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Mickey Mouse logic

Let me see if I’ve got this right.

A grocery store sells potatoes. Makes their living by providing a regular supply of potatoes to hungry customers. Trouble is, some of those customers use those potatoes to make potato prints of Mickey Mouse. Disney’s response is to make an agreement with grocery stores to limit the supply of potatoes to customers and possibly stop selling them altogether.

“Dear repeat potato print offenders - you continue to make infringing potato prints of Mickey Mouse and other lovable characters. Doing so steals from the creators of these lovable characters, funds terrorism, and means that these lovable characters will no longer be able to have hilarious adventures. So no more potatoes for you. Stop giving us money immediately.”

I’m not seeing a) what’s in it for the grocery stores; and b) why they should be acting as Disney’s police force, judge, jury and penal system at their own expense.

Now the internet service providers and record labels, on the other hand…

Totally different story. Right?

Reader Comments (14)

First of all, I'm glad to see the senseless lawsuits are over. Too bad their step away from plain idiotic wrong is a step towards a far more serious wrong. Not only are they trying to make ISPs their police, they're directly attacking the end to end nature of the internet. If the music industry can have ISPs as their police, then soon other industries that rely on data distribution will jump on the bandwagon. After a while, any kind of data that goes in the web or any new technology that makes use of its capabilities will have to be approved by the big ISP filter, which will be controlled by industry interests and the money to protect them. For a recent example of how dangerous this can be, look at how Comcast was capping bandwidth for Torrent applications.

I think 2 things need to happen now. First and most immediate, ISPs shooting down this initiative, which I think is what will most likely happen if ISPs are smart enough to realize their customers will keep them afloat more than the RIAA will ever be able to. The 2nd is that from somewhere comes some real competition for the RIAA, forcing them to figure the new game out or sink. I'm not really sure how it would work, but I'd love to hear Andrew's thoughts on it.

December 20 | Unregistered CommenterRicardo Balderas

Comcast's new cut off limit is exceeding 250GB per month. At 3MB per song you need to consistently "steal" 83,000 song a month to break the limit. Since it takes about 300 days to listen to 83,000 songs (assuming you don't sleep) I don't see how it is possible to get cut off sharing music.

If I did the math right, on a 20Mb connection it only takes about 80 days to download every RIAA track ever made.

The bandwidth consumption comes from video, not audio, sharing.

December 20 | Unregistered CommenterJon Smirl

alas, finally the age of "intellectual property" is finally figuring itself out. word is, that it was only invented by a british king who was trying to control the flow of printed press!

December 20 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

Just to play devils advocate (because I'm bored)…

Let’s pretend the major labels are successful at pushing through a music consumption tax, to be collected by the world’s ISPs, and this tax would enable four or five companies to maintain collectively a ten billion dollar (annual USD) music sales business.

I have to ask myself, what’s next? It seems to me that it would become a competitive race to acquire the revenue generating rights on as many songs as possible.

There are a million songs a year uploaded to the Internet now. Let’s further pretend that 1% (10,000) of these songs are worth listening to, and lets even further pretend that there’s a way to identify the songs with the greatest market potential.

It would be a great business if you could spend $1,000,000,000 to generate $10,000,000,000 in revenue, provided that you had some level of certainty that it would all work. So, it would not be too far fetched, in this far fetched scenario, to imagine a situation where artists could be offered $100,000 a song (on average) to walk away from it - all rights going to the highest bidder.

It would be a lot easier than chasing 1,000 true fans…

December 20 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Why not try a different angle, Andrew?

Guns, as we all know, aren't bad things in themselves. Some of my friends like to shoot skeet. I also know a couple of hunters. None of these people do anything that is considered wrong in the conventional sense.

So we have a gun store, that legally sells guns to honest, law-abiding citizens like I mentioned above. However, other people start to come in and buy guns that they use to rob gas stations or shoot rival gang members. Wouldn't it make sense not to sell guns to such people?

I'll leave you to ponder that.

P.S. Please, don't start accusing me of inappropriate comparisons. It's a question of legal v. illegal use of the same product or service. If guns seem too strong, how about inks and paper used to make counterfeit money?


those examples would be perfectly acceptable IF they did not have a direct effect on the livelihood of every citizen AND if they made a proper comparison.
meaning, whether or not people are shooting other people or hunting, it seems by your example, that they are both buying those guns legally. That said, if they are buying them legally then the law is behind them, which means the government deems it acceptable for them to purchase guns. if you were to discriminate, without using a criminal record report, that would be profiling. Profiling is perfectly legal, but if profiling was used in a discriminatory purpose then that would be a far far worse thing to do than downloading a couple thousand songs.

But if im to read it as assuming that you ment that the people buying guns to rob and shoot other people were purchased illegally, then that would work, but downloading doesnt KILL HUMANS.

counterfeiting would work but alas, counterfeiting has i direct effect on a economy and if done on a large enough scale, it can directly decrease the value of a currency on a global market. i dont think music downloading has even been able to have that large of an effect.

remember money is just an concrete value of how much capital you have contributed to your society. art is only worth as much as the buyer deems it, considering that art has no practical value and is not essential to live (at least on some level).

December 21 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

Hopefully God will intervene and save humanity (well, at least the arts) by eliminating the RIAA. Seriously, it pisses me off so much, and most of all it just distracts everyone from actually finding a solution to the new music market.

December 21 | Unregistered CommenterJim


It seems you misunderstood my point, so let me clarify:

Once upon a time, you could purchase a gun legally with no questions asked. The proprietor of a gun shop would shrug off any responsibility for what his patrons did with the guns afterwards - and why not? Guns aren't a bad thing in themselves, but can be put to a bad use. Why should the retailer of same be held responsible for what his clients did?

Substitute "ISP" for "gun retailer". The Internet can be used for many things - some of them legal, some illegal. Some morally commendable, or at least neutral, some deplorable. At present the service provider takes no responsibility for what its clients use their services for - much like the gun retailer of old. The argument being made, tacitly, by Andrew is that the ISP's should not be made accountable for supplying the equivalent of semi-automatic rifles (high-speed, large bandwidth connections) at low prices to people who want to rob gas stations (record companies).

Notice, by the way, that you do not have to shoot anyone to make illegal use of a gun.

The proposition being made now is that ISPs have to shoulder some responsibility for their customers using their services to threaten another industry's livelihood. Just like, in most places, the gun store will first verify your firearms license and sell you a gun only if you are clear as an honest user.

The difference here is that while in the case of guns there is a presumption of guilt - the customer has to demonstrate herself to be a law-abiding gun owner (by way of the license), in the case of ISPs, the customer is initially presumed innocent, i.e. their service will only be cut off (if ever) in the case of repeated use for illegal purposes. In other words, it's like the gun store refusing to sell a gun to someone who has been shown to have robbed several gas stations. Anything wrong with that?

Whenever I'm explaining elementary stuff of this nature, I cannot help but get the impression that it's simply a case of a hate for who's on the other side. Why not simply say that the recording industry does not deserve to make any money and that it should be destroyed by any means necessary. And while we're at it, let's Demolish the System and Liberate the Working Man!

Fight the Power!

Krzysztof: I don't think the comparison between guns and the internet you're making is very accurate. Sure, there are many deplorable things that can be done with both, and for both there are means in place to prevent them from happening. But the digital nature of the internet makes it very different from the physical world, and so the act of downloading an album or movie can't be punished the same way that the act of going into a store and shoplifting a CD or DVD would. The problem is everyone is just getting to understand how the internet world works, what its problems are and what its regulations should be, which leads me to the main point.

Is it really a good thing that ISPs become the internet filter? Personally, I don't think so, but that is a much broader topic, but, is it the right thing to do to let the RIAA, a private entity, be the one in control of who gets internet access and who doesn't? Let them be the internet's judge, jury and executioner? We have seen what they are willing to do when they have to go through the law by suing people left and right for ridiculous amounts of money just to make an example out of them. Do we want to see what they'll do with the keys to the internet and no one looking over their shoulder? It just doesn't sound quite right.

December 22 | Unregistered CommenterRicardo Balderas

the example still fails to be applicable!

a semi- automatic rifle has only two major legal purposes and one major illegal, 1. to hunt 2. to protect and 3. to threaten or kill other humans.
isp, bandwidth, etc, have a slew of purposes, legal and illegal. such as, downloading legal songs from itunes, or checking out myspace, youtube, or bidding on ebay! all of which generate significant profit. secondly, the internet realm is huge, the cost of putting a regulatory sector in it would probably cost more the than entirety of all the "profits" lost by the recording industry.

look your examples have not prove anything. if we were born at the turn of the century, it would be like you would be arguing that ford is hurting the horse drawn carriage industry, therefore we should save it...and you would further elaborate that its also because robbers are using cars to use as get-away tools we should limit the amount of horsepower a car can have.
Whenever I'm explaining elementary stuff of this nature, I cannot help but get the impression that it's simply a case of a hate for who's on the other side. Why not simply say that the recording industry does not deserve to make any money and that it should be destroyed by any means necessary. And while we're at it, let's Demolish the System and Liberate the Working Man!

Fight the Power!
if anything this acts as a red herring, which means they are distracting from the real issue at hand. yes some people are fed up with industry, but i dont think people like andrew or i hate the industry. this and new music strategies only serve as tools to help foster a new age of recording record labels and industries.

December 22 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

This would be a test of anti-trust laws more than anything else. What is going on here is discussion about collusion. Follow the money. Dubber isn't seeing what's in it for the ISPs (grocery stores). Money.

ISPs would love to be able to 'tax' their users more and keep a cut. If they can hide behind the veil of protecting IP holders, what a great idea for them. Morally expedient AND profitable. If it were mandated by the gov't - home run.

And rights holders feel like they need to legislate some way to get paid for the IP, b/c lord knows they haven't figured out how to harness it in anything resembling a free model. So these make decent bedfellows.

The question becomes, at what cost? Is it fair? Does it hurt consumers (and by this, they will ask about law-abiding consumers)?

Who knows. There are lots of variables. But I will say that an IP tax would be at once the most effective way for collecting money for art, and perhaps the most unfair, if done improperly. It would also squash innovation at companies that are trying hard to monetize free content. But, with billions of dollars and thousands of phd's, we still haven't see a profitable model come out of YouTube. Perhaps an ISP tax is the only way? Or should we even care about getting those right's holders paid? That was rhetorical.

My point is that we need to listen to the various stakeholders here. It is not a god-given right to have internet access at some set price. Nor is it our right to steal IP from the people that create it or own it. But, it IS our right to be treated fairly. And it IS our right to expect our government to protect us from monopoly power in these instances. We'll see how it plays out. I still have hope that a free model will emerge and render this conversation moot. But it looks like that model better emerge sooner rather than later...

December 23 | Unregistered CommenterJed Carlson

good point carlson,

i think that a viable solutions and taxes will come out of the internet as soon as internet basically become free to access, which i think it should. do you have to pay to walk down a side walk? no, but we pay taxes to keep those sidewalks functioning.

December 23 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

In my opinion, the RIAA is ending its campaign because it doesn't work. They're involving the ISPs simply to save face. I doubt they really expect anybody to do it.

ISPs should borrow a play from the NRA book, "Internet access doesn't steal music, people steal music."

January 2 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hooper

Why are you guys discussing guns, potato prints and what nots. Analogies are great for grasping a new concept, but not great for exploring the full extends of it.
There seem to be a disease spreading amongst the copyright-crowd at the moment trying to shove everything into analogies that fits more poorly for every day that passes.

The fact of the matter here is not potato prints or guns. If you want to discuss potato prints, go to a potato print website. If you do not understand the case at hand, spend some time on the million other websites that talk about potato prints, breaking into cars, gun control and so on. When you think you have grasped the basics, please come back and discuss with the rest of us that already have understood the basics and would prefer that we discussed the details rather than why this analogy doesn't fit or why it does fit.

Skip the analogy!

January 3 | Unregistered Commenterandy

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