Re: When is an MP3 file like a lighthouse?

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 04:38:47 MDT

"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.

The age of downloading is unquestionably good - the real
question is how to claim the good in it maximally and as
equitably as possible.

> I think that the age of downloading will probably reduce the total amount
> of money that goes to artists, and will certainly produce at least a
> temporary reduction in quality until a new generation of topnotch artists
> willing to work for free arrives to replace the current cream of the crop,
> who have grown up expecting payment. But I also think that the age of
> downloading has enormously powerful forces behind it, verging on
> inevitability. Music as material good, as tape or record, is dead. Now
> it's an informational good and can be copied. I don't know that
> information wants to be free, but information certainly wants to be
> downloaded. In the new world, people who want information download that
> information. If prices are set too high, they will download without
> paying.

That there is not a normal distribution system like today does
not necessarily mean that there is no way the artists will be
paid of course. I think that without the middlemen and physical
media costs it will be much easier to come up with a way of
paying more artists much more equitably than they are actually
paid today while keeping the costs to download extremely low.
> Information wants to be downloaded. How much to pay for downloaded
> information, or even whether to pay at all, is a choice that has shifted
> from the provider to the consumer. If tipping infrastructures can break
> the stranglehold of the current power structure, then the choice of how
> much to pay the middleman will shift from the middleman to the artist.
> The latter effect will reduce the amount paid to middlemen - and the
> former effect will reduce the total amount paid to artists, at least on a
> per-work basis; even if people are willing to spend the same total amount
> as before, cheap artists and free artists will still tend to drive out
> expensive artists.

In a digital age the need for middlemen quickly shrinks to
perhaps total disappearance. Which is why the middlemen fear
this age the most and do the most to cripple it. Today, in the
music business, almost all the money goes to the middlemen and
precious little, generally speaking, to the artists.

Personally, I think the entire economic framework is in the way
of where the digital age needs to go for all of us to maximally
benefit. But that is another post.

- samantha

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