Re: When is an MP3 file like a lighthouse?

From: Lee Daniel Crocker (
Date: Wed Oct 24 2001 - 15:03:35 MDT

On Wed, 24 Oct 2001, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> It seems to me that there's an improper linkage here; people who argue
> that the age of downloading hath come feel obliged to argue that the age
> of downloading is good; people who argue that the age of downloading hurts
> the artist feel obliged to argue that the age of downloading is a
> temporary effect of improperly encrypted media. These two issues are not
> entirely orthogonal - if the age of downloading is bad, we might want to
> do something about it, thus reducing the probability of the age of
> downloading continuing - but the two issues are orthogonal to a much
> greater extent than the correlation of presented arguments would seem to
> imply.

I suppose there is some unstated linkage in some minds, but personally I
was on record that the age of downloading would be a good thing long
before it actually got here. I see information in much the same way I
see technology: ultimately, more is better, so I want more of it to be
created and more people to have it. Sure, some people will do evil things
with it, but in the long run they will be overtaken by those who do good
things. The only reason we haven't been in the age of downloading for
100 years now is because our legal system erected barriers to the spread
of information and technology (ironically, on the pretext of encouraging
creation of more). The question to me is not "is the age of downloading
a good thing", but "was this present era of IP a good thing, and should
we even try to maintain it, or reproduce it technically?" of course
examining this is very tricky since we can't measure what the last two
centuries would have been like without it; we can only speculate and
amke educated guesses.

> I think that the age of downloading will probably reduce the total amount
> of money that goes to artists,...

Value is produced by _desire_; will people want music, books, or art less
than they do now? No, the amount of money available should stay about
the same, because the size of the market is determined by demand,
not supply. Who gets how much of that money is another issue. I tend
to think artists _can_ get a higher percentage of it than they do now,
but whether or not the culture will adapt to make it easy for them to do
that is another question. For example, there is the silly counter-
productive "art for art's sake" meme that causes artists to avoid "selling
out" (i.e. producing something useful to others). That will certainly
have to change.

> There are various things that can be done about the probable decrease in
> artist revenues. Eliminating middlemen will increase the amount that goes
> to artists. For those who are willing to put effort into this, I think
> the most leveraged approach is to create tipping infrastructures, with
> tips going directly to the artists, despite the screams this will cause by
> the RIAA and MPAA. But in the long run, even that is doomed. Content
> that doesn't request tips will drive out content that requests tips. I
> don't download shareware anymore because there's almost always an entirely
> free alternative at CNET downloads. I don't know that this decreases the
> quality of software, but my guess is that it does - although open-source
> may make up for that, and too little time has passed to tell in any case,
> and it was just a guess to begin with.

I agree that there will be some short-term upheaval, and dealing with that
in some way could be useful. Firing middle-men is a good start--but make
sure you fire the right ones! Good marketers produce value too (by
increasing demand). IP lawyers are the real leeches; they're first on
the block, because they produce no value at all. "Distributors" will be
the next to go, because distribution of bits is a solved problem, and
distribution of physical media won't be needed anymore. But that still
leaves a lot of people to support (concert promoters, technicians,
advertisers, etc.) I suspect a lot of them will have to adjust to new
methods of grabbing consumer dollars, and some won't make it. But they'll
find work selling physical things, adn today's visionaries will fill in
the gaps.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

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