The Bad Science And Greed Behind The “Intellectual Property Inhibits Innovation” Argument. Part 2.

For some time now the web/technology lobby has been arguing that copyright and other forms of intellectual property rights are stifling innovation.  And if you don’t actually  think about it you might agree.  I mean it sound sort of like the argument against government over regulation. Having to get permission from all those IP owners.  And then having to pay them…

But is this really true?

No and the Evidence is right in front of us.

Let’s start with the easiest of these dubious claims.

One of the most common arguments about innovation and copyrights concerns music copyrights.  In particular it is often argued that copyrights are inhibiting innovation in the music tech space.  The idea is that  sites that ignore copyright  like The Pirate Bay provide a much better service than the legitimate music sites. Never mind that these sites out-sleaze the record labels by paying nothing to the artists. Magazines like Forbes hail them as hubs of innovation! “Piracy is a service problem” the magazine states.

Here is Google’s Sergey Brin making the same argument:

“I haven’t tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like; it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work – and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy,” he said. **

And yes if you don’t think about it very hard this seems to ring true. Until you actually engage your neurons.

Are file-sharing sites really better than legitimate music sites like iTunes?  Are file sharing sites really hubs of innovation?  Do they really provide consumers with a better service?  I mean you can test this in your own living room.

And we did.  We put the Trichordist interns* to work.  We had a race.  I was to legally download “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga and the interns were supposed to illegally download it.  I beat them both times. The first time using iTunes and my iPhone and the second time using my MacBook and Amazon MP3 store. Both times I won the race and both times I had the song in less than one minute and thirty seconds.

We tried the same thing with a much more obscure song.   “Swim” by The Glands.  Again I won handily.  Actually the interns couldn’t even find the album version of “Swim”.  About ten minutes later  they found a legitimate free live version, giving lie to the notion that File-sharing/BitTorrent provides a distribution service for obscure and independent artists.

I was intrigued by the fact that the obscure yet critically acclaimed  Glands were not to be found on the illegal sites.  I started going through my own catalogue and discovered many of the rare Camper Van Beethoven tracks were also not available on bitTorrent or other file-sharing sites.  Time and time again I have heard from people that illegal file-sharing provides fans with access to these obscure and hard to find songs and artists.  Not true.  Yet all these “rare” and hard to find songs were readily available in iTunes.

This is typical of the bad science at the heart of the “copyright stifles innovation” argument.  It is an argument that flies in the face of easily accessible facts.  It is remarkably easy to disprove this argument yet no one seems to challenge this argument.  It’s another one of those quasi-religious beliefs we often find associated with the web.  It is one of the tenets of the religion of the internet. Proponents are given a religious exemption from the facts.

Further Sergey Brin and others are confusing an illegal arbitrage strategy with innovation.  Arbitrage is a strategy whereby a buyer exploits the difference in price of a commodity in two different markets.  In other words the file-sharing sites are exploiting the price difference between the “free”  illegal unlicensed version of the song  and the licensed paid version on iTunes or Amazon. This price difference, this arbitrage, is why file-sharing is profitable.  This is not innovation.  “The wall” brin describes is not the disincentive.  “The wall”  does not exist.  The disincentive is the price. Here Brin is  simply providing  a bullshit rationalization for unethical behavior.

(All proponents of file sharing: If you want music for free, if you feel that artists don’t need to be compensated, be a man about it,  just come out and say it instead of making up these bullshit arguments.)

When Google, as it is wont to do, argues that it is being hamstrung by “Hollywood” and copyrights you have to wonder if they are smoking crack.  Google’s revenue rose 29% last year to 37 billion dollars!  The much less evil Apple saw  iTunes revenue rise to 6 billion in 2011 and is predicting growth of 39% annually.  Spotify isn’t having a problem growing,  so where is the hell is innovation being stifled?  Google TV?   That’s not copyrights stifling innovation that’s just a sucky product.

It also should be also noted that Google suffers from terrible corporate governance and maybe shouldn’t be made the example for all the tech industry.  I feel bad for Google shareholders,  If this company had some “grown-ups” on board it’s possible that someone might have suggested that “declaring war on hollywood” was a bad idea when the very success of Google TV depends on those you are declaring war upon.  Instead Google TV becomes another expensive shareholder boondoggle like the Chrome Book or Driverless Car.  But I digress.

Maybe it’s just me,  but I’m tired of hearing how artists like myself,  how our  constitutional rights to control our own artistic works are inhibiting innovation in the tech world. It’s simply not true. Further Google should stop blaming copyright for their own unforced errors. The tech/web industry has been enormously successful.  How much more money do these guys need?  When your company is  wildly profitable and you are demanding even more ?

“There’s a word for that:  Greed”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Next up we’ll look at how the DRM protected gaming world encourages innovation. We’ll give out some Nyan Cat Awards of our own. We’ll ask if Jefferson was the Ringo of Founding fathers.  And I’ll very briefly explain why we keep picking on Google.

* Trichordist doesn’t have interns.  I enlisted hungover band and crew members in my experiment.

**Apparently Sergey Brin has not used a legitimate media site since Apple abandoned DRM in 2007 .  He doesn’t consume any media? Or one of the richest men in the world is stealing music and films!  Re-read his statement!

28 thoughts on “The Bad Science And Greed Behind The “Intellectual Property Inhibits Innovation” Argument. Part 2.

  1. As A result of globalization we see and learn more about what is happening around the globe. Social media programs show us targets and ways of living that we have never seen before and due to on how to be social, not on how to do social. For some people this has created the need to keep in touch with people all over the world we encounter in our travels. As I’m writing this article, I am a Dutch woman, lives in Switzerland, working on an international project. The technique is only satisfy the need to stay in touch with people, cultures and societies around the world.

  2. It’s very exciting to see our case put so well. Congratulations on an excellent and well executed project. I am sharing links as widely as I can. It is depressing to get the same old responses, but I have felt more supported over the years as the damage done to artists is slowly being more widely recognised.

  3. Intellectual property rights -what they attempt to stifle is theft.
    There will always be innovative ways to steal – because there will always be people who think that because they’re clever they’re entitled to do whatever they can get away with.
    And because the web is so impersonal what better place to perpetrate the illusion of a victimless crime. You so adroitly point this out.

  4. Hi David. Thank you for brilliant writing on the utterly unnerving issue of “free culture.”

    We writers are in the same boat. Illegal file sharing services distribute our books for free, and “legitimate” corporations like Google allow free previewing to the extent that many readers don’t bother to buy the book. Millions of copyrighted books that were illegally scanned by Google, ignoring all notions of fair use, are used to serve ads to Google. Others are downloaded via free file sharing services–in which case the consumer pays gazillionaires like Kim dotCom, who got very wealthy off of music and books that he did not create–rather than paying the writer.

    If readers think they’re hurting the big publishing houses by downloading books for free, they’re correct, but those losses are passed directly on to the writers, who depend on advances to be able to write our books. We also depend on royalties to continue writing them.

    Even “bestselling” authors often teach to make a living. Many authors do other crap to make a living. Most writers don’t expect to get rich off of our books, or even to make a living off of them. But we do have a right to be paid for our original work that others consume. Contrary to “free culture” belief, my goal as a writer is not to have the hugest audience possible. My goal is to have an engaged audience, and it can be argued that anyone who downloads my books for free, with the full knowledge that they are stealing from me, is engaged only in one thing: getting something for nothing. That’s not really the audience I’m going for.

    “Free culture” proponents need to realize that the same logic that allows them to illegally download books and music also would allow me to walk into their bike shop and ride off on the bike that took them a year to build. I can also copy the app they invested time and money in and sell it to anyone I please, keeping the money for myself. Just because they put their time and effort into it, the logic goes, doesn’t make it theirs. It is more convenient for me to take the bike than to pay for it, and besides, when I ride around on it, I advertise the bike. Shouldn’t they be happy that I am so generously helping get the word out about their product?

  5. this line of reasoning- the “you make it so hard I have to do it illegally” actually has mostly been used to justify stealing movies. I have never heard it used for music before, since Itunes is so idiot proof and easy.
    It is a good argument for why movie companies should get their acts together and set up some kind of single website, like Itunes, where you could have an account and download movies easily.
    It doesnt justify illegal downloading, only points out that, for the average film, it is often very hard to even find it online- many films are not there at all- or to legally download it.

    If content providers (like, for instance, movie studios) want people to legally pay for their product, they need to make it accessible.
    However, this is largely not an argument that applies to music.

    Most music (although far from all) is on Itunes, and pretty easy to buy legally.

    There is a lot of stuff out there that is on the internet, but currently NOT available in any legal way- and this is an area I would wonder about your opinion on.

    Some of it is out of print, some of it was never actually released, some of it was only released as free internet downloads- things like Beck’s Record Club projects, which, as far as I know, are not available for purchase anywhere. But also, there are many variations on the old Grateful Dead home taping trading.

    It seems like there should be a system for the band El Polen, for example, to be paid for their music- the albums were released in the early 70’s on vinyl in Peru, and were never on CD. No legal venue exists to buy them, and, even in Lima, I am told that they are pretty much impossible to find. But if you illegally download them, the band doesnt get paid.

    You seem to scoff at overall tax or incremental fee systems, but in many cases, I think they would be the only way artists would get paid, especially artists who are not currently making and selling music on their own websites.

    There are three commonly advanced possible ideas-

    A hardware tax- a small percentage added to every device capable of downloading music sold in the US, which then goes into a common, BMI/ASCAP style kitty.

    A personal tax, ala the British Television tax- where each device owner pays a yearly fee for downloading, again, distributed among artists.

    A data flow tax on everybody’s internet service- a small amount added to every monthly phone bill or ISP bill, again commonly distributed.

    None of these would pre-empt an individual’s right to sell CD’s, digital downloads, vinyl, or licence songs.

    Please, sir, if you would, explain your objections to a scheme like these- I am not an advocate, necessarily, just wondering why they wouldnt be better than what we have now.

    ries

    • tax won’t work in US. not right now. could work in other countries.

      here’s also what you are missing. to fairly distribute the tax revenues you need to know what is being shared, streamed etc.

      If people allow that you can just as easily create private licensing schemes that allow variation in pricing to the consumer and variation in pricing for the producer/artists. price variation is always good.

      • 1) Why won’t a tax work? It could be levied against the ISP, which would no doubt pass it on to the user as part of the service cost. “Taxes won’t work in the U.S.” may be true, but it’s not particularly informative.
        2) You don’t need the individual to report the download activity– the ISP could report–the way radio play is reported–how many downloads of each song occur in each period, in aggregate. The end-user remains anonymous, and the tax is distributed based on the amount of the download, share, or stream, just as royalties are collected (theoretically) for radio, jukebox, or other plays under the current system. The ISP already collects this data, and if their overall tax is not based on the stream/share stats (i.e., only the distribution of the tax to the artist is based on those stats) then they have no incentive to under-report. Sure, it’s flawed, it’s abuse prone, etc– but no more so than ASCAP collecting royalties from bars and clubs, which is totally faulty.

      • Taxes won’t work is simply a practical observation. we can’t even raise taxes on the richest in the country to help balance a 1 trillion dollar deficit. It’s not a philosophical observation.

        I think we are not disagreeing (double negative sorry) I like where you are going. I just want to be sure we’ve explored everything.

        if ISPs sniff out what’s getting “spun” without assigning it to specific users it’s means everyone pays the same regardless how much they use the internet for music. essentially my mom would subsidize my teenage sons.

        What about a series of voluntary opt in licenses that unlocks your account for unlimited, limited music, films etc. require central registry of content but not necessarily individual users use.

        further you could add a layer for competition. let different companies offer “plans” based on use. these companies would cut deals with public/private central registry of rights holders.

        Further system like this could legalize P2P which is better on bandwidth.

        And ladies and gentlemen we are back to SNOCAP which is not necessarily a bad thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snocap

        Read this you will be very surprised. thanks for riffing with me.

      • Thanks for the response. Yes, I don’t think we’re in that much disagreement (at least on some aspects of “artists need to be paid”; I think I’m much more worried about the impacts of some of the proposed methods on the future of what I would like to see the internet be than you may be, and I think the issue of some of those negative effects, particularly on speech, far outweigh the issue of artist payment–and I say this as a songwriter–but that’s another set of stories.). But I think the usage/bandwidth issue is the same as radio or broadcast television, or even a cable bundle: the users don’t pay more because they watch more hours of television, for instance, nor do they pay more for more hours of radio, necessarily. We all cross-subsidize each other, and the public as a whole would be subsidizing music, just as it does now with radio– after all, the public owns the airwaves (supposedly), and we *allow* private corporations to use them, which is already a public subsidy for broadcast of music (primarily music). This is true of all the airwaves: audio spectrum, visual spectrum, internet– we own them, we allow private entities to use them. That’s why I think making the ISPs pony up makes philosophical sense; and also why I don’t have a problem that some users will subsidize others. But as a practical matter you are likely right about taxation, as we are so strongly tax-averse.

    • You’re absolutely correct Ries !
      Even Sarkozy says if the ISPs don’t pay it’s the death of the arts.
      An tiny fee taken from ISP subscriptions and collected by ASCAP , BMI , GEMA type services is very much easier than the task they had and trying to estimate what is being broadcast by the myriad radio stations of the world.
      They have NEVER known what is ACTUALLY played on radio stations!
      They take surveys!
      It is very simple to monitor internet traffic and deduce whats being listened to with much more accuracy than has ever been achieved in radio broadcasting.
      The performing rights organizations will gladly do this. It’s a much better option for the ISPs than Congress’s current attempts to turn the ISPs into internet police. An idea as impractical as it is reprehensible. (Not to mention, how much would that add to internet fees?)
      The dollar or two on your internet bill for unlimited music is way cheaper than the ridiculous prices on Itunes and Amazon.
      There is no technological scheme which can defeat the availability of free music.
      I say embrace the future and the new paradigm of affordable music promoted and distributed by real fans.

  6. David, as a huge CVB and Cracker fan, and a recording artist and technologist myself (spent the past 7 years at Adobe Systems where I founded & ran Adobe TV) I just want to thank you for what you’re bringing to the table with these posts. The most lucid and informed analysis of what’s REALLY going on. THANK YOU!!!

  7. innovation is a natural function of human consciousness, which is an argument against the need for copyright and intellectual property rights ….

    additionally, as we learn more about collective consciousness, the very concept of individual intellectual property is misapplied ego ..

  8. “Maybe it’s just me, but I’m tired of hearing how artists like myself, how our constitutional rights to control our own artistic works are inhibiting innovation in the tech world. It’s simply not true.”

    Endless and retroactive copyright does not hurt innovation at all? Please.

  9. I would like t start a “pirate” business that alows downloads of Google stock online for free. If Sergey Brin thinks his stock is intrinsically worth more than art, he’s an idiot.

  10. Detecting a pattern here. You consistently take people’s complaints about all of Big Content, and apply them narrowly to downloading songs so you can dismiss those people as greedy freeloaders. Downloading songs easily and legally is a solved problem (though it was only solved under duress) and we all know this. It’s the TV and movie studios that are the big offenders, though as I said on your other post, the record labels still need to learn what “Fair Use” is.

  11. wait a minute-
    “tax wont work”- thats the same BS I hear from conservatives about health care, or tax reform, or infrastructure repairs…

    If enough people demand it, tax could work- particularly if the music industry as a whole demanded it.

    Frankly, I dont think a tax is any more of a political stretch than expecting a government agency to monitor and block any and all file share sites. I mean, sure, they took down Megaupload, but there are dozens more out there that are still online today.

    Also, I really think that it isnt impossible to determine what is being downloaded- there are all kinds of metrics you could use, starting with something as simple as google searches, which are already, of course, logged and counted hourly.
    Certainly, distribution is not perfect- lots of musicians complain, rightly, about ASCAP type distributions, and several have sued successfuly, proving that their music was being played on radio, for example, but they werent getting paid.

    But I fail to see how ONLY using a cash sale for music model will “fairly” cover a ton of stuff.

    What we have now isnt working- and my teenagers can spoof IP’s, or get on the Darknet, so I really think that just closing down sites is like playing whack-a-mole.

    What you are doing to convince people not to steal, to act morally and ethically, thats a good thing, and it will have some effect. But alone, I dont see that as the solution.

    Let me say, I am not a teenager who has never bought a CD-
    In my living room, there are probably 1000 LP’s, a couple hundred 45’s, a couple hundred cassettes, and maybe 3000 CD’s, all of which I paid for. I am in favor of paying for music, and having artists renumerated.

    But as a long time music fan, I also come up against all kinds of ethical quandries- which, I guess, could be solved if I just pretended the music I want to listen to doesnt exist, and never did. But I am selfish, I admit it.

    I want to hear stuff that is not on Itunes or Spotify, and illegally, or quasi-legally, downloading it, is often the only way to get it- and I aint talking about Lady Gaga- in fact, cant say that I have ever heard a Lady Gaga song all the way thru.

    But I have always been a big fan of the soundtrack to the movie Popeye, with songs written by Harry Nillson. Until a year or so ago, this was simply unobtainium. There were occasional vinyl copies on Amazon, for lots of money, but no legal way to get it. So, maybe three years ago, I found a copy online, illegally, which included the never released Nillson demos as well. I would have paid, but it wasnt possible. You can now order a really crappy CD-R digitized from somebody’s vinyl on Amazon, its still not on Itunes. Whats the moral thing to do? Nillson is dead, he may or may not have wanted those demos released- but now, who knows?

    Or, take Alfonia Tims and his Flying Tigers- way back in 1982, Christgau wrote a review of a funk/jazz band fronted by Alfonia Tims. I sent cash back to NYC, and got a cassette. One of probably a few thousand, at most. He died six months later. I could rip my cassette- is that legal? Or, about 2 years ago, I finally found an illegal online digital version which was much cleaner than my 30 year old cassette. Never reisssued, not legally available any way but vintage original cassette. Still not on Itunes. If there was a universal tax, Tims estate woulda gotten paid when I downloaded it. No legal way I know of to listen to any but the original cassette.

    Or, those Beck Record Club sessions- Beck, the “artist” decided not to issue them commercially, but allow free downloads. Now, its vaguely possible that every time somebody downloads Beck’s remake of Oar, Beck sends a royalty check to Skip Spence’s estate, but I kinda doubt it. So the original composer gets no money, the other musicians get no residuals of any kind. If there was flow tax, Spence’s estate could petition for at least something- now, they get nada.

    What about all the mixtapes my kids download- my 18 and 21 year old download, “legally” mixtapes from rap artists. This has become a dominant mode of distribution for all but the biggest stars in rap. These are not commercial releases, not on Itunes or Spotify. The artists themselves are authorizing free downloads. Except, of course, that they often include uncleared, and uncompensated samples. Right now, since they are authorized by the artist, unless somebody sues, its mighty tough to stop. And since no money changed hands, lawsuits are rare. But if there was a flow tax, George Clinton or James Brown’s estate could at least claim something.

    The artist website/Itunes model can work for living indie artists. But for many other situations, it doesnt.
    I am not arguing for illegal downloads- I am totally willing to pay when I can.

    Got a couple of CD’s in the mail coming my way right now. I know it wasnt enough, but I did buy a few Sparklehorse/Linkous CD’s over the years, and was very sorry to hear that he killed himself.

    Oh, and once, probably in the mid 80’s, I spent 8 hours or so on an airplane, sitting next to your mom. She was very nice, fun to talk to- I think we were flying back from Jakarta or Singapore.

  12. I find the “service problem” argument intriguing as I have experienced it on occasion. How would one legally deal with out of print material? Example, I wanted a copy of Charlie Burton’s Green Cheese. Could not find it, it was out of print (tapes). I found out Charlie worked at Homer’s Records in Lincoln. Talked to him, he said he might have one in the basement somewhere, but wasn’t sure, said he would make me a copy if he found it. I eventually found a tape through somewhere can’t remember, but would that be a case for file-sharing in your opinion?

    I know this case is not the norm, but what about rarities, and live performances that aren’t sold through major outlets physical or digital? I am not trying to make a soap box for all file sharing, but since we are shifting mediums how much will be lost in the transition?

  13. I agree entirely with what you’re saying, except for one relatively minor point, which is the selection of music available illegally. Your methodology was flawed ( in an understandable way). The flaw was that you were using a general purpose public torrent site for your test. A lot of the more esoteric won’t show up on those sites due to the decidedly non-esoteric nature of their user base. However, on the specialized music sites (many of which are private and require an invitation and registration for access) they will. Therefore I’d say that you are, in fact, somewhat underestimating the breadth and depth of the problem.

    • interesting but my take is…

      if in order to get to the “good” bit torrent sites you need an invitation and registration process, That sounds like the exact same thing that sergey brin is complaining about. So the “good” bit torrent sites have just as big barriers?

      thanks for the comment though.

  14. A tax, either on hardware or internet services, is not the answer.

    First, for such a tax to be an effective solution it would have to add an unacceptably (to the customer) high surcharge to the product – a tax on online access would need to double or triple the cost of access. A surcharge on iPods would be pretty much the same to compensate the owners of the tens or hundreds of thousands of songs the device can store.

    The second problem is more insidious – assuming that such a tax was enacted – who would be in charge of collecting, receiving, and disbursing the monies?

    Well, if the current fiasco involving streaming (which suffers from the very same set of problems, less the customer resistance) in any indication, the answer to that would probably be the major record labels. Which means that artists not signed with a major would be out in the cold. And major labels are not particularly known for transparent or expeditious bookkeeping practices, either. (I’m not knocking major labels, but they’re just not suited to this task.)

    And the third problem, mentioned above, is of course the firestorm of customer resistance that such a tax would engender, which is related to

    The fourth problem, which is that such a tax would actively encourage piracy. People would feel that they had already paid for music when the purchased the device and therefore were entitled to download everything they could get their hands on for free.

  15. As one who has a tendency to state the obvious – at least that’s what my teen daughter always says about me – aren’t we looking at the wrong end of innovation here? I mean expedient delivery systems are nice and all. But aren’t we looking at art as that which needs encouragement, innovation and reward? What with the need for instant gratification, I suppose it’s nice to not be bothered with a click or two extra, but the delivery software has few if any encumbrances regarding copyrights and any difference is not related to quality of free content. More to do with the quality of software engineering and marketing research. And that usually boils down (though not always) to the amount of resources that you throw at it.

    (Idly wonders whether the source code and algorithms for the Pirate Bay and Google can be downloaded from the Pirate Bay)?

  16. Please reread what I wrote. It won’t work because the amount collected would be woefully inadequate to cover the loss, the mechanism of collection and distribution would almost certainly be biased in favor of the majors (just as with streaming), and such a tax would perpetuate a sense of consumer entitlement that would encourage and perpetuate piracy – exactly the opposite effect of what we need.

  17. Sergey Brin’s comments were more aimed at Hollywood than the music industry as it stands. Before iTunes came along, then this was also true of the music industry, but iTunes, AmazonMP3, and many others does mean that buying music is just as easy if not easier than piracy. Your comments about more obscure bands being unavailable from file sharing sites is simply not true though, your interns* were obviously not members of what.cd. People who don’t pay for music are doing so simply because they don’t want to pay for music for whatever reason, you are right there, but I’m not sure iTunes or AmazonMP3 could have existed without the pressure put on labels to sell music downloads because of piracy. Maybe music piracy has served its good now, as they are available everywhere.

    Brin’s comments are definitely still true with regards to tv and film content though – all of it is heavily wrapped in DRM (which is an odd beast because it only actually hurts the real paying customers) which prevents it from working on various devices. If you bought a movie on iTunes you cannot play it back on your Android device for example – a pretty ridiculous state of affairs. It isn’t Apple or Amazon that are pushing the DRM either, it is the studios and they are shooting themselves in the foot.

    An interesting case about piracy is the current state of HBO GO, a service which is free to subscribers. Many have said they would like to pay HBO for access to HBO GO, but do not want anything else from cable and the extra expense – but without an HBO GO-only option, they are simply pirating HBO shows like Game of Thrones. Whilst such shows have millions of illegal downloads each week, it is more in HBO’s interest to ignore that piracy and keep only offering its shows legally through a cable subscription. I’m not saying this is good or bad particularly, simply that it is interesting that wilfully ignoring the wants of customers (or future customers) is more profitable.

    PS – Brin’s comments were from an interview with The Guardian – you might like to reference it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/15/web-freedom-threat-google-brin

    PPS – I wrote a lengthy reply to your introductory post, and would love to hear your comments, but it seems it was missed with all the comments about your NPR post.

  18. I think you are fighting the last war-
    Consumers have already pretty clearly stated that they dont want to own physical media.
    But current trends seem to indicate that consumers dont want to own digital downloads, either.

    The majority of music delivery today is “by the listen”, where the music is not permanently stored on the listeners device.

    Youtube, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Grooveshark, Pandora, Spotify, even ol’ MySpace are all examples of this model, and they dominate the number of plays of music daily.

    What consumers want, and are paying for when possible, is infinite jukeboxes.
    They dont want to download, manage, store, transfer, label, and collate actual downloads.

    The music creation industry has to figure out a way to get a fair share of the income that is being generated by “by the listen” music formats, because thats the market right now, and its only going to become more of the market.

    Currently, the USA has the 28th slowest internet speeds worldwide, and is 15th in terms of internet availability, even though we have more subscribers than any other country- this means speeds and availability are going to increase, making streaming even easier and more reliable. And US consumers are switching to small portable devices with less memory- people carry around their iphone with 32gb, not their 2 terrabyte hard drive.

    The initial article that spurred this particular part of the discussion was not Emily White’s response- it was her boss, Bob Boilen, proclaiming his emancipation from storing any digital downloads on his personal electronics. “His” music is now in the cloud, which doesnt mean there are acutal files of music that are stored somewhere for him- it means when one of his devices requests a Bruce Springsteen song, the server streams him a generic version of that song from a central file of all Bruce Springsteen songs.

    Thats the trend that is current- the Emily White’s are already obsolete.

    And thats the area where somebody, somehow, needs to figure out how musicians and writers get their cut.

    • Appears to be the direction we’re headed,,, but the problem is that every battle ever waged is constantly being reenacted and fought… since they all influence our perceptions (e.g. Jefferson). And the presence of free alternatives inflates expectations and deflates the market, so you may have to deal with illegal downloads first before you can get a reasonable traction for reasonable pay from streaming services.

      For myself, I am distrustful of relying on the cloud. The internet is an inherently a hostile environment. I want to own my files, as I am invested in those things with which I spend time. But that’s probably just me.

      As an aside, one argument I see constantly forwarded is that consumers like to try their music before they buy…. But the future outlined implies that we’ll get into permanent try mode and never jump to buy mode. But most people probably don’t realize that their rationalization for sampling music will no longer be valid.

  19. The “cloud” wouldn’t even be an issue without pressure from piracy. Without that unfair competition from looters no content owner in his right mind would consider even for one minute agreeing to the type of “licensing” deals being offered by the streaming services.

    The fact is that streaming as we presently know it is just another tech business that relies on being able to use our content and give virtually nothing in return – which is why I’ve been opposed to streaming from the outset and remain opposed to it.

    The conventional wisdom that the public “wants” streaming as opposed to owning is a lie. What the public wants is simple – the public wants to not have to pay. If streaming gives them that and is easier than downloading they’ll stream. If piracy gives them that and is no more difficult they’ll pirate. What we need to do is seal off ALL the options for the public to have unlimited access on demand without paying a fair price for content.

    You can’t try to appease people like that – it only makes them want more.

  20. im glad somebody took the time to investigate or do a little bit of research on that. it is very important that we keep the focus in the right direction. innovation being stiffled by regulation thats a yes and no. you can create all you want, and as you stated rather your work will be found on a legal site or illegal is another, either way, two different beast. but as a creative myself, it does altar your approach to creating if you know your work will be expoited without your approval. on one hand google, pirate bay and the others are a blessing, on the other a nightmare, when your work is being spread like jam accross the breaded super highway of information, and nobody tells or pays you for that matter a dime or attention, but is being fed well, off your creative works. i think in your part 1 argument you said the physical world and the internet as far as content, well not work together, you cant have them both, and you cant police it, or regulate it. seems to be ringing true.

  21. David, thank you so much for writing these articles. It is refreshing, to say the least. I found many of them via ASCAP Daily Brief. I’ve been a proud iTunes user for the past several years and am very happy with my choice to support fellow artists, and to know that the quality of LEGALLY downloaded music doesn’t suck!

    If there is any one thing I have to agree with the most, it is that (sadly) my generation just continues to come up with bullshit excuses and can’t man up to admit that stealing music is causing profound problems to the artistic community.

    Please keep writing.

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