« Sniffle | Main | Printing From a Mac Across a Windows Network »

30 September 2004 — Portrait of a File-Sharer (29)

Big Media hates file-sharing, the practice of consumers uploading and sharing media files via the internet. They claim it's killing their business (though the real numbers disprove this). I think they're killing themselves. If they want to win this war, they need to embrace file-sharing technology. It's here to stay.

I resisted file-sharing for a long time. I thought it was evil, immoral. Then one day I wanted an mp3 of a song I had only on the B-side of an old 45rpm record. There was no way to get this song except through file sharing (or an elaborate vinyl-ripping process). So I downloaded Napster. And I've never looked back.

Have I downloaded illegal files? Absolutely. I don't deny it. And I'll download illegal files in the future. That's not my point, though. My point is that file-sharing has broadened my musical horizons, has increased my musical expenditures. (This is especially true since the advent of the iTunes Music Store).

Before file sharing, I only bought new CDs from artists I already knew and loved: Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan, Loverboy. Since file sharing, I've been introduced to The Decemberists, Emiliana Torrini, Neutral Milk Hotel, Ben Folds, and many many more. I download songs from these artists, and then I buy their CDs. True, I download many songs for which I never purchase legal copies, but I don't think that's evil; if I wouldn't purchase the song after download, I certainly wouldn't purchase it if I hadn't downloaded it.

(As a point-of-reference, I have about 16,000 songs in my iTunes library. Over 12,000 of these came from legal sources I own. Another 3,000 came from CDs I borrowed from friends. Only about 1,000 of these songs are illegal, and most of these are "discards", meaning they're songs I'll never listen to again because I didn't like them after hearing them once. Of the illegal songs I do like, I'll probably purchase half through legal channels.)

All this is a prelude to the following:

Over the past several months, Kris and I have — via Netflix — watched all three seasons of Alias. Sure the show is hoaky at times, gets repetitive with all its silly twists and turns, and the third season is weaker than the first two. (During the latter half of the third season, Jennifer Garner looks positively stoned in every episode.) But we love the show's spirit, the adventure and the intrigue.

When I heard that J.J. Abrams, the creator of Alias, was developing a new show, I was excited. I was even more excited when I learned the show's premise: an airliner crashes on a Pacific island and the survivors have to confront each other and the island's many mysteries.

The show is combination of Jurassic Park, Gilligan's Island (in premise only — this show is deadly earnest, no sign of a laugh track), Earth 2, and Alias. (Two recurring actors from Alias actually appear here, one of whom also had a recurring role in Earth 2.)

So, I'd looked forward to this new show, called Lost, for a couple of months. As its debut approached, I blocked out Wednesday night at 9 p.m. so that I could watch. I convinced Kris to watch with me. Last Wednesday at 8:58 I sat down with a bowl of ice cream and turned on the television to watch the show, only to discover the end credits!

I had the wrong time! Lost aired at 8 p.m.!

I was disappointed. I hoped ABC would re-broadcast the show, but their schedule showed it was not so. "Ah well," I thought. "It's just a TV show. No big loss."

Time passed, and it began to gnaw at me that I'd missed this show. I really wanted to see it.

Eventually I realized it might be possible to download a copy of the first episode from the internet. I searched my normal file-sharing networks to no avail. Then I decided to try BitTorrent, a new file-sharing protocol that I've managed to avoid for the past year. Sure enough: the first episode of Lost was available.

I downloaded it, of course, and on Tuesday night, Kris and I watched the show. We like it. On Wednesday, we tuned in — at the correct time — to watch the second episode.

Thanks to file-sharing technology, ABC has me as a viewer. I've not been a regular viewer of a network program in over three years. And I wouldn't be one now, except I was able to find a copy of the Lost pilot via file sharing.

How much more convenient would it have been to have just downloaded the episode from ABC's web site?

Come on, Big Media: wise up.

p.s. ABC does have a Lost re-broadcast on its schedule now. The two-part pilot will be aired this Saturday at 8 p.m. It's worth watching if you have free time.

On this day at foldedspace.org

2005New Old Office   It makes me laugh that I spent an hour this morning re-arranging my office.

2003An Old Freak   In which I'm not answering e-mail. In which I don't know modern music. In which my pencam arrives. In which I love book jacket covers. In which I watch Trading Spaces. In which I am old. And a freak.

2002Games People Play   Stupendous weekend: much fun had with many friends. Thank you, all. I'm not glum any more.

On 30 September 2004 (11:00 AM), mart said:

very valid points on the filesharing, JD. i've been using bittorrent to locate rally shows and champions league matches which are shown everywhere in the world but on american tv... my only objection with this entry is the fact that i was exposed to Lost for the first episode and found it completely and utterly crap. but then again, i would, wouldn't i?

On 30 September 2004 (11:05 AM), J.D. said:

Yup. :)

I'm not claiming it's art, but it has potential to be as fun as Alias, and that's the only expectation I have of it.

On 30 September 2004 (03:15 PM), alan said:

The difference in the tv bit torrent (I'm assuming) is that the commercials weren't included. So ABC's advertisers don't brainwash you with their dreamy goods and services. I'm not saying that what you've done is wrong -- just that you won't make any money for the company, like you would buying a cd. Sure, you might watch in "real time" next time on the network, but maybe you'll find the bit torrents more convenient and commercial free. ;)

On 30 September 2004 (05:41 PM), Dave said:

So what did you think of BitTorrent? I've been somewhat curious about it but haven't had the chance to try it out. How does it compare with other file sharing apps, ie. Gnutella, Kazaa, etc?

On 30 September 2004 (08:06 PM), Joel said:

Most important of all, does BitTorrent come packaged with loads of spyware?

On 30 September 2004 (08:22 PM), J.D. Roth said:

Let me preface this by saying that I know very little about BitTorrent. Take what I say with a grain of salt, as the semi-informed ramblings of a guy who's just skimmed info about it.

Instead of a self-contained file-sharing application, the BitTorrent application is more like a receptacle. You have to tell it where the Torrents (as they're called) are located. To find Torrents, you scour certain web sites, some of which require membership, some of which do not. A Torrent link looks just like any other weblink, but when you click it, it begins a download from within your Torrent client.

(All of the following impressions are based on my use of a Mac-based client, the name of which escapes me.) The client has a list of Torrents you are downloading. The unique thing about BitTorrent downloads is that each user is forced to share. As I as downloading Lost, the client noted from how many people I was simultaneously downloading, and how many people were simultaneously downloading from me. The "torrent" thing kind of describes what's going on, I guess.

The Mac client was very bare bones. No spyware, Joel, but then that isn't saying much. Acquisition, the normal file-sharing client I use for the Mac, has no ads or spyware. (I could write a love sonnet to Acquisition; it's that good. It's a beautiful application, well-implemented.)

So — BitTorrent is different than other file-sharing apps. It's like the difference between a word processor and a text editor, I guess I'd say. (Does that make sense?) They both do very similar work, but they target different facets of this work.

Also, I should note that it took a long time to download the 350mb file over a DSL connection. I'm talking ten hours...

On 30 September 2004 (08:31 PM), Dana said:

A little more detail:

BitTorrent is semi-decentralized and swarming. Everybody who is downloading the file also serves as a server to serve up whatever portion of the file they've already downloaded. This helps keep the original source from being bandwidth clobbered, but also slows down your own download.

Personally, I see this as a worthwhile tradeoff.

I'm using a program called MLDonkey. It's linux (might work on mac, actually) and is basically a server app. It has an integrated web server. It's multiprotocol.

It can simultaneously interface to edonkey, gnutella, bittorrent, and also opennap and a couple others that are escaping me. I go to it's web pages in my browser, submit some search forms, and click away to kick off downloads.

Pretty keen, really.

On 30 September 2004 (08:37 PM), J.D. said:

I'm curious how others feel about file-sharing. I've stated that I'm a proponent, and that I believe it has actually increased my media spending.

What about you? What file-sharing networks do you use? Do you download a lot of stuff? Has downloading changed what or how you buy? Are you morally opposed to file-sharing? Do you think it's the same thing as stealing? Do you think Big Media has anything to worry about? Do you think this is payback for them screwing consumers for decades?

I'm very curious how others feel...

On 30 September 2004 (08:54 PM), Dana said:

When I was in High School, and poor, I made photocopies of some Traveller RPG manuals that my friends owned and that I couldn't afford to buy. Later, I taped songs off the radio and listened to them in my car. I also videotaped movies and shows off TV (some of the tapes I still have, 10 or 15 years later), or in some cases off of tapes my family rented.

It's all the same basic principle. It's definitely at least questionable, and in some cases (ie, you make copies of things you rent) it's illegal. But it to me it feels about as illegal as speeding by 3 miles an hour. It's not a mortal sin like shooting someone in cold blood.

And clearly lots of other people agree, because I've found music, TV shows, movies, and scanned-in RPG and book PDFs on the various networks.

I've restricted myself, in the book & RPG departments, to stuff I either already have (in some cases, already have multiple copies of -- and it's a heck of a lot easier to carry around a burned CD than 40 pounds of RPG books :/), stuff that is long out of print (although most of that I already have, too), and/or things I'm curious about, but that I would never throw money at because I don't care enough -- roughly the same idea as leafing through it in the store to see if you like it.

Music-wise, it's much like you. Same with video stuff. It's either TV shows and movies from a decade ago that aren't out on DVD yet or that are too obscure to find at Blockbuster or Holywood Video, shows I missed but care about (and am probably going to end up buying on DVD), or stuff that I'm randomly curious about and want to try out.

Basically, I completely agree with your analysis (like that's a huge surprise), and I suspect that a large number of people our age agree. And I think the younger you get, the more agreement you'll find.

Big media has already lost -- they can only "win" through legal repression or technological lockout. And they realize this, and that's why you're seeing the push for DRM in every component (ie, encrypting the video signal from the video card to the monitor! Really!) of electronic and computer hardware and broadcast digital TV and Radio signals, DVD Region encoding, and heavy industry lobbying for laws requiring hardware to obey these tech controls, and heavy penalties for breaking them (even if they are incredibly weak, like caeser's cipher).

Look at cable TV and descramblers. Big media hasn't won that arms race, although they continue to fight. Same exact thing is going to happen with pretty much all the rest of this, too.

On 30 September 2004 (08:57 PM), Dana said:

Another point.

Stuff like DVD region encoding is an attempt to manipulate the international markets and create artificial scarcity. Big media is trying to basically build guaranteed profits into their markets and technologies, with themselves as the sole providers of their product.

It's a problem, and it's inherently uncapitalistic. It's an attempt to bypass the free market and construct a captive market.

Ah, gotta love economic fascism. :P

On 01 October 2004 (01:16 AM), nate said:

I definitely sympathize with file sharing opening horizons and increasing spending. In late middle school and early high school, I lacked the funds to sample all the music out there and find what I liked. I led a fairly music-sheltered life until high school, so I had catching up to do.

These days, I use file sharing mostly to preview artsist I've recently discovered before buying a CD. Do they have a varied music selection on the album that can keep my attenntion, or just the one hit single that I'll be tired of in a week? In the case of the latter, some would suggest buying the track on iTunes, but I don't use it for three reasons:
A. I like to have something tangible for my money;
B. I love being able to discover "hidden" favorites on a album, and grow to appreciate eclectic tracks;
C. Everyone shares their music via iTunes here in my dorm, and music purchased through iTunes can't be streamed. I like to keep my legal sharing options as open as I can.

I've probably bought more music here in the past month than I did the whole of last year. That's thanks to suggestions from friends I've made -- and because I have a Best Buy within walking distance now. :)

On 01 October 2004 (06:20 AM), Joel said:

Well, I've made this argument before, and no one seems to like it, but here it is again.
File sharing is much more dangerous than other types of acquisition (borrowing from a friend, taping something off of radio or TV, Xeroxing) because of the ease and power of its use.
The old analogy I always trot out was comparing the ownership of a .22 rifle (taping something off the radio) to owning an AK-47 (Napster). You can use both to hunt deer, but owning one of them is illegal. Or was until certain legislation ended. And it was illegal not because we don't want regular people like JD, Dana, and Denise to own weaponry, but because a few bad apples could use them to wipe out a neighborhood.
Similarly, a few bad apples (in this case, pretty much every tech-savvy person at college) can abuse file-sharing by easily acquiring thousands of songs, books, and movies.
To sum up, I don't have a problem with JD or Dana (or myself) getting copywritten materials in an occasional and limited way, just like I wouldn't have a problem with any of us owning an AK-47. But the technology's easily-exploitable potential for harm makes it worthy for discussion, debate, and limitation.

On 01 October 2004 (07:48 AM), Dana said:
Joel: File sharing is much more dangerous than other types of acquisition (borrowing from a friend, taping something off of radio or TV, Xeroxing) because of the ease and power of its use....And it was illegal not because we don't want regular people like JD, Dana, and Denise to own weaponry, but because a few bad apples could use them to wipe out a neighborhood....But the technology's easily-exploitable potential for harm makes it worthy for discussion, debate, and limitation.


While I think you're a great guy, and clearly very intelligent, I have to ask -- what danger does this technology pose? What neighborhoods are wiped out by file trading?

Digital information has a quality that no other semi-tangible 'thing' has. It has no scarcity. If I have a loaf of bread, and I give it to someone else, I don't have it anymore.

If I have an mp3 and I mail a copy to JD, I still have it. JD hasn't deprived me of access. I haven't deprived JD of access.

When you go to school, you have books. You learn information out of those books -- copying it from the page into your brain, in a sense. When you go to a concert, or hear a bit of music, it's copied into your memory, however imperfectly.

A digital copy is an exact copy. Why is an exact copy less dangerous than an inexact copy? Who is harmed?

Who owns information?

A program implementing the DVD decoding algorithm, DeCSS, was encoded into a string of decimal digits. An enterprising mathematician found that string of decimal digits in Pi. So, who owns that string of numbers?

And realize that Pi is nonterminating, so it includes every possible string of decimal digits in it somewhere. There are whole mp3s in it, somewhere. Seriously.

On 01 October 2004 (04:14 PM), Dave said:

Joel- It is legal to own an AK-47, but you probably can't use it to hunt deer. I don't think you can use a .22 to hunt deer either. Nor, frankly, would you want to try. But as to the merits of the argument, the issue is really whether or not someone has the right to control their property or not.

If I create something, no matter what it is, either an intellectual exercise such as a painting, or a desk made out of mahogany, it is my property. As a result, I retain the right to decide what happens to it. I can sell either one, or put them on display and charge for the joy of looking at them. If I want to I can cut either of them into little bits and use the bits as door stoppers.

With the painting, this right is a bit more important in the sense that someone could make a copy of it and, without my knowledge, display it to other people for money just like I did, or not charge anything for looking at it. Either of these make my property worth less in the marketplace. Suddenly instead of one item, there's now two. My market just got cut in half.

The limit on this, however, is possession. The desk is a better example of this. It's a pain in the ass to move a desk around, so it's easy to control. If it's easier to control, it's easier to make money out of it. It's also a one-time deal. The desk is unique and by selling it I lose the right to do anything with it. Sure, I could make another one, but it won't be exactly the same.

With property that is digitized this becomes a non-issue. In other words, there's no way to ensure control over it. For musical performances (just like video or graphics files of books) if anyone can have exactly the same copy of it as the author and simply by possessing that has the ability to destroy my market because my ability to sell the product goes down significantly because the product has been devalued to zero then I've effectively lost one of the fundamental rights that goes with property ownership. I no longer have the ability to control the fruits of my own labor. To my mind that something like someone coming to me and saying can you give me a legal opinion on "x" topic. Then when I do, and they then take the opinion and act on it but refuse to pay me, they've stolen something from me. They've stolen my labor.

Or let put it another way. Suppose I buy the last remaining copy of Action Comics #1 for an outrageously high price, along with the rights to reproduce it. My investment is secure. Then I learn that although they have no right to do so, somehow someone is giving away copies that are completely indistinguisable from my copy. For all practical intents and purposes, the value of my copy of Action #1 is now a big fat $0.

So is file sharing wrong? Yes, of course it is. Why? Because it fails this simple test: Is it mine? No. Is it being given to me by someone with the right to give it to me? No. It is therefore wrong to take it.

So what about Joel's example of taping your friend's albums or Dana's copying of Traveller? First, I question why anyone would bother to copy Traveller, but that's another discussion. Second, everyone has a right to make a copy of their albums. They don't have a right to start distributing that copy. Joel's right on a certain level in his argument. It's essentially that the system is set up to recognize a certain amount of acceptable losses. Beyond that and you've crossed the line.

That said, I think that JD's right in that file sharing may well increase certain music sales. I think that it's increased my music purchases. I wouldn't have purchased any techno-dance CD's without hearing some of JD's files and downloading some other files.

I think that a bigger problem is possibly going to occur when people figure out that you can rip a music cd to an image and share the image via something like BitTorrent. Right now some people will buy an album because they want the original's quality, not an mp3's compressed quality. Ripping the image to disk solves that. Then the only thing left is the artwork and liner notes. Most folks can live without that.

On 01 October 2004 (04:20 PM), J.D. said:

Dave: Ripping the image to disk solves that. Then the only thing left is the artwork and liner notes.

Well, once the bands are on your side, even that isn't an issue any more.

On 01 October 2004 (04:48 PM), Dave said:

It appears that I stand corrected. Apparently in the State of Oregon you can use a .22 to hunt deer. And bear and cougar as well.

OAR 635-065-0700 Hunters shall only use: ... (2)Any centerfire rifle .22 caliber or larger that is not fully automatic to hunt pronghorn antelope, black bear, cougar (mountain lion), or deer. Semiautomatics shall have a magazine capacity of no more than five cartridges.

What kind of lunatic would hunt bear with a .22?

On 01 October 2004 (04:52 PM), Dana said:
Dave: ...if anyone can have exactly the same copy of it as the author and simply by possessing that has the ability to destroy my market because my ability to sell the product goes down significantly because the product has been devalued to zero then I've effectively lost one of the fundamental rights that goes with property ownership...So is file sharing wrong? Yes, of course it is. Why? Because it fails this simple test: Is it mine? No. Is it being given to me by someone with the right to give it to me? No. It is therefore wrong to take it.

This presupposes several things.

1) Information can be owned.
2) The value in producing a creative work (ie, something that can, effectively, be represented by information alone -- music, video, an acting performance filmed, a picture) is derived primarily (or solely) in the ability to sell access to that work.

We have reached a point, with the internet, filesharing, and broadband, where we have a product with Zero manufacturing cost.

It has a cost to produce -- call it "R&D" or "Creative Effort" in terms of time and materials. But once it's been produced once, it is theoretically available to everybody equally all at once. No distribution cost. No sharing of the product. Theoretically, everybody could have a copy simultaneously (more or less, modulo server bandwidth).

Now, you can attempt to use technology and laws to make this situation make money for you. You can say that once something is produced, you're only allowed to make copies under certain conditions. You can attempt to restrict the conditions under someone is allowed to make copies.

But because people can make copies, and there is no immediate bad consequence to the person (ie, they still have whatever it is that they copied), and once one person is willing to share it, everybody can have a copy, you have a problem.

It's an engineering problem and a law enforcement problem and a sociological problem. Lots of people benefit from this. The person(s) who initially put in the creative effort, not so much.

The thing is, it's unstable. Without nearly-universal totalitarian enforcement (legally and technologically), things will leak.

The only alternative solution I see viable is this:

The system collapses. Media/information cartels collapse. Media and information stop becoming big businesses and go back to being independent, small-crafter-oriented shops, driven by individual creativity, live performance, merchandising, and endorsements.

People refuse to produce stuff unless they are paid for it before they release it, or they have some alternative stream for employment. Stuff like Patronage happens.

Examples? They Might Be Giants & Dial-a-song. Homestar Runner. The Phantom Edit. Red vs. Blue. Webcomics. The Onion. Wikipedia. All of linux and BSD, really. DeviantART. Slashdot just interviewed the Green Presidential party. How many elections before they are interviewing all the candidates? I'm sure there are more examples.

We're seeing the power and income potential revert from publishers (who control manufacturing and distribution and advertising resources) to artists who make works.

IMHO, anyway.

On 01 October 2004 (04:58 PM), J.D. Roth said:

Awesome comment, Dana. Very perceptive. I'm tempted to cut-and-paste it as a post for a main weblog entry, but maybe I'll let you do that...

On 01 October 2004 (05:05 PM), Dana said:

Nope. Steal away! =)

On 01 October 2004 (05:13 PM), J.D. Roth said:

Semi-related: the amateur revolution.

On 01 October 2004 (05:45 PM), Joel said:

Dave said: "First, I question why anyone would bother to copy Traveller, but that's another discussion."

Dana, Homestar Runner is selling figurines, hoodies with their brand on them, and other various merchandise. This stuff sells because they currently have sole control of H.R. as intellectual property. If you start selling pirated versions of their hoodies, then you take away their market.
The Onion, aside from its lucrative stake in the international heroin market, makes money from advertising. This advertising is largely advertising products that consist of intellectual property.
Am I missing your point?

On 01 October 2004 (06:11 PM), Dave said:

I'm not denying that Dana's observation about a shift from publishers to artists is a possibility. On the other hand, the example of patronage is a good one for proving my point. When people had patrons in the traditional sense, the patron controlled not the just product, but the producer as well. When you had a patron you were producing for that patron and at that patron's whim. Although patronage is making a comeback, the major distinction is that the modern form of patronage is really more like a sponsorship than it is a patronage. The "patron" is simply giving money to the artist without any real expectation as to production or control. That still rests with the artist. They still, to a certain extent, control their work product. The difference being that presumably they've concluded that the circumstances justify them releasing work to their "patron" and they inherently understand that the patron could publish it to the the entire world.

There is an alternative to this model, however, that I think is more likely. Remember, the issue is one of control of the product in the sense that the person is getting (what they believe is) justly compensated for it's distribution. If I were the artist I would shift to a purely digital distribution system and then individually watermark each and every distribution to a "patron". The "patron" would be free to distribute the file as they saw fit, however, if it were distributed to more than say 3 people, that would register with the artist system. The artist would then bill the patron for that distribution. This is the "distribute all you want, I'll just bill the hell out of you if the genie gets out of the bottle" method.

It's an engineering problem and a law enforcement problem and a sociological problem. Lots of people benefit from this. The person(s) who initially put in the creative effort, not so much.

Granted, the current distribution of some intellectual property, specifically music, is probably unjust at certain levels. However, simply because enforcement of the current laws is an engineering/law enforcement/sociological problem doesn't make it morally right. Simply because I can burgle with impunity and no one can catch me doesn't make it appropriate to disregard the law that says, "don't burgle", any more than it makes it appropriate to commit burglary. And of course many people benefit from the enforcement of laws. That's why they're in place.

People refuse to produce stuff unless they are paid for it before they release it...
The downside to this is that if They Might be Giants decides not to release something until they're paid the full value for it, precious few may be willing to cough up a million bucks. Once something is released the cat's out of the bag. If I'm paying a million dollars for an album, I want to be damn sure that I'm the only one that's got it. That means that if it's sold a second time by the artist, I'm going to be pissed and therefore unlikely to invest a second time. Nor am I likely to release it into the mainstream for everyone. But, precious few people have a million dollars to plunk down on something as frivolous as an album. Therefore, few people are going to do it. Those that do have that much for that purpose are usually going to want to get something out of it beyond the simple enjoyment of the album. And of course, as Dana points out, even if I preview the album to see if I like it or not, I now have a copy. I could presumably instruct someone else on how to replicate it. Therefore, I'm never going to be able to hear the result before I pay for it. But if that's the case, how do I know I want it? And the circle continues.
...things will leak.

Of course things will leak. As I said before, the current system assumes that. The real issue is the level of leakage. Currently we term this "fair use" and allow that leakage. But there is a difference between leakage and hooking up a hose to a pump and spraying it out.

Dana is also partially right in the assertion that there are two suppositions in the argument : that information can be owned and that value is derived from the ability to sell the work. More accurately, specific constructions of data can be owned and their value derives from what that construction can do or what it can be sold for. Facts cannot necessarily be owned. Part of this is a difference on the definition of "information".

Take the following: 1000101110011001010001111000001110101
If that string of ones and zeros says "2+2=4", then the result of interpreting that string is a fact and therefore un-ownable. If that string of ones and zeros is a a picture of my wife in a negligee, then the result of that string is information, but not an unownable fact (it could also be an un-knowable fact, but that's also a different conversation). Dana's earlier pi example assumes that we will somehow derive all possible combinations of specific constructions of data from that string. Perhaps that's theoretically as possible as the monkeys with typewriters eventually producing the combined works of Shakespeare. But if one of those strings is a patented formula for a drug, I can guarantee you that you can in fact already own that interpretation of the string of ones and zeros.

Finally, as to the assertion that we're seeing income potential and power shift to artists from publishers, I'm not sure that's an accurate description. I think what is more likely an accurate description is that the artist is become the publisher. The concerns are still the same from the standpoint of the person wishing to profit, it's just that people feel no moral obligation to the publisher because they don't see that the publisher has any sweat equity in the work produced. In other words, they believe that the artist should benefit, but not the publisher. This is why we have people justifying file-sharing on the basis that " the artist is getting screwed anyway so we're not really hurting the artist when I download this file, I'm only hurting BMI or Sony. But if I could only download the song directly from the artist and know that she got paid, I'd gladly do that. The record companies are making too much money and not paying the artists enough." Perhaps, but then you'd eventually get to the point that people thought that the artist was making enough and that the prices ought to be lower. After all, is one song downloaded 1 million times really worth a whole dollar each time? That song isn't worth a million dollars. It's only worth $250,000. So I'm not paying any more for it because the artist has already gotten what the song is worth.

Yes, people are greedy and if they can get something for nothing they will certainly try. As a result, I suspect that the way thing will really go is toward tightly controlled media monopolies in which you consent to not retaining permanent copies of things like music. Those things will reside on servers located somewhere else and are streamed to you on demand.

On 01 October 2004 (06:25 PM), Dana said:
Those things will reside on servers located somewhere else and are streamed to you on demand

I'm late so this will be short.

At some point, it has to be converted to a format you can actually interpret -- pictures, sound, something. Once that's happened, you can always capture that something.

Watermarking can't work, either. Why? Because watermarking is error in the information. You can correct it away (in any number of ways).

There is an insurmountable engineering problem in what you are suggesting, one that requires truly invasive and totalitarian levels of technological infrastructure. This is in fact being worked on, but it won't be foolproof. If you can't hear it, it's useless. And if you can hear it, you can capture and reencode.

And all it takes is one leak for everybody to have a copy.

I think what you are going to see is a renormalization of how much stuff is worth, Dave. Million dollars for a song? Maybe not. May $100. Or something. It's going to move, at any rate, simply because you can't count on controlling it the way you used to. If you can't control it, it isn't worth as much.

Scarcity == value. If it isn't scarce or can't be made scarce, it's not as valuable.

On 02 October 2004 (06:22 AM), J.D. said:

Interesting comments from a pro-filesharing musician.

On 02 October 2004 (07:47 AM), J.D. said:

Even more on this subject, this time from Cringely.

On 03 October 2004 (04:02 PM), J.D. said:

See, this stuff is all over the internet but I never post it. Here's an interesting piece on how Big Media's sales are declining because spending on recorded music is being replaced by other media.

On 04 October 2004 (10:34 PM), J.D. Roth said:

I guess this is going to be my centralized catch-all entry for anything related to file-sharing, such as this: Three Myths About the Recording Industry Debunked.

On 07 October 2004 (01:53 PM), J.D. Roth said:

You know, it's almost quicker to "share" music via the library. While waiting in line yesterday, I grabbed about a dozen CDs. I had them all ripped before dinner. Damn that on-line music sharing! Such an efficient delivery system. (But nothing compared to the public library...)

On 19 October 2004 (03:53 AM), Zach said:

Bittorrent is great. I use it to download movies, TV shows, etc. Downloading music from bittorrent doesn't seem to work as well, though. I like my music encoded at high bitrates, in AAC. It's hard to find high-quality torrents of albums I want. The last album I tried to download had horrible quality, for example. I have about 7 days worth of music in my iTunes library, and I ripped all but 9 of them from my own CDs.

Post a comment

Email Address
(required, not shown)



Remember info?