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Friday, May 04, 2012

Why Copyright Is Irrelevant

 A judge finally recognized what any tech could have told him.

With this ruling, the ability to get the evidence necessary to defend copyright is obliterated. There is now essentially no way to defend the copyright of anything that can be stored on a computer.

There's no way to subpoena evidence, apart from an individual testifying to the presence of illegal material on a computer.  Even then, the testimony would have to include the individual actually SEEING the perpetrator do the download. The simple presence of the file doesn't show who put it there. And, short of needing biometric ID to login to every computer in the world, it never will.

For all of you who create intellectual content (and that includes me), we need to get used to the facts: the model by which we make money off of intellectual content has got to be radically different than it was BC (Before Computers).

Doesn't matter if it is photos, movies, novels, articles... none of that matters.

If it can be digitized, then:
Can Take Anything.
At Any Time.
And there is no recourse.

I'm actually good with that - in my view, copyright was never any real protection anyhow.

But consumers need to understand what they are buying.
You are no longer buying the content you are downloading.
You are now buying the content that doesn't exist.

The Paradox 
What does that mean?  Well, consider Taylor Swift - a woman who makes tens of millions of dollars each year through her songs and videos. You can, if you wanted, go to Youtube and download every song she's ever sung. You can rip CDs, store them as cell phone ringtones - do anything you want and never pay her a dime.

So, if her fans never have to pay to get her work, how is it that she makes millions of dollars each year?

Simple. When they pay 99 cents for an iTunes mp3, Taylor Swift fans aren't paying her for the work they download. They are paying her for the work she has not yet created. They like what they heard, they download the song they've already listened to elsewhere, and they pay 99 cents for that song not because they necessarily want that song, but because they want the next song, the song she hasn't even written yet. The song that will be even better than this most excellent song.

They want her to continue to produce wonderful songs.
That's how she gets paid.
She gets paid for a product that doesn't yet exist.

For those of us who produce intellectual content, that's how all of us have EVER gotten paid. In the old days, when book publishers mattered, it was called an advance, and the publisher paid it. Today, it is called profits, and the fans pay it.

We aren't getting paid for the work we produced, but for the future work our fans hope we will produce, work that they believe will match or exceed the quality of this work they already have in their hand.

We don't need copyright.
We need fans who clearly understand what they are buying.

So, if you like what you read here, you can buy more of it here.


Enbrethiliel said...


A few years ago, when a friend and I were at a concert venue, waiting for the show to start, I remarked that there were certainly a lot of acts touring that year--and she said that in a world full of digital technology, touring is one of the only ways left for them to make money.

I can think of another band that literally gave away an abridged edition of their fourth album (ten out of thirteen songs) to every subscriber of the biggest daily newspaper in their country. And I'll never forget the journalist who remarked that the age when artists are promoted in order to sell music was over; we are now in the age when music is promoted to sell artists. (You may notice a parallel in publishing. LOL!) But it's a very profitable business model.

I'm certain this second band would agree with you that what they're selling is future music--or rather, future entertainment. Heck, they just concluded a sold-out tour to promote a still unrecorded album, and the frontman encouraged everyone in the audience to record the new songs and put them up on YouTube. In other news, I hear they're making a killing on merchandise. (And I've never seen such artsy t-shirts.) No news on how much exclusive photos of the lead guitarist's wedding are going to cost, but thanks to his fiancee's daily tweets about her bridal preparations, excited fans will probably buy every copy of whichever magazine wins the bidding war.

Smart, smart lads.

In all fairness, their music is pretty decent. (Well, at least I think so. LOL!) But there's nothing to stop mediocre musicians from being very successful with the same strategies. Because they can't sell the music anymore, but they can sell celebrity. (Still sounds like publishing? LOL!)

Katy Anders said...

Intellectual property law has gotten really insidious in recent years, and I'm glad to see take a hit!

(More than the copyrights, we really need to get patents under control. Corporations have been busy patenting gene sequences for years and using their patents in awful ways.)

At the same time, when it comes to copyrights... I want my favorite artists to earn enough to keep making music, as you point out. At this point, live performance seems to be the way to earn dollars: You make recorded music to encourage the fans you gain therefrom to come see you perform.

Performance was how musicians made their $ for most of history, though...