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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Was Napster Right?

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


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The Problem With Liberals

The blinders we put on when we look to government to solve all problems is frightening. As witness Kevin Drum. He's the kind of a middle-of-the-road liberal with whom I often agree. He is also literate about computers and the internet. But he's basically willing to let the government kill the goose that laid the golden egg on spec that there really is a problem with piracy and the government might really be able to do something about it. A decade of evidence is dismissed as "digital IP enforcement ... going through ... growing pains."

Let me reiterate the central point about DRM. The fight is over controlling the content on our computers. Even with complete physical control and administrative authority we are unable to prevent unwanted material (spam, viruses) from appearing on our computers. What are the chances that a third party (the RIAA, the MPAA) can successfully keep material that we want but they don't (pirated music and movies) off of our computers?

Or let me put it this way. I don't run virus checkers on any of my computers because they never find real viruses, but they make the computer unusable. They pop up constant annoying false alarms, they are always demanding to be upgraded, and if you are foolish enough to agree, they download a bunch of garbage then crash the computer. If you do have a virus they pretend to remove it then leave your system unbootable. So: what effect do you think "pirated content checkers" will have on the internet? Find real pirated content? Or render the internet unusable?

The Sky is Rising

The real state of affairs in the music industry.

The Other Side of the Internet

The internet makes it easy to redistribute unauthorized copies - SOPA is an effort to put an end to that, albeit at the price of getting rid of the internet. But the internet also makes it easy to reach audiences. From the point of view of the big distributors represented by the MPAA and the RIAA it's all bad. I'm pretty sure buggy-whip makers didn't much like automobiles either. But what about the artist? Chris Phelan points us to a recent article about Louis C.K. a successful but not superstar comedian. Rather than taking the $200K that the big distributors would have paid him, he put up $170K of his own money to produce the video of his show. Unlike the big distributors who hate their customers as much as their customers hate them - Louis C. K. has a good relationship with his customers. He put the video on-sale for a quarter of the price the big guys would have charged - $5 each copy. He did it without DRM, and simply asked politely that people buy it from him and not redistribute it. He took in $2 million, a net of about $1.8 million.

It's funny how old fashioned business sense - produce a product people like and treat them well - works as well on the internet as anywhere else. Unfortunately crony capitalism if you can afford the politicians is even better.

Results of a natural experiment

It has been over a decade before Napster effectively ended copyright for recorded music. Music sales are down. But did copyright encourage creation of new music? Has the quantity of new music suffered on account of the effective elimination of copyright? We now have a detailed study. From the abstract:

In the decade since Napster, file-sharing has undermined the protection that copyright affords recorded music, reducing recorded music sales. What matters for consumers, however, is not sellers' revenue but the surplus they derive from new music. The legal monopoly created by copyright is justified by its encouragement of the creation of new works, but there is little evidence on this relationship...We assemble a novel dataset on the number of high quality works released annually, since 1960, derived from retrospective critical assessments of music such best-of-the-decade lists. This allows a comparison of the quantity of new albums since Napster to 1) its pre-Napster level, 2) pre-Napster trends, and 3) a possible control, the volume of new songs since the iTunes Music Store's revitalization of the single. We find no evidence that changes since Napster have affected the quantity of new recorded music or artists coming to market.

Where publishing is going

Somehow I don't think he needed copyright to do this. Notice that Amazon unilaterally set the terms of the deal - do you suppose they would do differently without copyright?

LimeWire flie sharing service on the ropes after latest court ruling

"A federal judge in New York issued an injunction on Tuesday that will essentially shut down LimeWire, the big music file-sharing service that has been mired in a four-year legal struggle with the music industry."

LimeWire was one of the more popular file sharing programs that grew in the aftermath of Napster's shutdown.

Read about the latest developments here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/technology/27limewire.html

Irdial and the Underground

This post is about a a comic called the "Underground" and a music group called Irdial. About Irdial because they publish music under a Free Music Philosophy - and because they sent me the link to The Underground. The Underground story in brief is this: their comic was pirated and bootlegged on 4Chan. They didn't sue or whine: the authors went online at 4Chan to discuss their comic. What happened? More good publicity than you can imagine - go look at their website for what happened to their sales.

Copying is not Theft

I've seen this before - it's very good (via Alex Khatchaturian)

Germany

We previously mentioned Eckhard Höffner research showing how absence of copyright in Germany led to more rather than less output there than in England. This is being picked up by other blogs, here is a post on Kevin Smith's blog. (Thanks to Ruth Lewis for the tip)

Tangled over their own laws

Really, this is pretty funny.

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