15 June 2006

Intellectual property

Wil Wheaton observes another example of the music industry not only circling the drain, but paddling directly toward it.
Someone at the RIAA must have realized there were still a few music consumers it hadn't sued yet ....
The RIAA is apparently sending out cease-and-desist letters to YouTube users who dare to put up videos of things such as themselves dancing to music they haven't licensed.
Now the newspaper industry I have sympathy for. They may be hapless in their efforts to figure out a business model for professional journalism that works in the Digital World of the Future, but hey, it is a hard problem. It's also a problem worth solving; much as we in Left Blogistan gripe about mainstream journalists, we do it because professional journalism has an important place in the body politic. Okay, putting the wrong parts of the online New York Times behind a subscription wall and structuring the pricing the wrong way is badly conceived, but it's at least a well intentioned attempt to fund the real costs of keeping the Gray Lady running.

Likewise, the film industry has me wishing them well in spite of the way that, as usual, they're responding stupidly to new technology. Gods know their anti-piracy propaganda is boneheaded, and they still don't want to admit that they need to change their home video pricing and distribution to suit new technologies, but like journalists they do face a real problem. It wasn't easy figuring out a business model for the industry in the first place, because a lot of things artistically worth doing in the medium require the attention of legions of professionals, which just costs money.

It's difficult to see how Hollywood-style films will be possible for much longer. This will be a loss, bad as many Hollywood films are. (Though it might just revive opera as a medium.)

But the music industry? They rob their artists and they hate their audience.

It's been clear for a good long time that there are plenty of ways to make money without restricting musicians and music lovers one bit. Recall that decades ago the Grateful Dead weren't trying to discourage fans from recording their shows—in fact, they gave fans with recording equipment the best seats in the house—and they didn't exactly have trouble making money. Heck, there aren't only opportunities with unconventional business models, there are opportunities with the old one. For all its flaws, iTunes proves that people are willing to pay for their music if you make it easy and you price it reasonably. The music industry has an opportunity to survive, to prosper even.

But nooooooooo. They're being shmucks and trying to demand that the law step in and not only preserve their business model, but expand it beyond all reasonable bounds. Screw 'em. I look forward to dancing on their grave.

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