5:57 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

More on File-Swapping

Before electronics, before electricity, before the hand-cranked gramaphone, the only way a musician could make money from his art was to perform. Same for actors. Painters and sculptors could sell the work, but any subsequent money made from the work (showing in a museum or reselling) was out of their hands. Before the printing press, writers couldn't really overcome the cost of hand-copying to make money from writing books.

Technology provided the means for these artists to make money from intellectual property. Technology created artificial controls that reduce supply/increase demand. But technology is now providing the means for consumers to bypass these artificial controls, and the producers are screaming bloody murder.

What constitutional or inalienable right is there to continue making money in ways you are accustomed to? None. Roll with the changes, change with the times, find new ways to make money.

If every Styx album came with autographed photos, I might be willing to repurchase every CD at a premium price. I certainly won't spend even $5 to buy a new CD when I know I can eventually find it somewhere online. In fact, I'm not buying any CDs at ANY price anymore, because the product just isn't worth it. And that's the broken system we are stuck with.

I would love to be a writer. I fully recognize that the view I'm advocating may make it impossible for me to achieve that dream. So what? I can always work at another job and write on the side. If I'm a true artist, truly committed to the production of what I want to communicate, then monetary gain is of secondary importance, at best.

And we are seeing the new writing market emerge through the combination of Blogs and Paypal. The old institutions will crumble. And that's just how I think it should be, even if it is to my personal detriment, dream-career-wise.

For another analogy, look at the post office. They have suffered greatly from the rise of email, losing out on the reality of economies of scale. They have most of the same costs to provide universal basic service while simultaneously losing large chunks of their revenue stream. I know that I personally used to buy a book of 40 stamps every month, but I'm down to using 1 stamp every 2-3 months now. If the Postal Service had the same attitude as the music industry, they would be pushing for email to be illegal so they could still make a profit.

Yeah, I feel bad for the 'artists' who wouldn't be able live at the level they want to anymore, if unfettered file sharing continues. No, wait, actually I don't. If you create value and recognize you create value (not just give away your abilities), money will come to you, I promise. If you create no value, you must rely on artificial systems as sources of income. The music industry (and the 'intellectual property' industry in general) is finally being confronted with the fact that their distribution system doesn't really provide any value, and is evaporating. There will be ways for the truly clever, truly innovative, and truly talented to make money. But those with no talent who rely on a system are quaking in their boots over the idea of letting go and letting that happen.

Continuing to scatter thought along tagents, I'm struck by the idea of 'intellectual property' in the first place. Just because someone gets it in print first, that person is now considered the 'creater'. Aside from the fact that I might have come up with the same idea or same lyric or same chord progression on my own without ever having heard yours, giving you 'ownership' of that bit of intellectual property completely ignores the sources of inspiration. I don't believe the Beatles would have been able to come up with any of their hits without Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, or even Shakespeare. The debt they owe to the Masters cannot be underestimated. But if I write a bassline too close to Paul's, he'll sue me for more than I'm worth. (okay, HE might not, but you get the idea).

And let's not even get into the inescapably painful fact that an artist's heirs can retain a copywright on an item of intellectual property toward which they contributed exactly nothing, whose brilliance they couldn't replicate in 100 years of effort....

Thoughts? If anyone is actually still out there, that is...