Weekend Update 1/21/12

A rainy Saturday in Los Angeles seems like a good time to put down some random thoughts.

The SOPA Battle

So SOPA is dead, and as I said earlier in the week, it was a fatally flawed piece of legislation. But before the Free Culture crowd gets too self-righteous, please consider your new hero and spokesperson, Kim Dotcom.

Kim’s a fun loving guy with 30,000 square foot mansions in three countries, a fleet of Ferraris all made possible by selling stolen content from artists around the world. A bunch of the musicians I worked with in the 1960’s and 1970’s, who made wonderful records that are still on everyone’s I Pod, have seen their royalties cut by 80%. Not enough for a retired 70 year old to live on. American’s are truly stupid when it comes to discussing this issue. The one thing we make that everyone else in the world wants to get a hold of–our music, our movies, our video games—the knuckleheads on the copyleft want to fight a death match to make sure they are free to the whole world. Of course these same people don’t mind paying an arm and a leg for their German car or their Japanese TV.

Hopefully saner heads will be able to coalesce behind Ron Wyden and Darrel Issa’s Open Act. To think that we need to protect Google’s right to make hundreds of millions in ad revenue off Pirate Web sites while artist’s starve is truly braindead.


Two articles in yesterday’s paper truly brought home the Joe Heller insanity of this war and the damage it is doing to the soul of America. First the news about the increasing number of killings of US and NATO forces by their supposed Afghan Allies.

American and other coalition forces here are being killed in increasing numbers by the very Afghan soldiers they fight alongside and train, in attacks motivated by deep-seated animosity between the supposedly allied forces, according to American and Afghan officers and a classified coalition report.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, look at the self-destruction a ten year war is unleashing on our own troops.

Suicides among active-duty soldiers hit another record high in 2011, Army officials said on Thursday, although there was a slight decrease if nonmobilized Reserve and National Guard troops were included in the calculation.The Army also reported a sharp increase, nearly 30 percent, in violent sex crimes last year by active-duty troops. More than half of the victims were active-duty female soldiers ages 18 to 21.

After four French soldiers were killed this week by their Afghan allies, President Sarkosy suspended training and assistance to the Afghan Army and said he might withdraw all French troops from the war. Why isn’t Obama considering the same for our soldiers?

Department of “I Told you so.”

I know when ever I write about the stock market, I am guaranteed to get a lot of shit from the pitch fork brigade. But I do want to point out that three weeks ago, I suggested that the “sky is falling” talk from CNBC pundits was totally wrong and that the markets were headed higher. On that day the Dow stood at 12,140 and yesterday it closed at 12,720.

I’m convinced we made some hard choices in 2009 that have set the U.S. economy back into a real recovery. The Europeans failed to do the real write downs and are now suffering the consequences. Helped in part by a lower dollar and a higher yuan, American Exports are on track to meet President Obama’s seemingly outrageous goal of doubling in five years. And if innovation truly does flow (as I fervently believe) from a networked, bottom-up economy, then we have nothing to fear from China’s closed, top-down regime.

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25 Responses to Weekend Update 1/21/12

  1. Alex Bowles says:

    Everything about Kim Dotcom suggests that the world would be a better place if he were in jail. If it were a much better place, he’d be sharing a cell with Lamar Smith (R-TX). While only one of them is going to lose that badly, it a fate they both richly deserve.

    From what I’ve seen, the OPEN Act is the right direction. Now that the sleazy option is off the table, and the public is really paying attention, perhaps Congress can move forward with an honest debate. In the meantime, I’m wondering if the studios will realize what an embarrassment Dodd has become. Seems like they’d be wise to show him the door before he inflicts any further damage.

  2. Fentex says:

    If one accepts, for the sake of argument, that there has been a fundemental change in the world that forces change in the commerce of arts then it follows that people who are vested in the past are at a disadvantage.

    Performers who once were compelled to sell their labours to labels rather than more directly benefit from control of their work, as they might now in changed circumstances, would be victims of histories new course.

    If one doesn’t believe the world is better now for performers, try and imagine it were.

    If it were a better world now then it follows (because otherwise why change at all) that it likely disadvantages past performers who functioned in a different, now redundant, financial ecology.

    Wanting to ameliorate incidental damage should not confuse people over the merits of new opportunities.

  3. Alex Bowles says:

    Just realizing that the really healthy and productive relationships I’ve had were all due to mutual respect for the autonomy and the boundaries of others. If that’s what people offer each other, and get in return, the results are likely to be really productive.

    It’s when one party decides that they own the intersection of interest, and can therefore make unreciprocated claims on the autonomy of their counter-parties that things get contentious. A symbiotic relationship of mutual support devolves into one of rent-seeking vs. constant push-back and evasion.

    This seems like a deeply human reality. I think the problem with monopoly power of any kind is that it has a serious psychological side-effect. Specifically, it prompts the party with the power to reflexively encroach on the autonomy of the other. If the power is limited, and relationship has several other checks and balances, them the temptation remains under control, and the small but concentrated wodge of power can be very beneficial to all. In this regard, it’s like a very well-run nuclear reactor.

    Unchecked monopolies, on the other hand, are like poorly run nuclear reactors. They represent a hazard far greater than the benefits they provide. And if something goes wrong, they can spiral out of control, doing tremendous and lasting damage to everything around them.

    To continue this analogy, the convergence of digital media and the internet represents a tectonic shift – one that produced a tremendous earthquake, so big that is shifted the axis of the Earth’s rotation. The resulting tidal wave swamped a group of useful but poorly-run reactors. The disruption caused a chain reaction that could not be brought under control, and the next thing you know we’ve got the RIAA suing an unemployed homemaker $1.8 million for downloading 23 songs, freetards rioting online, and Chris Dodd going ballistic (in public!) because $100 million in lobbying cash didn’t deliver the catastrophically toxic legislation he was sure he’s paid for.

    The whole situation is a mess. The problem – now – is that we’ve got reactors melting down all around us, and they cannot contain themselves. We need to contain them. And that means sharply curtailing the extent of the monopoly powers they contain, because that’s what causes people to loose their minds and switch into frantic shakedown mode. And yes, we need to keep the lights on while we do this.

    It’s a hell of a damn problem.

    I think the core of the solution needs to get back to individual’s desire for autonomy (corporations are another matter). Given how pervasive digital technology is, how connected devices have become, and how fluidly information flows between them, a sense of autonomy is inseparable from a sense of control over the flows in one’s own life. On a personal level, this means that duplicating, sharing, and making derivations from media is as natural as talking or singing. It’s inseparable from basic sociability. It’s not that people don’t want to pay for stuff. They don’t want to buy things that come with a long list of awkward and legally enforceable restrictions. That just seems like a broken and potentially dangerous product, like a bicycle that can’t be turned right.

    If we focus on preserving the ability fiercely police individual copying, duplicating, and editing, it means we focus on sharply limiting individual autonomy. As one wag put it, that’s like forcing everybody to wear ankle bracelets because a few particularly badly managed stores can’t get a handle on shoplifting. The liberal Western belief in progress holds that personal autonomy should increase with time. Technological “advances” that turn us all into wards of the copyright police will be seen as intolerable regressions – especially if these inroads get used by the actual police, who see budget growth in perpetual TSAification.

    There’s a similar problem on the other side. The old publishing cartels were (are) notorious for the one-sided deals they make with writers, artists, and performers. Not all were bad, but far too many still are. There’s a huge desire for more autonomy on the sell-side as well. So realizing that copyright can be a useful tool in the right carefully managed (i.e. limited) circumstances, what can we envisage that gives both artists and audiences greater autonomy? More specifically, how can we help each side see that the autonomy desired by the other is in their interest to nurture an support? Alternately, what can we imagine that feels both freer and more civilized?

    I fully recognize that this development could leave Chris Dodd without a job. If that’s the downside, I can certainly live with it. In fact, it’s probably a measure of success.

    • Jon Taplin says:

      Alex-I think this is a really good insight. Assume you could get access to any song or movie on any device for a reasonable price. And that once you had purchased that media, you could remix it. Would that work for you?

  4. Rachel says:

    @Alex Bowles Excellent response, as ever, Alex.

    But this is worth reading: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/internet-regulation-and-the-economics-of-piracy.ars

    Are we, in fact, in the midst of a lot of reactors “melting down”? The industry would like us to think so. And yet the Motion Picture Industries continue to be profitable (albeit with a bucket of national, state and city subsidies for production finance and location assistance).

    I think you’re right to identify one of the causes of disrespect for copyright, and it’s not, as Jon would have it, that most people are sucking up propaganda from the “Free Culture crowd”. It’s that the MPAA and RIAA have contributed to the delegitimisation of copyright, through pushing egregious legislation and using outright lies and distortion to make their case. There was little-to-no rational argument for the passing of the DCMA, and none at all for SOPA or PIPA. That the resources of various governments have been devoted to the protection of an animated rodent that would ordinarily have gone into the public domain debased those governments, and it debased the whole notion of copyright having a public good. This was coupled with the expansion of the patent system to cover business processes, and the end result has been a feeling – extending into popular media, well beyond “Free Culture” – that the current regime for intellectual property protection is deeply, deeply flawed.

    Rather than attempt to pass more deeply flawed legislation on top of this house of sand, the industry – and especially governments – need to work toward a framework that might actually deliver the stated benefits. Manipulating data isn’t going to get us there, and neither is creating an artificial sense of crisis.

  5. len says:

    When Ferrari’s are free to download and copy, I want one.

    This isn’t an all or nothing function. It doesn’t have to return void. But you can’t get around the new fundamentals:

    1. Most media of discourse are digital.
    2. Digital media cost essentially zero to copy.
    3. Distribution of media costs much much less but is registered.
    4. No ISP server can distribute media unnoticed.
    5. ISP servers within the US are regulatible by US laws
    6. ISP servers outside the US jurisdiction are bound to the regulations of the countries within which they are situated.

    International copyright law and enforcement are the places to solve this. Not by national fiat. This is still a treaty and treaty enforcement issue.

    For national entities not bound to such treaties, the aggrieved litigant has the usual remedies. What really is the question is what are the range of unusual remedies a national entity will tolerate by it’s regulated entity members to redress grievances not oblgated by treaty?

    IOW, can BigLabelAndAllTheDuesPayingMembers(US) buy servers and DNS the aggrrieving foreign download sites into ReturnNoDigital Hell?

    And will the US government as a courtesy to it’s citizen corporations help with technical assistance and a clear router path to the pirate bay?

    Thieves are thieves. Pirates are pirates and we know this well from our own wicked ways. If you don’t want the passengers picked clean, you have to let the crew arm themselves. Blow the MegaLoad servers off the web. When their Captain can’t sell ads and Moolah Morts takes him for a walk by the river, he will shut down or deal.

    Yes it will be inconvenient for foreign users of said bays, but oh bother. We can talk booty after the bay surrenders or deals honorably.

    Honor: that without which this is happening and with which it wouldn’t be a bother.

  6. Fentex says:

    Attempting to restrict copying is a mugs game. It cannot be done – as someone has said (Cory Doctorow I think) – right now, this instant, this is as hard as it will ever be to copy something ever again.

    That statement is likely to be true no matter when you say it.

    Solutions to problems that are predicated on restricting copying will not work.

    I think, because the public desire and need it and therefore will cooperate and support it, that correct attribution of origin is important and a social good that commerce builds on.

    People crave more from sources that have proven valuable in the past, they often want the genuine and authentic over the derivative and misrepresented.

    I think correct attribution laws, designed along the line of trademark and/or libel laws are required and would be popular and therefore promoted cooperatively and become useful through social and peer pressure at maintaining an ecology artists can prosper within.

    Such laws might also dovetail into a return to registered copyrights. To solve the orphaned, aged works problem that especially pesters libraries and archives a very minimal restructuring of copyright needs to return to registration (which might, if one wanted to try suppressing copying include submission of digital watermaks and hashes that ISPs and services might be obliged to reference).

  7. len says:

    Attempting to restrict copying is a mugs game. It cannot be done

    Attempting to restrict adultery is a mugs game but somehow society has yet to tell the spouses of the world and the courts not to try it. Some solutions are purely societal and then technology is made to serve the solutions. It is a matter of what is valued and by whom and who is ready to service a need, and then is that service legal.

    IOW, Doctorow’s position is technically right yet morally indefensible and socially naive. Cooperation and play nice hasn’t worked so far and betting on it is a smarmy way of telling the cheated spouse that people cheat, quit whining and put on more makeup or buy another diamond, etc. Blaming the victim is not helpful. Telling someone too jealous to enable the spouse to breathe without a fight is different. IOW, be very very specific about what constitutes breach. In the analogy, this is where the SOPA/PIPA debates fall apart: specificity of breach where losses have sufficient value to make the claim.

    That said, so far we keep doing as so many are doing, falling back into the how miserable it all is so let’s define misery as the new norm. We throw up our hands and nothing gets done.

    It will be smart for the industry to step up to letting go of micro managing copyright and macro managing copiers who egregiously and spectacularly violate existing law. Here is where you go past the line, Fentex: registered copyrights are still very much the law and regardless of the means of affixing the claim, litigable. There is plenty of law for doing that just as there is for prosecuting adulterers where such prosecution yields desired ends such as in a divorce, another domain of promises made and held to account. The aggrieved is within their rights to smartly overlook small indiscretions (quit chasing ladies making wedding videos and kids making mix tapes) and to do otherwise when it is time to cut losses.

    And again, if there is enough money to make it worth it, go after the non-nationally-restricted offenders with everything technology services have to offer. One would not like to resort to such means but they required no invention. Just a gang of servers and fast reliable pipes.

  8. JTMcPhee says:

    Re “I told you so:”

    Great, the stock market (with what I read is pretty thin participation by a relatively few well-equipped players) is on the way up. And that says what, again, about “the economy,” where we are supposed to be happy that our fellow Nacerimas are once again succumbing to the take-it-home-and-maybe-pay-for-it-later scamming of retailers, car dealers, banks/card issuers, and the rest? Did I read that there’s a thrust to get the Fed more involved in pumping mortgage loans, in the hopes of re-inflating the real estate market?

    And what is U-6, again? http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts Our fucking scammer Governator Sick Rott down here is claiming that his policies of screw-the-weak are “responsible” for a blip below 10% U-3. Right. He’s got his, by stealing from Medicare and Medicaid, and is getting more, and his “people” are teaching him how to look a little less like some childhood nightmare and take advantage of a well-cultured, widespread cultural amnesia.

    Taken a drive through any of the less-blessed areas of Orange County lately, or Detroit? Many Americans are doing what people do — busting their humps to make a life for themselves and their families. “Innovating” economic activity that creates new economic activity and that sickest of all scamwords, “recovery.” And the players in the Casino are still generating “notional dollar values” of counterfeit money in the hundreds of trillions, and all of that “economic activity” is predicated on the real Joe the Plumbers creating enough REAL wealth and trade to pay off their fucking markers.

    I dearly love being told by the person who “manages my Dumb 5-Figure Money” that I need to “stay exposed to risk;” he is ashamed enough not to call it “stay invested in the market” any more. And that I should be happy that in the downs I have, thanks to careful stewardship of rent-collecting funds, “lost less than the market as a whole.”

    One of my dockmates used to play on the Chi Board of Trade. Maybe he’s blowing smoke, but he described the self-dealing scams that characterize that play, on what is long since no more a hedging place for agricultural interests (and which actually, back in the day, was a felony to take part in until it was made, like so much else, “not illegal”) but just another manipulable casino, like holding orders from the “dentists” (the shorthand for “dumb money”) to drop bid prices, buying for the traders’ accounts, then executing near the high, doing shorts and other stuff that’s way beyond me, and selling (Somebody apparently would shout “It’s time to screw the dentists!”) on the drop. I’m just so sure that nothing like that is part of the current “financial industry.” And of course, in Papoworgonland, it’s all my own fault for not playing the game well.

    Oh hell, who cares?

  9. len says:

    Oh hell, who cares?

    You do. Admirable. On the other hand… once upon a time

    The HeadCro sat rubbing his jaw bruised in the discussion with HeadThal about how much of the limited cold cave space would be allotted to bison meat vs all other fruits and vegetables. It was the same discussion every year: the Cros wanted to put more of the latter in the cave because every year they had more Cros and they knew they could get the younger cros through a longer winter with fruits and vegetables, and the Thals knew, being bigger and stronger, they needed more meat to hunt further in the winter and bring home more meat to keep them able to hunt further. Being the bigger and stronger, the Thals usually won this argument and as a result, more cros perished and so did thals but not as many thals and those that survived were stronger come the spring hunt.

    This season was different. The cro women told the HeadCro that the red birds were building nests earlier and bigger. The cro scouts told the HeadCro that fewer bison were munching in the meadow this year. The croCaveKeeper told the HeadCro the freezing cave was full of rotted meat that had to be cleared before much more of anything could be put in the cave.

    Last year the cros has discovered a smaller freezing cave and kept that secret. The cro women were stealthily putting fruits and vegetables into it to keep the cro children healthy in case the thals did as they always did and demanded more freezing cave space. This year there wasn’t enough usable room left in the main cave for the meat demanded and this would mean the cros couldn’t store as much fruits and vegetable much less the additional stores required.

    The HeadCro instructed the gathering cros to fill the secret cave to the brim and only put enough in the other to keep up with appearances. Under no circumstances was the bad meat at the back to be removed. The thals could put as much meat at the front as they could haul.

    And it went that collecting season with the thals sure they had dominated the weak cros by the amount of bison they were stacking telling stories about how hard and glorious the hunt was that year, how far they had run, how many of them had perished fighting killing the bisons, and occasionally, how many more they had to drag back because this season’s bison were smaller. They told these stories until the early and strangely long lasting snows began that season.

    It was dark, the time when the sun came up late and bedded early. In the cro cave, the HeadCro was painting his favorite hand on the cave wall when he was approached by an elder female cro who told him that the smell from the main freezer cave was so bad that they could no longer bear to go near it. Also she said a thal woman who did get meat from it told her of many sick thal men some of whom had died after eating the meat from the cave. She asked the HeadCro if she could share some of the fruits and vegetables from the secret cave with the thal women to feed their young. The HeadCro rubbed his almost mended jaw and said to her,

    “Tell the thal women that their sickly young can come live with the Cro for the winter and be tended.”

    The elder cro woman then asked, “And the sickly men?”

    The HeadCro smiled and said, “Let the dum dums die.”

    It doesn’t take many seasons of dumb to extinguish a branch of willful dum-dums.

  10. JTMcPhee says:

    len, I’d worry less if the cros did not regularly spawn still sharper (not “smarter,” in the species- or even tribal-survival sense) and less moral cros, who pay lip service to the “old ways and old god(esse)s” while figuring out how to sucker the old folks into betting on the outcome of the next harvest and hunt.

    Maybe even some of the thal kids “taken in,” as they say, by the cros wanting proto-slaves with big muscles and clumsy cognition to go out and kill them saberteeth and cave bears, and conquer the False Cros in the next valley and take their women and children and put the males to the sword and grab all the stuff from THEIR freezing cave, thals with mutations to the frontal cortex and limbic system, would even grow up to be leaders of Voluntary Associations that put weapon production on a “line” basis and “made a killing” selling atl-atls and longbows and stuff to the Minutemen of pre-linear time… on both sides of the mountain.

    How do you say “I got mine, fuck you!” in cro?

  11. Fentex says:

    Doctorow’s position is technically right yet morally indefensible and socially naive.

    I don’t tihnk it proper to insult Cory doctorow o the basis of a quote I may ascribed to him that I may or may not have been accurate with nor, and I think more importantly, by ascribing a position not taen in the quote anyway.

    Noting a fact is not taking a political position. Facts are ammoral things. Actions and choices are the realm of ethics and morality.

    It is the observation that laws which have no hope of being perfectly effective still succeed because of social acceptance that suggests new arrangements of law are required for the new digital markets.

    What is made law must be in line with social norms, and the concept of absolute ownership of all expression excluding reuse, reformatting and remixing is not a social norm.

    At the very least any effort to forbid and outlaw copying of complete works must be divorced from provisions that conflate such appropriation with personal expression through reuse, reshaping and reforming of media if there is to be any hope of public cooperation with authority.

    With regards to my quoting Cory Doctorow, for the record and so readers can judge for themselves what he said and meant, I hunted down what I was recalling. This transcript of a speech titled “The Coming War on General Computation” gave includes the phrase “Here, 2011, this is as hard as copying will get!”. It’s a speech about his expectation that the utility of general purpose computers will be attacked for being problematic in efforts to restrict their activities.

    Incidentally he makes a point that copyright law is so badly formed because poiticians don’t really care about it as not being that important among the many issues that confront them.

  12. len says:

    @jtmc: They defended their genes. What their heirs may do they may not know. The point is when smart solutions are answered by bullying for advantage, there are many responses. Some hang their head in woe is me and mine and say it is what it is. Others keep their eyes up, their minds calm and work the problem. Collaboration is best but when collaboration is denied or met by bullying where a peaceful means is freely available, then one had best suit up or slide out. That choice is the nut of freedom.

    @fen: I’m long farmiliar with Cory Doctorow’s positions. He has my respect for his aims but as we are socially directed animals, some times the most logical means are not the means that work. See paragraph above. For all the inevitabilities discussed, most are as we’ve all said, answered with good law; yet a law not respected is a law that requires a means of enforcement. The jurisdictional authority as user of means over resrources has not and will not be changed by the advent of technology. The means change.

    Within the US jurisdiction, the US can and should innovate on means of ensuring that creators of intellectual properties and their assignees profit fairly in both local sales and those sales regulated through export. If digital theft of property erodes the capacity of the nation members to rightly profit, then innovative means of stopping that erosion should be sought out and made available as a national expenditure.

    If the state doesn’t collaborate with the creators of wealth on the protection of wealth, then the state ceases to be a governing body, it is an occupying body. A parasite.

    To cases though: since this permathread circles the same domains most of the time, I’d be curious to hear the real cases of these legendary megastars that are hand to mouthing it across the world and find out just how pitiful this is. Really. Because real stories with real interviews carry social weight. No one in the public cares about the labels. Really. Too many tales of the excesses of the past leaves the them rather unsympathetic. It’s a zeitgeist communion meme. If the sunny side of the street has become a hard knocks trip, maybe that’s a story worth reading about but only if the people are recognizable because otherwise, it’s just the story of people who didn’t make it. Second raters.

    Sad but so.

  13. len says:

    Can a Google YouTube channel be willed to heirs?

    If I were collecting adSense from Google, my YouTube channel would be worth about 3500 US based on 1US per 1000 downloads. Chicken feed yes. Yet the curve peaks up and doubles about every two years and shows acceleration. Not hits yet a steady pulling function that grows over time.

    If all I managed was to pay for my great grandchildren’s education, wouldn’t that be worth it if it was fun to do? I ask because Morgan asked “why should art cost money” to which I reply because even digital brushes cost if the paint is free. Yes, art costs and art should be recompensed. I think that the real red herring reasonable people do not disagree on. The question is what are the revenue sources and how are they managed and assigned. We’ve discussed lots of models. I’m pointing out a potential consequence of one if the contracts are honored. Now let’s ALL call our lawyers.

    And we’re right back in the canyon playing for free and profit. Good times.

  14. Stain says:

    Why should anything cost money? Why do diamonds cost so much money? We have slave labor all over he world producing oil for us. If those slaves were paid a dollar an hour, a gallon of gasoline would cost $200.

  15. Stain says:

    By the way, that is without doubt, the stupidest question ever asked. Why should art cost money! It doesn’t cost anything to make! What Philistine asks this question? Perhaps a crude attempt at being a provocateur.

  16. Stain says:

    Oh, and an artist’s time is certainly worth nothing. Why should an artist get paid for his time? And if he were to be paid, what would the pay scale be- that of a city worker, a CEO of Citibank, a teacher, a waiter, a lawyer, a mid level Google employee? What contribution to the society do artists make?

    Art should be free.

  17. Alex Bowles says:

    @Jon Taplin I hadn’t thought about it like that. Presently, it seems like I can get access – paid or otherwise – to just about any finished media, and can do anything with it that skill and patience allow. Given a broadband connection running FinalCut, Photoshop, and Garage Band people can do an awful lot already. Add cameras and microphones to the mix, and they can blend media from their own lives with these streams. Given the generally non-commercial nature of this activity, there’s no practical need for them to worry about permissions. So naturally, they don’t. Indeed, I doubt more than 1% of the population has even heard of synchronization rights, for instance. And they certainly can’t be compelled to care; not when their only interest is adding some background music to a slideshow from a friend’s baby shower.

    These cats are way out the bag. And as the civil rights folks so accurately note, efforts to expand centralized copyright control into the guts of our computers, hard-drives, and datastreams is trojan horse of truly threatening proportions. As the SOPA/PIPA smackdown indicated, there are still firm limits to how many civil liberties Congress can cell off to the highest bidder. So those particular cats are going to say un-bagged.

    This creates an intolerable situation in which the law is widely and routinely ignored, and some really rough spots where enforcement is arbitrary at best, and just insane in others. Inevitably, the whole concept of IP will be regarded with growing suspicion, and I think that’s a very unhealthy development.

    In terms of sustaining a vibrant creative culture, copyright remains both useful and necessary; especially at the professional level where the work that people really value gets done. Given that nearly every truly significant creative form involves the aggregation of copyrights, the system remains indispensable to any commercially viable collaborative art. And given, too, the commercial distribution (e.g. movie theaters, retail environments, advertising supported channels) isn’t going to disappear, copyright remains central to this trade as well.

    What I find interesting is that there seems to be a relatively fixed amount of money that people spend on entertainment. Sure, they may be pirating music, but they’re not spending the savings on groceries. Instead, they’re buying video games, or concert tickets, or subscription services. Presently, an enormous amount of this still gets syphoned off by the middlemen, who simultaneously degrade the audience experience while devaluing the talent – both by neglecting long-term career development and by limiting creative freedom.

    If these guys were able to focus on delivering the best experience for the audience’s money while supporting the artistic growth of genuine talent, then they wouldn’t viewed as negatively as they are today. But that balancing act seems hard to maintain in a world dominated by quarterly earning statements, and “pressure from the Street.”

    In truth, the core of the culture is no place for diversified conglomerates. Big companies are fine, as long as they’re focused. But when the same people making movies are also building jet engines or running cruise ships, then something suffers. Looking beyond any particular, technology, law, or cultural norm, I think we need to start by considering the amount of money people that people readily spend, accept that this isn’t going to vary by much, then concentrate on getting inappropriate middlemen out of the trade. After all, their interest is in extracting cash from the culture and parking it elsewhere, not keeping money circulating within it.

    That’s not to say that middlemen vanish altogether. Indeed, their positions can be exceptionally valuable to the health of the ecosystem. But a solid 70% of what people spend should be going to writers, artists, composers, producers, and performers directly. 30% for the middlemen is a fair trade – and this ought to come from channels where people spend freely and willingly.

    I haven’t thought about this enough to have any solid ideas about how we get there. But knowing where you want to go is an important first step. And if the question is “how do people get properly paid?” the first thing to discuss is the money.

  18. Alex Bowles says:

    Oh, and speaking of synchronization rights, I’m not sure anyone sane want to live in a world where this is a crime.

  19. len says:

    when the same people making movies are also building jet engines or running cruise ships, then something suffers

    Not exactly. The same people are doing that. Except not for money. As you note, almost anything in terms of tools you can get. Just as the four tracks opened up songwriters to get good recording chops, chops have followed that curve.

    The money is not about the chops. The money is about the money. And that’s the nut of this: it is the big money players who are taking the beating. C’est vrai.

    Entertainment differs from building jet engines in that one is a form of gambling more than the other. Where gamblers are losing, they quit betting and that seems to be the unsaid part of the conversation. As digital media becomes less easily gamed for large returns, the whales go elsewhere unless they are also in love with the chops, the patrons if you like.

    So the money still comes down to the fans, If you want the fans to get involved, you have to go through the artists. Ooopsie.

  20. len says:

    Good speech. Predictable response. Hammer Obama with being a big promise maker. Obama gets to claim what he did and they get to say it wasn’t the whole enchilada. A draw.

    Gingrich will run against Obama by looking and sounding presidential. Obama will run for the office by being Presidential.

    I am salivating for the debates. The IQ Debates: two very shrewd, polished, intelligent and supremely ambitious punters step up to the podiums each determined to convince us they are the One. and the Other is not.

  21. JTMcPhee says:

    Meanwhile, most of us will be watching cop shows for our faux fix of “justice done,” or Faux News on any of several channels and networks, or Tivo’d episodes of “Reba” or “So You Think You Can Dance,” moments of “content” as zwieback between thick slabs of rotted red meat served up by SuperPAC money in the form of “agitprop,” the stuff that will really, actually, ultimately bring our Yeoman Farmers and Trailer Trash to being ready to decide who the Decider In Chief will be. If the Supremes don’t do a reprise in some narrow crack…

    Sure has seemed to me that the SOTU and the various “debates,” and even our sacred hallowed “elections,” are a lot of sideshow acts in a carnival where, as always, the goal is to separate the rubes from their money… “Step right up, ladies and gents — $10’ll get you $20, $20’ll get you $40… Win one for the little lady, big fella?”

  22. len says:

    ahma enjoya uv da drama, mc. ya gots to love theatre. be a playa? neva agin. be a maka? aw da time.

  23. len says:

    @morgan: when ya think of it, all the stuff we’ve been pushing into virtual space, no wonder it’s pushing back.

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