Involuntarily Distribution Business Subsidies | East Bay Ray

One of the talking points that various tech company commentators, academics and bloggers have used to try to justify companies exploiting an artist’s work without consent (a loophole in safe harbor) is that it would lessen the barrier for tech companies to start up. The idea is that creators should be required to give something up to facilitate this goal. Business start-ups are all well and good, but to require anyone to involuntarily subsidize a business, internet or otherwise, with something they have put time, effort, money, and skill into is extremely problematic.

Would these same people advocate that landlords and utility companies also give up income and the right of consent to help internet companies? That would also make it easier for them to start. But no one has suggested that.

It could be ruinous for creators to be required to be involuntarily involved in start-ups that may or not succeed, tying them to businesses that the artists has no way to vet to see if they even know how to distribute competently or honestly. If they are to survive, artists need to examine their licensees and distributors. I’ve seen many artist’s careers die prematurely from incompetent, greedy or dishonest businesses. (Compulsory licenses that are a last resort to negotiation, rather than the first resort to eliminate negotiation, is an alternative that has for decades shown itself to ensure artist’s sustainability.)

To put it into personal terms, I shouldn’t be forced, or any person for that matter, into being a lab rat for some click bait experiment. And then if the experiment is successful, none of the content creators share in any of the IPO rewards. A bit un-American I’d say and bad policy, it does not allocate rewards according to risk.

History has shown that exploitation of another person’s work with little compensation or without their consent to insure an enterprise’s survival is fraught with ethical and moral issues. If internet companies can not make money selling a product or service on merit and integrity, and treating the people that supply their “product” justly and with respect, something is not right. No matter how well intentioned by well meaning people, economic philosophies that ignore consent or fair compensation, rarely turn out good for society.

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East Bay Ray is the guitarist, co-founder and one of two main songwriters for the band Dead Kennedys. He has been speaking out on issues facing independent artists—on National Public Radio, at Chico State University, and on panels for SXSW, Association of Independent Music Publishers, California Lawyers for the Arts, SF Music Tech conferences, Hastings Law School and Boalt Hall Law School. Ray has also met with members of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. to advocate for artists’ rights.

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