2003 January 13

(entry last updated: 2003-01-13 18:35:19)

  • Tech Central Station does it again; Donna points to this screed that makes the strange argument that copyright is the only reason that publishers make money, because it protects them from theft of their work/value-added, which is filtering the dross of all content for the few pearls that can be repackaged for profit. (Of course, we’ll ignore the fact that dross can be re-engineered to sell like jewels – at a handsome profit.)

    By studiously missing the point, he declares that Creative Commons is a bad idea – a “naive 60’s retro-ideological view of how content intermediaries function” – and makes the scatalogical analogy that all content is just the stuff that gets flushed down the toilet, with publishers catching the good stuff as it goes by. Thus, a CC license is a “hands off” to the publisher, ensuring that the content remains in its “unrefined” state.

    Bah! The real point, which he fails to clear up, lies in this sentence: "They [publishers] add value by filtering out content that people do not want (emphasis mine) and by having established mechanisms for collecting revenue and distributing royalties to authors." OK – why do they get to do this? Why do publishers get to be the arbiters of the public taste? Because they own/control the traditional instruments of copying and distribution (a barrier to entry that has now fallen due to the onward march of technology).

    If the market worked really well, publishers might actually perform this function (because market demand would give publishers the necessary signals to adjust the choices they make for us) – but, as we know, much of this industry has discovered that it’s actually easier to package the dross and call it caviar (c.f., Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, the boy/girl bands, Insane Clown Posse, American Idol/Popstar and all the cultural nullities, or worse, of “pop” culture).
    [Note to self: find and reread John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction]

    No real notion that there are some things that copyright obstructs that might be socially desirable, or enables that might be socially destructive. Classic TCS sophistries to get people riled up. Ed Felten takes a swat at it.

  • Declan McCullagh talks about potentially ubiquitous RFID chips in all purchased goods.

  • Russ Feingold told the Future of Music Coalition Summitt attendees that it’s time to take a look at Clear Channel and the other radio conglomerates.

  • Wired News is having a big day:

  • Proving that a broken clock is right at least twice a day, Hiawatha Bray makes some sense on the DMCA, using the Lexmark litigation as an example. This is a Boston Globe link, which has weird expirations, so here’s a local PDF in case it goes away tomorrow.
    Update: Ed Felten’s writeup is more useful and insightful.

  • The NYTimes uses the departure of Mottola from Sony to discuss the increasingly apparent need for a new business model in the record industry. Some of the radical thinking cited in the article:

    But cutting in-house costs is not enough, Professor Greenwald said. The revenue lost to music-swapping on the Internet is a long-term issue, and profitability will return only when costs have been adjusted commensurately, he said. Instead, he and others said, they believe that the industry has to rethink costs in almost every area — from the millions of dollars paid to retailers to the money paid to the independent promoters who push songs to radio stations’ programmers. They even, perhaps, should sign fewer artists.

    But most important, one veteran music executive said, is that the industry come to a decision to lower the cost of CD’s to the consumer, a highly charged proposal within music companies these days. “Now if you buy a soundtrack,” the executive said, “you pay more for a soundtrack to a film than you pay for the DVD of that film. It is completely crazy. A soundtrack has to be less expensive so that it is at the same price point or lower than the DVD’s.”

  • News.com has a piece on the complexities of licensing material for distribution in any form, much less on the Internet.

  • MP3newswire has posted their winners (KaZaA and Larry) and losers (RIAA and pay download sites) of 2002. The Slashdot discussion includes a good comment about the influence of technological alienation to give and take away control.