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.
Well, the answer isn't particularly pretty for the bottled water people, either, as you can see at "The Story of Bottled Water." So for all you Cartel types out there... sorry, I'll try to come up with a better analogy for how you might compete with a high-priced product against one that's not quite as good, but cheaper. I hear FedEx is still turning a profit these days, where the USPS isn't...
On the one hand, it's very clear to me that profit potential and protection for discoveries is a crucial part of the reward system that encourages businesses to take the (often large) financial risks necessary to find, test, and develop new medicines. On the other, there's a serious moral case to be made that the pursuit of profit should not always or automatically trump the needs of people whose lives are at risk.
Today brings another reminder (almost a year to the day after my last post on this topic) that the dilemma is far from resolved. MSF published a response in the New York Times to an op ed piece. In their response, they argue that the potentially increased intellectual property protection in proposed health care legislation would slow or block the development of generic versions of key drugs. Again.
It's sad that this many years on we still don't have a good national (or even international) regime for helping both sides. Companies need good markets and a way to recoup their costs. People need existing life-saving medicines, and new innovations brought to production as quickly as safety allows. These don't seem like incompatible goals, to me.
(Full disclosure: I'm a financial donor to MSF and friends of mine have done volunteer work for them.)
One of the music blogs I really enjoy reading is Audioporn Central. APC's Simon Iddol is not only a remixer but he's a zealous poster and he seems to know everyone in the European DJ/remix scene.
Today they've announced a remix competition, in which the readership is given a set of song "seeds" and encouraged to make their own mixes from these seeds. You then have until April 28 to upload your entry to Soundcloud for judging, and the winner gets a spot on a special EP featuring remixes by some moderately well-known names in the industry. Since this EP is likely to get dropped in dance clubs all across the continent it's a nice way to give someone who may be unknown a leg up into the scene.
The notion of a sustainable business model built around "give away something and entice people to buy more" isn't new. It's something of a variant on the "give away razors in order to sell blades" idea that the shaving people, and the game console people, and the desktop printer people, etc have all used. However, unlike those models where the bit you get for free is essentially useless without the additional stuff you buy, this model is one of giving away something that is useful in and of itself, and then building on that with added content.
I'm reminded of my recent experience with the Steam gaming system. Steam's desktop client is free and it lets you easily hook in non-Steam games. But it also serves as an ad platform for Steam-supplied games, some of which are offered at very low or even free prices. I got one such game and enjoyed playing it enough to put down $10 twice on DLC (downloadable content) modules for it. In addition, I've now used the Steam search/ad engine to find another cheap ($10) game that I'm planning to try out and if I like it I'll probably throw more money at it.
My informal browsing shows that game companies are doing more and more with free demo versions of games. You give people the experience, get them interested, have them invest some time in making some progress and then see if they're willing to pay money to go further. It's an interesting model and one that might be profitably adopted in other industries.
A friend just pointed me to Kim Boekbinder's attempt to do the same thing with her latest album. The project, called "The Impossible Girl", has a preview song and status page up on Bandcamp on which she notes that the album is intended to be funded entirely by pre-orders. It's not clear what happens after that - possibly an attempt to shop the album around to the major labels for larger-scale production. Boekbinder's sound and style aren't exactly mainstream pop/rock but neither is her style that different from a hundred other solo female artists who have been mainstream-produced.
This idea has been kicking around the net for at least a couple years. I found three sites/companies that are trying to organize this sort of effort, or at least provide a little framework scaffolding for new unsigned artists, and I'm certain there are many more out there: SellABand, Slice The Pie, and ArtistShare. Each of these three has a slightly different model and each provides different services. Of course, these services want some bit of the funding in order to pay for what they provide. Several of them also offer ways for people to invest in the artist, and potentially make revenue on future sales or advertising around the product they've invested in.
None of them have the kind of clout, either in marketing power or established fan base, that Blizzard has. That struggle to be noticed may well be fatal to an effort like this, which depends on getting the word to the people who care and have cash. Maybe that situation suggests that a big name can buy/build/partner their way into this space and by doing so bring in the number of viewers who would be necessary to get more of these artists produced and turn music on demand into a profitable business line.
Instead, I want to direct your attention north of the border (and hope that at least someone in Ontario reads this and will respond). The Globe and Mail has a nice write-up on the new Tino Sehgal exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibit (if it can properly be called that) is titled "Kiss" and consists of seven male-female couples who, over the course of two hours, recreate famous kisses from well-known pieces of Western art.
What makes this Copyfight-interesting is the language and restrictions around it. First, part of the agreements around the exhibition include no photography or other recording. Either you're there to see it, or you're not. Fine, and much like many other performance pieces.
But the way The Globe And Mail describes the transfer of the intellectual property around this fascinates me. The AGO "bought" (whatever that means, probably paid money for) "an edition of" (which I take to mean secured the rights to perform/display) Kiss. Apparently other big-name museums have "bought" this piece, which again strikes me as very odd language. If you're buying a copy, then you get some rights in that copy by virtue of the purchase, no? And if your rights terminate after some time (or some number of performances) then aren't you renting rather than buying?
And if it's an edition of, does that mean it can run concurrently with other editions? (Edition is also a weird word - makes it sound like a reprinting of a book.) Or does it just mean that you get some rights to change it, such as selecting which actors will be in it? Or maybe you get more substantive rights, such as the right to change what kisses are enacted, or how long the enactments take place?
The whole thing strikes me as odd - if they'd used the language typically seen around other ephemeral art, such as musical performances or theatrical offerings, I might find it less weird. But, really, what does it mean to treat something like this as a piece of art that is on exhibition at a museum?