras back at mediagora.com.

  • fourleggedant

    three blind mice,

    i am afraid it is you who has failed to “wrap your head around that basic concept”.

    what do you call the situation, for example, where you provide a person with your phone number and they provide you with theirs? i call it “exchange”. the word “exchange” does not (nor did it ever) specifically refer to extended “things”.

    and you said “what Napster facilitated was illegal copying”. that, �simple and plain,� is not true. i admit that i never used Napster, but from what i have read Napster did not come bundled with an mp3 codec. it played no part whatsoever in the copying of any material. it was a system for “exchanging” files, nothing more.

    the reason Professor Fisher is unlikely “to get anywhere advancing [his] arguments with people who do not already agree with [him]” is that even when he uses “clear, precise, unambiguous terminology” it will, apparently, not be clear enough.

    - ant

  • Rob Myers

    “we ask ourselves? is the author dealing honestly with this issue, or is he just another shill for the anti-property movement?”

    Do you have an answer?

    And what’s an “anti-property movement”? What property are you not talking about? If nothing was exchanged on Napster, that can’t have been property, never mind anti-property.

    “”"3BM in ‘napster isn’t theft’ shock”"”

    ?exchange,? according to webster?s new world dictionary (the 1967 book version) means ?to give, to hand over, to transfer.? in law, a contract by which parties agree to exchange one thing for another.?”

    So no property changed ownership using Napster. If nothing was taken, where’s the theft?

    no one who posted an (a?) MP3 file to Napster gave up their original. there was never any ?exchange? any ?sharing? or any ?lending? going on.

    Amusingly, those people did exchange something, albeit implicitly. They paid to buy a PC, they paid for electricity, they paid for broadband. They exchanged this value. Before hacking was ever a crime, it was theoretically possible to charge a hacker with stealing the electricity they used to run a program on a server. But I digress.

    what Napster facilitated was illegal copying – ?simple and plain,? to quote chuck d.

    This would be the pro-napster Chuck D of Public Enemy, who started their career sampling and now can’t afford to because of the Intellectual “Property” ideology you are an unreflective shill for?

    You argue at length that no exchange, no loss, occurred on Napster. Then you miscontextualise an eloquent quote from someone who based their culturally and economically productive career on “illegal copying” to support a radical ideology that they themselves opposed.

    Again, you are on the wrong side of yourselves.

    Here’s the full quote that you stole from to try to add value to your argument:

    “Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant shit to me you see/Straight up racist that sucker was/Simple and plain/ Motherfuck him and John Wayne.” –Chuck D and Flavor Flav, “Fight the Power”

  • David Truog

    Terry,

    Please allow me to begin by saying I am in the process of reading right now and thus this is quick reaction containing my earliest opinion. I wish to pose a few arguments I have heard and dealt with in the past.

    The first would be that the media industries you are arguing for are more accurately described as “medium” industries. As Jack Valenti once said (paraphrased), if you want a backup of a DVD, buy another. The issue at hand would become that the medium is no longer as important or controllable as it was in the past, and this was their main source of profit — for a �good� copy, you had to buy it. These days, it is no so (just look at iTunes)

    Secondly, the breakdown of the money per item (in terms of CDs at least) is discouraging people from caring about the moral affects of �stealing� the music. When the musician gets 5-10% of the $15.99 CD price whereas the industry earns ~30%, why should I be concerned? With this, also consider the opinion of the �common people.� This could best be seen as summarized by South Park (again paraphrased). Because of us, these artists won�t be able to buy a bigger mansion, sports car, private jet, etc. Nice, but because of the outrageous prices, I might have to skip a meal? This is one of the biggest arguments for piracy in Russia and other places where the cost of a CD or DVD might account for 10-20% of their monthly salary.

    Finally, in regards to saving the industries, I would as if a) we as a global society need it and b) if as a monopoly they deserve it.

  • John S.

    But in Europe, the competing tradition of �moral rights� has long has greater sway. Briefly, that tradition sees the identities of artists as intimately bound up with their creations. In the core case, it�s thought to be an affront to the �personality interest� of a painter for a purchaser of one of her paintings to deface it, destroy it, or remove the name of the painter. This basic attitude has been gradually gaining strength in the United States and today finds expression in the federal Visual Artists Rights Act and many state art preservation statutes.

    This seems to me to be at the core of the difference of opinion about copyright. Someone who does not believe one iota in any “moral right” or natural right of the author in his work will probably never have much common starting ground with someone who does believe in this.

    Can believers in utilitarian-based copyright and believers in moral-right-based copyright ever reach the same conclusions about what is best?

  • http://copyriot.blogspot.com/2004/07/content-flatrate-and-social-democracy.html Anonymous

    A good read about the “alternative compensation system” proposals:
    http://copyriot.blogspot.com/2004/07/content-flatrate-and-social-democracy.html

  • three blind mice

    and you said �what Napster facilitated was illegal copying�. that, �simple and plain,� is not true. i admit that i never used Napster, but from what i have read Napster did not come bundled with an mp3 codec. it played no part whatsoever in the copying of any material. it was a system for �exchanging� files, nothing more.

    fourleggedant, when you “download” a file from a server you are making a copy. actually, you are making many temporary copies if you consider the mechanics of routing but let’s focus on the one you burn and keep.

    we know it is difficult for downloaders to grasp the concept of virtual property – that burning a CD with a copy of a copyrighted file without the permission of the owner is theft, but so it is.

    copyright is virtual ownership of all copies. this has ALWAYS been the case, the fact the material in question has been recorded in digital form changes nothing.

    if you print a copy of professor fisher’s book, you have not deprived him of any copies he owns, but you have stolen from him all the same. you have a copy of a professor fisher’s book and professor fisher’s money is still in your pocket.

    it’s “dollars that switched wallets,” as emimen put it.

    when you download an copyrighted song without the permission of the owner, the same theft occurs. you have a copy and the artist’s money is still in your pocket.

    thus using words like “exchange” when there is a more precise and accurate english word (i.e., “copy”) at best obfuscates the issue, and – at worst – purposefully misleads the reader.

    it is indeed a pity that copyright laws make your internet less fun to play with, but just because a new technology comes along does not mean that artists and creative people should have their property subjected to theft, capricous confiscation, or – worst of all nationalization – according to professor fisher’s stalinist proposal.

    on preview, rob meyers, we are fully aware of chuck d’s proclivity for profanity. it was unnecessary to spell it out in a public forum. for god’s sake man, think of the children.

  • Tito Villalobos

    “copyright is virtual ownership of all copies. this has ALWAYS been the case, the fact the material in question has been recorded in digital form changes nothing. “

    Actually this has NEVER been the case. Copyright is nothing more than the restriction of the ability to legally make additional copies. It does not grant the copyright owner “control” over the work. Thus the “first sale” doctrine, by which I can sell my legally acquired copy or do whatever else I choose to with it.

    Second, Copyright is a form of monopoly and one that has been looked upon with suspicion in the US’s history. The original founder specifically wanted very limited copyrights, and realized it was a temporary monopoly right.
    (http://www.arl.org/info/frn/copy/timeline.html)

    While I agree that making illegal copies is stealing (though much more from the record companies that the artists), I also believe that extending copyright term to 70+ years, as has been done recently, is also stealing.

    However, I am a strong believer in the “utilitarian” view of copyright, and the US Constitution supports that view. It specifically says that copyright shall be granted “to promote the progress of science and useful arts”.

  • Mike Weston

    But if denied similar control, the film industry, at least as we know it, probably would �grind to a halt.�

    I actually agree with you in general, but the film industry as we know it is pretty insane. The average Hollywood film costs 10′s of millions of dollars, but 2 of the last 4 fiilms I saw in theaters cost less than $10,000 each (Primer and Tarnation). And they were good. So maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the film industry as we know it… changed a little.

  • Farmer’s Knife

    tbm, what it boils down to is that some people don’t care if they’re stealing. whether they’re on the other side of the world in a cave or in the house next to the artist doesn’t particularly matter anymore in terms of anonymity. in that mode, external, socially-dependent morals break down and you have to confront their internal morals (“Total ****wad,” as Penny-Arcade put it, for your quote fetish). they’ve got the knife, and it’s on the label’s throats. now what can the music industry do to convince them to put it down?

  • fishpatrol

    The free-software-movement comments are interesting, but I wonder if they’re truly applicable? I don’t see many artists releasing works that find their utility in a single situation (like, say, an open-source PIM app) or that find utility when played concurrently with another’s works (like a contribution to an open-source OS). The assumption seems to be that an artist’s only interests are business-related, and I don’t think that’s the case.

    If I’ve written and recorded a song, I’d like to be rewarded for my effort, whether that’s by someone buying a CD or coming to a live show. I would like proper attribution for the work because it represents my time, my effort. But it also represents a part of me. I am in the songs I write, just like a painter is represented in his paintings.

    That’s what, for me, drives attribution and payment alike. Lyrics aren’t like code. Two different sets of code could produce the same result to the user, but can any two songs written about the same specific viewpoint/feeling/event be called “the same” by a listener? If so, why haven’t computers taken over songwriting for mainstream hits? They are certainly formulaic enough in nature. Is the only differentiation between hits and failures proper marketing and luck?

    No, artistic expression inherently contains a part of the creator in the work. We aren’t talking about science, where separate parties may make the same discoveries. In art, the same person may make the same discovery over and over again, all in different ways. This discussion needs to include the nature of the “product”. Is a song the same as a baseball card, a likeness? Or does it represent something more complex?

  • jcn50

    Why a(nother) tax isn’t a good idea:

    - money given to the governement (or the copyright organization, or another organization) goes round, decrease a bit (so called “functionning fees”), then after all the trip, money goes to the authors…so it’s another system to give privilege to some well-known authors only! “And the winner is…a bureaucracy”! It’s the same nowadays: If I could choose between a life-employment in the Copyright Office in the US, and being an artist, which life would you think I would pick up?…

    - let’s imagine this compulsory tax exists: great, you just shut down “data haven” that would profit from copyright infringement (since you would legalize all internet users with this tax), but you would just create another “tax haven” or “tax evasion” where tricks could be used to escape for paying such tax…(there is always one). Moreover, it will get more people to make more web sites to publish more and more copyrighted works, since this won’t be infringement: “Oh Mr Fisher, I’ve put your book entirely available on the internet, but don’t worry, there is the compulsory tax! Just wait for the royalties”….

    - how about worldwide author: let’s imagine an african guy living in Sierre Leone make a super music song, downloaded millions of times over the Internet, franckly, do you think such guy will be rewarded properly with your tax system (instaured in the US)? The answer is: No, because governement just love taxes… An example of this: the French governement voted a tax on blank CD media, the money was set to the big french music industrials (not the small author, again). Another reality is: the tax is collected, nobody knows where it goes, it is not traced….(bureaucracy, I love you). AND: buying CDs from neighbors countries (Italy, Spain, Switzerland, etc) is the trick to tax-evade this french-made great idea…

    Please, just forget about it….