Monday, 19 September 2011

Its good to share, that's why we all do it.

Its good to share. That's what our parents taught us, and it's true. Maybe you do it to show off your taste, maybe you do it for the love of the art, or maybe to guide someone in a direction they might not have thought of. Or maybe you do it just because you can. But you do do it, as did your parents and grandparents. Obviously you shared your sweets, and thereby the manufacturer lost a sale. But in this case i don't mean sweets, or clothes, or time, i mean files. You share files.

Firstly you set up your file sharing system. You make (or your parents) a collection of files available and on display on a coffee table, book shelf or record collection. Not only do you allow people to browse the system, but you also promote certain files - 'do read this book', 'have you read this article', 'i'll make you a tape of this'.

You do this knowing that the person you shared the copy with might well not buy that file, but you know, because it had happened to you, that there is a good chance not only of them sharing files back with you but also that they will buy new files of, for instance, that same author, or of a new artist.

You may even have known that inside every book it says: 'shall not be lent....or otherwise circulated...'.

But this how you discovered your favourite authors and musicians - from your parents books and your friends. And you continue on the tradition even now because sharing is good.

Its not piracy, its not stealing (nothing is being taken from someone that they no longer have it), its not counterfeiting, its sharing a copy.

And it benefits the artists.

I'll get back to the benefits to the artist in a second but first i do see a minor flaw to the above argument: and that is that when sharing a book normally you got the book back (normally!). Only one copy gets circulated at a time. With digital, the copy is permanent (if its kept - though most people still have a limit to their file storage) and can be re-shared, and the sharee is anonymous.

It sounds dramatically different from individual lending - but is it? Individually you are denying a sale but expect more sales later. With digital the distribution is quicker, you are therefore denying more sales in one go, but why can't you continue the thought process to the next step which is that you can expect more sales to come form it?

And now we're back - it benefits the artist. (!)

How can that be when everyone knows the Music business, Film and Book business is being murdered by pirates?

Well, is it? Are they? Here are some figures, it took a bit of time to find these - maybe 3 or 4 minutes.

US Movie Market Summary 1995 to 2011
Revenue ($bn): 1995- $5.29 2011- $10.68.

UK Book Sales - 2001-2010:
2001 £2,511m, 2010 £3,110m

Worldwide Music Industry Revenues (2006 - 2011):
2006 ($60.7 billion), 2011 ($67.6 billion)

PRS (Performing Rights Society UK):
'So, here’s how the big numbers shape up: the size of the pie came to £3.9 billion, up 5% on 2008. This year, the pie not only grew again'.
(note the 'again'). This also shows that the BPI, and PPL also had a good year.

I can tell you who are not having a good time - some record labels.

I say some because obviously lots - XL for instance are having a great time, those that do '360' deals with artists so that merchandising and live music is included in the deal do well.

The big guys like EMI - now run by Citigroup, ie bankers, are, needless to say doing hopelessely - though i am sure they have 'had to offer the best wages to get the best in the business' (i do wish they would try some one cheap for a change - they might do better). And Sony is a joke, rootkitting their cds! Warner and Universal - well who knows.

They had their chance with Napster back in 2000. The big Music German media firm Bertelsmann wanted to buy it. One hopes to tun it into something better and sooner than itunes. After all, while:

Worldwide Recorded Music Revenues (2006 - 2011): 
2006 ($36.0 billion), 2011 ($34.7 billion)

have dropped a bit

Worldwide Digital Music Revenues (2006-2001):
$2.9 billion (2006), 14.8 billion (2011)

have shot up. One wonders what would have happened if Napster/Bertelsmann had gone legit in 2000?


'Along with the accusations that Napster was hurting the sales of the record industry, there were those who felt just the opposite, that file trading on Napster actually stimulated, rather than hurt, sales. Some evidence may have come in July 2000 when tracks from English rock band Radiohead's album Kid A found their way to Napster three months before the CD's release. Unlike Madonna, Dr. Dre or Metallica, Radiohead had never hit the top 20 in the US. Furthermore, Kid A was an experimental album without any singles, and received relatively little radio airplay. By the time of the record's release, the album was estimated to have been downloaded for free by millions of people worldwide, and in October 2000 Kid A captured the number one spot on the Billboard 200 sales chart in its debut week.'

But Napster got shutdown by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) in 2001. The 'RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels'.

Which is true, they do. The second in command at the RIAA is Mitch Glazier. He's quite famous.

Back in 1999 Mitch Glazier, the chief counsel to a Senate subcommittee seems to have added the words "as a sound recording" -– within the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999, which meant that Congress essentially changed the work-for-hire section of the copyright code. (Wired)

It was quickly undone by Congress but Mitch Glazier was immediately hired by the RIAA - RIAA's Cary Sherman: "Wouldn't you expect that we would try to hire the guy who has done more copyright legislation in this town than anyone else in the last five years?", for i believe $500,000 pa and now he's second in command at the RIAA (Washington Post).

My point is, they may say that they are doing it for the artists 'think of the artists!' they are not. They are doing it for themselves and possibly for the record labels.

Its not like any of the money from the Napster case or any other infringement case has gone to artists - which is why they the artists sued their labels (NY Post)

But what about the actual losses from File Sharing - i've heard its billions.

The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has a figure of $58billion produced by The Institute for Policy Innovation. Which has been rather thoroughly debunked here.

And thats where the GAO come in. The US Government Accountability Office. The GAO was instructed to study piracy's impact as part of the Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (PRO-IP Act). GAO interviewed officials and subject matter experts from U.S. government agencies, industry associations etc...The end result was:

"Some experts we interviewed and literature we reviewed identified potential positive economic effects of counterfeiting and piracy," The GAO wrote. "Some consumers may knowingly purchase a counterfeit or pirated product because it is less expensive than the genuine good or because the genuine good is unavailable, and they may experience positive effects from such purchases. Consumers may use pirated goods to 'sample' music, movies, software, or electronic games before purchasing legitimate copies," the GAO continued. "(This) may lead to increased sales of legitimate goods."

Since then there have been a lot of studies:

1. Industry Canada:
The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study for Industry Canada
'we find ... that P2P file-sharing tends to increase rather than decrease music purchasing.For every 12 P2P downloaded songs, music purchases increase by 0.44 CDs. That is, downloading the equivalent of approximately one CD increases purchasing by about half of a CD.

2. Creative Destruction and Copyright Protection: Regulatory Responses to File-Sharing by researchers at London School of Economics and Political Science
P2P Helps “Stimulate Creative Industries”

3. Digital Music Survey conducted by Ipsos Media Ct for Demos
'two-thirds of those who illegally download music spent an average of £75 ($123 USD) a year on music versus £44 ($72 USD) by those that don’t (10% buy a “lot more,” 16% a little more, and 47% “about the same).'

4. Media Cos.' Best Customers: Those Who Steal Their Content
Our survey shows that the P2P user attends 34% more movies in theaters, purchases 34% more DVDs and rents 24% more movies than the average internet user. The P2P user owns more HDTVs and is more likely to own a high-def-DVD player, too.

What i do know and what i dont know.
I dont know about ecomonics and statistics, maybe all the reviews and surveys on both sides are rubbish.

But when a law is passed to retroactively extend copyright another 20 years from 50 to 70 years after the death of the artist. I start to worry. Can you change laws retroactively?

As the PPL say:
“This is a tremendous development and we must recognise the goodwill of the politicians in Britain and other parts of Europe who understood that this key change in the copyright legislation was long overdue. I am delighted that we at PPL, jointly with our many thousands of individual performer and record company members, have been able to play an important role in this process. It is not possible to overstate the effectiveness of the sterling work by many individual PPL performers who signed copyright petitions, lobbied Parliament here and in Brussels and generally remained completely engaged and determined to succeed."

So, the government got lobbied by a special interest group who finally took what was ours (the people) to give to a small monopoly.

'The Directive is expected to be implemented across all EU Member States by 2013, extending the term of protection from 50 to 70 years for performers and producers of recorded music...income streams will continue to flow through to the whole community of recording artists, orchestral players, session musicians, backing singers and other performers for an additional period of 20 years'

An additional 20 years has been added to the 50 years added after the musician is dead?

I understand how that may benefit the 5,750 record label members of the PPL. But the artists? Is that supposed to encourage artists to make new work from the grave? Its definitely viewed as a pension plan for 'those individuals reach ripe old age and are no longer able to exercise their profession'. But i thought, whatever your job you should learn to save, or take a pension? Why should musicians get special protection?

All that really happened there was that art was stolen from the public domain for another 20 years.

Statute of Anne in April 1710 was concerned with the reading public, the continued production of useful literature, and the advancement and spread of education. The central plank of the statute is a social quid pro quo; to encourage "learned men to compose and write useful books" the statute guaranteed the finite right to print and reprint those works. It established a pragmatic bargain involving authors, the booksellers and the public.

We are not the thieves.
We, the public, are the rightsholders. We, through our servants in government, allow a short term monopoly to creators so they could get a head start in earning money. But that deal has been ignored or forgotten. When Rightsholders are invited to discuss copyright law we are not included. Our Governments listen to lobbyists not us and fail to represent us. So while the creators and , frankly their middlemen, take what is rightfully ours so we no longer have it (aka stealing) they accuse us of stealing by copying what should be ours. It was supposed to be a deal for the benefit of the public too - and they are getting forgotten.

As Sarkozy seems to say: Le ministère des affaires étrangères a fait savoir que la France ne souhaite pas signer de déclaration de l'ONU favorable à la défense des droits de l'Homme sur Internet tant qu'il n'y aura pas de consensus sur le fait que la liberté d'expression et de communication ne prime pas sur les autres droits, en particulier la propriété intellectuelle.

Which may say: Copyright Is More Important Than Human Rights. It kind of depends how good your french is. It may say Copyright Is As Important As Human Rights.

And as can be seen from  Wikileaks cables 'the largest dismantlement of civil liberties in modern history, and American interests have been behind every part of it", in  Sweden, Australia,  Mexico, Spain, New Zealand, Canada. I can't help trying  to guess what country will be next.

Our civil rights seem to be taking  a hammering for something  that isn't a problem except that there is one rather vocal group who cliam otherwise and who should really be putting  in  more of an effort to use the technology not fight it .

But historically they cannot

As Jack Valanti, President of the Motion Picture Association of America famously said at the  1982 House Hearing on Home Recording: 'I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman alone'.

Of course the VCR almost single handedly helped Hollywood boom in  the 80s and 90s (NYTimes).

Do you  remember Home Taping Is Killing Music anti-copyright infringement campaign by the British Phonographic Industry in  the 80's?  It was quite a good time for the music business back then too.

Or, as the Harvard Business Review put it: "Big Content" Is Strangling American Innovation.

Sharing is good - losing our rights is bad.

So what i think is that:

1. Sharing, aka Piracy! is a net positive - probably, and at least should just be ignored

2. The regulatory capture, getting laws changed to protect these slow moving industries, should not happen and certain laws should be undone.

3. That more care needs to be taken with the publics rights and freedoms and not sold out to Hollywood.

4. That better services shold be made available for instance: instead of offering 3 ways to view a TV programme: either waiting for a weekly episode that could be missed, buying a box set that will be watched once, or hiring it for a week which does not give you enough time. A better option would be to allow it to be bought individally from a fast server for say 30p/50c an episode. If an episode costs 10million to make (though the excellent movie Cloverfield only cost 30m - i wonder if thats with with Hollywood Accounting  or maybe it hasn't made a profit yet like Return of the Jedi hasn't either (being the 15th highest grossing film of al ltime ) . Then 20m US viewers would cover the cost, 100m World viewers would make you an extra 50m and then you can sell it to cable, tv, dvds, mugs, tshirts calendars. You could make a lot of money.

Apologies for this rant - had to get it off my chest, and my thanks to the many many sites that are keeping  this in  the public eye. Most of this i read there first.

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