Re: copyright

From: Jason Joel Thompson (
Date: Thu Jul 13 2000 - 15:50:08 MDT

Ah, the game is afoot!

> No, we don't agree here at all. Information has no inherent value at
> all. Bits are just bits. Value is created by the act of people /wanting/
> the information, in a certain form at a certain time for their specific
> purposes.

This is not a distinguishing characteristic of information. -Nothing- has
inherent value independent of our want of it. Value for cars and
electricity and medicine and drooling pets and angora sweaters is created
because we want those things. They don't have 'inherent' value-- we pay
because we want, just like everything else.

> No, that's not the difference at all. The essential difference is
> that freely-copied instances of the same piece of information can
> be used to serve two people's goals simulatanously.

And why is this an argument in favor of freely copying them? If it were
possible to freely copy computer chips, would it then follow that we should
do so because they could be used to serve two people's goals simultaneously?

> But information is fundamentally different: it's not
> just that copying is cheap, it's that copying actually does double
> the utility (not value--utility, though utility may lead to value)
> because my use of the information does not in any way interfere
> with your use of the information

Actually, receipt of information can have lot's of auxiliary impact and my
use of information -can- interfere with your use of information.

Information is a "real" thing. Information directly influences behavior.
Copying information doesn't always double it's value-- sometimes weird
things happen: if everybody knows the ending to 'The Sixth Sense,' the movie
is going to lose a lot of its impact. You see, there's value in secrets,
and there's value in you and I knowing something that Jack doesn't know and
there's value in you and I -and- Jack knowing something, and all sorts of
permutations. It's not just a frictionless ghostly vapor that passes freely
through society without real consequences.

> The rest of this argument proceeds from your flawed assumption, so
> I won't address it more specifically.

Well, I think your assumptions are flawed too, but I'll continue to address
them. On:

> (1) No, a performance is not "information", it's a unique event
> in time, and as such, cannot be duplicated. It's value (and
> remember, value is created by comsumers, not producers) might be
> in some small way the information presented, but it is also in
> the sensual experience, the gathering of friends, the building
> of memories, "hipness", and many other things.

Okay, we're getting into tricky territory here and I don't want to spin this
off into an experientialist debate, but I would argue that the sensual
experience is *only* information and will eventually be able to be
replicated freely. Clearly good VR will enable me to capture the
particulars you describe above. I'll grant that we currently aren't capable
of doing so, but this only makes it clear that the scope of information is
only going to grow larger and larger in the future.

> (2) CDs most definitely should /not/ be free and I never said
> anything of the kind. What I'm saying is that Metallica should
> be able to sell CDs of their music, and I should be able to buy
> one, press my own CDs of their music, and sell them too. It is
> the music itself that shouldn't be ownable.

Again, this is an example of indirect rewards. I shouldn't have to rely on
making profits off of the medium on which I distribute my data. CDs are
going to be irrelevant fairly soon here. The value is in the music. That's
what people want, and therefore that's what they should pay for. Why should
we give somone for free what they're willing to pay for?

> Exactly. This method works best for the famous--the less
> famous will have to use other methods, or find ways to make
> themselves famous enough to fill concert halls (like using
> the net to distribute their music). The not-so-famous may
> have to use other methods as well, and actors generall use
> work-for-hire (but that's off topic here).

Again, famous people are a tremendously small sliver of the population at
large and are unlikely to appear in significant numbers at all in an
environment without monetary reward. You seem to have little awareness of
the thousands and thousands of working artists who make a living producing
content. Of course, they aren't famous after all, so why would you know
about them? :)

> If you can fill stadiums playing someone else's music, you
> deserve the money. Somehow, I suspect authenticity will be
> a selling point. Otherwise, why did Milli Vanilli drop out
> of existence when it was revealed they weren't singing? The
> music didn't change any. Well, their value wasn't just in
> the music, was it?

You got me here. Authenticity -is- important to us. We want to know that
the people singing the music actually are the ones who made it.

> Popular movies make millions of dollars on ticket sales in
> theaters, which are basically live performances (copying
> among the theaters themselves can be managed by contract).

We'll call this market 'spectacle distribution.' We're paying for the
spectacle of sitting in a theatre with stadium seating and surround sound
and smelly popcorn.

Theatre's "buy" movies in order to make a profit, but why would they bother
buying them if they could download them from the Internet for free? If I
can't sell my movies to theatres, I'm not going to spend millions making
them anymore.

Ah, so maybe you think the filmmakers should get into the 'spectacle
distribution' business. Again, this is an example of indirect rewards. If
it is necessary to own a theatre to make money off of a movie, the business
is going to collapse. You simply can't remove value from a link in the
chain here.

A simple example:

You and I are filmmakers. We can't sell our films, so we decide to buy
movie theatres and sell the 'movie spectacle' instead. Now, we've got a
major problem with distribution right off the bat, 'cause I'm not going to
be able to spend a lot of money on my movies with only one theatre to show
from. (My budget will have to go down to the level of live theatre events,
and speaking from direct experience, that really sucks.) But let's pretend
I don't care-- I'm happy making just a little bit of money off of the cheap
films I shoot and show in my one theatre.

You, however, decide to save all that money of actually making the film
yourself so you send a guy over to my theatre with a really good copying
device and you bring a copy back to your theatre and start showing 'my'
movie without having to pay for it. Remember, I don't have any ownership
over that film so it's totally legal for you to do this.

> Then, they make millions more with merchandising. Finally,
> they make more millions with copyright--by licensing to
> TV and video rentals. This last revenue stream will be
> bitten into without copyright, but the first two won't. I
> won't be weeping for Paramount if Star Trek XXI makes only
> $100 million instead of $200 million. Jon Williams will
> still have been paid up front.

Again, you're fixating on a tiny sliver of the actual business. An
infintesmal fraction of films make any significant revenue on merchandising.

However, it doesn't matter: you won't have any exclusive rights to your
merchandising, so I'll just start making 'better' Star Trek t-shirts than
you and I'll make all the money. The rewards are going to the best
merchandiser, not the best filmmaker.

To be clear: There is -no- good reason for the merchandiser to be the same
entity as the filmmaker! Any Joe off the street (or multinational
corporation) can start creating product for your film, so this whole concept
of exclusive merchandising is going to evaporate.

There's not even a good reason to make a Jurassic Park movie for
merchandising reasons because if it is a genuinely profitable plastic
dinosaur market, everybody's going to get into it. My best strategy would
be to just sit back and wait for a property to come along and make toys to
go along with it. The reward is going to the merchandiser and not the
filmmaker. Now, if I had to -pay- the filmmaker for the right to
merchandise off of their product...


> You don't have to be very famous at all to make a living.
> Even a fan base as small as 50-100,000 (small potatoes for
> any group with an Internet presence) should be able to earn
> a decent living on merchandise if it's sufficiently "hip"
> to generate demand, and if the music is good enough to
> maintain the fan base.

I think you vastly underestimate the incredible difficulty musicians face in
making a living.

And, once again, if there's money in your merchandise market, I'll just come
along and snap it up.

I'm starting to repeat myself here, so I'll skip ahead a little:

> Neither
> of those things is true: there are lots of other ways to make
> money, and you can still sell books and records without copyright
> (which is manifestly true from the simple observation that
> people still make money selling Shakespeare and Mozart). This
> is an entirely consistent point of view.

Actually, it's not. Shakespeare and Mozart are existing properties-- will
the market support the creation of additional properties in the absence of a
reward system for the creators?

> That's true, but that's also the way it is now: most of the
> rewards of copyright, /by far/, go not to the artist, but to the
> company that makes the artist popular by controlling marketing
> and distribution.

This is a problem with the system and not the concept of copyright. In
fact, this is the primary reason that I am optimistic about the digital age
insofar as it is empowering artists to reach their audiences directly.

I'm snipping the rest of this section in the interest of brevity which this
post is already sadly lacking. You talk a bit about how publishers give
audiences a good place to go for reliable material and I agree that this is
a promising future market.

> Those who absolutely cannot make a living by /any/ of the
> methods here or others I haven't thought of would really be
> doing better for themselves and us by earning a living in
> some other way. Doing what you want is a luxury--just
> because someone wants to be a musician doesn't mean I should
> pass laws to help him.


I'm not suggestion that people should simply do what they want and get
magically rewarded for it. I'm suggesting that we maintain the free
market-- I create something you want, you trade me equivalent goods for it.
Plain and simple. You want music, I spend effort making music, you spend
money for my music.

Do you believe that passing laws making the theft of automobiles illegal is
an example of passing laws to help the automobile industry?

> I don't want to destroy the market--I want to fundamentally
> change it in a way that will probably put some of them out
> of work, and employ 10 times as many in the new economy of
> unrestricted information. Demand is there, and will always
> be met, so there will always be people making music and
> people willing to pay for getting music they like. The
> industry will never go away. It will just change the way
> it does business, and eliminating the last shackle on the
> free exchange and use of information will unleash a flood
> of new industries and opportunities that have never existed.

Wow. Where's all this extra money going to come from?

Okay, that was flip, but you sound like you've been swept up into the dot
com bubble or something.

There's another big post below that I've snipped that sounds like the
beginning of a manifesto, and it seems really positive and momentuous like
we're just going to be so powerful if we could only cast off the bonds of
ownership and I can't help but wonder if you are also in favor of communal
ownership of property, commodities, energy and goods, etc?

> Neither do I; see my other message on this thread about the
> confusion among copyright, trademarks, and fraud. I totally
> support both trademarks and criminalization of fraud.

Why? And what value do you envision a trademark having?


::jason.joel.thompson:: ::wild.ghost.studios::

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:34:34 MDT