…or, a glimpse at how silly the concept of “intellectual property” really is.
Walking the streets of San Diego’s Gaslamp District on a Saturday night during toorcon, a thought occurred to me that cascaded into a long monologue into a fellow hacker’s ear (sorry ’bout that, Aftershock.)
Watching the music industry embarrass themselves by suing the pants off their own customers in light of changing market conditions was exceedingly amusing for the first 40,000 headlines, but then it began to get old. Being myself, a tiny part of the technology fabric weaving its way ubiquitously through human society, it was obvious what was going to happen in 1998 when encoding music from CD’s into MP3s became all the rage among technology enthusiasts. By 2007 everybody and their grandmother (literally) was doing it, except apparently, the recording industry.
Copying music from CD to computer, from computer to device, from device to phone, to email, inadvertently to tape backup, across the internet to 60,000 computers at once, getting 60 songs from your friend, or giving 32,000 songs to a complete stranger you met at a party who happened to bring his external USB drive too (usb drives? at a party?)… Well it’s practically every day stuff.. It’s the information economy. Send an email, send a spreadsheet, send a song.. How often do people write to each other “you gotta see this!” followed by a VideoSift or YouTube link, or with an attachment..
It was a mystery to me (and still is for most people,) what possible successful survival schemes exist for record labels. Could record labels hold on to their coveted positions as middlemen, scouts, and distributors for talent while the internet made it abundantly clear that artists could finally speak for and represent themselves to the entire developed world? How does, what amounts to, a broker industry thrive when, over the internet, artists can now even collaborate with each other, on a professional scale, simultaneously or time shifted, while continents apart, and distribute the results to millions of others worldwide?
Turns out, the labels’ answer is pretty easy.. Expensive as hell, but easy.
Now the question is, will businesses catch on in in time? The law is as antiquated as the music world’s industrial age business practices are, and criminalizing customers certainly isn’t turning out to be very good for the ol’ bottom line. Will some other economic force blossom which changes law and business in order to do what is needed to move music and society forward?
Let’s break down the problem in more depth and explore some avenues towards graceful, profitable solutions.