“Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain digitized expression any more than real estate law might be revised to cover the allocation of broadcasting spectrum…”
John Perry Barlow
The structure of the recording industry continues to crumble from within: this time we have an essay by John Snyder, president of Artist House Records, a board member of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), and a 32-time Grammy nominee. He presented this paper to NARAS – I’m guessing they were taken aback:
- The entire concept of intellectual property needs to be reexamined, and ways of protecting it need to reconsidered. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has, by legislative crook and judicial hook, obtained a 20-year copyright extension. The Supreme Court recently upheld the “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA)” that extended the life of existing copyrights an additional 20 years. This, in the face of Justice Steven G. Breyer’s estimation that only 2 percent of works copyrighted between 1923 and 1942 are available to the general public. The Supreme Court case pitted the public against Disney, whose early Mickey Mouse cartoons were to enter into the public domain in 2003, and for whom Congress drafted the legislation in the first place.
This is a clear case of a multinational conglomerate using its political muscle to the disadvantage of everyone but itself.
….Why is it that record companies pay dearly for radio play and fight Internet play? What is the real difference between radio and the Internet? Perfect copies? If we look at the Internet as analogous to radio, the problem becomes one of performance rights, not the unlawful exploitation of intellectual property.
….Advances in hardware and software have propelled the movie business ever since the VCR, which at the time was decried as the death of the movie business, just as the cassette was to be the death of the music business. In both cases, these “copying” devices enhanced their respective businesses. Whether it’s the MPAA or the RIAA, there is no reason to trust those who have cried wolf in the past about new technology, especially when history has shown that advances in technology increase consumer spending.
….This raises another question. Why don’t the record labels have P2P networks? They have proven to be wildly popular. They don’t require expensive investments in technology to start and maintain, and most importantly, the online community has embraced them wholeheartedly. The reason is, they can’t agree with their “partners” — publishers and artists — on how to share the money. The same greed that got them into their current problem prevents them from extricating themselves from it.
Let’s suppose I’m a kid. I have a fixed allowance or a minimum wage job. I have $100 a month to spend on entertainment, if I’m lucky. With that cash, I can rent or buy DVDs, pay for my Internet connection, go to a concert, a movie, or a sporting event (at which I might buy some merchandise), buy a video game, pay my mobile phone bill, drive through the drive-thru, or buy a CD. From that list of options, what’s the least likely thing I’m going to spend money on? I think the answer would be the CD, even if downloaded music didn’t exist. I would argue that it’s not the presence of a “free” alternative that has caused the decline in CD sales, it’s the presence of competing choices offering more value and fewer hassles.
….”Why would you pay for a song that you could get for free? For the same reason that you will buy a book that you could borrow from the public library or buy a DVD of a movie that you could watch on television or rent for the weekend. Convenience, ease-of-use, selection, ability to find what you want, and for enthusiasts, the sheer pleasure of owning something you treasure.”
…. I would argue that the future of music is multimedia, the future of multimedia is DVD, and the future of music companies is software. In five years, record labels will be software companies and I don’t think they know that yet. The music business will be saved by someone from the software business who can impose a new business model on music assets.
….NARAS must not rubber-stamp what is quite clearly a self-serving position (as happened on last year’s Grammy broadcast when Mike Greene berated and branded music consumers as thieves and shoplifters). NARAS must be the independent voice, a voice of objectivity. NARAS should be the “think tank” of the music business, not an enforcer or a PAC. What we have here is the potential to become a leader in the new frontier of intellectual property rights, artists’ rights, consumers’ rights, the future of music, and the power of the art itself. I say let’s seize the day. In my opinion, there is a vacuum of leadership with respect to these pivotal and crucial issues and NARAS should step in and fill that vacuum. It is a golden opportunity. [Salon]