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« The Importance of Album Art in the Digital Age | Main | Track names in iTunes »
Wednesday
Apr112012

Other Ways to Think About the Copyright Debate

I recently started a discussion on TED.com discussing Rob Reid’s presentation, The $8 billion iPod, and a response that was posted by Ken Sanney. While my original intent was to discuss the simplification of complex issues, people began some passionate arguments about piracy and copyrights. You can read the whole thing (with comments) here from TED’s conversation page.

I started getting frustrated because the majority of the people posting were not involved in the music industry nor did they have any knowledge of copyright law. If there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s simply the regurgitation of rhetoric, especially when there’s no basis in logic and not supported by evidence. 

Here’s my personal take on the issue. If you’d like to see my responses to all of the traditional arguments in favor of unauthorized piracy and the debate on whether copyright protection should exist at all, please check out the TED debate linked above.

First, I believe that the right to offer creative works online (or anywhere) for free should be up to the artist, not the consumer. If someone wants to share their music and give out unlimited copies of their music or book, that’s their right to do so. However, if it isn’t, nobody should be superseding those wishes, even if they believe that it is in the best interest of the artist/author/filmmaker in question. In fact, some things that we believe are “good for someone” could actually be detrimental to them. For example, most people believe that everyone should drink eight glasses of water per day. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support this, and in fact, that amount could cause over-hydration in some people, leading to serious health issues. In the same way, there’s no clear data that directly supports the notion that file-sharing furthers the career of all artists. In fact, many artists have voiced the detriment that it has caused their careers.

Second, there are some people who believe that all copyright laws should be abolished because they only benefit large corporations. For one, most works are protected copyright, whether they are for personal or commercial use.  It is irregardless if that work has been registered with an organization like the U.S Copyright Office or not. Also, if copyright laws did not exist, there would be a looming danger to independent artists being exploited by large companies with greater resources because they’d be able to use/distribute/take those artists’ works with no recourse or compensation to them. Most people tend to view the copyright/piracy debate as individuals taking profits from mega-corporations who don’t pay artists anyway, they don’t think about the actual creators needing protection from other people stealing their work (which does happen quite frequently).

Some argue that “the money from album sales don’t go to the bands anyway” or that “they’ll make more money elsewhere, like from concerts.” What about songwriters who don’t have merchandise for sale or tour because they only create music, not perform it? Besides, there’s more independent content being created and published than being being distributed by major firms. A person wouldn’t go into an In ‘N’ Out Burger and start giving away all of the food in the street saying “they make most of their money from t-shirts anyway” or that “most of the money doesn’t go to the employees so it’s OK.”

Personally, I’d rather get rid of all the outlandish arguments made by both sides (such as “the music industry will disappear” or “it only hurts corporations”) and get to the heart of the matter. Do we, as a society, value our artists and the arts as a whole? Do we appreciate them enough to support them so that the arts can continue to grow and that artistic expressions of ideas can be protected? Or do we believe that all artistic works should be free, no matter the cost, even if that cost includes the actual content creators themselves?

Before we quibble over the details of the law and what kind of systemic changes need to be made, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves these kinds of questions first.

 

Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking and author of the forthcoming book, How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements. He has helped hundreds of bands through booking and consultation services. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com

Reader Comments (20)

Great post.

My opinion on this is that yes, people should respect the wishes of the content curators, period.

Although copyright can be restrictive (if the author doesn't grant the right for remixes and remakes of works etc) it is also needed. Content curators, especially songwriters need to make a living, otherwise the content will dry up as they have to find other ways to support themselves (like you mentioned)

Obviously the music industry wont disappear. People are consuming music more then ever (where piracy could have actually helped by letting people get access to free music and sharing it with their friends, albeit illegally. Piracy actually helped usher in downloading online - Napster), its the Record industry that is dying (although digital is slightly starting to offset the decline), recording and selling units of music.

We are just in a new age now i think and Copyright does need change for the digital age. It was created when the industry was based on CDs and 'the gatekeepers' funnelling music out to listeners exactly how they wanted to, times have changed.

Artists (especially independent artists) i believe are the core most important element to the current state and future of our music industry, so should be supported and assisted in as many ways as possible whilst being empowered to create, promote and share the great music we love to listen to!

What do you think?

April 11 | Unregistered CommenterMusoMecca

great article, thanks

April 11 | Unregistered CommenterIordache

"Do we, as a society, value our artists and the arts as a whole? "
I think everyone would say yes, at least in general, but it depends. An artist that really inspires or shows a new perspective, probably has higher value than one that doesn't so much. Of course, perspectives are relative and can be different for everyone. So, what might have no value one day, once you get a new perspective, all of a sudden has tremendous value. Or flipped, what starts out great, after ten years, maybe not so much as you've moved on.

With so many possibilities for changes, it seems crazy to even attempt to figure what the actual value is. Maybe it would be different if there was a higher rule that 100% of an artists creations are always under their ownership, end of story, sort of a standard right that can't be signed away by just a fountain pen. I'm sure there's loads of other problems and issues, but it seems that would be a proper starting point.

April 11 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I have some experience in the arts and in the legalities involved. Over the years I have filed copyrights on my own works with the US Copyright Office on several occasions. The process is fairly straightforward and relatively inexpensive, although an author's copyright on his or her original works is automatic and does not need to be registered to be effective. However, a copyright registration does provide proof of the originator of the work's intention to protect his or her rights against those who might otherwise try to steal the work, or profits thereof, from the legitimate copyright holder, the author of the work.

I recently published a book using an online print/distribution service and am reasonably satisfied with the arrangements they made to have the book available to print on demand. In the past I've also filed copyrights on musical works I created, and have distributed privately, and these are also filed on the BMI performing rights database. I also filed a copyright on a computer program I wrote to simulate a board game I patented many years ago. I have several other patents on various electronics devices/systems as well.

The basic purpose of a copyright is to protect the author from companies who seek to make an unauthorized copy of the author's work available and to profit from such copies without appropriate licensing and payment to the author for use of the content he/she created. File sharing does, by its nature, infringe copyrights because the author of the work is not compensated for the copies distributed to others. The author also has the right to license his work to a distribution company for a fee, so as to obtain better distribution to a wider audience. File sharing without compensation to the author is an infringement of the author's rights to profit from his/her work.

The author should, however, retain the right to rescind his/her previous license given to a publisher or record company, and pursue other avenues for distribution if he/she is dissatisfied with the terms of the license or the manner in which it is being performed, for example if the distributor does not provide distribution to some available channels, or equally if the distributor uses channels that might be regarded as unsuitable by the author. Such protection should be written into any distribution agreements related to a work.

I am not a lawyer, but I think I've expressed the main legal issues in a reasonable person's perspective. Do not take this as legal advice, it is just my personal opinion on this discussion.

But that is not the question at all. Most consumers value art to some degree.

In view of the legislation pushed by the copyright industry (such as SOPA, ACTA etc.) the question has become: should we, in order to save the outdated copyright industry business model, ruin the internet, destroy the privacy of all communication, and inhibit freedom of communication of all citizens of the world because they might be violating someone's copyright, or should we tell the copyright industry to embrace the 21st century and adapt to the new technology like every other sector of the economy has had to do, since the industrial age?

The question for individual artists is: do you assume your fans and all consumers are ungrateful thieves lurking in the dark corners of the internet just waiting to snatch your (wretched) creativity from the ether, or do you assume that they are human beings who want to be respected and not coerced into buying stuff they do not want, appreciate, or value? (Think about buying a CD with 12 tracks, only one of which is worthwhile).

You have to be asking the right questions, or else your answers wont be wrong, they'll just be irrelevant.

April 12 | Unregistered CommenterJoey B.

Joey -

You wrote that "In view of the legislation pushed by the copyright industry (such as SOPA, ACTA etc.) the question has become: should we, in order to save the outdated copyright industry business model, ruin the internet, destroy the privacy of all communication, and inhibit freedom of communication of all citizens of the world because they might be violating someone's copyright, or should we tell the copyright industry to embrace the 21st century and adapt to the new technology like every other sector of the economy has had to do, since the industrial age?"

I think everyone can agree that the laws need to be updated. However, most of the people talking about them have no understanding of how they work. Like I said, arguments such as "the internet will break" are absurd. You're bringing the conversation back to piracy (and also limiting the scope to musicians at that) and the associations that come with that package.

"The question for individual artists is: do you assume your fans and all consumers are ungrateful thieves lurking in the dark corners of the internet just waiting to snatch your (wretched) creativity..."

Again, whether the product being created is wretched or brilliant, it should be up to the creator on how they'd like that piece shared. Whether it is music (or tracks on an album as you mentioned), a book, a film, a play, or other works protected by copyright, it should be up to that individual and not the person doing the downloading. Let's not speak in generalizations here: not all piracy leads to music sales, just as not all piracy hurts them either. However, the fact remains: content creators are still having their rights violated.

April 12 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

But Joey B. your comment reflects the type of rhetoric that I think the author is requesting that we leave behind. The questions you would have asked serve the purpose that you are intending. It's like taking a poll with questions that only lead to a particular outcome for the sake of your narrative. If people do in fact value the arts and by extension the persons that created the art then there should be a happy medium.

To insinuate in this day and age that people don't buy music because they've been burned buying an album with only one good song is completely disingenuous when you can pretty much sample every song on an album free of charge through Itunes, the artist's website etc.

Phrases such as "ruining the internet", "destroying privacy" and "inhibiting freedom of communication of all citizens of the workld" are as bad as the fear mongering headlines of Fox News. Give me a break. You can protect copyright and request that consumers pay "market value" for intellectual property with "breaking the internet."

April 12 | Unregistered CommenterShawn N.

I think one thing the general public seems to lose sight of when discussing the issue of copyright and the accompanying issues of piracy, the use of music on the internet and their supposed 'right' to share the music any way they want is that while there are many artists who write their own music, a very large portion of the music industry records music written by someone else. So when so-called fans share an artists' work in a public manner it not only harms the very band/artist they purport to love/respect/enjoy - but it also takes money directly from the person who wrote the song.

Composers and artists don't necessarily make their money upfront when they write a song. They make the money that pays their day-to-day living expenses from the licensed use of the music every day, week, month, year thereafter. The money necessary to support the composer/artist so they can continue to make the fabulous music you love comes from the sale of CDs, from the licensing when someone else records the song, from the licensed use of a song in a commercial, etc. It isn't anyone else’s right to decide when and how that creative content should be shared or whether it should be given away or not. It is the intrinsic right of the copyright owner given to them by U.S. law.

Everyone understands that they can't go to the little old lady next door and take her car "because she doesn't drive it anyway" and give it away. But as a society we can't seem to grasp that the same ownership applies to intellectual property. Just because you can't touch it doesn't make ownership of the rights granted to the artistic creator any less valid. Unfortunately, as long as it costs ‘fans’ nothing to upload a song and give it away I don’t see how we’ll combat it any way other than through education and holding those who profit from piracy financially accountable. If fans had to buy 5,000 CDs (at a cost of about $1,500) and then spend the time dubbing them one at a time in order to give them away to 5,000 of their closest Facebook friends then maybe they’d understand the financial ramifications of what they’re doing. But it takes less than a minute to rip a song to your computer and only another minute or two to upload it and give it away. All done for the cost of the CD (maybe) just one time.

Whether you agree with the law or not does not give you the right to violate it. If we can’t all support that basic tenet then how can we expect our favorite composers and artists to continue to poor their hearts and souls into the creative material they share with us?

April 12 | Unregistered CommenterJeni Paulson

People steal music because they can. All this talk about what is fair or lawful is superceded by the fact that the internet makes piracy so easy, so anonymous, that people do it without thought or care for those that suffer the loss, and then justify it with rediculous arguments. The bottom line is, as long as it is so easy to steal something from the privacy of your laptop, people will continue to do it. And therein lies the problem. I, as both a content creator and an internet user, would not like to see the internet get policed to death. But I would like to get paid when someone benefits from my song.

April 12 | Unregistered Commenterccochran

@ Joey B. -

1

Stop skirting around the issue

Like The Author said: "Before we quibble over the details of the law and what kind of systemic changes need to be made, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves these kinds of questions first".

Ask yourself the question: Do we appreciate them enough to support them so that the arts can continue to grow and that artistic expressions of ideas can be protected? Or do we believe that all artistic works should be free, no matter the cost, even if that cost includes the actual content creators themselves?

And ask it before you start quibbling the details of the laws we may or not enact.

I think we'd all like to know your answer.

April 12 | Unregistered CommenterTJR

This post is no different than what you're accusing other people of doing: Throwing around outlandish arguments and mindless rhetoric. Your whole article is perpetuating some of the dumbest and most often repeated tripe that show up in every argument about copyright.

Do we, as a society, value our artists and the arts as a whole? Do we appreciate them enough to support them so that the arts can continue to grow and that artistic expressions of ideas can be protected? Or do we believe that all artistic works should be free, no matter the cost, even if that cost includes the actual content creators themselves?

This is what I mean. First, art is not dependent on money. You're throwing up the biggest line of BS entitled artists like to throw around: If I can't make money, I won't create. This is categorically bullshit. Plenty of good music is made where no profit exists. In fact, one might better argue that a surplus of profit actually HURTS creativity as most of the best art is made during difficult times. But none of this matters.

The purpose of Copyright was simply this: To encourage innovation by granting creators the right to singularly sell their works for a limited time. Meaning, no one else can sell a creator's work until a certain time has passed and it enters the public domain. As long as people are creating, there isn't a problem. And creativity is far more rampant these days than it ever has been. Who isn't in a band?

Copyright wasn't designed to get artists money, or make them rich. Copyright was put in place to encourage creativity. If we're super-saturated with creative output, there is a very serious argument that copyright isn't needed, or could be scaled back (i.e., put things in the public domain faster). However, granting the artist the right to singularly sell their own works for a limited time, and to not have to compete with other merchants, is perfectly reasonable.

The problem with most of these arguments is that people on your side of the argument want to make this point:

Unauthorized downloading hurts artist potential to profit.

The problem is that copyright isn't there to get artists money.

You should be making this point:

Unauthorized downloading is hurting culture by seriously impacting or hindering creative output.

The problem is, saying that would be absurd in the highest order. You can spend 10 minutes on Tumblr, Pinterest, Soundcloud or Flickr and discover 50 new pieces of art without even trying. And if there is no shortage of creative output, there is no need for fixing copyright. Most of the proposed legislation only helps big distributors, labels and studios. It doesn't help independent artists in anyway. But suggesting that culture is going to stop proving people who create is positively absurd.

Even more to point:

A person wouldn’t go into an In ‘N’ Out Burger and start giving away all of the food in the street saying “they make most of their money from t-shirts anyway” or that “most of the money doesn’t go to the employees so it’s OK.”

You're playing the theft card, which is utterly bogus. First off, show me a burger joint that makes food that is able to infinitely replicate said food at no cost. If that place isn't using this resource to feed every starving person in the world, they're downright evil, evil the likes Ghengis Khan couldn't have hoped to achieve. If I could replicate your car and drive off with it, leaving your car there for you to drive, I didn't steal your car. And frankly, you'd be kind of a dick to not let me do so.

If you want to make a post about people slinging rhetorical arguments, DON'T TURN AROUND AND SLING THE WORST OF THEM IN THE SAME ARTICLE!

April 12 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Thank you for this post. Finally, a bit of sanity! I'm also glad to see that the comments support you (mostly). To me, though, the end question is not right. The real question is do we believe in protecting intellectual property. I do. And it drives me batty when people differentiate between music and, say, code. There is no difference. Music is code, Intel's chips are code, Google's algorithms are code, and no one is seriously arguing that anyone should be able to copy Google's code because it will benefit Google. Argh....

April 12 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Shattuck

Daniel-
Thank you for your interpretation of copyright law and it's intent, but the courts are the ones qualified to do that and have done that numerous time and have NEVER seen it as you do.
You stating that the purpose of a copyright is only to protect a work temporarily ( if you consider your lifetime or the vast majority of it temporary) and that it was NEVER designed to make the artist money is in itself a conflicting statement. Copyright law came into being when it was first possible to use others works for personal or corporate profit. Up until that time if you wanted someone's music you bought a ticket. Art and performance had long been a highly profitable occupation by the time the laws were written. It was technology allowing the illegal use of it that brought about the need for the laws. Why would protection be granted if not for the clear purpose of allowing the artist the make a living doing what they do? That is to profit from their genius.
When you site that there is art everywhere- there is- there are also golf courses and sports fields everywhere where totally average people play their games and the whole world doesnt stop to watch. However, you have to pay and most are happy to pay to watch one of the best in the world throw a pass or putt 23 feet. There is all kinds of free music and art on line- Ive spent years pouring through it. You get what you pay for.
Invariably a lot of the voices that are similar to yours are being supplied information and support by the entities that stand to profit the most from " the web is all free" argument. So I ask you to direct your arguments about copyright to them concerning their codes, their copyrights, trademarks, their systems, their billion dollar worths. See how far that gets you.

Good Day

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Saying that sensible modifications to international and copyright law will break the internet is like saying that allowing gay marriage will destroy marriage; you're assuming facts very much not in evidence. If you think any communication you now have over the internet is private in any way, (unless encypted up the yinyang) you are sadly mistaken; another "fact" not in evidence.

@ Joey B. I think you yourself aren't asking the right question which is, "who benefits?" Google, Yahoo and Apple, that's who, and what a coinkydink, look who's behind the anti SOPA putsch? This is nothing but a classic battle between content creators and content distributors over how to slice the pie, and attitudes like yours will ensure that artists continue to get the short straw.

Sensible, measured copyright enforcement has been shown to work brilliantly when it's not mishandled and mis-applied, as the RIAA has admittedly done in the past. Very few artists of my acquaintance (and they are legion) give a flying leap if you want to share their music singly with your friends and family, but providing entire unlicensed catalogs for wholesale download or unlicensed streaming and selling ads on the site is another matter entirely; it's bad for music and it's bad for the downloader, because it's a stain on your soul when you steal.

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

Hi Daniel,

Your statements such as "First, art is not dependent on money. You're throwing up the biggest line of BS entitled artists like to throw around: If I can't make money, I won't create..." are exactly the kind of sentiment that I was trying to address. It is just based on rhetoric and a false statement, not logic. For once, most forms of produced art do depend on money - it takes resources to purchase music instruments, a typewriter, paint, or a camera. It takes time, money, and energy to develop skills and get training as well. For artists, getting more resources for their work allows them to develop their art more. As a musician, I know it's tough to write or perform as one would like when you're trying to chase down a flexible day job at the same time.

EVen your idea that "You can spend 10 minutes on Tumblr, Pinterest, Soundcloud or Flickr and discover 50 new pieces of art without even trying..." How did all of those arts make their work appear? Through the use of a computer, internet, and other things that do cost money. And many of those artists (especially on Soundcloud and Flickr) are showcasing their art so that they can hope to get a paying customer or fan, in order to collect more resources so they can make even more art.

Also, you can't claim that "one might better argue that a surplus of profit actually HURTS creativity as most of the best art is made during difficult times" and make the claim that "And creativity is far more rampant these days than it ever has been." It's true - there are more artists, authors, playwrights, and filmmakers than there have ever been who are making a sustainable living as artists. If the former statement were true, then creativity would be at a standstill, halted by the increased profits. Yet as you admitted yourself, it isn't.

As much as we'd like to project the image of the starving artist (AKA the "true artist" who does it for the sake of art), that simply is just a fantasy. Some of the greatest works of all time have only endured because a patron told the artist "I value your work, I'll pay for this art" (bands like Queen and The Beatles, composers like Mozart and Handel, playwrights like Shakespeare). And other great artists were starved to death or driven to suicide because society didn't give them those resources for them to continue (Vincent Van Gogh is a great example).

I think hard work and ingenuity should be rewarded, whether it is for an inventor, an artist, anything else.

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

Finally, on your thought here:

"You're playing the theft card, which is utterly bogus. First off, show me a burger joint that makes food that is able to infinitely replicate said food at no cost. If that place isn't using this resource to feed every starving person in the world, they're downright evil, evil the likes Ghengis Khan couldn't have hoped to achieve. If I could replicate your car and drive off with it, leaving your car there for you to drive, I didn't steal your car. And frankly, you'd be kind of a dick to not let me do so."

This is also predicated on a false statement: "is able to infinitely replicate said food at no cost."

Cost is not simply expense (i.,e, the food and materials), you're thinking of expenditures. There are other types of costs in business. Using your example, even if the food were replicated without cost, the restaurant would still have to pay other expenses: their lease, their employees, and other overhead.

But let's bring this example back to digital files such as movies, music, and books rather than imaginary infinite burgers. Many people are involved in the production of said works of art and it costs money to produce said works. People have to buy computers, camera, instruments, etc. (and that's not even factoring in the time spent since they have their own basic expenses to worry about). So a "free" and "infinitely" duplicated file still has the investment of thousands (and sometimes millions) of dollars to begin with. Even though a digital copy can be made, it does not absolve the costs of producing the product.

"Most of the proposed legislation only helps big distributors, labels and studios. It doesn't help independent artists in anyway. " This is even more to my point that this discussion is based on ignorance of the laws, not a study of them, and that political rhetoric is being regurgitated. For instance, the majority of an author's income is based on the royalty rates of their books sold. Even if an artist is in a less-than-ideal record deal, they still depend on sales numbers so that they can get more funding (such as an advance for their tour) so that they can continue to have a sustainable living making art.

Besides, it brings me back to the point that copyright laws should be reformed to help protect artists. It doesn't matter if they are independent, on a major label (frankly, many my friends on major labels aren't doing so hot either), or not. It rests on the idea that we as a society should value creativity and therefore protect it. It has nothing to do with "being a dick," as you mentioned. In my opinion, it is dickish to say that you should have the absolute decision on what should be done with someone else's created works, whether or not they approve.

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

@Craig: Indeed, artists should have a right to exclusively profit from their work. That isn't at contest, and never has been. The purpose of creating a law to allow them to exclusively profit from their work is to encourage innovation in arts and sciences, not to give artists a right to profit simply for the sake of itself. I'm not going to do your homework for you, but if you look at what was occurring at the time copyright laws were authored, it becomes abundantly clear why these laws were necessary. They are not necessary anymore in the same way and are not required for innovation to occur. Nothing in copyright law has ever really suggested that artists or inventors own their art or inventions. It is simply a provision laid out to allow them a limited right to profit, to encourage them to continue creating by not allowing publishers to unfairly exploit their works. A point in fact, all works eventually return to public domain, where they belong.

@Simon: I think hardwork should be rewarded as well. And the free market offers many amazing opportunities to profit from your work as an artist. This rhetoric that unauthorized downloading prohibits or hinders this for anyone in anyway is pretty much absurd. Did it change the way the market works? Yes. Did it hurt it? No. In fact, I'm far more inclined to believe it opened the market up in ways far greater than were ever available to anyone before, something this blog's existence is evidence towards.

I agree that granting artists some rights to encourage marketability is still a safe bet, but not in any way that tampers with how the free flow of information works on the Internet. Anyone that suggests the absurd idea that art or innovation suffers due to money lost is pretty much just spouting rhetoric, which is essentially my point:

Regardless of your opinion on unauthorized downloading, if you want to encourage open-minded debate and an escape from rhetoric, don't include the biggest perpetuated rhetorical myths in your post. Don't try to bring sensibility to the debate while simultaneously inflaming the worst aspects of it. And this is exactly what you did, you made a winded post about not using harmful rhetoric, and reinforced it using a bunch of harmful rhetoric. And through that have created another tedious debate that will go no where. I'm not interested in who is right or wrong, simply that your post was hypocritical, reinforced by your continuing to narrowly argue one side versus the other while pleading for sensibility.

Interestingly, I subscribe to this blog because it seems to acknowledge the changing face of music promotion and how artists can function within it. This recent theme that you're hostile towards the wonderful environment the Internet has cultivated for musicians is very unbecoming.

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Simon,
A surprising hotbed of comments were stirred up by your article. What do you think are the big topics in the industry that people really need clarification on?
GB

April 14 | Unregistered CommenterGlen Brown

Daniel,

I don't really follow you on your recent train of thought ere. What major rhetorical myths did I perpetuate in my original post? I was talking about stripping away the outer factors to get to the heart o the issues. Your statement that:

"And the free market offers many amazing opportunities to profit from your work as an artist. This rhetoric that unauthorized downloading prohibits or hinders this for anyone in anyway is pretty much absurd. Did it change the way the market works? Yes. Did it hurt it?"

Is another demonstration of what I'm talk about here. Making the general assumption that all unauthorized downloading will never hurt or hinder creativity is a presumptuous statement in of itself (just as saying that all> illegal downloading is hurtful to artists is also a false generalization). There are many exceptions to both.

Some artists have gained from piracy (especially prior to the widespread development of digital distribution) in terms of boosting the popularity of their works (which is why many labels purposely "leak" parts of an album prior to release).Conversely, if someone feels that the investment made into their work (be it a book or an album) could easily be taken and shared without any compensation for the author, that could easily discourage creating the work (or sharing it) to begin with.

In any case, its getting away from the original point: the decision on whether or not a work should be shared in that manner should be up to the artist, not the perpetrator.

On one hand, your arguing that copyright laws as they exist are sufficient. On the other, you're saying that the marketplace is changing. Laws should adjust to the changes of society - especially laws in regards to commerce when the marketplace demands it. I've said nothing about prohibiting the free flow of information (that was your assumption) and adjusting laws or even prohibiting illegal distribution does not prohibit the free flow of information.

There's no hostility here, I believe that the internet is an amazing resource for artists and it is allowed for more artists to to develop their careers than ever before. However, like technology itself, our culture should evolve with it. And my argument is that these discussions should be based on logic to foster a greater sense of understanding, not to be taken personally, to be broad brushed, or to be based on rhetoric.

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

Hi Glen,

"A surprising hotbed of comments were stirred up by your article. What do you think are the big topics in the industry that people really need clarification on?"

I believe that the copyright debate itself gets complicated because of the downloading debacle. However, despite the heated discussions, I'm glad that people are still interested in this issue because artists were left out of the discussion for far too long. Most of our society relies on "rational ignorance" so it's natural that there information we can get will often be heresay, distorted, or rhetoric, etc. I'm not sure about on this thread, but in the TED discussions, I can say that I'm the only person that spent the last few years intensely studying intelectual property laws (both in terms of copyright and trademark).

To address some of the bigger issues regarding the copyright debate, I think we need to focus about what kind of copyright laws exist and what kind of rationale changes need to be made. I believe that the industry in general (especially film and music) has handled it quite poorly (such as prosecuting individual downloaders) and now they're enduring repercussions of those actions. There's the general assumption that the RIAA, ASCAP, BMI, and MPAA are evil though in reality, they've done a lot to help protect creators. People assume that only big corporations are hurt by illegal downloading when the opposite is true: it hurts more struggling, independent creators than the large companies. Those individuals though don't have the resources to fight for their copyrights like the companies or representative organizations do so they're often ignored.

The internet itself is fairly new and so the amount of research out there is pretty limited. However, there are a few out there done such as this one from Stan Liebowitz, from UT Dallas School of Management examines the "sampling effect" or the hypothesis that shared music increases exposure and therefore leads to increased music sales, as well as shifts in the music industry. (http://www.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/intprop/MIT.pdf) Also, Assessing the Economic Impact of Copyright Law: Evidence of the Effect of Free Music Downloads on the Purchase of Music CDs (by George Robert Barker Centre for Law and Economics, ANU College of Law): http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1990153

Anyway, I hope that the general article and discussions that have followed were able to shed some new light on this debate for you.

April 15 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

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