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The RIAA and MPAA Have Failed To Understand A Cultural Shift

Though we have, over the past few years, become accustomed to rather strange, aggressive ideas from those who run the movie and music businesses, the latest move from the RIAA and MPAA is a little astounding.

Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization dedicated to defending internet users’ rights, outlined some of the suggestions made by the media conglomerates for protecting their content. They, along with many other players, were asked to weigh in on how intellectual property should be treated in a changing, networked world.

And you know what the MPAA and RIAA suggested? Well, among other things:

  • Anti-infringement spyware to be installed on users systems
  • Filtering technology on internet service provider’s networks to prevent the spread of copyrighted material
  • ‘Inform’ and ‘educate’ (i.e. harass) entrants to the US about the ‘dangers of pirated material’
  • Intimidate countries that do not agree with these policies, using US economic clout to threaten them
  • Use federal resources to employ agents to crack down on copyright thieves

So, how does that sound? Having spyware installed on your system and monitoring what you’re watching? Having your ISP filtered and throttled so that the MPAA and RIAA can control what gets distributed around the internet? Super, right?

But it isn’t simply the stunning sense of entitlement and invasiveness that’s the issue here. There’s something bigger at stake than simply ‘this is not how you should treat your customers’.

What the RIAA and MPAA have failed to understand is that new technologies like the web don’t simply represent new ways to pirate material – they are part of a seismic change in culture. By failing to understand that this is a cultural and not only technological or economic shift, media businesses are on the brink of becoming obsolete due to an obsession with control.

Technically speaking, you might articulate the change in how we think of these things by talking about ‘the economics of scarcity’ vs. the ‘economics of abundance’.

See, physical media is hard and expensive to create and distribute – not only do you have to find the materials to press CDs or print books, you have to then distribute them on trucks and trains and what-have-you. This creates an economic system based on scarcity, or as we more traditionally think of it, supply and demand. Limited by physical constraints like materials and labor, you make a certain number of things and then you set the price based on how many people want that thing.

But when you switch to digital, this scarcity often disappears. An MP3 or movie file or eBook is just ones and zeroes. After the initial costs of creation are done with, creating a new copy costs almost nothing. Suddenly, things are abundant – there is no physical limit on how many of something can be made – and this changes things.

But that’s only the economic side of things. Culturally, there has also been a shift in how we think of accessing content like TV shows or films or music. Whereas once it seemed to make sense to save our pennies for new records or films, it’s now much harder to justify that expense because there is so much available for free, legitimately or not. You know this – it’s everywhere around the web, because no-one can control the spread of information.

People will often talk about this in terms of ‘stealing’ or ‘entitlement’ – which has it merits – but also misses the point. Once a person has experienced the freedom of something like Napster or Bittorrent, it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle. It isn’t about ‘thieving’ as much as it is this: once you know what it’s like to access culture with such freedom, going back to the basics of plunking down 20 bucks for a iTunes movie you can’t copy, can’t take to your friends house or can’t watch on your PS3 not only feels strange, it feels plain backwards and absurd.


By attempting to replicate the scarcity model in the digital age, media businesses have made clunky DRM’ed products and have alienated consumers, and they are voting with their wallets. It might seem sensible to try crack down on consumers, but it’s like trying to nail jello to wall: you can’t do it, and it wasn’t a very good idea in the first place.

That may be controversial – and might even seem to support piracy – but that isn’t the case.

There are solutions to this problem, among the best of which is something like ‘monetizing the pipes’ – i.e. charge for the distribution. Another option is something like eMusic, which makes you pay a set amount for a certain number of MP3s a month. More options include what Mike Masnick calls ‘finding other scarcities’ like musicians making money from live shows and merchandise but giving the music away for free.

But the point boils down to this: the world has changed. The internet works on principles of openness and exchange, and information and content ricochet around at an amazing rate. You just can’t control that without unfairly limiting people’ experiences of the web. This is what the MPAA and RIAA have failed to understand. They are still working in a mindset that is based on scarcity – we have a limited amount of product, and we have to protect it – and that’s an ideal that certainly was noble and fair years ago.

But when culture and technology have changed so drastically, and digital information fundamentally works through copying and spreading, it’s also a naive one. Rather than trying to lock down the entire internet and the exchange of media, those concerned should be looking to establish new business models or new products that draw people in (like Avatar, for example).

After all, if they don’t, it’s not we who will lose. People will continue to create, and they will find ways to finance and distribute them using new tech. The MPAA and RIAA, on the other hand – well, it may already be too late for them and the lumbering dinosaurs who lead them.

  1. Hate to burst your bubble, but there IS a scarcity of product. There is that ONE movie, or ONE song. You seem to feel the product is the physical dvd or cd, but the product is the actual content, that in many cases cost the producer millions of dollars.

    You are the one with the sense of entitlement. You seem to feel are entitled to take that product for nothing simply because you can. There should be another model, I agree, but what is that model?

    1. Good point about all the crap they pack into a dvd to make you watch. I support creativity and artists, but another means of marketing must evolve to remain profitable. I’ve outlined some new ideas on my blog “Manifesto” at

    2. Time for a thought experiment.

      A man named Stephen is walking down my street, whistling an original tune. I hear his song, fall in love with the melody and memorize it instantly. If I try to whistle it myself, is Stephen entitled to the money in my wallet?

      Is it now within Stephen’s rights, as a content creator, to prevent me, a replicator, from ‘stealing’ his scarce product? Should he be able to force a post-hypnotic suggestion on me that prevents me from replicating his tune? (human spyware) Should he be allowed to sue me? What if I teach the tune to others?

      Ideas are not property. Once an idea is let out a mind, it cannot be contained. Content, or ‘intellectual property,’ equates with ideas. The artificial scarcity of analog media that slowed the distribution of content is now gone. The ignorant, thuggish gangsters who amassed a fortune through control of the distribution of the old media really need to understand that their choice is to adapt or face extinction. Personally, I would love to watch them rot.

    3. Hate to burst your bubble, but there is no product. You seem to feel that the intangible information is a physical product. It is not. It can be infinitely replicated, and it will be, because it never existed in the first place.

      Scarcity does not apply here. Rethink your (mis)understanding of economics.

    4. Hey Steve,

      First off I honestly believe you are either a troll, or one of those paid interns the MPAA or RIAA hired to “re-educate” the public. Here is the problem with your model.

      Digital is not stealing, simple – if you ad DMR or locks – you are creating a false scarcity which makes your product actually worth less than it should be. At 99 cents a song, or 5 dollars a movie on iTunes people are still making money. Make those file DRM free and add in a ad widget in the bottom corner – something click-able and IP relevant and you have the perfect model for digital distribution. Everyone who touches it after it was bought has the mini corner ad – like the abc logo on well, abc. Just an idea!!

    5. Stephen, you are missing the whole point. The idea that there is one product, a precious object if you will, is entirely out the window. Multiples can, and will exist in any number so long as they have value. The mass distribution systems of the internet, in my opinion actually help in most cases. I can personally say that it hasn’t affected my purchasing patterns in any way. I still buy my 2 or 3 records a year, but through the internet I am able to become more culturally enriched. I know that the topic often falls onto the subject of music, but take books as a different example. If people were, in theory, illegally download e-books and learning valuable skills that they might not otherwise have the means to acquire, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

  2. Thanks for the comment, Steven.

    It’s a fair point – but to be clear, I’m not endorsing stealing. What I’m suggesting is that people once people become accustomed to an all-you-can-eat model, it’s hard to ask them to switch back. And ultimately, if the market is the standard by which business must act, then media co’s must respond to their consumers, not the other way round.

    It’s true, I shouldn’t infringe on copyright; but neither should I try an protect someone else’s business model.

    You’re absolutely right, though: I’m as lost as anyone on what these new models should look like.

    1. I agree with most of your points, except those regarding downloading copyrighted content illegally as being equated to theft, stealing, or piracy. You see, those are all concepts that in any legal sense of the word boil down to denying or depriving a property owner’s right to access to their property. By stealing your car, I am depriving you access to your car. By downloading your music, you are still free to enjoy the use of your music. I have not interfered with your ability to listen, edit, or even profit from your music. And for those who are going to claim that by me downloading the music, I am depriving you the money you would have otherwise earned if I had purchased it, that is a fallacious assumption. It could be such that I would have chosen to not purchase it if I couldn’t acquire it by any other ‘free’ means. And it’s also a very different legal accusation to say that someone ‘stole’ money from you than it is to say that someone prevented making you money from their actions. And although the latter would seem immoral, it is typically only so with the subtle difference of having the intention of gaining from specifically causing financial harm to another party, but when someone is downloading digital content, I’m sure it would be found that that is rarely the intention. Anyone who downloads content illegally probably doesn’t do so with the thought, “By downloading this content, I am preventing them from making money, thus harming them financially,” but rather, “I enjoy ‘so-and-so’s’ art, and am able to access a lot more now that I can get it for free.” Also, violating a financial agreement that would intentionally benefit you at the cost of the other parties involved under a dishonest guise beyond stated intentions in the contract that both parties had previously agreed upon (ie fraud) would be considered unethical, but a musician who does not make money, as a negative externality of a burgeoning cultural trend, hardly counts as any legitimate unethical claim, especially when there are other options to make money as the above video suggests. If your oil company starts losing money because people turn to more available and less expensive forms of energy, there is only so much legal clout your can throw around before people will just stop supporting you, and any such legal clout regardless of whether it is permitted by the government or not is still unethical. Preventing consumers from voluntary exchange, especially while using their own property is definitely a violation of private property rights.

    2. I was sitting in copyright law class the other day, and we discussed this same topic. We bought up the idea of “freeish” – an idea where the consumer, at first glance, appears to be getting the product for free. In actuality, they’ll be paying a small tax or fee tacked onto something they are already paying for (for example, something that can enable the prospect of piracy).

      I feel like something that works to this ideal is an excellent step in the right direction, though it might not be the be-all-end-all solution for businesses getting the money they are entitled to, but also to not “do their customers wrong” as the RIAA and MPAA have done thus far.

      A few universities have actually done something similar to this plan, one I know of is University of Massachusetts in Amerhest. They set up a plan that charged students a small fee, similar to an “activities fee” that is added to their tuition. In exchange, students got access to a program in which they could download most any content for “free” – this content included a vast library of songs and music.

      Anyway, that’s where I think the RIAA and MPAA should head next, rather than further oppressing people who aren’t complying with their ways of business.

  3. Hopefully Governments will wake up and put a stop to the ridiculous shit that these obsolete behemoths try to do, and the claims they make. Once it becomes easier to change to something applicable in the modern day, rather than fight against it, something good might actually happen.

  4. If there was a scarcity of product, then we’d have difficulty finding content to copy – that is clearly not the case – more films and more music are made each year. If anyone can find a reliable statistic that shows shrinkage in creativity, I’ll change my tune, but the opposite is happening. More people are making more creative works for a larger audience than ever before.

    I say this as an artist and musician (What do you do Stephen? Work as a middleman for a right-holder orginaization?) I want the freedom to deliver my works to a worldwide audience without having to grovel to the gatekeepers of “commercial” media and force my art through the filters of “what will sell”. I make money by selling my time and expertise, and I keep this separate from the creation of my art.

  5. This is a reply to Stephen and Navneet Alang.

    Really it doesn’t take a marketing genius to see a solutions to combat the growing problem of piracy. The infrastructure and solutions are already in place to give consumers what that want, which is free content right at their finger tips. On-demand services from various cable companies already provide TV Shows and movies for free, paid for by advertisers; YouTube stars give their content away for free and still make money from Adsense. Do you see the trend here? Advertisers will gladly pay good money to advertise their products and services on content that will get millions of views. Movies and music videos could easily be placed on Youtube or another video hosting site, streamed directly to consumers with the click of a mouse, giving them high quality content for free, all whilst the content provider will still generate revenue through advertisements which play intermittently throughout the viewing.

    A similar approach could be applied to music, allow individuals to stream music directly to their computer, smartphone, and mp3 player for free, whilst simply playing a short 10 or 15 second radio-like advertisement before the playing of the song. The consumer would never actually have to download a song and the company providing the content would always have recurring revenue from individuals who may listen to a song over and over.

    The entertainment industry has a lot of learning to do; by pursuing pirates all they do is waste time, energy, and resource; while in reality it’s creativity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity is what saves an industries, not force.

    1. Sigue Sigue Sputnik, late 80’s avant garde art rock band was way ahead of their time. Their first record included ads in between songs for everything from makeup to fizzy drinks. The band faded into history, and so the idea died, but i think it’s time to give it another shot. Commercials on vinyl are static and immediately outdated. But with a web based model the spots could be updated and targetted. Great idea.

  6. WE get it, as much sense as this article makes, we don’t need to be reminded of something we already know.

    The difficult thing is making THEM (RIAA / MPAA) ‘get it’, and the only way they will even begin to listen, is with profitable alternative systems. It’s time to start doing their job for them and suggesting how they can still profit in this new age.

  7. If I was a musical artist or band, with the quality of what technology is today, I would seriously think about making the music myself. Screw the record companies.

  8. @muniom

    I agree totally. This articel kind of preaches to the converted. The fact is though that the guys that run the RIAA and MPAA don’t seem to want to find better alternatives.

    Personally I am totally confused as to why the MPAA is even joining in with the RIAA over this. Movies still sell. Movies still have a “scarcity model” as in the cinemas to watch them. I love the excitement of going to a movie theatre with some friends and watching an awesome movie on a massive screen with amazing sound systems and even 3D if it has it. That experience cannot be easily replicated at home.

    Music is dead easy to replicate at home. The RIAA should find their “cinema” equivalent … and they have one! Live shows! I wrote a blog article about this exact thing as well.

  9. It’s my opinion that the RIAA and the MPAA know very well that the world has changed and the market has evolved. They also know that they eventually need to shift their business model in order to survive.

    But they also realize that in this moment of time, they still have the money and political clout to influence the emerging digital ecosystem. What they want is to cripple the new digital market in a manner beneficial to their interests; if they can subvert it entirely and maintain the status quo, all the better. They remember “the good old days” when they and only they controlled the production and distribution of media content.

    I think you give the RIAA and MPAA too much credit: they’re not bumbling, clumsy dinosaurs; they’re cutthroat evil monopolists.

  10. I would not steal a movie, or a song. But I do believe that the RIAA and MPAA are out of touch with reality when it comes to their customers. DVD’s are becoming a new way for the MPAA to make money by putting many endorsements of new movies on before the actual movie. Disney movies are real bad about this on a few of their DVDs. It use to be you saw just one movie preview. Now there are up to five. Some of the DVD’s allow you to skip, but many don’t allow you to skip at all.

    My other gripe is the fact sometimes you will come across a DVD that wont even play on your DVD player. It’s gotten to the point that your better off renting the movie first to be sure it plays.

    My next gripe is on the layout of DVDs themselves. I buy DVD’s that contain “Seasons” of shows / movies. Some the setup is fine others, it’s a hassle to watch. Sometimes I just wonder … “What were they thinking?”

    As for CD’s My biggest gripe is they have a lot of nothing on them to listen too. There may be one good song on the whole CD. Back way years ago… you could buy a 45 record that solved this problem, it contained always one or two songs. Now your stuck dishing out thirty bucks for just the one song on a CD.

    If you buy the song online you risk loosing that song either to a crash of your computer, or to the company you bought it from going out of business. Either way… you are screwed. So I don’t buy online.

  11. Fundamentally, It’s a even more important change than from scarcity vs. Abundance.

    What the internet really does in its most developed form is to give everyone the possibility of being a producer of culture, rather than a consumer. And the whole discussion should be who has the right to control culture; currently large companies have allocated an unfair amount of rights that sometimes are pursued in absurd cases.

    What we have to realize is that stories have always been told, and music has been played through the ages – and that the idea of someone “owning” an idea is absurd and a restriction of someone else telling the same story and singing the same song – also is counter-productive to civilisation.

    (a crackdown of rightsholders would have prevented for example “numa numa guy” of ever making his cultural mark in internet history).

    My point being is that we have to decide between “the right to own an idea and the restriction of creativity”, or “embracing that cultural creativity is good for us all – and that the right to be creative should be a basic human right”.

  12. I’m glad to see there’s one writer who understands that piracy isn’t the answer. The only issue though is that you make it sound that because of napster there should be an all you can download model. But while people are trying that (the new napster for instance) it is a flawed argument.

    If we can agree that downloading a song you don’t own is illegal (as it is copyright infringement) then I can a comparison. If I steal your car/food/recipe that doesn’t mean an industry needs to come up with a business model, so I can continue to steal. If I pay someone to commit murder, that doesn’t mean I should still have that ability legally. Just because I infringe on a copyright one time, doesn’t mean I should still get the same goods and services at that price later on.

    Just because we were given something that was pretty much a way to break the law doesn’t mean they should be expected to support it. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t change because of the new internet age… they definitely should.

    The thing though is that while the media industries have to change. The biggest issue is that we the consumers MUST CHANGE. If you honestly want the industries to change, then stop supporting the industries. And this is the important part: STOP STEALING FROM THEM!

    If you honestly want a change, give up the medias until you find a model that you agree with (there is a number of them out there that are good). However if you continue to steal music you arn’t helping the situation, you arn’t showing them the error of their ways, you’re only promoting their agenda. Why should they stop working on DRM when you are breaking the law?

    Get commited to change, give the everything they want. No theft. But at the same time speak with your money as well or in this case lack of it. It might be hard, but it’s the only move we as “consumers” should be making to fight them.

  13. If the RIAA gets their way, we’ll one day have to go to war with a country just because one of their citizens illegally downloaded REO Speedwagon.

  14. I’m sure the media companies can see their future and it scares them witless.

    I’m sure some are trying to adapt but, like the dinosaurs, most won’t do it fast enough to survive, hence the need to try and slow everyone down.

  15. With the exception of the RIAA’s Steven, I think you are just preaching to the choir here.

    But hopefully a Congressional staffer will read this article and show it to his congressman – it is very well written.

  16. Did we try and support the failing technology that was telegrams? No, we evolved. Did we try to protect traditional open hold shipping? No, we evolved to containers. Oh, hold on, I think the American government did try to protect old traditional shipping, which killed the American shipping industry. Mmm! Not entirely sure about the validity of that, but I’m sure someone will.

    Anyway, my point is that this article is correct on so many levels. What the media companies have failed to notice is that they have lost “the reason to buy” argument.

    Hec, even when I buy a CD, the tracks have been screwed with to such a degree due to the “loudness wars” that owning it doesn’t make it sound any better. I’d like more SACD’s to be available, but people seem to actually prefer lower bit rate recordings. What on earth is going on?

    None of this seems effected by numerous studies that conclude that P2P users actually shell out more for their genuine collections than non-P2P users. (that’s me right there). I own media that is unreleased in my country, because I ‘found’ it on the net, liked it, and had to import.

    It’s time for Big Government to stand up to Big Corporations, and tell them that their money doesn’t buy an oppressive, restrictive government who’s only goal is the protection of old business models, and big money.

    This goes just as well for Big Pharma too.

  17. One can put a dress on a pig, but it’s still a pig. The facts are that, under current law, it’s stealing. If I were a recording artist, I, like everyone else, would prefer to be paid for my work. If I record a song, with the hopes of making a sustainable living, I wouldn’t want everyone thinking they’re entitled to my work for free, and no amount of superfluous rhetoric from those who are attempting to justify their STEALING is going to change that.

    I am quite sure that all those who advocate STEALING of others’ work would be aghast at someone trying to steal their work, yet they continue to attempt to justify their own thievery by labeling at a “cultural shift.”

    Stealing is stealing, and it doesn’t make it any more right whether one person or millions do it.

    1. I didn’t get my college education for “free”. I worked nights and weekends to be able to pay for my tuition and living expenses, and as a photographer/filmmaker, I also used my hard earned money to buy a camera and lenses, as well as film, to be able to learn my craft and be proficient at it. I am not a conglomerate or “the system” , I am just one of the many honest, hard working people who toil to make a living, and that’s the majority in the music, publishing, magazine industry or whatever. We don’t make millions of dollars. I agree that technology has changed things around, so If you are a musician and want to spend your own time and money in a recording studio (Do they give you the rec time for free?) and sell the product on the Internet, that’s great. But you will spend more time selling the product than being on the road. No one has the right to copy your work for “free”. Newspapers are closing left and right because they started giving away the news for “free” on the internet. Of course, I imagine that the photographers, reporters, editors and printers gave away their time for “free” without a salary. Right? Whatever excuse these techies have for stealing someone else’s work is total nonsense. I am sick and tired of this idea of Internet Welfare. I just published a book of my still photography and I’ll be darned if someone feels that they can steal my work for “free”.

  18. Given the choice of innovating or sticking with the model that suited them and sticking their head in the sand, they chose the latter, and are now at war with their target audience. Good luck, guys.

  19. Napster was the biggest mistake ever for these guys. Look how much they couldve used the service to their benefit by leaking a song or two. Now the problem is out of control and there is no way to stop it, unless they create a new medium, such as 3d audio or the like that can not be used or diwnloaded on PCs.

  20. I believe the hard reality of the situation is simply that the business model for the RIAA/MPAA is still too big to effectively change to a new one – it is shrinking fast, but hasn’t declined enough for the suits to give up on it. There is too much risk for them so they would still rather expend resources to protect a dying business model than make the jump to a new one. They can rant and rave about stealing all they want, but the fact of the matter is that they are selling a crippled, out-dated product that many people simply refuse to buy – and then they proceed to sue out of business any services that would help them actually sell more music.

    Which isn’t to say that the business model shift isn’t happening without them. The new “media” companies are basically eating their lunch. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc – these companies are insanely profitable (or will be shortly) and as more and more consumer and advertising dollars shift in that direction, the traditional media companies will continue to decline. They will simply become content feeders for the new media companies or will just dry up altogether. Artists and content creators will follow the money – as will consumers until the old media companies become completely irrelevant. If I were an investor in those companies, I would be extremely upset.

    To me, I just see it as a completely wasted opportunity. Facebook as a company is worth about as much as all the music labels combined (and never mind the insane amount of cash that companies like Google, Apply and Microsoft are making in media related businesses). The ironic thing – the RIAA companies could launch a competitive social network tomorrow that would be insanely popular and highly profitable by integrating media content they own into the network. They could establish a world-wide ad platform that would rival Google’s and could drive sales of their other products. The ways in which content providers can make money in this day and age are insane – open your eyes, the business models already exist and are earning billions and billions of dollars every year for companies that are taking advantage of them.

  21. He’s right, the world has changed, the media companies need to change their business models.

    Post scarcity is coming, like it or not, and this sense of control over information and ideas, doesn’t apply anymore. Things like land and physical matter will still have a price of some sort but ideas and media will be free.

    Back in the day artists got by via patrons, same is going to happen in the future, mass consumerism was a bad phase we went though and thankfully it is drawing to a close.

  22. Can someone please define ‘stealing’ for me? I was under the impression that the bad thing about theft is that the victim is deprived of rightful property.

    Hypothetically, if a time traveler came to me with a Star Trek style replicator that allowed me to make perfect copies of objects while leaving the original intact, and I duplicated my neighbor’s Porsche without harming or taking his, would I be stealing from him? What harm would be done? Would it be stealing from Porsche? What if I build a car by hand that looks exactly like a Porsche? Will I have I deprived them of a sale—even if I cannot afford to buy from them new? Would they be entitled to my money? Would it be reasonable or civil to toss me in a cage full of murderers and rapists because of it? Should we outlaw or cripple this type of technology if and when it becomes available?

    What happened to sensible, logical property rights? Have corporate greed, the ignorant masses and Stephen destroyed them completely?

  23. Way to go Navneet, stirring up a hornets nest.. lol

    Maybe I’ll do an article on Mac Vs. PC, stir up a good old fashioned (f)lame war..

  24. @Tony: “Back in the day artists got by via patrons, same is going to happen in the future, mass consumerism was a bad phase we went though and thankfully it is drawing to a close.”

    So you’re then in favor of no more movies & recordings being made except those being financed by millionaires with cash to throw around, who then get to dictate the content of what is created because they paid the bill? Of course, why should it bother you…since you’ll never see it anyway, unless you’re invited over to the mansion.

    Yeah, glad that “bad phase” is passing…

  25. Re: theft – what many of you are missing is the fact that the artist has invested their time, funds, and sweat equity into producing the work that you think should be “free”. The “information” is free – you’re free to sit at home, pick up an instrument & play any song that you like, all by yourself or with your friends.

    It’s not the information you’re taking, however – it’s the product of others’ toil.

    Sure, many people produce art without wanting anything in return. That’s their choice – but you do not have the right to take that choice away from them. Making great art takes a lot of time, money, and effort – and that is the place where record companies & other support organizations come in. They are supposed to help provide these things, and get a cut of the profits in return.

    Now, don’t misunderstand me – the RIAA, MPAA, etc. have been doing incredibly stupid things because they truly had no concept of how to adjust to the changing world. They hoped it would all go away – and when it didn’t then they just got scared & did (and still do) ridiculously stupid things in response.

    It’s also true that many record companies have had a long history of screwing their talent out of their rightful money. However, taking their work without paying for it is not a solution either:
    a) it only confirms to them that people want what they’re selling;
    b) it steals the money, however pitiful, from the mouths of the artists whose work you like so much; and
    c) it has a ripple effect across the professional entertainment industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of regular working people, who are not robber barons but are just trying to make a living doing what they love & and trained to do.

    If you don’t like what the RIAA/MPAA do, great! Vote with your wallets AND YOUR ATTENTION. Patronize the independents, forget the mainstream. It’s the only way to REALLY get them to change.

    1. The record companies do not produce ‘great art.’ They fund the creation of a commercial product—most of which is crap, IMO—and profit from its distribution. Lady Gaga and Metallica do not equate with Beethoven and Bach.

      The commercial music model is an artificial product of bad laws. Get some perspective; in the history of human culture, this model is a blink of an eye. It is a novelty and its time will come to an end.

      The model only exists due to a misunderstanding and perversion of property rights. Read Mark’s reply to navneetalang above. Taking a man’s guitar is stealing and it is unethical and immoral. Playing a tune he wrote, on your own guitar, is not—and it does not matter one bit whether he belted out the tune in a single afternoon or toiled for years to create it.

      Musicians are supposed to be creative. An artist sans creativity is no artist at all. Why can’t musicians embrace creative business models like Trent Reznor does? Why do they shun business models that would allow them to prosper while retaining some amount of creative freedom? Why do they choose to take the easy route and stay on the record labels’ plantation?

      1. So it’s only theft if someone steals a tangible item for sale that they can hold or taste,
        but it’s not theft if someone takes an visual or audible item for sale that they can see or hear?
        How exactly does THAT logic work? 😀

        Creators and entertainers are the ones who suffer with piracy.
        In a lot of cases, they create a product from which they want to profit. Unless they are offering it up themselves for free, why is it okay just to take it because it exists in a digital format that a user can easily seek out and download without paying for it?

        As someone else mentioned, if you hear a tune and memorize it and sing it back yourself, you can’t be sued for that.
        But you’re also enjoying YOUR rendition of it, and privately I might add.

        It’s not the same as when you listen to a creator’s song and receive entertainment directly from their efforts, especially if they are presenting it in a commercial fashion.
        You’re listening to THEIR creation. It’s not yours to do with as you see fit because you can’t always hold it in your hands.
        And if you want to continue to enjoy their rendition of it, you should really do so in the manner they have presented it to you, either for sale, or free online, or through the radio, etc.

        It IS very similar to buying a cake or a car.
        Yes, you can look at what someone else has done, and replicate it on your own and it’s yours. Feel free to bake your own cake or build your own car based on one that you’ve seen.
        But if you want the cake someone else baked, or the car someone else made, you need to pay them for their creation if they are selling it and not giving it away for free.
        Same holds true for musics, or books, or film, etc.

    2. Their sales are down, how do you know that people aren’t already skipping the formulaic garbage served by the RIAA and spending their money elsewhere? You only have to look at the upsurge in movie attendances and the behemoth of gaming industry to see the masses no longer spend on pop songs like we used to 20 years ago.

      Kids aren’t sitting around each others’ houses playing the latest thing, they spending their money on cell phones and other gadgets. Music simply isn’t as important today as it was yesterday. It also doesn’t help that all the radio stations have become talk channels playing the odd tune as dictated by their RIAA masters. The same tunes over and over! You cannot drum up demand, people turn off or flick to another station.

    3. Forget that, Chris. Your assumption is that people are willing to pay nothing, but something like iTunes, which cuts out everyone but the artist and their music, sends money directly to the hard-working artist.

      You’re short-sighting if you think buying CDs actually funds the artist; more than 75% of money earned, if that, goes to “everyone else” involved in making those cds.

      Cut out the middle man and crush thousands of jobs whose nature is to simply leach of the artist.

      I know myriad artists who make their living by selling their music on iTunes, or self-publishing their own cds replete with quality cover art, etc.

      I’m calling shenanigans on this bullshit right now, because people seem to constantly forget the reality of the internet: We’ll pay for things we deem worthy of buying. Hence “vote with your wallet”.

      There is no sense of entitlement, in my eyes. I’m not going to waste 15 bucks paying for a movie that’s crap. I WILL go see a movie in the theatre if I’ve watched it at home and enjoyed it immensely; at least in that case, I feel the money is deserved.

      This notion of entitlement is a farce. It’s called quality control, and it’s finally a power the consumers can wave. Companies are just upset they can’t fool us, anymore. That’s why bringing up the current model of supply-and-demand was brilliant: it attacks the fundamental problem with purchasing anything.

      As for being able to own and sell ideas, well, I don’t really want to get into that.

  26. These days, information is free, and all revenues to those providers of information come from advertising. Costs are cut considerably through distributing the information on the internet, and distribution is much more wide spread. Websites are cheap to create and maintain, and with no physical media to produce, information providers are making much more profit. Movies are expensive to produce, but with the creation of 3D and newer innovations that drive people to watch them in theaters, or with extra’s on DVD’s to make people purchase them, they will continue making money off the actual product. Times have changed – we demand more and more for less and less – and we are making it possible for that to occur with technologies.

  27. Due to my profession I meet a wide variety of people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and levels of educations. Just an observation, but I have noticed it’s only college educated whites that go through these moral loopholes and cognitive dissonance to justify what is essentially stealing. Whether than admit that they’ll say things like “it’s about accessing freedom” “web experience” “the record companies are ripping off the artist” “the corporatization of music is the devil” “they just don’t get the times we live in” etc. That’s nice and all, but because we live in age that gives us the technology to take music/movies without paying for them doesn’t make it anything other than stealing. Entertainment is a luxury, if you can’t afford it or are unwilling to fork over money for it don’t pull these lame excuses for why you take it without paying for it. Take this part of the article for instance: “Once a person has experienced the freedom of something like Napster or Bittorrent, it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle. It isn’t about ‘thieving’ as much as it is this: once you know what it’s like to access culture with such freedom, going back to the basics of plunking down 20 bucks for a iTunes movie you can’t copy, can’t take to your friends house or can’t watch on your PS3 not only feels strange, it feels plain backwards and absurd.” That’s just a really pretentious way of saying f*ck paying for something when I can get it for free. I have no moral issues against that but FFS, if there were mediums that allowed us to copy and get Rolexes, Ferraris, and mansions for free you could say the same thing.

    I’m not saying their shouldn’t be a new model to adjust to the reality of times, just that some people really need to realize that bullsh*t wrapped in a bow is still bullsh*t. Now excuse me while I head off to Bittorrent for no other reason because I can.

    1. @Chris: Why are the music companies and movie companies still producing movies and music? How come they dont die off because there is no market anymore?

      Because there is a large market of course.

      And listen. Lets say the music companies and movie companies would all die? What would happen? Well, people would start creating their own stuff and put it on the internet for free to get attention. Some of that stuff would be really good. People would get famous for being really talented. I think people would support those guys, if not with money, with lots of positive comments or contributing to their work and making it even better.

      We wouldnt need music companies or movie companies anymore. What a beautiful world. One where people would share movies and music with each other just for the fun of creating and sharing it with others. Yeah, you wouldnt be more economically successful than someone who tries to sell type writers today, but thats called evolution my friend. Stuff gets old, other stuff replaces it. Stuff can be ideas and behaviors, not only physical items.

      Im currently working on a coding project. Do I plan to sell it? Of course not. Im going to put it to use in my company, making my coworkers more efficient during the day. Why did I do that if I dont make any money on it? You just have to figure that out.

      1. Your entire comment doesn’t make any sense to what I wrote. If you want to provide a product for free then great, but most of you wrote was pointless.

  28. We cant let our personal computers become a tool for the movie/music corportations ..if it was up to them they would own the ISPs we use to make them become the big brother that watches were we go what we listen to and watch thats what they want in the name of their profits and last time I checked the movie industry is not losing any money they still make millions so their argument is nothing but a lie to get politicians paid off to think their way and junk our rights ..just think the all the RIAA and MPAA has to do is ask your ISP for all your intternet logs and detrime if they can find any reason to have you jailed and or pay them exorbant fines this is not freedom they are just mortals like the rest of us so dont let their corporate money buy your politician and take away your rights in the name of corporate profits..They want to scare us into thinking what they do is for the good of us all but we know it will be abused and their power will be unchecked we have to resist their terror laced lies for what it is BS.

  29. The music industry has ripped all of us off including the artists for years and now their reign of terror is over and they will not give up without a fight they still want to enslave us all to keep paying their corporate saleries…Most musicians now days have their own website and sell directly to consumers including T-shirts concert tickets etc so you see the music industry as it was is obsolete but they still dream of sticking it to us so I do not feel sorry for them..let em rot

  30. as a result of the digital revolution, the proliferation of information will mean that rest of the world will no longer be bound to the petty conventions of physical mediums; which in itself is primarily limited to those who can engage in a materialistic society. The day will come when a person in some remote village in a third world country with a netbook can freely enjoy what he or she desires as i do now.

    Some may ask “What about artists, writers etc…? Will all not be lost if they have no incentive to create and protect their ideas?” To that i say, lady gaga and dan brown will not be missed. People will be forced to reflect on what constitutes truly meaningful ideas (i.e., science, philosophy, economics) and art (classics and contemporary). These will always survive, and will never be limited to materialistic conventions and norms (as is the case with creativity when it comes to art nowadays).

    Subsequently there is the looming issue of net neutrality; regardless, sooner or later all information will be “free”. Part of the title for this article reads “Cultural shift” which aptly describes the power of the internetz; a truly free world not bound by materialistic conventions!

    1. Not only enjoy it, but create it and contribute to it!

      Today we have a world with a one to many relationship for a lot of stuff. But in schools, corporations and other groups, everybody contributes with their part in projects. Everyone has something that will make a product better as long as they have a passion for the product.

      So I see a future where we create together, share together and use together. Let it come soon!

  31. The article is right, but where this plan will fail is that consumers AND electronics producers increasingly want their electronics to be free of intrusive software. This is why apple created the ingenious iTunes store, and why Sony failed miserably in their attempt to embed DRM in their physical products.

  32. For the sake of being extra-clear, I feel I should state that I am not condoning copyright infringement or wholesale downloading with no respect for artists’ rights or the worth of content producers. What I am saying is that the web and the cultural and behavioral changes it engenders require new social, moral and economic approaches. Thus far, the approach of most media business models has been to try replicate the models of the past, hurting themselves, creators and consumers in the process.

    But if you like a band, find a way to support them – download from iTunes or eMusic or Amazon, buy their CD, go to their shows, or buy merchandise online. Similarly, if you know a film is really good, rent it, physically or digitally, or stream it through Netflix or On-Demand or a similar service.

    For now I think the general rule is this: the smaller and poorer the content producer, the harder you should work to reward them for bringing art in your life.

    1. “But if you like a band, find a way to support them – download from iTunes or eMusic or Amazon, buy their CD, go to their shows, or buy merchandise online. Similarly, if you know a film is really good, rent it, physically or digitally, or stream it through Netflix or On-Demand or a similar service.

      For now I think the general rule is this: the smaller and poorer the content producer, the harder you should work to reward them for bringing art in your life”

      Well said and true!!!

  33. While I do agree with the main points of this argument I feel there does need to be stricter policy on protection of works, but also I dont think people should get sued for the transfer of data (so as long as they are not selling it).

    Once a work comes out, it sells. But unlike artwork movies and music continue to sell after their sold, and after awhile it becomes widespread which builds anticipation for the next work of art. This should be seen as promotion after about 6 months of initial release.

    I know my ideas are scrambled but you get my point.

  34. The Big Medias remind me of a crying baby in a restaurant and the government their parent. In this case, its like the kind of parent that doesn’t consider others, not only failing to remove the annoyance, they just coax the baby, telling them it’s OK.

    But, as cute as that baby might be, nobody appreciates its continued presence. That is, as much value as production studios had at one time, crying because things aren’t what they used to be doesn’t make the other customers happy.

    This is a very interesting theory, which sadly is the first I’ve heard about in the past decade. This may be the resolution to the fight. It’s a cultural shift. Adapt or die.

  35. >>
    Music simply isn’t as important today as it was yesterday.

    I believe this to be absolutely false. Music today is as important as ever, but the demand for it is being suppressed by trying to force people to consume it via outdated products and business models that DETRACT value from their finished products. If music today was integrated into new technologies and widely available, we would see people spending a lot of time “consuming” it. Imagine music discovery services being the most popular apps on facebook and the IPhone, imagine the most popular Twitter feeds being related to music, etc – those kinds of things SHOULD be happening. However the reality is that trying to create music services of any kind is a legal copyright minefield and is sure to get you sued out of business so you see no innovation in this area.

    The big lie here is that the RIAA protects musicians and helps create music . The truth is that they produce a handful of superstars while forcing the vast majority of artists to participate in their distribution monopolies to fleece them of any profits they might make. The assertion that the RIAA is a champion for the artists is simply ridiculous.

  36. >>
    It IS very similar to buying a cake or a car.

    No, it is not similar to buying a car at all. There is no physical product. Media is a virtual product and trying to sell it via business models that rely on physical products is just not going to work very well.

    Better business models are using advertising to make revenue or selling premium services to manage your media, or even selling the hardware that is used to play it back. Instead the RIAA/MPAA is doing its best to squash these business models in order to protect its distribution monopolies.

  37. Well Google has managed to do something so incredible and so powerful that the full significance of it has escaped everyone. By making thousands of copyright expired books easily available they have enabled a tremendous resource, aided research and contributed to the overall cultural quality of the entire world.

    As always, a small group of special interests want to “protect” their right to block us from looking at, for example, some obscure book which has gone out of print but is still in copyright. Even if it has been out of print for years and the publisher has no intention of ever publishing it again, they don’t want you to be able to look at it because that would be a “violation” of the “copyright”. Google has pretty much been respectful, so far, of the publishers’ wishes but if they had their way, Google would be blocked from showing even the copyright expired books, including the ones which are still being published.

    This is not the enforcement of law to protect the rights of writers and content creators, it is the deliberate manipulation of the law to protect the profits of corporatists intent on holding back progress and attempting to live in the past in which the old rules of scarcity and pricing can continue to be exploited in their favour. How about, if a copyrighted book is not put back into print after 10 years then the publisher or author retains the copyright but Google is allowed to show it in Google Book Search – ALL of it! If it goes back into print, Google removes it. Just some simple reforms like this might help – might actually benefit the authors and publishers too.

    It is long overdue that these sorts of laws be reformed along with the tax breaks, corporate welfare and other nonsense that is mucking up our country, and the rest of the world for quite some time and continues to do so. And NO it is NOT socialism.

  38. The thing I find funny is that there are revenue models out there based on providing a good service and asking people to pay what they can afford. For instance, I consume a lot of media created by National Public Radio and enjoy it. So when they say, hey lend us a hand and donate, I do, I like them they’re the content provider and I want it to continue. Does this mean that everyone donates? I would guess not, does it mean they stay in business? Yes.

  39. Lets put a value on time and effort as well as the risk it takes to search for and download an illegal high quality version of said content and weigh that against the cost of the same legal, physical and high res/quality version of said content on a popular physical media with the fancy artwork, extra features then set the price equal the effort, and see sales increase.

  40. One day, they’re gonna stop creating these movies starting with especially lame movies. We won’t have anything to steal except movies that weren’t created for profit. No Video Rental stores. Even fewer dloads on iTunes etc. And we’ll get to sit back and watch theatre ticket prices rise (although we would have really awesome theatre experiences).

  41. Wow this discussion is interesting.
    But I think one of the obstacles we need to overcome is that of comparing digital “stuff” with physical objects.
    To sum up what I feel many people are saying is that since so many people (ie musicians, movie makers, writers, etc etc) can’t make money on the internet we need to filter/restrict/shut it down.

    As many said before and kudos to some great comments above, the idea of owning an idea is kind of absurd in itself. Where there no music before records? Where there no books before the printing press? Why did people create books and music and paintings when they could not sell copies of them? Perhaps I know the answer, perhaps not, but the answer would anyway be too long to answer here.

    So how do one make money today? The currency of the future will be attention and time. If you can get peoples attention you can earn money. Advertisers will pay to be seen where the people are. If you write great content, make great music, make great movies that people will want to consume then there are going to be people paying to be seen in those areas. Advertising in live shows, in photo exhibits, in movies (as product placement) are the future. Or how else could radio be free? No one pays to listen to commercial radio channels and no one ever has. Not even the first person to listen to radio EVER payed a cent to the people that made the broadcast. Did radio die and dissapear?

    What I want to say is this: On the internet products can not be sold. Because there are no products to begin with. There are only analog material encoded in ones and zeros, and as we all know by now, ones and zeros can be copied in a blink of an eye. Instead you can use the extremely cheap (in terms of money, not time) marketing tool called internet and market your physical product or sell physical services. If you have created something of value, people will not only find, but even stampede to it, be it entertaining entertainment, useful products or guides on how to make money.
    Then you have their time and you can make a change to the world or sell their attention to advertisers.

    shit did did i miss anything in this long rant? i hope not. please do tell me if so, it’s kinda late here in sweden now. i think i will elaborate on this subject more in my blog (probably in swedish though), but i invite anyone with questions or opinions to continue this discussion, which i feel very strongly for. thank you and good night!

  42. This is basically a simple equation now. Instead of the two part supply and demand model it is now a one part value added ‘convenience’ model. How can I have my content in the most easily consumable process possible or in multiple forms at a cost where the value is beyond question (such as the Netflix DVD/streaming product.) For me personally, Netflix convenience factor makes video piracy irrelevant.

    When the content providers realize this and act accordingly then piracy will have a serious competitor, not until then!

  43. i would love to pay a reasonable price for the product be it art, music, pics, text, whatever. i would love to – people have to make a living and if you have produced a desired item, getting reasonable compensation for that product is it self perfectly reasonable.

    what i do not love is having to jump thru ever changing yet endless hoops of hassle & threats so i can pay said reasonable fee for the product i desire.

    nor do i love being forced to repeat the hoop jumping so i can make a back up of, or enjoy in another format, or on another system i use, what i now own since i bought it all because some greedy or paranoid ass thinks i should endlessly re-purchase for each & every copy/media/system i want to enjoy my previously paid for product on.

    you made it. i paid for it. now i can hang it on my wall, my wallpaper, or wipe my a@@ with it.
    you made it. i paid for it. now i can play it on my laptop, ipod, car radio or shatter the cd it’s burned to.
    you made it. i paid for it. now i can read it on my desktop, ipad or burn it.

    MY copy is MINE. period. i’m not selling it. i’m not sharing it. what i am doing is using MY copy on MY devices MY way.

    this consumer MY sequence is no different than the producers MY music MY book MY picture MY movie.

    the lack of respect for the consumer MY sequence is why so many consumers turn to pirating which in turn is why so many producers turn to DRM etc.

    restore the respect for one & the other will follow i assure you.

    continue failing to provide that respect = support the very piracy producers are unhappy about.

    and please take note, i said reasonable price. this means absolute transparency in production costs. consumers are not here to make producers ‘rich’ anymore than producers are here to be the latest status indicator etc. consumers are here to make producers comfortably well set as producers are here to provide enjoyment & information.

  44. First I would have to agree the list of requests by the MPAA and RIAA are a bit intrusive and perhaps unnecessary; however, to rationalize the use of or simply obtain copyright protected material as legal when you know the material to be protected by law is incredible. You dismiss it as “theft” when it is very much about theft. The material on that dvd or cd is not your design or a creation of your artistic talents. It would be like taking your articles, assuming you sold your articles for a living, duplicating them, publishing them as my own and making money for my pocket with your work. I’m getting paid for something you created. That’s wrong. And because I have flooded the market with your articles and probably accepting much less than you would have sold them for, you can’t sell your own work. will something like this have a huge impact on the bigger companies (Warner Bros/Disney)? In rare instances only but probably not like the impact the smaller companies and/or those companies getting started feel. IPR crime can close the doors on businesses like these.

  45. The RIAA AND MPAA should be happy that people are at least listening and watching the trash that’s out there being produced by thier so-called artists!

    Hollywood and the music industry should rethink their art-forms and give the public something worth paying for…until that happens I will continue to do what I do and teach those that are wanting to learn.

    “When you lose your way…start-over”

  46. Ironically, independent music that artists really want to give away is the hardest to find on the internet. No company will succeed by trying to artificially sustain scarcity. Capitalism rewards innovation, government regulation and intellectual property laws stifle progress.

  47. If the industry had possessed enough foresight to strike a deal with Napster 10 years ago, they (and we) wouldn’t be in this situation. Even today, there’s no “record store” online that’s as functional and adaptive as that one was. If they’d just recognized the seismic shift at the time and figured out a few good pricing and royalty models, millions of customers all over the world would have paid for the convenience. Instead, they chose to view p2p as being primarily about stealing rather than what it was: convenience and flexibility. When they failed to offer an equivalent, everybody got used to free. Really shortsighted.

  48. I have been saying this for so long. Man, it’s good to see I’m not the only one that realized this shift in the common supply and demand model.

  49. Well presented. I especially liked the image slides of watching a DVD.

    I remember the days when music was really scarce, as in, people could only afford to own one cd player and a handful of discs (or record player and records depending on how far you go back).

    It’s amazing that the potential of content creation has grown to such great heights.

    The only point I that was missed was, it takes time to illegally obtain pirated media. When distribution mechanisms become easier and more intuitive it becomes ‘worth it’ to pay for them again.

    Take netflix as an example. Instead of spending many hours amassing a collection of pirated videos, I can queue up some stuff online and stream them through my XBox 360. I would pay the 10 bucks a month to do that over all the time wasted downloading crappy quality content any day.

    MPAA and RIAA are too dumb to understand this. They just don’t ‘get it.’ The more barriers that exist between the creators of content and the people consuming it, the more unwilling the consumer is willing to pay for it.

    I’ll put up with the obnoxious commercials on pandora because I don’t use it much. OTOH, if I had a media pc hooked up to my entertainment center and I played pandora in the background all the time, I would gladly pay the fee.

    For me personally, the cost of amassing massive amounts of pirated materials (digital hoarding) isn’t worth the time (organizing) money (to buy hardware) when there’s a viable alternative and I’ll pay for it if I use it enough that the barriers (commercials, etc…) make that experience richer.

    It isn’t an all or nothing proposition. There’s definitely a middle ground. It’s just that no one is smart enough to see it because they’re too busy hard-lining their personal interests. I don’t trust either the FSF or MPAA/RIAA. The FSF is bent on gaining power by pandering to the consumer’s selfish interest win(consumer)-lose(creator) and the MPAA/RIAA is bent on controlling the medium based on greed lose(consumer)-win(creator). They’re both wrong. Make a tier that is free with limitations or annoyances (previews, commercials, etc…) and a tier that is paid for to remove the limitations/annoyances. Content creators need to eat. Pro bono isn’t good enough. Consumers need to be allowed a rich and unencumbered experience or the medium isn’t worth it.

    Google does it, Dropbox does it, Netflix does it (indirectly), basically most of the really successful and growing companies are doing it. Make the medium flexible and everybody wins.

  50. Forgive me if this comment is snide, but I once belonged to a music club that gave me 10 free CDs for buying one or two. Did I steal those 10 CDs by paying nothing for them, or did someone somewhere subsidize the distribution of this dying format?

  51. What I find funny is these agencies are fighting the people that pirate crap and would not pay for it otherwise. Those of use who do pay for the right to own the songs or movies always have and always will.

    What is even more idiotic is these entities are trying to sue them when they don’t have any money. Spending thousands of dollars for no ROI and bitching the whole time about how much money pirates are taking out of their pockets.

    They will run out of money sooner or later and then we can move on to complaining about the next ignorant dumb asses that are blinded by their own greed.

  52. “going back to the basics of plunking down 20 bucks for a iTunes movie you can’t copy, can’t take to your friends house or can’t watch on your PS3…”

    Not to forget: “plunking down 20 bucks for a iTunes movie that you CANNOT BUY unless you live in the US”!

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