Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reasonable? Music? On the internet? I don't believe you

The parts of me that get excited by economics, consumer law, and music got all a-tinglin' when I was reading this moderate proposal to solve music piracy.

Yes, I realize he actually references Swift's famous piece of satire, but I think his argument is honest.

First, he talks commodity to me about the nature of "selling" music:

When someone “purchases” Windows Vista, or the new Arcade Fire CD, is it really a “purchase,” no different than buying a hamburger, a car, or a t-shirt? No. Burgers, cars and T-shirts are “rival goods.” There are limited numbers of them, and there are significant production costs attached to both the creation and duplication of such goods. If you take a burger, or a Mercedes, that is one less burger/Benz for everyone else.


This is why everyone who has ever said “stealing music is exactly like stealing a car” or anything similar to that, is fundamentally incorrect. They are trying to inject their morals into what is, at this level, an economic discussion.

Next, he takes the music industry to task for their catastrophic blundering re: Napster

If they had vision, they could have thought something like this:

Wow, 60 million people in less than a year? Downloading how much? That’s amazing. If we do this right we can eliminate all of our production and distribution costs and become a pure profit business. How can we profit from this?

Instead, they thought something like this:

EEEK! Hippies are stealing my money! Assemble the lawyers!


The worst part of the success of the Napster litigation, is that it legitimized a new revenue stream — a revenue stream that, pre-Napster, no one would DARE utter aloud.

Suing your customers.

Then, he addresses faces the new reality of music consumption:

This is my thought: The Internet + P2P + Napster has completely blown up everyone’s concept of how much music someone can possess. Pre-Napster, very few people had 1000 CDs worth of music, or even 300 CDs worth. Very few people had the money and storage space to amass such a collection, or the wherewithal to seek it out. 300CDs used to be A LOT of music.

Now? Who do you know that doesn’t have a few thousand songs in their collection?

And, the best idea I have ever heard:

Now that the technology is available, what if the labels started to offer unlimited DRM-free downloads of their catalog for an up-front annual license fee of $240, or if they were brave, a $20 dollar a month fee with a cap on per-month downloading (let’s say 3000 songs per month)?

(Mass hysteria in the crowd.)

I would definitely pay $20 to have reasonable access to MP3s that you get to keep without all the DRM caveats of current subscription-based services like Napster. Obviously. Who wouldn't? Even with my extreme album fetishism--yes, I still like to actually hold the fragile, scratch-prone CDs, deal with flimsy jewel cases, read worthless liner notes, and reorder my albums to Icy-Hot my OCD tendencies a la High Fidelity--that'd be a hell of a deal.

First, I'd wipe out my 200+ album wish list, then immediately cancel the music subscription. Then, in a few weeks, I'd come crawling back with a whole new list of music I want. Then cancel again. Then come back in a few weeks. Repeat until I realize that it'd just be easier to keep paying the money and have access to music when I want it for a reasonable price.

And why should the music industry do this?

Do the labels (and film studios and software producers and etc.) want to foster a friendly, mutually beneficial relationship with their customers, with pricing and valuation of licenses for their products that reflect current technological realities and new cultural norms?


Do they want to desperately cling to outmoded prices and valuations in the hopes of fictional trillion dollar profits?

Do they want to clog the courts with ridiculous, frivolous lawsuits?

Do they want to continue making an entire generation of kids think that “RIAA” and “Copyright” are curse words?

Enough said.

[Of Lattimorists, Goddamn Hippies, and the (possible) future of copyright law.] - Jefitoblog, courtesy of Idolator.

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