Tuesday, March 29, 2005


MGM v. Grokster: Cutting through the Noise

Today, the Supreme Court is hearing the arguments between the content industries and the peer-to-peer technology companies.

The message from the mass media is uniformly loud and clear: This is a question of whether record companies and movie studios can use their big pocketbooks to keep these emerging technology companies from illegally making copies of their copyrighted works.

Lin Yutang proposes that sometimes we have to reframe the question for enlightenment.

Big media is framing the question. They are, in essence, controlling the language the debate is framed in. Our first clue should be which artists are on the side of the big content players:

Don Henley, Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks

Have we been enlightened yet? These "artists" are defending the old system of control because their pocket books have been propped up by that system. Their music does not merit the popularity they have attained. Those of us without hearing loss wouldn't make free copies of their music much less pay for it. Their weighing in on copyright infringement is like someone with a bloated ego hiring a bodyguard.

Word of mouth (which is accelerated with peer-to-peer) was reduced to noise in the 20th century by big media advertising through one-to-many technologies like radio. Let us reframe the question and get at the real question here that the big content companies are trying to hide from us. The real question is "Are talented musicians going to be allowed an audience or will mass advertising continue to drown them out?"

"The real question is "Are talented musicians going to be allowed an audience or will mass advertising continue to drown them out?"

Huh? You must be a child whose expenses are paid for by your parents.

I've made my living most of my adult life either as a creator of intellectual content or a publisher thereof. Big Music (just like the hundreds of small independent music producers) provides a way for an author or performer to work for a living and get paid.

The inadequacies of the Big Music deal for the artist are not solved, nor even addressed, when you thieves take the artist's work for free. You "sharers" are nothing but turnstile-jumpers, and shoplifters, and Grokster is the IP equivalent of armed robbery.

It amazes me that you slime have the gall to constantly claim to serve the best interests of artists when you steal their work. Sure, there are some artists who agree with you. You know why? A few are filthy rich and don't understand how they got there; most are just plain ignorant about economics and never will make enough money to support themselves as artists.

The commercial marketplace, with all its warts, is by far the best way to settle the question of who makes how much and who gets paid. It's citizens voting with their wallets to legally choose to use someone else's property under terms set by the laws of supply and demand. That's a concept miles beyond the intellectual capacities of you college-student pseudo- elitists.

Word of mouth is, in fact, one of many useful marketing tools by which the artist and author get word out about their work. But it is far from the most widely-heard method of marketing. Most creators would starve economically on word of mouth. You show your ignorance when you state otherwise.
Whateva! So blame the software? You don't blame a crowbar when the thief breaks into your house, you look for the theif. Duh.

I must agree with the apparent theme of your statement "Are talented musicians going to be allowed an audience or will mass advertising continue to drown them out?", although clearly embracing the change the music industry is railing against can and likely will hurt some, as all change does.

Perhaps, needing a buzz concept, we could let the Supreme ones know of the "long tail" possibilities for music commerce; possibilities which becoming draconian on file trading may thwart.

Surely the wind of change is, momentarily, tough on the psyche of the 99.xxx % of the professional music community who have not made a fortune off their profession; however it is the change itself which is the hope.

What the Internet is bringing is a change in the business model of the music industry wherein the artist, and the consumer, are more empowered; where a greater variety of music gains ear-time; and where the overall interest in music (not just the 11 songs on the radio everyone has heard) blossoms.

I have heard so many truly fantastic new songs by artists or bands I had never heard of, via promotional MP3s, that my head (and ears?) spins in excitement. I've begun spoending more on msuci than I have in years, and feel lucky for the opportunity to do so.

The "net net" of the effect is a wider and deeper consumption of music which will eclipse any "lost sales" from file trading - more money will be spent on music, not less.

But the current large commercial music interests are not likely to be served by a change to an industry they have optimized for their profit. In fact, much of the benefit will come from a decentralization.

Is this new music world here yet - where is the proof things will be better for the musician "down on the corner"?

It's not come to being yet, there is no proof. But the change can be seen in process...

By the way - it might be noted that a small minority of music sales are made without the consumer having consumed the music first. There are always some fans and some artists where a release will be bought sound unheard, but this usually limited to the U2's and Michael Jackson's, whose prior music has established an unquestionable brand in the consumer's mind.

More often the music has been purchased only after consumption via the radio, or other free source, many times.

You have to get your music out there to sell it, and radio is now more for the nostalgic, and talk radio-headed, rather than for people interested in new sounds.

Make a fan with your music and you can sell them something.

(I'll post this also on Songzilla Blog feel free to complain about my post there instead of on Tom's fine blog. :-)
I wish to pose a few hypotheticals to the readers, if only to quell the anger that reactions to yesterday's hearing have provoked:

1. Libraries own music CDs, or rather, own licenses to allow library members to listen to the music contained on the CDs. Such a library member properly borrows such a CD from the library, but uploads the music to his computer hard drive for later personal use (i.e., listening on the computer or synchronization to an MP3 player and listening thereafter). Does such listening/use follow from the library borrowers legal use pursuant to his borrowing? Stated differently, isn't that borrowers transfer of the songs to his computer for personal use merely an extension of the permissible use he undertakes pursuant to the library's license?

2. Consumer buys 8-Tracks, Albums, and Cassettes during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. By doing so, he acquires licenses to listen to the music contained on the media he obtained through such purchases during those eras. For example, imagine that he owns a vinyl copy of the Beatles White Album, an 8-Track of Steve Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life," and a cassette version of Duran Duran's "Rio." Move ahead to 2003, when the consumer considers how he can legally listen to the music on his IPod -- music he legally whose license he legally and ethically purchased in the past, albeit on media that do not provide (affordable, if even obtainable) platforms by which they may be uploaded to his computer and IPod. The question then becomes, if he already obtained legal license to the music contained on the three LPs listed above, shouldn't that license extend to downloaded versions of "Back in the USSR," "Sir Duke," and "Rio."? When he bought those songs on 8-Track, album, and cassette, he didn't pay JUST for the plastic and vinyl -- he paid for the license for personal use of the music for a reasonable period of time. Wouldn't that license to personal use of particular music transfer to the newly donwloaded versions of the same song?
"Word of mouth is, in fact, one of many useful marketing tools by which the artist and author get word out about their work. But it is far from the most widely-heard method of marketing. Most creators would starve economically on word of mouth. You show your ignorance when you state otherwise."

from the first poster only shows his lack of thinking on the subject. there are many good bands that are never played on radio, and never given a chance, which is why events such as battle of the bands are so poppular.

perhaps one of the reasons that word of mouth is not the most popular means of propgation is because the liberal hollywood would much rather promote artists that have the same views as they do regardless of musical ability
Yes money is the bottom line for the big industry.

Why not just gag the lesser known artists and tape the mouths of those with ears.

Many people write and record music for the love of it despite the money made from it. (They manage to eat with other means of income obviously.) Sometimes the music is good for just the lyrics, just the voice, or just the people that make it. Could you imagine these groups not benefitting from word of mouth? To quell the word of mouth effort of the fans of these groups that are often just local or underground would have enormous implications and sets a precedent for the future I do not want to think about.
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