The Death of Copyright?

Before Xerox machines, before computers, before the printing press, the idea that we shouldn’t make copies of intellectual property never met resistance. Now that practically anyone can make copies with little effort, the idea of a business model predicated on controlling the quantity and destiny of copies of intellectual property seems naïve.

“Copyright as it now stands has outlived its original purpose, and is no longer clearly beneficial to society as a whole.” -Rob Landley, – ‘Intellectual Property is an Oxymoron’

Do we now witness copyrights death?

In the ‘Street Performer Protocol’, the authors point out that the idea of an author who has rights to a work is a relatively new one.

Previously, considering a work separate from the physical copy of that work remained unthinkable; therefore, copyright had little meaning. Following the invention of printing, copying and distributing works made copyrights possible. Technological developments begin to make copyrights unsustainable because the cost of copying and distributing drops to zero. Further, the ability to copy becomes trivial, even for the unsophisticated computer user. Thusly, we will find it virtually impossible to consider a copy of a work as something separate from the original.

free music

I intend “Free Music” interpreted with emphasis on “free” as “freedom,” not price. I do not suggest that the death of copyright means artists cannot charge for CDs, tapes etc. (it just isn’t a great business model to bet on for the future). The freedom to copy, I demand. The public takes this freedom with or without the consent of record companies or artists.

This is ethical, if not legal, and I predict law will conform to make copying legal. The idea of music belonging to an individual or a company angers me. How dare you?

Listen, I understand the original intent of copyright. I understand the want to protect intellectual property from fraud. I understand that Metallica doesn’t want other people taking credit for their work or profiting by selling it. That makes total sense. The point here remains that Metallica, the RIAA and the Big 5 use copyright law to make money, not to protect intellectual property. No one seeks to take credit for, “I Disappear.” Napster made no money on account of their latest album.

Prince said it best –

“The fundamental hypocrisy of the music industry (and of some artists) in the current debate over the MP3 format, Napster and other forms of online exchange of music is that they are talking about copyright, intellectual property and other such noble concepts when the only thing that they are actually trying to protect is the commercial value of their musical product.”

Further, when you publish that book or when you release that album and I hear it on the radio it becomes my experience. It becomes the public’s memory. The very notion that an individual or a company can posses music is ridiculous.

Musicians do not create out of thin air this thing we call music. Ray Samudrala, in his “Free Music Philosophy” writes:

“Music is a creative process. Today, when a musician publishes music, i.e., exposes it to the outside world, only a privileged set of individuals are able to use the music as they please. However, the artist has drawn from the creativity of many other musicians and there is an existential responsibility placed upon them to give this back unconditionally, so creativity is fostered among people.”

compensation and the value of music

I love music. I believe that the people who play music and who write great songs ought to receive money for their art. I do not believe artists ought to receive money for their art every time I want to listen to a song. Nor do I believe the artist should control the copy of the music I listen to. The artist does not create music each time I listen to it; I can hear the artist playing music each time I listen to it.

We should not measure the value of music the way we measure the value of money. You don’t have to hold a degree in business to understand this. You don’t need to be an economics genius, you don’t need to be a record industry executive (most importantly, you don’t have to be a college student hehe).

Imagine a world where an artist can earn 5 times more money from an album than if a record company controlled the distribution.

Prince offered his five-CD set “Crystal Ball” exclusively on the Net without the help of record companies, distributors, or record stores. He simply advertised the album on his site, promising fans he would release a song when he had 100,000 pre-orders for the entire record. He sold 250,000 copies and kept 95 percent of the revenue. Industry experts estimate the earnings at $5 million. Obviously, recording artists only get a very small percent of a CD’s retail price. Therefore, going directly to fans profits artists more than using a record label.

“We got paid!” Prince said, “More than for the last five to six albums on Warner. It’s straight-up money, and the check’s on time, not quarterly.”

You know what pisses me off? Think about how we value music. The current model devalues music because we place a 20-dollar price tag on a piece of plastic and we treat the music lover like a consumer. One doesn’t *consume* music. Shame on the record industry for forcing music to be a product and shame on us for buying into the idea that we consume this wonderful art.

Ironic that technology now allows music to gain value as an art – distribution becomes a service. The artist’s compensation comes from the focus on the service of distribution rather than the demand for a product.

the record companies

Do we now witness the beginning of the death of the record company? Yes, at least, in one sense. Sure, established artist like Limp Bizkit and Prince can use a copyright free world to profit – but what about unknowns? Here, the labels play a major role. The focus must change, however, transforming to purely promotion and investment with less involvement in distribution. Some labels will become service providers of streaming music – the heavenly jukebox to subscribers.

One of the major differences will be the way labels make money. Today, one obvious issue is the fact that the label often times owns the copyrights and cashes in on them at every opportunity. Perhaps in the future the label may make an investment in a new artist in exchange for a percentage of the earnings for the first few albums.

– A Brief Bio –

Simon Foust writes for Internet Radio and news hub, Simon resides in sunny, Southern California. Having spent the last 2-years playing with digital audio technology and building relationships with developers and webmasters, Simon’s goal and motivation remains fueled by the belief that the current model for distributing music devalues this precious art. “Technology like MP3 and P2P applications become the first step in helping music regain the value we ought to place on it.

end note

“Online music-swapping software such as Napster and Freenet, continue to demonstrate that the idea of intellectual property as we know it today is dead. Legal or illegal, moral or immoral, distributed file sharing via the Internet precludes the enforcement of any copyright laws.”

“In a world without any legal protection of intellectual property (either because there is no copyright legislation, or because the network has rendered futile any attempt to enforce it), [music lovers] stand to pay less for music and artists to keep a greater share of their sales.” – Jerry Brito (Liberzine)

Author: Simon Foust

News Service: Zeropaid


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