I Should Download Her Audio on MP3

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…and show the whole world how peer to peer file sharing appears to be revenue neutral for the record industry. That is, according to these two economists (pdf).

NEXT: Continuing Crack-up

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  1. Thank god for Eminem references. Now I can have that song stuck in my head instead of ‘Big Country’.

  2. I’m curious: Do you think the fact that file-sharing appears to be revenue neutral for “the record industry” (whatever THAT is, exactly) means that copyright infringement is OK?

  3. I’m not trying to grow flowers in the desert, but I can live and breathe and see the sun in winter time. In a big country, dreams stay with you, like a lover’s voice ‘cross the mountainside.

    (The only way to erase a song playing over and over in your head — an “earworm” — is to think of the theme from Gilligan’s Island.)

  4. Sam-
    Yeah, pretty much. Copyright is justified exclusively by its incentive effects. Where it doesn’t affect returns to sellers, there’s no plausible incentive effect and therefore no justification. But more to the point, if p2p file trading doesn’t significantly alter CD sales, and therefore isn’t the dire threat to the viability of the music industry that it’s sometimes claimed to be, the rationale for heavy handed measures like INDUCE starts looking much thinner.

  5. Sam I Was, you have to understand that many of the folks at Reason have a somewhat different regard (little regard? no regard?) for intellectual property rights than some of the rest of us.

    Small “L” libertarians shouldn’t care about the incentives that Julian mentions. Nor should we hang our hats on the specific language that is (or isn’t) enshrined in the constitution with respect to patents and copyrights. The government should not be in the business of encouraging folks to write cool songs, make great movies, or to invent better weed eaters. That’s a slippery slope that justifies all kinds of corporate welfare.

    What the government should be concerned with is protecting the property rights of those who choose to create those things and that should be done in some coherent rational fashion.

    Further, you’ll get little argument from me about the current messy hodgepodge of special interest and retro copyright law. Disney is a putz, the recording industry is idiotic, and the fact that you can copy a CD for personal use but not a DVD is nothing but political graft for the movie biz.

    That said, I have replaced nearly my entire record collection with tapes. Then with CD’s. Then with .mp3’s (either downloaded or copied from my CD’s).

    I’m done buying the same music over and over and over again. That slight twinge of guilt I felt over downloading a few songs I didn’t ever own is entirely mitigated by the fact that I have purchased over 200 albums at least twice and some three times. Not to mention the six clinkers that come with the two songs you really wanted when you bought the CD in the first place.

  6. Casual copyright infringement is morally if not legally OK. Copyright holders have been waging war against technological progress and unfairly extending copyright protection to the detriment of the public. Their latest crusade isn’t about getting artists paid but about protectionism for an outmoded business model. I think a period of 10 years renewable for another 10 is more than enough protection for copyrights and patents.

    Imagine that teleportation was free and unlimited. Now imagine that the shipping, auto, and airline industries demanded that teleportation be restricted or taxed to prop up their now inefficient businesses.

    The “supply” of digital entertainment is now approaching infinite, so prices should also approach zero. Artist can still get paid by performing live and by licensing their material to movies, commericials, and video games. This is how many artists already make their money since record labels usually take the lion’s share of CD revenue.

  7. Julian,

    What you’re doing is arbitrarily defining some thing you’ve decided to call a “music industry,” and basing your conclusions on that definition.

    If you’d instead look at this from the realm of individuals — the way we libertarians do with every other issue — you’d see that my copyright, or your copyright, is what counts.

    If I write and record a song for my mother, and want my mother alone to have a copy of that song, then who are you to say that the rest of the world should be able to infinitely duplicate it against my wishes? It has nothing to do with “revenue”; it has everything to do with MY owning the work that MY brain conjures up and that MY creativity produces, and exclusively distributing it the way I want.

    If I’m a world-renowned painter who does happen to care about revenue, then I might want to reproduce just five copies of my work to drive up its value. Who are you to say the rest of the world should be able to infinitely duplicate it against my wishes?

    I could be a self-employed journalist who wants my articles to appear only on my own website, so that people must come there to read them. I could be a moonlighting movie director who wants to release a limited-edition DVD. I could even simply be some kook with OCD who wants to write a book and publish precisely 17 copies, and 17 copies only, because I’m a kook with OCD.

    Who are you to say that any of that stuff belongs to the rest of the world? The ability of others to copy it — whether through file-sharing or some other means — doesn’t mean others should copy it … or that the law should allow them to.

    You can’t simply glance out at the landscape in some given era and decide there’s this thing called “the record industry,” and then ditch two centuries’ worth of settled intellectual property philosophy based on that one-time assessment. It’s just so arbitrary. It’s akin to saying we should ditch laws against vandalism because some 2004 study shows that grafitti doesn’t really hurt the revenues of the “bagel shop industry.”

    I am continually astonished by the anti-copyright stances I see ’round these parts. I can only figure that it’s because “these parts” is a corner of the Internet, and thus it follows that the sort of folks posting here have a tech-centric view that blinds them to the bigger picture.

  8. There is no such thing as intellectual property. If there were, how come songs, books, and paintings are property, but actual *ideas* aren’t? How come Amazon can’t copyright its idea of selling books online, and so prevent BN.com, Powells, et al from “stealing” its idea?

    The constitution gives an explicit reason for Congress to grant patents and copyrights: for the promotion of the arts and sciences — not to protect property rights.

  9. Sam,

    If I write and record a song for my mother, and want my mother alone to have a copy of that song, then who are you to say that the rest of the world should be able to infinitely duplicate it against my wishes?

    Then don’t give it to anyone but your mother. If she infinitely duplicates it against your wishes, she doesn’t deserve a song anyway. 😉

    If I’m a world-renowned painter who does happen to care about revenue, then I might want to reproduce just five copies of my work to drive up its value. Who are you to say the rest of the world should be able to infinitely duplicate it against my wishes?

    A better question would be, who are you to say the rest of the world shouldn’t be able to infinitely duplicate it? The next person you talk to may repeat what you say to another person, who repeats it to another, and so on, until your original quote is infinitely duplicated. Should you have a right to force people not to repeat what you say, since it is your intellectual property?

  10. Amazon can’t copyright the concept of online book sales and prevent others from selling books online. But it can stop Crimethink from opening an online book store and calling it Amazon.com because he doesn’t own the rights to the name.

    Yet I am given to understand that this is wrong and Amazon should have no exclusive right to use that name or domain because there is no such thing as intellectual property.

  11. Nathan says “Imagine that teleportation was free and unlimited. Now imagine that the shipping, auto, and airline industries demanded that teleportation be restricted or taxed to prop up their now inefficient businesses.”

    That’s a great visual and an excellent illustration. The analogy seems plausible at first but really, we’re talking apples and oranges, because shippers are delivering goods they don’t own for a fee rather than selling their own goods to an end user who may take possession of said goods in a variety of different ways.

  12. “There is no such thing as intellectual property. If there were, how come songs, books, and paintings are property, but actual *ideas* aren’t?”

    Because copyright is not intended to protect ideas. It is intended to protect the original expression of ideas.

    Seems like you don’t even understand the essential concept you’re arguing against. A little advice: You really should understand the terrain before you decide to stumble around in it.

  13. TWC,

    It’s a common mistake to confuse trademark protection and copyright. If I claim that my bookstore is Amazon.com, then I am taking and diluting the real Amazon’s reputation.

    I don’t see how my teleportation anology doesn’t hold up, maybe you could elaborate. My point remains that as supply of digital entertainment approaches infinity, value comes from not the content per se, but from live performances or access to a high quality repository of digital goods (instead of unreliable pirate networks with low quality copies).

    Look, if people are willing to pay 4 bucks for milk and espresso, they will be willing to pay for reliable access to a high quality, fully stocked digital library of entertainment and information.

  14. Heh, heh…nothing has changed here since the last time we discussed the notion of intellectual property rights…Reason is, apparently (when it comes to music) against it, while Sam (and a few others) is for it. I side with Sam, and I choose, voluntarily, at this time, to give away my music for free. It is mine — my property — to do with as I please. But it is mine alone. There really is a difference between libertarianism and anarchism. It’s a distinction lost on (much of) the H&R crowd.

    But I am just another crackpot.
    Move along now.

  15. Nathan, I did elaborate. Shipping other people’s goods is not the same as selling something that you own and then having that item delivered to a customer, whether you teleport it, send via UPS, mail it, or sell it at a store.

    If you argued that the music you want to download belongs to the guy on the P2P network by virtue of the fact that he paid for it and is entitled to use it any way he wants, I could see that point though I might or might not agree. But you are arguing that the music is the shipping because it can be downloaded and that dog don’t hunt. The music is the product. Because it is downloaded the cost of the shipping in economic terms is virtually nil. That is shipping cost not the cost of the music.

    I’m not confusing trademark with copyright. The comment I was responding to was using the generic term “intellectual property” and stating that there is no such thing. Trademarks and copyrights protect intellectual property.

    And, in case you aren’t aware, the Reason folks hold trademark in about as much regard as copyright.

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