GAROFALO, Monday September 25:
To begin with, the
history of the music industry is that it has greeted any new technologyfrom
piano rolls to radio to cassette tapewith suspicion. It is also
the case that the industry has generally ended up benefiting financially
from every technological innovation of the twentieth century. When
the dust settles around the current flap over MP3, it is likely that
the same will be true, although not without some profound reorientation
on the part of music corporations.
assumption I would make that I think we might all agree to is that,
in terms of manufacture and distribution, the future of music will
be digital, downloadable, and customized for individual taste. That
being the case, the current business model of the music industrycentered
on the sale of a pre-configured, read-only piece of physical propertyis
hopelessly outdated. Yet instead of embracing the technological advances
that point the way to the futureMP3, the internet, peer-to-peer
applications, etc.the industry, as is typical, has retreated
into a protectionist mentality, using its considerable clout to extend
the reach of an already limited and limiting copyright system to prop
up its moribund business plan. In the short run, the law will be on
the side of the major corporations and it will appear as if they are
scoring some victories, but ultimately this is a war they cannot win.
I say this because of another assumption I make: that there is no
such thing as a secure format. Unless the industry can provide a simple,
convenient, and affordable way for users to download musicthings
that Napster already does for freethey will have no incentive
to get their music through official channels.
This will mean abandoning a strategy which seeks to motivate consumers
negatively by the threat of prosecution in favor of one which focuses
on making music downloads so convenient that official industry sites
will become more attractive than the existing options the industry finds
so problematic. Better enforcement is not the answer to the industry's
woes; better service is.
enforcement is not the answer to the industry's woes; better service is."
- The average consumer
is not motivated by arguments about copyright infringement, nor should
they be. Copyright has never been simply an exclusive contract to exploit
the fruits of one's creativity, but rather a balancing act, weighing
the legal protection of intellectual property against the public rights
of access to information and freedom of expression. And the history
of copyright over the last 100 years is that it has become more restrictive,
less concerned with promoting the public good. In the case of music
this trend would be somewhat more palatable if individual artists were
the beneficiaries. But they aren't; corporations are. Witness the new
"Works for Hire" amendment, which makes all master recordings the property
of the record company. Indeed, it is fair to say that record companies
have stolen more money from artists than all the Napster users combined.
Consumers have not fared much better. Recently the major labels admitted
to a price-fixing scheme, which robbed consumers of approximately $500
million in a 2.5 year period.
Through its past practices,
the music industry has not only created the conditions under which consumers
will circumvent the record companies to get their music, they have made
people feel righteous for doing so.