Donna Wentworth
( Archive | Home | Technorati Profile)

Ernest Miller
( Archive | Home )

Elizabeth Rader
( Archive | Home )

Jason Schultz
( Archive | Home )

Wendy Seltzer
( Archive | Home | Technorati Profile )

Aaron Swartz
( Archive | Home )

Alan Wexelblat
( Archive | Home )

About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

a Typical Joe
Academic Copyright
Jack Balkin
John Perry Barlow
Blogbook IP
David Bollier
James Boyle
Robert Boynton
Brad Ideas
Ren Bucholz
Cabalamat: Digital Rights
Cinema Minima
Consensus @ Lawyerpoint
Copyfighter's Musings
Copyright Readings
CopyrightWatch Canada
Susan Crawford
Walt Crawford
Creative Commons
Cruelty to Analog
Culture Cat
Deep Links
Derivative Work
Julian Dibbell
Digital Copyright Canada
Displacement of Concepts
Downhill Battle
Exploded Library
Bret Fausett
Edward Felten - Freedom to Tinker
Edward Felten - Dashlog
Frank Field
Seth Finkelstein
Brian Flemming
Frankston, Reed
Free Culture
Free Range Librarian
Michael Froomkin
Michael Geist
Michael Geist's BNA News
Dan Gillmor
Mike Godwin
Joe Gratz
James Grimmelmann
Groklaw News
Matt Haughey
Erik J. Heels
Induce Act blog
Inter Alia
IP & Social Justice
IPac blog
Joi Ito
Jon Johansen
JD Lasica
Legal Theory Blog
Lenz Blog
Larry Lessig
Jessica Litman
James Love
Alex Macgillivray
Madisonian Theory
Maison Bisson
Kevin Marks
Tim Marman
Matt Rolls a Hoover
Mary Minow
Declan McCullagh
Eben Moglen
Dan Moniz
Danny O'Brien
Open Access
Open Codex
John Palfrey
Chris Palmer
Promote the Progress
PK News
PVR Blog
Eric Raymond
Joseph Reagle
Recording Industry vs. the People
Lisa Rein
Thomas Roessler
Seth Schoen
Doc Searls
Seb's Open Research
Shifted Librarian
Doug Simpson
Stay Free! Daily
Sarah Stirland
Swarthmore Coalition
Tech Law Advisor
Technology Liberation Front
Siva Vaidhyanathan
Vertical Hold
Kim Weatherall
David Weinberger
Matthew Yglesias

Timothy Armstrong
Bag and Baggage
Charles Bailey
Beltway Blogroll
Between Lawyers
Blawg Channel
Chief Blogging Officer
Drew Clark
Chris Cohen
Crooked Timber
Daily Whirl
Dead Parrots Society
Delaware Law Office
J. Bradford DeLong
Betsy Devine
Ben Edelman
Ernie the Attorney
How Appealing
Industry Standard
IP Democracy
IP Watch
Dennis Kennedy
Rick Klau
Wendy Koslow
Elizabeth L. Lawley
Jerry Lawson
Legal Reader
Likelihood of Confusion
Chris Locke
Derek Lowe
MIT Tech Review
Paper Chase
Frank Paynter
Scott Rosenberg
Scrivener's Error
Jeneane Sessum
Silent Lucidity
Smart Mobs
Trademark Blog
Eugene Volokh
Kevin Werbach

Berkman @ Harvard
Chilling Effects
CIS @ Stanford
Copyright Reform
Creative Commons
Global Internet Proj.
Info Commons
IP Justice
ISP @ Yale
NY for Fair Use
Open Content
Public Knowledge
Shidler Center @ UW
Tech Center @ GMU
U. Maine Tech Law Center
US Copyright Office
US Dept. of Justice
US Patent Office

In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


« Don't Miss Cato vs. the DMCA | Main | Patent Trolls or Patent Pushers? »

March 30, 2006

Is Post-Punk Laptop Rap the Cartel's Waterloo?

Email This Entry

Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Enter MC Lars' world and Download This Song. The song, available for free on Limewire and elsewhere, takes straight aim at the Cartel. The lyrics chastise the record industry for living off its back catalog, treating artists like slave labor, and fighting the download movement rather than working with it. OK, so what?

Well, if the financial numbers are right, this indie hit was produced on a shoestring budget using equipment and capabilities available to anyone. If they're that available, then what's stopping this form from taking off? What's to stop it rendering the entire music production system obsolete? In theory, nothing. There's nothing here that's really new except that this kid from Stanford has somehow made it work. He's getting airplay and touring and he doesn't owe the Cartel a dime.

One man doth not a movement make, but you have to take something like this seriously.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


1. Branko Collin on March 31, 2006 8:17 AM writes...

There is a very simple reason why self-published works tend to fail in the market, and that is because self-published works tend to be crap.

There are a couple of reasons why this should be so.

First of all, in an age where an author can get third parties (publishers) to produce his works, the author who lets third parties do this gets a distinct advantage over his brethern who want to do it all by themselves. For one, that author gets to focus on what he is good at, and for another, that author gets to let others focus on what they are good at and he is not.

Second, publishers provide a filtering mechanism that weeds out the crap. This is just market forces at work; publishers that take on just any book will be bankrupt very soon.

Third, even if everybody self-published, 90 percent of all published works will still be crap. The market for popularity will not change, even if the market for author services will.

Does that mean that self-published will never work, or that the publishers' current business model will survive? No, most definitely not. But kartels topple for only a few reasons: one is interference by the government. But since this kartel is based on copyright, an untouchable right, that won't happen. The other is because the products the kartel offers are so bad that the high-threshold to enter the market will be overcome by independents (which will be part of an entirely new and as of yet unthought of kartel in fifty to hundred years time).

Finally, I do not like your suggestion that producing hit records on shoestring budgets with generic tools did not happen until now, because that is simply not true.

Perhaps I am misinterpreting what you are writing, but your whole article breathes an attitude of "copyright is generally good, but it is now held hostage by the evil publishers; if we could only overcome the evil publishers, authors would finally get what they deserve". Authors already get what they deserve--yes, even in the current model where that often amounts to zero dollars income from copyrights.

That MC Lars raps that the big evil corporations are screwing over the customers doesn't change anything; after all, the reason that his song is popular is because he voices a popular opinion, and he voices it well. Whether that opinion is based on fact is irrelevant. In doing so, he addresses his market effectively, which is just what the big evil corporations do. It is that success which makes them big (and, and some will have it, evil).

Of course, the whole idea that holding a copyright makes you deserve anything is preposterous to begin with; once you have a copyright, you have the right to market it. Whether or not you are good at that is the measure of success; not whether or not you write well.

I have this feeling that if MC Lars had gone the traditional route, he would have come out on top as well. It's not about art, it is about the market. Changing that will take more than holding hands and singing Kumba-ya.

Permalink to Comment

2. Neo on March 31, 2006 1:44 PM writes...

Publishers are still obsolescent, even with this argument.

The Internet has made viral marketing competitive with broadcast marketing (i.e. traditional advertising, airplay, banner ad networks, whatever); the explosive growth in mindshare of "all your base" a few years back proves this beyond a reasonable doubt. Their role as marketers is thus obsolescent.

Their role of filterers is also obsolescent; ironically, the proof is found by observing's ratings/user review system. Collaborative filtering eliminates the need for middlemen there too.

The role of publishers as fat distribution channels capable of producing in volume was, of course, obsoleted by BitTorrent, which means any individual can publish in volume anything that gets popular enough.

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Sherlock Holmes as Classical Fairytale
Trademark Law Includes False Endorsement
Kickstarter Math
IP Without Scarcity
Crash Patents
Why Create?
Facebook Admits it Might Have a Video Piracy Problem
A Natural Superfood, and Intellectual Property