The old model is broken. The MP3 revolution has shown us this. When broadband really gets a foothold, everyone, not just college students and us who are lucky enough to be able to get DSL, will trade digital copies of art. So what's the solution?

Solutions I've heard put forward:

The problems with any solution: So what's the solution? You are all bright people....Discuss. Don't rant. Don't post stuff like "Metallica sux0rs." Discuss.
We need to agree on a few terms, I think, or this isn't going to work...
Intellectual property
Applies the notion of property (i.e. ownership) to something intangible. Generally applied to a work - i.e. something non-trivial.
Copyright
The right to determine how a piece of intellectual property can be copied.

Is a painting or other physical art piece intellectual property? People pay a lot of money for an original Picasso but peanuts for prints.

Is a concert performance intellectual property? It's quite a physical experience - but it's transitory and cannot be reproduced.


I'll add more later...
It does seem as though the MP3 revolution is going to change the rules of the game. Many envision a world where your favorite music is just a mouse-click and several seconds away. Some say this is the world we live in already, which might be somewhat of an exaggeration considering that most of my computer-owning friends either don't know anything about MP3s are just don't know enough to get anything that they actually want on MP3. The ones who do download their music of choice as free MP3s belong to a minority of technological elite. Nonetheless, what's not true for this right moment might very well be a few years or even months short of becoming true.

And so, if one is to try and guess what the outcome of the MP3 revolution might be, one might turn to other instances in history where a popular commodity drops its price from anything to a nice round nothing. Commercial software had almost always cost, but almost since the beginning of commercial software, it was possible to get it for free. I still remember swapping game tapes with local neighborhood kids for my old Atari XL when I was nine. All you needed was a double-deck cassette recorder. Floppies made the process less painful and the Internet had made it sinfully easy. Does commercial software still make money? Yes. And lots of it too.

Take the above paragraph, use music for games, tapes for floppies and you have what the record industry might refer to as "the tape malady". For a tiny fortune, you could replicate all of your friends' music collection. Did music still make money then? Yes. Way more than they should've.

Is this to the credit of a sense of decency on the consumer's part? Fear of the law? Unawarness of the cheaper alternative? Probably for all of those as well as many other reasons. Many people just like having the original. Good karma, makes them sleep better at night knowing that they've done their part in acquiring their media. Would MP3 change that? Possibly. There's no denying that MP3 makes it easier to acquire new music by an order of magnitude. I could tell of how my CD budget has grown to five times its original size ever since I started downloading MP3s. Most of them of artists I've never heard of before and that, furthermore, none of my friends have. These are the small artists. The ones that don't get any play time on MTV or on your favorite radio station. They're the odd birds and you just happened to download something of theirs because it was a mouse-click and several seconds away. You might've then weighed the idea of buying some of their stuff against the idea of scouting the 'net for odd bits and pieces of it, and very possibly decided against the latter.

And yet, this might change as well. It may become very easy to download anything that you're interested in, very easily. It might be that you'd be able to leave the computer on for the night and have a few hundreds of music CDs waiting for you by morning. If I had to guess, I would say -- MP3s are going to push the price of music down. The real victim would be the middlemen, the ones that at the moment monopolize shelf space, and often force the artist to resort to their services if they wish their music to be published. There is no such thing as shelf-space in a virtual world. And for a fraction of what you are paying for your music now, you would be able to get much more, legally, and it's all going to be a mouse-click and several seconds away.

It seems to me that any 'product' of an artistic nature must be treated differently, in terms of copyright, than other products. You don't create art to get rich - you do it to become famous. That's oversimplifying.. You do it because what you've produced is meaningful to you, but is more meaningful once you are able to share it with others, in the hope that it will challenge and inspire them. If no one sees your work, it's still valuable, but it has (in most cases) not fulfilled its intended purpose.

The argument that distributing art without the full knowledge and consent of the artist is somehow detrimental flies in the face of logic. Consider libraries and museums. People who want to enjoy art pay a nominal fee, sharing the cost of maintaining a building and its collections. In return, they get unfettered access to all the art the building contains. If it were really so dangerous for a thousand people to share the same copy of the same book, artists would find a way not to allow their books to be purchased by libraries, or levy a fee to borrowers per check-out. Art is information, ideas. You cannot simply lock it down. Not only because it is infeasible (people will lend books, make dubs, etc.) but because it hurts the ability of art to do its job.

Metallica are making themselves look foolish. They are stating, in effect, that they are not so much interested in people hearing their music as they are in people paying them for the privilege - that they are not serious artists. I think there are certainly other artists with the same mindset, but, honestly, I don't think the things they produce deserve any respect. There's a difference between not being able to eat as a result of giving something away and facing the possibility of making a few thousand less off of something you produce.

Even if the philosophy of Napster was applied to every artistic field, those with talent would still be able to do their work, under a system of patronage. Does an art collector buy an original painting to make money off of it? No. He or she buys it for their own enjoyment, or as a symbol of status. If record companies are worried about people 'stealing' music, they need to find a way to distribute it for a short period without putting it in peoples' hands, say exclusively via the radio or cable. If they produce CDs in order to make more money, it may be illegal to copy the music contained therein, but it is not immoral. The artist has already lost control of who hears their songs. An owner of such intellectual property who is not the artist has rights only up to the point at which they do not own the art for enjoyment, but for profit.

what napster does is not immoral. it is inevitable.

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