4 Thoughts on Copyright, Economy, Consumerism

“The overwhelming belief that everything should just be FREE now is as pervasive and intractable as it is unrealistic and unsustainable.” – Videogum.

This is simply not true. I wont argue that the lack of cost associated with downloading is not a huge factor in people’s decisions to download media “illegally” but I would never agree that anything close to a majority of people engaged in downloading and torrenting think “everything should just be free.” I would not ever describe this attitude as “overwhelming’.

In my experience, which I like to think is vast – and I don’t get to claim vast experience in many things, so perhaps thats why I take this so personally – the “freeness” of the downloaded products is almost never discussed. A user rarely exclaims YES! THANKS FOR UPLOADING THIS NOW I DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR IT in earnest. It is rather more frequently a question of artificial scarcity: it is simply easier to download “illegally” than it is to purchase legally. Downloading is a symptom of a cause: inconvenience.

What is un-sustainable is the stubborn business practices of the media distributors who refuse to release their dead-man’s grasp on old models. If anything, the proof-pudding has indicated a less-scarce, reasonably price alternative to current models is EXTREMELY sustainable.

“…or one thing, that works for Radiohead and the world’s most popular stand up comedian of the moment, but a “pay what you will” structure isn’t going to work for a band you’ve never heard of, or a Television show” – Videogum.

I’d be curious to see the numbers on this. Says who? My guess is the system would work just as well for a smaller band as it does for Radiohead. Sure the “band you’ve never heard of” isn’t going to make a million dollars but they weren’t going to make a million dollars with a record deal either. Doesn’t it seem like a better plan for everyone if the consumers who like their music get to pay less per record and the band gets to see more $$ per sale?

For the record, services like the Humble Bundles and Bandcamp see people more-often-than-not willingly paying more than the minimum and/or average price for products.

Additionally, I fail to understand why this model would not work for a television show.

“8 million dollars isn’t even that good of a budget for a movie” – Videogum.

Yes it is. $8M dollars is a lot of money. Many, myself included, would argue that $200M is too much to spend on a movie. When did we decide actors and performers are worth millions upon millions of dollars for their appearances in movies? Bill Murray has famously said he doesn’t even “leave the driveway” for $50k. If anything, we need a redefinition of the appropriate budget for a movie and not a new funding model to make sure every movie which is going to get made gets its “neccesary” $200M or whatever would be considered a “good budget.”

“That means that for a $1.29 download from iTunes, after Apple takes its standard 30 percent fee, the artist would be paid 13 or 14 cents; for five million downloads, that amounts to about $650,000. As one of five writers of the song, Cee Lo would also make about $45,000 in publishing royalties on those downloads.” – NY Times

Cee Lo Green makes an estimated ~$700k a year from songwriting alone. And we are still complaining about the state of the music industry. “That leaves him a long way from the $20 million he is estimated to make this year”, this article reads. As if this is what he is entitled to and it is a shame he has to work so hard touring and shaking hands in order to meet his quota.

Maybe I am reading this wrong, being on the pro-reform side of the argument but the point remains – ~$700k a year and we talk about the decline of record sales and the plight of the recording artist.


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one comment about “4 Thoughts on Copyright, Economy, Consumerism”

  1. L. wolley Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. A career is a career, and I find it confusing that being a musician of a certain stripe is expected to somehow exempt a person from society’s usual economic scale. This strikes me as particularly bizarre considering the fact that it doesn’t come close to applying to arts in general–as the sardonic question fine arts majors often get, “So, you’re gonna be a starving artist?” demonstrates.

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