Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Xeni of Boing Boing writes in Wired News about Congress moving to criminalize P2P.
Read the full text of Senator Hatch's remarks describing children as "human shields against copyright owners and law enforcement agencies," and the "piracy machine designed to tempt them to engage in copyright piracy or pornography distribution," here.

Human shields my ass. These kids are customers who are being treated like criminals. I know this is dead horse kicking, but I've learned about and subsequently purchased more music online since I started sharing music files. As a DJ, when I made mixed tapes, I was promoting these bands to people who didn't know about them. Music sharing is a natural and essential method of promoting new artists. It's a small number of very famous artists who feel gypped by how easy it is to copy music. For must artists, the ability to copy and share music should be as important as promoting their music on the radio and through DJs.

I personally think that Creative Commons can solve a lot of these problems by allowing artists to select what type of copyright they would like for their music and allow P2P services to mark content with the proper copyright notice. Remember that even though Jack Valenti endorsed Creative Commons, at an operational basis, we (Creative Commons) have received resistance from the legal departments of the record companies when their artists have tried to choose Creative Commons licenses.


Joi, 3.5 questions:

1. Why would those 'kids' want to buy music when they don't have to?

1.5 How would they buy without a credit card?

2. Why should new artist want to promote their music when piracy takes much of the luster away from being a very famous artist?

3. How can commercial P2P services compete against decentralized P2P offering any music for free?

Hey Don. This is actually a pretty long debate, but...

1. I think many people won't buy music. I think that the music business will have to inherently change their business model. I think that a more direct connection with the artist will get more people to pay for music, merchandise or other stuff associated with the artists. I think fan clubs and concerts will also have to be monetized. I think we'll have to figure out ways for people to buy music without credit cards. But as far as I know, there are no credible studies that show that the drop in music sales has anything to do with file sharing and my anecdotal evidence points towards more music purchases linked to a larger part that music now plays in my life since I am more easily able to copy music.

2. I don't think much luster has been lost from being a famous artist. Most artists want people to listen to their music. Sure, money is a big part of it, but so is fame. The line between "piracy", "sharing", "fair use" and "promoting" is a fine line. I am aruging that they labeling a great number of people who would be promoters of music as pirates and shooting themselves in the foot be alienating their core customers.

3. By being more organized, having better metadata, providing authentic links/relationships with the artists, etc. At the end of the day, there will always be a great number of pirates, but most people who love music, love the artists and enjoy being affliated with them in some way, either through going to concerts, wearing T-shirts or joining fan clubs. Most fans don't want the artist to be ripped off, they just don't like the record companies. I think that if the artists provide a smart and legitimate way for fans to pay them there will be a business model.

I think part of it is that the technology will march on regardless of what the record companies do and that they are alienating the core customers. I don't think piracy is good, but I think they are being suicidal if they think this attitude of labeling fans as pirates is going to help them in the long run.

Also, from a creative commons perspective... Sampling and building on content is a very important part of creativity. There is no room for this sort of fair use in the current copyright regime and it is stifling creativity and isn't necessarily supported by the artists.

Thanks, Joi. Reading between the lines, I see that you are taking a more optimistic view toward the future than I am.

I am still at the head scratching phase. I don't like what's happening with the music industry because books and software next, yet I don't like any of the suggested solutions either. At least it's good to see how others are grappling with the problem.

I don't know if you saw that Lessig made his book downloadable immediately, but most data shows that people who make their books downloadable don't have a noticable shortfall in book sales, and some report increases in sales upon making their books downloadable.

I did see that. Interesting.

I would love to hear what Tim O'Reilly has to say about book piracy since almost all O'Reilly books are available over USENET and it takes no more than a month or two for the new titles to appear on USENET.

I wonder if the Congress will outlaw high DPI screens to prevent book piracy next.

"These kids are customers who are being treated like criminals."

These kids aren't customers for the most part Joichi, they're college kids who don't give a crap about who made the music. They just want to get a collection of good music for free.

"Music sharing is a natural and essential method of promoting new artists. It's a small number of very famous artists who feel gypped by how easy it is to copy music."

This is a characterization. I would say they _are_ being gypped. It's clear from what you're saying that you think file sharing is helpful to new artists, but harmful to established artists. There is actually a sliding scale of utility here, when the sharers don't pay. New artists still gain something from it through increased notoriety when their stuff is shared, but established artists lose because they have the notoriety and now can't sell as much because people are just copying it.

Imagine if you made a song, were planning to sell it to make some money, and I took it and immediately distributed a copy into an mp3 player in every home in the country. How many sales do you think you'd make? Wouldn't you feel that this was unfair? This is basically what's going on, just with more actors involved in the trading.

As for your comments on creative commons, I think you're moving in the right direction thinking about including copyright notices in the P2P software, but they need to be enforced too somehow. You can't deny that what people really want is a free lunch.

"I think fan clubs and concerts will also have to be monetized."

The thing about this Joi, is that there is no similar model for software. You can't sell fan gear for software. So does that mean that the software industry has to change its business model so that it can't actually get money for the software? Only for updates? Only for support services?

So in that world, you couldn't really make money directly from intellectual property, only from services. But the real work is in the software itself, and the real value is in the software itself.

For support, for example, you can only get compensation for the value of the support. This may be totally out of whack with the value of the software you're trying to provide. This would mean only software valued at less than the expected support revenues could be viable, preventing many valuable types of software from being profitable.

As for books, they still have value totally independent of their electronic versions. People still buy the books because nobody is going to print out a pdf on 8.5 by 11 paper and read it, because it's a crappy experience. But if the standard way to read becomes electronic, it will be a different story.

I think many people in this debate are missing the real point that this stuff we're talking about -- intellectual property -- songs, movies, software, ... all digital content -- it all has REAL VALUE. And that value is not going to be produced if it can't be compensated. We can't have a charity-based economy. It just won't produce the types of products we want it to produce.

Trevor, I was worried that we were going to end up here. ;-) So I don't have a good answer as to what the alternative business model is, but I do remember that people thought copiers would be the end of books and that video tapes would be the end of motion pictures.

I think you have to reinvent some business models and if you look at the relationship that people have to their music, many people feel a bond to the artist or the genre and build community and context with music. Music isn't just some piece of "stuff". I think that you need to shift the focus to this aspect of music. So although I do believe in intellectual property, I think that in the end, in the case of music, it is almost impossible to protect, technically speaking, there are probably other business models and alienating the customer is not a good strategy. That's what I'm trying to say.

As for this particular bill, I think the slippery slope of banning types of technology is a bad one and blaming P2P could be the first step towards banning all sorts of file transfer or open network technologies which would be a bad thing. Think about it. What "they" are trying to do is make it so that the pipes can't carry non-DRM'ed content. This is like shutting down all roads that allow anything but taxis or something.

See trackback to Lair of the Toadking for more on the slippery slope.

True that it would be really crummy to ban P2P. I think the attempt to ban it (if that's what it is -- I haven't read the bill) would be an overreaction that would cause great harm in the long run.

I also agree that people should have the right to create their own content and share it. But I think DRM that works, along with compulsory licensing, is probably the best solution for those that want to get paid. If people had to allow sharing, but payment was reliably enforced, then we'd be in the ideal position, IMHO.

And, yeah, it's true that some business models may appear through innovation, but I'm very leery of a world in which you can't actually make money directly from digital content.

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I saw on Joi Ito's Web that Senator Orrin Hatch is working to make it illegal to share files via peer-to-peer through the "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act”. Yes, it's has a cute acronym: the “PIRATE Act... Read More