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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

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

Copyfight

« 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?

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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


COMMENTS

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 Amazon.com'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

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