A Response To Scott Adams: I'll Trade You Your Underpants Analogy For A Truckload Of Vegetables

from the hi-Scott! dept

Perfect timing. I've been trying to come up with my latest post in my series on economics when scarcity is removed on some products, and it seems that Scott Adams of Dilbert fame wants to help me out. Earlier this week, I posted about Adams' unconvincing views on how copyright violations really were equivalent to theft using a really weak analogy involving underpants. Apparently, my post caught his attention and he's now responded on his blog, buttering me up by calling me eloquent before trying to defend his underpants analogy and throwing an occasional insult in my direction. Multiple people have noted in the comments that Adams apparently uses his blog to make ridiculous arguments just to see how people respond to them, and that this is clearly one of those cases. That may be true, but a number of the points he raises are often raised by others in discussing the economics of infinite goods -- so it's worth digging a little deeper into them.

First off, it wouldn't surprise me if it's true that Adams doesn't really believe or care about the argument he's making. One of my favorite bits of Adams' writing came many years ago when he described a debating technique he hated, which can basically be called the truckload of vegetables argument. I'm such a fan of it, that I've invoked it in the past. It basically describes people who extrapolate out your position to a ridiculous extreme to try to prove you wrong, while also making up ridiculous analogies and then jump to the wrong conclusion when you point out their analogy isn't at all accurate. Now go read Adams' latest post again, and you'll notice that he extrapolates my argument out to an extreme, brushes off the fact that his analogy wasn't even remotely accurate and then jumps to the wrong conclusion about what I said. Scott, I think you're eating a truckload of vegetables here.

He notes that the critique of the underpants analogy is meaningless, because no analogy is perfect, otherwise it's not an analogy. That's clever, but wrong. It's like the question of whether or not you can make a perfectly accurate map -- and you realize that the only perfectly accurate map is the world you're actually living in. However, we're not discussing imperfections from simplifying. We're discussing the fact that the analogy isn't actually an analogy at all. That is, it's not an analogous situation -- and therefore, it doesn't prove or model anything. Sure, analogies can be imperfect, but they at least need to be analogous.

Next, he clarifies a point that I misunderstood. I dinged him for using underpants as an example because it brought out an emotional response (people think it's gross to wear someone else's underpants, or to think that someone might be wearing their underpants). Adams basically says that emotional response was his point. People have the same emotional response to others making use of their copyrighted works. That's a fair statement, but it's also totally unrelated to what he was trying to prove (that copyright infringement was the same thing as theft). In order to do that you have to show that there's an actual loss involved -- but what he actually showed was that someone may get emotionally upset. Tragically, making someone emotionally upset isn't yet against the law -- and even if it is, it's quite different than theft. Being emotionally upset may suck, but it's usually a part of life.

Then we get to the meat of his argument: he experimented with letting people download one of his books for free and it didn't help sales. Thus, we've got proof that downloading doesn't equal promotion. This probably seems convincing... but it's still wrong. The problem is that he was promoting the wrong thing. Too many people assume (and Adams seems to fall into this camp as well), that when we suggest people use "free" as a promotional effort, that it means that's the end of the strategy. You simply give stuff away and somehow, at the other end, you simply expect people to give you money. When that doesn't happen, they insist that free isn't a good way to promote.

What we (and others) are actually saying is that you need to recognize what things should be free and what those things should be promoting (and how to promote with it). That's why we've been talking about understanding the economic nature of the bundle of benefits that make up any good. The fact that Adams was unable to sell more books by giving away free downloads just means he (or his publisher) failed to use the free promotion properly to entice people to buy the actual book and failed to make the book valuable as a separate purchase from the free download. He didn't add enough value to the book above and beyond the download. That doesn't mean that free isn't promotional, it just means that Adams used the promotion incorrectly.

After that Adams goes into full insult mode, basically saying that anyone who disagrees with him couldn't possibly have advanced education in business or economics (apparently, I should give back my degrees)... and then proceeds to completely confuse the economics of his own statements. He, like many others, seems to think that using free goods for promotional purposes is somehow a "socialist" idea: "I think a reasonable person can dislike capitalism and wish for a more socialist world where art is free for all takers." Unfortunately for Adams, that's not what we're saying at all. We're pretty strong believers in capitalism and free markets -- it's just that capitalism and free markets recognize that price gets driven to marginal cost, even if that marginal cost is zero. It's difficult to understand how people believe that a gov't granted and backed monopoly is somehow more capitalistic than letting the free market and the laws of supply and demand accurately set price.

So, whether or not Adams is just acting as a professional troll, it's time that people started to actually think about issues involved in copyrights. That means stop making bad analogies. Stop making bad assumptions. Stop getting confused by the importance of free. Stop focusing on the emotional arguments rather than the rational ones. Stop assuming that "free" is somehow anti-capitalist. Start understanding how to use free effectively as a promotional tool (which Adams has done at other times, whether on purpose or not). Start understanding the business models that are enabled by free, and start recognizing how those business models actually expand rather than shrink your market. Then, perhaps, we can have a serious discussion about the issues of copyright and whether or not infringement is really the problem (emotionally, legally or economically) that Adams seems to think it is. So, how about it, Scott? Can we agree to get rid of the truckload of vegetables?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Chris, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:17pm

    My comment

    I left this on Adam's blog

    "Mr. Adams,

    Perhaps the reason you didn't have success with the free release of your book is because you failed to make the physical copy more valuable. You need to add content to make it more valuable. Think of it this way, if you offer just the book for free, thats great. But if you offer the text of the book for free, but make it so if you buy the book you get something extra, like a CD with extra content, or a free calendar. Failure to add content is why your trial failed.
    Check out http://www.xkcd.com
    The owner of that site releases all of his comics under a Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.5/) and make no money off of the comics themselves, but makes a majority of his income off of the T-Shirts with his comics on them.
    That is the kind of additional content that I am talking about"

     

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    Chris, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:29pm

    Truckload of vegetables

    You might want to update the link so it isn't a text file
    http://www.student.uni-oldenburg.de/frerich.raabe/fun/debatingtechnique.html
    works and is a html file

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:31pm

    whineing garbage

    There was a time when techdirt was efficiently worded and went to some trouble to avoid engaging pointless personal animosity.
    I see that's all changed, this kind of think is not worth the effort of reading.

     

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    Nasty Old Geezer, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:40pm

    Can we work on one idea at a time?

    One idea is that the owner (via copyright, or whatever) CHOOSES to give away rights to use a particular IP. It is their intangible property, and may be used as they see fit. If Scott Adams tried it, and did not like the results -- well, either try again with a different approach and see if it works. Or, don't try again -- your choice (note the word).

    Another idea is that the IP owner CHOOSES to require payment in advance and/or set restrictions on the use of their intangible property. If I use that IP without paying, I have stolen from them just as surely as if I took money out of their wallet.

    Note the important word CHOOSE. That is the key to keeping these concepts stright. Taking without/against permission = theft. Offering a thing for free in a marketing campaign = marketing.

    OK? Glad we cleared that up.

     

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    Cixelsid, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:47pm

    Hooray!

    Once again reason conquers over frivolity.

     

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    knome, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:48pm

    Theft?

    Theft of the power granted by the implicit copy-right monopoly upon ones works, arguably. But not theft of the content.

     

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    Whining Spelled Right, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:49pm

    Applause

    I thought this was a well-written article that took advantage of a perfect opportunity to dismantle many of the common arguments rolled out by what I like to call "the industry" for the sake of convenience. (Despite the fact that it isn't just the companies that uses these arguments).

    I don't think this was a personal animosity thing at all. Yes, it was a long article, but it hit many of the individual points that the regular TechDirt articles make on a daily basis. Now, instead of standing around trying to educate people who throw out the same lame analogies and mistaken beliefs one after the other, I can just send them this article and save myself a lot of time.

     

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    RandomThoughts, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:50pm

    "(that copyright infringement was the same thing as theft). In order to do that you have to show that there's an actual loss involved -- "

    Hell, I am not sure who said that, but its wrong. You don't have to show an actual loss.

    Your car is sitting in your driveway at night. You go to sleep. I carry away your car without damage, without adding wear and tear. I return it before you wake up. Did I steal your car? According to the law I did, even if you don't care, I broke the law.

     

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    Cixelsid, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 2:59pm

    Shit

    I wonder if this will become a regular thing, like every week Mike and Scott can take pot shots at each other and then once a year have an all out flame war on an open fourm. An all out blog mashing sweat pouring blood spilling bone crunching flaming session between Scott and Mike.

    SUNDAY!
    SUNDAY!
    SUNDAY!!!

    GET READY FOR THE AWESOMETS GRUESOMEST INTENSEST BLOG FIGHT EVER WITNESSED ON THE FACE OF THE BLOGOSPHERE. MIKE VS SCOTT!!! WHO WILL REMAIN TYPING WHEN THESE TWO TITANS MEET? YOU WONT KNOW IF YOU MISS IT! SO DONT YOU GEEK!

     

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    James, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:02pm

    I think Scott is confused

    I access the latest dilbert everyday for a chuckle for FREE on the web, and from what I can tell he sanctions that.

    To my knowledge dilbert books, mugs, etc. etc. haven't disappeared due to this giving away of content.

    I will add this.. from what I can tell he's intelligent and has a shrewd sense of humor so he could be totally pulling your leg Mike.

     

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    DCX2, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:04pm

    XKCD

    XKCD rocks. Definitely the best webcomic I've ever read in my entire life.

    On a side-note, I would like to point out that Mike is FAR less inflammatory than Adams was in his blog post. Kudos for being level-headed, Mike.

     

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    JerryL, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:06pm

    Free Book Thing?

    Scott gave away an e-book trying to promote it's sequel. The promotion didn't work becuase the sequel didn't sell very well. I'm wondering what promotional ideas might have worked better?

    Also, I thought the first book sucked so I had no interest in the second. Could it just have been poor content?

    I also want to know, if copyright violation isn't stealing, what is it? I know I've seen this stated here before, but I'm to lazy to look for it.

    jerry

     

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    CodeRedEd, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:13pm

    Re:

    Your car is sitting in your driveway at night. You go to sleep. I carry away your car without damage, without adding wear and tear. I return it before you wake up. Did I steal your car? According to the law I did, even if you don't care, I broke the law

    That is correct. But in copying a file the more correct analogy would be. Your car is sitting in your driveway. I come in and make an exact duplicate of your car without disturbing anything on your car. I drive away. You wake up and you not only don't care, you don't even know that I did it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Free Book Thing?

    Copyright infringement is copyright infringement. It is it's own violation. Just like theft is theft, murder is murder, and rape is rape.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowling_v._United_States

    The infringer of a copyright does not assume physical control over the copyright nor wholly deprive its owner of its use. Infringement implicates a more complex set of property interests than does run-of-the-mill theft, conversion, or fraud.

     

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    John, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:15pm

    Funny

    It's funny that Dilbert is a huge recipient of the benefits of "stolen" items. How many times have you seen a copy of a Dilbert strip on a co-workers desk, thought it was funny, and read the strip on the web or in the paper? Isn't that the whole idea? People love Dilbert. They "illegally" copy the strip and post it in their cubicle. Other people see it and want more of it so they read it in the newspaper, online, or buy a book/calendar/mug of it. Scott Adams wins!

     

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    Andy, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:15pm

    Will rational discussion put the asses in the seats, so the speak, at Adams' blog? It does here, that's why I keep coming back, but it doesn't necessarily translate into clicks.

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:23pm

    Re:


    Hell, I am not sure who said that, but its wrong. You don't have to show an actual loss.


    Er. Yes. You do. That's theft. Something needs to be missing for theft to have occurred.

    Your car is sitting in your driveway at night. You go to sleep. I carry away your car without damage, without adding wear and tear. I return it before you wake up. Did I steal your car? According to the law I did, even if you don't care, I broke the law.

    Yes, you stole the car, because it was missing for that period of time. There was a loss. The fact that you returned it later is a different issue, but during hte time you took the car, you stole it.

    That's quite different from copyright infringement where you see someone's car in a driveway, and then click a button and get an exact replica. In that case, there's no loss at all. Is that stealing?

     

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    Gino, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:46pm

    I think it'd be more accurate if you built the car yourself and someone instantly made an exact copy of it and drove away. Not saying it's stealing, but it sucks.

     

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    nonuser, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 3:59pm

    an economics nit

    capitalism and free markets recognize that price gets driven to marginal cost, even if that marginal cost is zero.

    That's not how I remember Economics 101, from longer ago than I'd like to admit. Each firm sets output so that their marginal revenue equals their marginal cost (MR = MC, not P = MC). For a monopolist, each additional unit produced has two effects on marginal revenue: a positive one (because more units are sold) and a negative one (since the price has to be lowered a bit to move the entire lot, and that decrease affects the profitability of each unit sold, not just the last one). But the resulting equilibrium price is generally above MC: that's how the monopolist makes his profits.

    And yes, copyrighted materials such as books, audio recordings, movies, and paintings can be modelled by a large number of individual monopolies, at least for "name" artists or producers who have at attracted a following for their distinctive output. Straight-ahead rock 'n roll rooted in the British Invasion and American R&B music of the 60's and 70's, might be a low cost commodity product available from many essentially undifferentiated sellers. But the market for recordings by the Rolling Stones is not. Ditto for Scott Adams' cartoon strips. This doesn't mean there are no substitutes for what they produce. If the price of a Stones CD went up to $60, rather few would be sold - just as there are makeshift substitutes for Microsoft's desktop operating system and for what the local cable company sells, too.

     

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    Alex Hagen, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 4:20pm

    Straw men everywhere.

    First of all, he is not buttering you up, he is insulting you from the get-go. And then he destroys your arguments, which you ignore, and then he raises a bunch of new ones, which you ignore.

    For instance, he is not complaining about people not buying the book he gave away for free, he is complaining about people not buying the SEQUEL, i.e. it's exactly the scenario you like to push, using free stuff to draw people in to buy non-free stuff. He tried it, it didn't work. You just ignore that point, did your reading comprehension completely fail you or are your purposely misrepresenting his statements?

    And you quote his line "I think a reasonable person can dislike capitalism and wish for a more socialist world where art is free for all takers.", without quoting the second part: "But a reasonable person can’t expect that a socialist world would produce nearly as much art", which is the important part. It's what I have been saying for a while, and a point you have completely failed to give an answer for. When IP is all free, what motivation is there to create new art? That's just basic economics.

    I think you pretty convincingly lost this round Mike.

     

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    Randomly Surfing, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 4:36pm

    Good Advice

    Never engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

     

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    NAMOWREPUS, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 4:39pm

    stupid

    boy you talk a lot...too bad it's all fluff and crap...I can't make it through the first two sentences without almost falling asleep...Adams' material may not be perfect but it's INTERESTING.......and it's a BLOG...who the FRICK cares if it's correct or not...sheesh get a hobby you loser. Oh yeah...and you were the one that ripped on him first...pissant.

     

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    Dan, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 4:42pm

    Promoting incorrectly

    You make the statement that Scott "used the promotion incorrectly". Now I'm confused. I thought it was that he had the promotion backward.

    He encourages the free distribution of his comic (the non-scarce item) to promote his books (the scarce item). He wouldn't have sold as many books without the comics, and anyone who wants to keep all the comics is going to buy the books instead of printing them all.

    Isn't that what you have been talking about? I had thought it was (and made that comment in scott's blog).

    This type of situation is "analogous" to the music labels allowing free file sharing of videos to promote CD's, itune sales, and concerts, isn't it?

     

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    rEdEyEz, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 4:46pm

    Borrowed Bloomers

    The business case SA describes, "giving away an e-book, with the HOPES that his 'customers' will purchase a printed sequel," is ludicrous, and has nothing to do with his analogy (fallacy).

    D-bert product(s) comparison:

    e-book vs. real book
    free vs. purchased
    original vs. sequel

    This is just a case of flawed logic and shitty marketing.

    ...different mediums, DIFFERENT products.

    Would an automobile manufacturer give away a base-model auto, in the hopes that "if you liked it, you would rush out to buy next year's fully loaded model?"

    He needs to rethink his business model, not complain about copyright issues.

     

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    PopeRatzo, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 4:49pm

    I think the question is how much money should an artist make from any given idea. Someone who writes a "one-hit wonder" in 1972 probably shouldn't expect to live richly for the rest of his life from that one work.

    Another question I find fascinating when it comes to intellectual property, is whether an artist or innovator should be able to sell the rights to his work. The problems that have arisen in the IP world usually come not from an artist losing out, but from the conglomerate that owns the "publishing rights" to the artist's work. Again, how rich should a company expect to get from a few songs written 30 years ago. Or a comic strip.

    As an artist who makes his living from his work, I suggest that copyrights should last for about 10 years, max, and should NOT be transferable to anyone but the artist or innovator. Should the grandson of the guy who wrote the "one-hit wonder" expect to be rich for all his life from that one idea?

    The notion that "Intellectual Property" insures continuing innovation is bogus. It's long past that point. I'm betting that if the entire IP house of cards collapsed tomorrow, there would still be music, books and movies.

    Maybe Justin Timberlake would no longer be able to make a bundle, but innovators would find a way to innovate and make a living from it. That's what they do, after all.

    Personally, I work from commission only. I get paid once and the buyer has all rights to the work, except the right to say he made it (and if he did it would lessen the value anyway).

    I'm even betting that if IP disappeared tomorrow, there would still be a publishing and recording industry. They might not be the multi-billion dollar industries they are today, but let's face it, what have they done to deserve billions in the first place?

    Mr. Adams, I know it's scary to think of the little incubator that you publishing setup has become going away, but trust your abilities. If you're good, you'll still make a living.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Straw men everywhere.

    Your argument in the second paragraph misses Mike's point. Mike was saying that Adams dismisses the entire premise based on this particular instance. "He tried it, it didn't work." No one's arguing that point, but Adams made the statement to the effect that that proves free promo material doesn't work. No, it didn't work in this case, and maybe he didn't do it right.

    The last point you make asking why create new art? Simple. If you want to make money, make canned soup. The purpose of art isn't to make money.

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Straw men everywhere.

    First of all, he is not buttering you up, he is insulting you from the get-go. And then he destroys your arguments, which you ignore, and then he raises a bunch of new ones, which you ignore.

    Heh. I always forget that sarcasm doesn't translate well to HTML. I was being sarcastic about the "buttering up" part.

    However, I don't see how I ignored any of his arguments. Please point out which ones I ignore and I'll respond to them.

    For instance, he is not complaining about people not buying the book he gave away for free, he is complaining about people not buying the SEQUEL, i.e. it's exactly the scenario you like to push, using free stuff to draw people in to buy non-free stuff. He tried it, it didn't work.

    Hmm. You seem to have misinterpreted what I wrote (or perhaps I just haven't explained very clearly). I do not say you randomly use "free stuff A" to promote "non-free stuff B". I am saying that you use the infinite good A that *enhances the value of non-scarce good B* to sell B. But if you just offer one thing free and assume it will automatically increase the value of any other thing, you're going to discover a problem.

    As many people have pointed out, the reason the sequel didn't sell well was because it wasn't very good and it wasn't what people wanted to hear from Scott Adams. The fact that it didn't sell well doesn't even remotely show how the use of free fails.

    It just shows that if people don't want what you're selling, you won't be able to sell it.

    And you quote his line "I think a reasonable person can dislike capitalism and wish for a more socialist world where art is free for all takers.", without quoting the second part: "But a reasonable person can’t expect that a socialist world would produce nearly as much art", which is the important part. It's what I have been saying for a while, and a point you have completely failed to give an answer for. When IP is all free, what motivation is there to create new art? That's just basic economics.

    Well, there are a variety of problems in what you write above, and I find it amusing that you first insult my reading comprehension ability and then completely misinterpret nearly every thing I've written on the subject. That's impressive, honestly.

    The reason I didn't include the second part is because he was talking about socialist policies, and I am not. I'm talking about free market capitalism, so it seemed like there was no point in discussing what happens in a socialist society.

    However, if you are claiming (as you appear to be) that making IP free in a capitalist society fewer goods are produced, you are very, very mistaken. You claim I've never responded to that point and I respond to it all the time.

    I've pointed to plenty of research on the subject. I've pointed to what happened in the Netherlands and Switzerland when they went without patents. I've pointed to the situation in the Italian pharmaceutical industry when there was no patents for pharmaceuticals. Under your theory, there should have been less economic development in those areas, but the evidence showed that there was actually more.

    You claim that there's "no motivation" to create without IP, but that's simply false -- and something I've addressed repeatedly. There's plenty of motivation if you set up the right business model. The problem is if you think the only business model is to sell the content directly. Then you'll run into trouble. But if you realize that the content can be bundled with non-scarce goods, then the market actually gets much, much bigger. Because then, the infinite goods act as free promotion. It expands the overall pie.

    So, I'm sorry if I haven't explained this clearly in the past, but I have addressed all these points and I fail to see how I ignored any of Adams' points. I also don't see how you can claim I've never addressed the points you raised when I've addressed them repeatedly.

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:32pm

    Re: Promoting incorrectly

    He encourages the free distribution of his comic (the non-scarce item) to promote his books (the scarce item). He wouldn't have sold as many books without the comics, and anyone who wants to keep all the comics is going to buy the books instead of printing them all.

    His use of the comic to promote his comic books is effective use of promotion.

    However, his use of a free e-book to promote a hardcopy book wasn't. That's because there was little real benefit to buying the actual book. He failed to provide enough value in that book to make it worthwhile to buy.

     

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    ehrichweiss, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:34pm

    Re: Can we work on one idea at a time?

    "If I use that IP without paying, I have stolen from them just as surely as if I took money out of their wallet."

    (from theInquirer.net)
    The notion of copyright infringement as theft was clearly addressed in the 1985 Supreme Court decision of Dowling v. United States. While this case involved hard goods (phonograph records), Justice Harry Blackmun was most certainly speaking of abstract property (copyrights) when he wrote these words in his majority decision overturning Dowling's conviction of interstate transport of stolen property: "(copyright infringement) does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud... The infringer invades a statutorily defined province guaranteed to the copyright holder alone. But he does not assume physical control over copyright; nor does he wholly deprive its owner of its use."

     

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    ehrichweiss, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:36pm

    Re: Random Thoughts is wrong

    "Hell, I am not sure who said that, but its wrong. "

    The people who said that was the Supreme Court of the United States; I've already quoted the appropriate citation so scan above to find it. Sorry buddy, you're the wrong one here.

     

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    ac, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:38pm

    Rose Colored

    Mike, this continues to be a great series of articles, but it borders on polemic if you can't balance your argument by engaging the points made (albeit in this case, weakly) by those with a differing view.

    What if no one can control distribution? What if anything you produce is immediately available everywhere for free? That might sound good to a somewhat obscure blogger (Look mom, I'm famous!), but what about a movie or song where a significant investment might be required?

    You haven't addressed how "0" is a disincentive for creating content and not doing so weakens the points you make.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Can we work on one idea at a time?

    If I use that IP without paying, I have stolen from them just as surely as if I took money out of their wallet.
    You may find this hard to believe, but just because you say so doesn't make it so.

    OK? Glad we cleared that up.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 5:49pm

    Re:

    Your car is sitting in your driveway at night. You go to sleep. I carry away your car without damage, without adding wear and tear. I return it before you wake up. Did I steal your car? According to the law I did, even if you don't care, I broke the law.
    How about this: The next time you are driving around and see someone driving around in a car essentially similar to yours, call the police and report your car stolen (they obviously have a copy of "your" car so they stole it). Then let us know how long it takes you to get out of jail or the psych ward.

     

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  34.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Rose Colored

    it borders on polemic if you can't balance your argument by engaging the points made (albeit in this case, weakly) by those with a differing view.

    I'm sorry you feel this way, but I think I *am* engaging with the points made by those with a differing view. That's why I'm posting them to the blog, making my arguments and then discussing them here in the comments. If I can do more to engage, please let me know.

    What if no one can control distribution?

    That's the point. You don't control the distribution. You let everyone distribute it for you.

    What if anything you produce is immediately available everywhere for free?

    The only things that will immediately be available for free are the things that are infinite in nature -- but, as we've said, all goods are a bundle of scarce and non-scarce things. You use the non-scarce to make the scarce more valuable, and you sell the scarce goods. Name any product and we can start pointing out what's scarce and what's non-scarce in the bundle.

    but what about a movie or song where a significant investment might be required?

    Again, I've addressed this repeatedly in great detail, so maybe I'm missing the point when you say I haven't responded to these things.

    Even though you can find these arguments elsewhere (repeatedly) on the site, I'll go through it again quickly.

    For songs, there are many scarce things attached to a song. It could be a CD. It could be access to the musician. It could be seats at a concert. The list goes on an on, but getting the song itself out there and widely available helps make all of those other things more valuable.

    For movies, you're not selling "the movie" but the experience of going out to the movies. People like "going out" with their friends and going to see a movie on a big screen with a great sound system and comfy chairs (stupidly, the theater industry keeps making the experience worse... but... that's a different issue). That doesn't go away if just the content is available for free. The last Star Wars movie was one of the most heavily downloaded movies ever. It leaked before the movie was even in the theater. But what happened? It had one of the greatest openings ever. People will pay for the experience.

    And, you can continue to add additional value (something we've pointed out repeatedly as well). How about if you go to the movie, you can buy the DVD cheaply afterwards. Or, if you go to the movie, you get entered into a raffle to be an extra in the sequel. You can come up with many many different things to make the incentives to actually pay quite strong -- and none of those things require the content to be locked up. They just require a slight shift in the business model.

    In both cases, you can easily promote for free, and build a bigger market for you to profit from.

    You haven't addressed how "0" is a disincentive for creating content and not doing so weakens the points you make.

    But I have. Over and over and over and over again. Zero is a disincentive only if you don't have a good business model in place that recognizes what is used for promotions and what is actually sold.

    So I'm not sure how it weakens my point until you respond to the many points I've made about why it isn't disincentive.

     

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  35.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 6:42pm

    double negative confusion

    It's difficult to understand how people believe that a gov't granted and backed monopoly is somehow less capitalistic than letting the free market and the laws of supply and demand accurately set price.

    Shouldn't that be "is not less capitalistic"? After all, you are the one trying to point out that it is less capitalistic.

     

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  36.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 6:48pm

    Re: Straw men everywhere.

    ... without quoting the second part: "But a reasonable person can’t expect that a socialist world would produce nearly as much art", which is the important part.

    And which is manifestly wrong. Who says Socialist or Communist societies produce less art? What about Tarkovsky's Solaris movie, based on Stanislaw Lem's novel? What about all the rest of Stanislaw Lem's novels? What about the Russian Ballet? Prokofieff? Shostakovich? The Chinese State Circus?

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Re: Rose Colored

    I *am* engaging with the points made by those with a differing view

    To be clear I agree with most of what you say. Maybe I mean articulate their argument for them (w/o the veggies).

    Name any product and we can start pointing out what's scarce and what's non-scarce in the bundle.

    I agree again; Star Wars merchandise was almost an accident (buy a cardboard box for Xmas, we'll have the action figures available in the Spring). But without any guarantee that the box office would pay for the movie, would Lucas ever gotten the movie made?

    In general, I'm just not as confident that we'll so easily tumble into an eden where abundant non-scarce creates a rich environment to sell scarce. There are plenty of artists I greatly admire and would definitely pay to get an enhanced experience of what they do. We all probably feel that way (including penniless college students downloading all the music they have), but you can't ignore that if a lot of what used to rake in the $$ is now free, the incentive to enter the market is reduced.

    ...or maybe you can argue it. That's all I'm asking you to do: address that. It is the most cogent rebuttal (not that I agree) and I don't feel that you've taken it on directly.

    I hate to introduce another analogy at this point, but liken it to an investment. One can make a lot of money investing in mining minerals, but while the pay-offs may be high, odds are just as good you'll lose every penny you've invested. The safe money goes to treasury bills. A little more risk tolerance? Blue chips. Hasn't the investment profile of intellectual property changed?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    ac, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 6:58pm

    Re: double negative confusion

    Or more succinctly: "that a gov't granted and backed monopoly is somehow more capitalistic than letting the free market..."

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    RandomThoughts, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 6:59pm

    If copyright violation isn't illegal, why can you be sent to jail for it?

     

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  40.  
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    harknell, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 7:15pm

    Outisde of the (physical) box thinking

    One of the big issues involved in this debate comes down to people continually failing to understand that there are way more ways to make money than simply selling the picture, song, movie, etc. In most cases any good company will realize it's the services that actually make money, not the boxed item. Someone asked how you could make money if every movie, song, picture, etc. were immediately free everywhere....well, who made that song, movie, picture, etc? A talented person can easily make money by making speaking appearances, doing concerts, being paid to promote other products. I guarantee that any musician has made way more off concerts, ad promotion for products, or appearing at events than they made off their actual music sales. If people WANT your items then they'll want to be connected to something else you do that WILL make you money if you are creative.

     

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  41.  
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    RandomThoughts, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 7:19pm

    Harknel, do you have a problem with musicians that just want to make a living off of their music because they don't want to do public appearances or doing concerts?

     

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  42.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 7:19pm

    Re: double negative confusion

    Shouldn't that be "is not less capitalistic"? After all, you are the one trying to point out that it is less capitalistic.

    Oops... Fixed. Thanks.

     

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  43.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 7:24pm

    Re:

    Harknel, do you have a problem with musicians that just want to make a living off of their music because they don't want to do public appearances or doing concerts?

    RandomThoughts, you seem to be making the mistaken assumption that because that's one of the more obvious business models, it's the only business model.

    There are other business models that don't necessarily involve public appearances. It could be things like writing custom songs for people or companies. Or it could be charging for access to an online fan club where you agree to chat with fans. Or, it could be selling merchandise over the internet. The list goes on and on.

    However, there's another oddity in your statement, in that once you understand this model, it can also be read as the equivalent of: "do you have a problem with authors that just want to make a living off of their writing because they don't want to publish a book or write for a magazine?" You're basically saying that if someone opts out of a business model we should still pay them.

    Do you have a problem with slackers who want to make a living off their slacking because they don't want to get a job or do anything productive?

     

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  44.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 7:26pm

    Re:

    If copyright violation isn't illegal, why can you be sent to jail for it?

    Did someone say that copyright infringement wasn't against the law? I didn't. I said it wasn't stealing, which it's not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 7:44pm

    IP right and such and art

    Hey Mike, hope you are still reading this because I feel it is a very good point, but it is technically directed at the other fellah.
    Don't recall which, too many comments to even go through and find which one it was.
    But it goes along the lines of removing patents increases innovation and such.
    If it was socialist, and people didn't get money for their stuff, art WOULD be made still.
    For my proof, look at YouTube.
    How many people there get no payment, and how many videos are uploaded daily?
    Granted I know most of that isn't literally art, but technically, it still is.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    ac, Apr 19th, 2007 @ 8:33pm

    Re: IP right and such and art

    Ok, so I go to the health club and record me & my buddies slipping around sideways on treadmills; net investment $20 in day passes, maybe. I risked $20 and I've opened up many avenues for monetizing that minimal investment.

    Who puts the money into T2, SW-ROTJ, whatever. Sure I can make the minimal investment to buy a guitar and play to folks commuting home who throw nickels into my case, but does all art devolve into that because the pool of capital has shrunk to where there's little money to invest?

     

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  47.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 19th, 2007 @ 10:20pm

    Re: Re: IP right and such and art

    Who puts the money into T2, SW-ROTJ, whatever. Sure I can make the minimal investment to buy a guitar and play to folks commuting home who throw nickels into my case, but does all art devolve into that because the pool of capital has shrunk to where there's little money to invest?

    Weird. I already responded to you asking exactly that question just a few posts up:

    http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20070419/014033#c489

    The answer is that the pool of capital doesn't shrink if you understand the business model. In fact, the pool of capital expands because you're increasing the overall size of the market. You do, however, get rid of some inefficiencies in the process.

     

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  48.  
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    Paul, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 3:52am

    This is awesome

    This is awesome.
    Maybe tomorrow Mike can post about how he is not getting along very well with his mom, or any other personal tiffs he gets involved with.

    There is nothing like abusing a public medium to promote private problems.

     

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  49.  
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    Fred Flint, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 4:36am

    Men Loving Goats

    I dunno but I got the impression this morning's Dilbert Blog, which now uses goat fornication as the new example of copyright infringement, just might be directed at Techdirt.

    Or not.... I suppose it's all in your perspective.

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Raymond, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 5:05am

    What's your motivation?

    I don't get it. Alex Hagen, what's your motivation here? What motivates you? A lot of people say that if the money dries up then people won't make art any more. Seriously: how many failing artists are there?

    If your motivation is money you become an economist. If your motivation is art you will do as much art as you have time to spare. And that doesn't need to be fine art either. Painters paint, performers perform, composers compose, writers write and some of these pay well and many of them don't. A lucky few make it big and become rich. Which is the motivation? Art, fame or riches?

    Another type of art is exactly the same except in business model. Engineering, science and other forms of research are considered art by many of the people who do them. Researchers will never make it big or rich unless they do something phenomenal. For most of them it's the pleasure of creating. They get paid for creating specific ideas and convincing people they can create custom things.

    Stephen Hawking is a Rock star of science. His research (or songs) are widely distributed. He gets paid for creating them and for writing books and giving conferences. He will never make money of past publications.

     

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  51.  
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    Cixelsid, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 5:10am

    Re: stupid by NAMOWREPUS

    boy you talk a lot...too bad it's all fluff and crap...I can't make it through the first two sentences without almost falling asleep...Adams' material may not be perfect but it's INTERESTING.......and it's a BLOG...who the FRICK cares if it's correct or not...sheesh get a hobby you loser. Oh yeah...and you were the one that ripped on him first...pissant.

    Dear SUPERWOMAN (god that is lame),

    For you to understand how this works first you must go to school and learn how to read, then you must learn how to eloquently produce an argument, otherwise you're just blowing your empty piehole and nobody gives a shit. And for gods sake, say fuck if you mean fuck. Nobody is going to take you seriously if you're going to yell "frick" everytime you feel a little irate. As for the person who cares who is right or not, you seem to be the one typing that emotionally laden flame response. Get a husband or something.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    ac, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 5:19am

    Re: Re: Re: IP right and such and art

    I don't know that weird was called for and I would say that this is exactly the rose-colored part. You may have opined that there's this huge untapped market of nickels, but back it up with some evidence. Does the long tail just mean we all get a nickel if we post on youtube? That's not the same market as exists today. What we have now is more like the lottery -- for every Brittany, there are 1000's of garage bands that don't make a dime.

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    YouKnowNothing, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 6:15am

    Re: Can we work on one idea at a time?

    "Taking without/against permission = theft."

    True.

    However, COPYING (the important work here is COPY, not TAKE) and DISTRIBUTING without permission of the copyright holder is copyright infringement.

    OK? Glad we cleared that up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    YouKnowNothing, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 6:21am

    Re:

    "Sucking" isn't against the law.

    Although in some cases is should be (e.g. Contemporary Christian music).

     

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  55.  
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    YouKnowNothing, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 6:36am

    Re: Straw men everywhere.

    "When IP is all free, what motivation is there to create new art?"

    Art was created for centuries (nay, millennia) before there was any such notion as "intellectual property." I'm inclined to believe real art (NOT Justin Timberlake, Jackie Collins books, Mission Impossible III, American Idol, etc.) would continue to be created if IP laws ceased to exist, simply because real artists feel compelled by something inside them to do what they do, without thinking about monetary compensation.

     

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  56.  
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    TG, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 7:03am

    Please, please, please, PLEASE respond to Adams' new goat fornication analogy. I simply *MUST* know what you think about it!

    http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/04/tap_the_goat.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
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    wklink, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 7:45am

    Disingenuous

    Despite Adams' supposedly failed attempt to give away a book, I think his entire career is based on "free". I would bet that most Dilbert readers read his strip for free online. And those that do read it in the papers probably didn't buy their subscription because of it, nor would they cancel if it were dropped. So for all intents and purposes, daily Dilbert is free.

    And if his strip weren't successful, no one would have ever published his books nor would they pay him to speak or even read his blog (which you can read for free).

     

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  58.  
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    Benno, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 3:11pm

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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  59.  
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    tzigane, Apr 20th, 2007 @ 7:25pm

    translation

    hi mike, i'm a member ofwww.yeeyan.com, a chinese website specialising in the translation of interesting posts in overseas blogs into chinese, with the view of increasing accessibility of content to the masses behind the great firewall (and may or may not have the requisite english skills to understand these posts)

    i am interested in translating your series on economics into chinese to post on this website. all posts will have a link back to the original and maintain attribution of you as author, and if you have any use for the chinese version i'll be more than happy to put a complete, collated document together for you. just wondering if this is ok with you? (i can't seem to find a copyright notice on the site......)

     

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  60.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 20th, 2007 @ 7:54pm

    Re: translation

    i am interested in translating your series on economics into chinese to post on this website. all posts will have a link back to the original and maintain attribution of you as author, and if you have any use for the chinese version i'll be more than happy to put a complete, collated document together for you. just wondering if this is ok with you?

    Yup. As the topic suggests, you are free to do what you want with the content, and that includes translating it to other languages.

    Thanks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    Jadey, Apr 21st, 2007 @ 6:44am

    Re: whineing garbage

    There was also a time when folks knew how to spell whining and the difference between 'think' and 'thing.'

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Jadey, Apr 21st, 2007 @ 6:45am

    Re: whineing garbage

    There was also a time when folks knew how to spell whining and the difference between 'think' and 'thing.'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    identicon
    Glenn Isaac, Mar 31st, 2008 @ 6:25pm

    Adams is wrong, but in the right way

    Bringing dissent, discussion, and attention to this field of debate is rewarding. Adams does make fantastic points, as well. Its no wonder he is one of the modern world's most respected thinkers. Way to go Scott for doing so much for our community -- even though you are incorrect on this tangent of its conversation.

     

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  64.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:25am

    Amen.

    The last part is the best. Common sense always trumps a fallacy in an argument.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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