Revisiting The Replicator Analogy: How Infinite Goods Create More Jobs

from the bring-in-the-tomatoes dept

Recently, in writing about a DRM scheme, I used the analogy of the Star Trek food replicator to explain why it made no sense to turn infinite goods, like content, into artificially scarce goods. There was a lot of back and forth in the comments about the appropriateness of the analogy, though I still think the basic point stands: it makes no sense to artificially limit an infinitely available resource. In fact, it only leads to bad things. However, one of our readers has written up a fantastic blog post where he tries to present a similar, but much, much better analogy:
A better analogy would be if the replicator only made tomatoes. You could have as many tomatoes as you wanted, they'd always be perfect and delicious, and they'd always be free. This would put tomato farmers out of business. But these tomato farmers could likely start growing something else instead. And what happens to the rest of the economy? Pizza and pasta restaurants suddenly find that a major ingredient in many of their dishes just became free. Now, for the same dish, they can charge less, or buy higher quality ingredients, or make more profit. And if you're a really talented cook specializing in tomatoes? Your skills are now in very high demand.

And there is still a demand for the people who bring the tomatoes from the replicator to your table. There is still a demand for the person who stews and cans the tomatoes, or dices and seasons them. And all the other food items, the ones that aren't in infitnite supply, still need people to produce, process, and distribute them.

This is what's happening in the music industry, and starting to happen in the publishing industry. Some parts of the industries are finding their functions obsolete. Instead of looking at the money they could save with electronic distribution, and what good use they could put that money to, the industry is seeking new laws and regulations to limit the infinite supply so business can continue as usual.

Even if every single song, book, and movie was distributed digitally for free, there would still be a need for the music, publishing, and movie industries. There would still be demand for editors, producers, marketers, and all sorts of other services that these industries have always provided.

Reasonable people aren't calling for the abolition of the music, publishing, and movie industries. They're just asking these industries to look to the future, and stop trying to limit supply to protect obsolete business models.
Read that over a few times. It's about the best description/analogy of what we've been trying to say here that I've ever heard.


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  1.  
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    1DandyTroll, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 7:52pm

    Don't know about others, but personally I think a replicator technology, just like routers, would give people so much more time to do other stuff that all of a sudden needs to be done. ;)

     

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    10:47pm...eating queso, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 8:06pm

    Replicator Machines

    I agree with your message--that it is ridiculous to seek to limit an infinite good. However, the analogy fails pretty heavily--if you did have a replication machine, and an internet connection, the best tomato sandwich, best tomato soup, etc. would only need to be created once and then it could be shared infinitely. Also, any replication machine capable of generating tomatoes would be able to replicate anything--at least, any food product of a given size.

    When we do get replication of this kind, it will destroy the marketplace as we know it. Now I believe this is a good thing, not a scary one--but in a marketplace as tied to physical goods as ours, removing the scarcity of those physical goods would absolutely destroy the current system.

    To extrapolate, a food replicator machine would parallel all Windows machines suddenly developing strong AI with the ability to generate creative music based on an actual model of human sound perception. Game over for anything but niche live performances and personalities. You see, the tomato machine doesn't just copy--it removes the need for originals. Originals will still be there, when people get bored, but demand will be vastly lower than at any previous point. With food no longer a commodity, many market sectors would inevitably and totally collapse. At best, there would arise a demand for whatever fuel/source material the machine uses.

    Maybe this is my science fiction background talking, but you can't use something world-exploding like matter replication as a parallel for simply copying data. In fact--isn't that what the argument of "copyright infringement" versus "theft" hinges on? Doesn't the position of this site rely on the fact that there ARE huge fundamental differences between the physical and digital worlds? When that difference disappears, when we can make anything from basic resources on an individual level, our world as we know it will disappear as well. I think it will be a change for the better, but I think the parallel you quoted is hopelessly stilted to anyone who has seriously considered the implications of a universal assembler.

     

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    Michael Long, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 8:40pm

    So who always wants to eat the same tomato?

    Bad analogy. Let's say it can clone a tomato. Fine. That's the same exact identical tomato, each and every time. Which is fine if all you want to do is to eat the same exact identical tomato, over and over and over again.

    But where's the industry dedicated to producing new kinds of tomatoes each and every week?

    Or to translate, do you want to watch the same exact identical movie over and over and over again? Or would you like someone, just for the sake of variety, to maybe make a new movie you haven't seen before?

    With books and music and movies, we want people making new versions, do we not?

    He also wants it both ways. First he says, "This would put tomato farmers out of business. But these tomato farmers could likely start growing something else instead." But then, "There would still be demand for editors, producers, marketers, and all sorts of other services that these industries have always provided."

    First, they're put out of business, then they're in demand? Which is it? Scarce goods should be infinitely available and unprotected, but all of these industries are needed to produce new scarce goods that are immediately infinite once produced? Who foots the bill?

     

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    A, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 9:08pm

    There will be no industries who are paid to produce new goods.

    The only industry of the future is the industry who will distribute the goods.

    And this is exactly whats hapenning right now. The bittorrent trackers are paid. they are using datacenters.

     

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    Michael Long, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 9:11pm

    Replicators

    The problem with the replicator analogy is that we don't have one. Or, rather, we do, but for one specific class of products.

    Unfortunately, we don't have replicators for everything else, so the people who produce the "infinite" products we want and need can't just replicate the food and clothes and cars and homes that they need in turn. For that they need money, and for that they need someone to pay for the products that they create.

    Hence the disconnect.

    The last paragraph begins, "Reasonable people aren't calling for the abolition of the music, publishing, and movie industries."

    But how many people are in fact, reasonable? Are the hords who run torrent servers late at night, trading in those selfsame goods, in fact reasonable?

    Or are they, like the studios, in it mostly for themselves?

     

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    jdub (profile), Sep 11th, 2009 @ 10:30pm

    Re: Replicator Machines

    The analogy doesn't fail at all. Think of the tomato as a song, and that tomato can be shared infinitely with everyone. Now think of the best tomato sandwich, as a different song, the best tomato soup, an even different song from the first. Each one unique from one another, and all infinitely shared.

    You are right whenever we do figure out food replication, it'll definitely change or economy drastically, more so then whats going on with the digital revolution that's going on right now, and I guarantee it''l probably be a worse battle then whats happening at present.

    The RIAA/MPAA tactics right now in there attempts to limit progress is like at truck driving down the highway at 100mph, with the foot to the gas, and putting the emergency brake on. Sure you'll slow down, but you'll end up super heating the brakes, to failure, and then your right back up to doing 100mph again, only now you have no brakes.

     

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    Spanky, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 10:47pm

    Your analogy fails horribly. We will never have replicators. The National Food Council will see to that.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 11:10pm

    Why should I believe that infinite goods "create more jobs?" When a good shifts from being treated as largely finite to largely infinite, there are consequences in boht directions. Some old viable strategies for making money are now going to diminish or disappear. Some new strategies for making money may open up. The new moneymaking strategies may be very different from the old moneymaking strategies, to the point where engaging in the old strategies confers few or no advantages in attempting the new strategies.

    So I will agree that infinite goods shift jobs around. That there will necessarily be a net gain is certainly up for debate. In some logic, breaking a window creates more jobs, but we know that to be false. Let's argue that goods becoming infinite somehow reduces an inefficiency in the market. In the broken-window parable, it's the equivalent of shatter-proof glass. Dr. Wile E. Coyote of the ACME corporation creates ACME 100% shatter-proof glass. Lasts a thousand years. The primary effect of this is to put the glazier out of business. Maybe it "frees up the glazier to do more important things," but it doesn't create a job for him. If it creates a job at all, it creates a job as a shatter-proof materials chemist, which does the glazier piss-little good.

    The "demand for editors, producers, marketers, and all sorts of other services," will exist, but at what level? It will necessarily scale with how much money you have to pay for these services. Will there be more money to pay for these things, or less? Since most of these services are currently paid for by the money gained from selling music, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to sell music, it's going to have to come from somewhere else.

    Musicians have always had the option to sell both their music and associated scarce goods (touring, T-shirts, lunch dates, whatever). Now they have the same opportunity to sell associated scarce goods, and less opportunity to sell music. The college kid that used to spend $15 of his disposable income on a CD now has it "freed up." Maybe that goes to music-related scarce goods, but it's equally likely to go to alternatives, like beer. In general, the disposable income from the beer money will not end up in the pockets of music editors, producers, marketers, etc.

    I suppose the argument is that this is good for society, and consumers especially: after spending $15, the college student no longer gets music OR beer, he gets music AND beer. This works out great for the college student and the beer brewer, but sort of shitty for the musician, the producer, the engineer, and the editors. If they are smart, they will retrain and move into a growth industry, like the beer industry.

     

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    jdub (profile), Sep 11th, 2009 @ 11:21pm

    Re: So who always wants to eat the same tomato?

    "First, they're put out of business, then they're in demand? Which is it?"

    Did you even read the damn thing? Editors, producers, and marketers, are not "Farmers". They might sound similar but they are spelled differently , and mean 2 different groups.

    "Scarce goods should be infinitely available and unprotected, but all of these industries are needed to produce new scarce goods that are immediately infinite once produced?"

    Why not? If we have the technology/power to make a scarce good infinitely available to everyone, why should we not utilize it. I would think in the music/movie industry, as your best advertising/distribution tool.

    "Who foots the bill?"

    You do!!! By supporting those artists, that you downloaded for free their latest album, enjoyed it so much, you now go and pay money to see them live, maybe by a shirt, or even go and by a "hard copy" of the album, or even previous albums, now that you know they exist, because you took a chance, and downloaded something for free out of the blue.

    A question I then ask: Before file sharing, how many times you went to the store, bought a cd,or movie, based on the cover, only to get home, and it's the worst thing you ever experienced?

    If you answered anything over 0, you should then know why file sharing came about, and why it is here to stay.

     

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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Sep 11th, 2009 @ 11:55pm

    lolwut

    First off, no one is ENTITLED to have a job. Various fields of expertise come and go as technology progresses.

    I would love to create content without any concern for money. If food replication were taken care of entirely, I would devote my life to game development, and I would not have to worry about getting paid (assuming my other costs went away too, such as rent).

    Society would be much better off if scarcities were eliminated. The current economy and system of currency is only in place for the purpose of allocating scarce resources. If everything is infinitely available to everyone, we no longer NEED to have such an economy.

    Also, it cracks me up seeing people claim that without payment, art would die. You honestly think the world would stop being creative if money went away? Heck, that is all people would do in such a world: create epic content!

     

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    ChrisB (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 12:09am

    Scarce goods are where the money is at

    We have the technology to make music files infinite and free, but that will never change the fact that listening to a song on your iPod is drastically different than listening to the same song live, and sharing that experience with other people. This experience is scarce.

    The money is not in listening to the song on your stereo, think of that as an advertisement to get you to purchase the actual scarce material: Live Concerts, t-shirts, records, meet-and-greets...etc. The songs that are played on the radio provide a window for the musicians to advertise themselves and drive business to where they make money in scarce goods.

    There will still be a business for the musician (as they provide concerts); there will always be a job for managers (as not all musicians at more than making music); there will always be a job for song writers/editors/producers. These things will not change when music files become infinitely free. The CD makers will lose a job, but so did the Buggy Whip manufacturers in their time.

    Advertising companies have been using music to sell other scarce goods for decades, so why is it so hard for people to understand that this is where the music industry is inevitably heading. The music files / songs on the radio are not what make the artists money; it is the concerts and other scarce goods associated with the musician that make the money. The song files are the commercials for that artist.

     

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    ChrisB (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 12:09am

    Scarce goods are where the money is at

    We have the technology to make music files infinite and free, but that will never change the fact that listening to a song on your iPod is drastically different than listening to the same song live, and sharing that experience with other people. This experience is scarce.

    The money is not in listening to the song on your stereo, think of that as an advertisement to get you to purchase the actual scarce material: Live Concerts, t-shirts, records, meet-and-greets...etc. The songs that are played on the radio provide a window for the musicians to advertise themselves and drive business to where they make money in scarce goods.

    There will still be a business for the musician (as they provide concerts); there will always be a job for managers (as not all musicians at more than making music); there will always be a job for song writers/editors/producers. These things will not change when music files become infinitely free. The CD makers will lose a job, but so did the Buggy Whip manufacturers in their time.

    Advertising companies have been using music to sell other scarce goods for decades, so why is it so hard for people to understand that this is where the music industry is inevitably heading. The music files / songs on the radio are not what make the artists money; it is the concerts and other scarce goods associated with the musician that make the money. The song files are the commercials for that artist.

     

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    Doctor Strange, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 12:48am

    Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    The money is not in listening to the song on your stereo, think of that as an advertisement to get you to purchase the actual scarce material: Live Concerts, t-shirts, records, meet-and-greets...etc. The songs that are played on the radio provide a window for the musicians to advertise themselves and drive business to where they make money in scarce goods.

    You act as if this is a new idea. In an interview in 2001, James Taylor said "Of my main 10 sources of income, [touring is] the first eight." I don't think this was a new phenomenon for him; I imagine that was true for him in general.

    There will still be a business for the musician (as they provide concerts); there will always be a job for managers (as not all musicians at more than making music); there will always be a job for song writers/editors/producers.

    There will be the same job for the touring musician, as long as they are touring. Managers will get a cut of income, but not income from album sales - just a cut from touring. Songwriting, editing, engineering, and production expenses will have to be paid from somewhere. Right now, many of these are paid out of album sales, but if the music is free, they'll come out of the "scarce goods." That's a net loss unless something makes up for it.

    The hypothesis is that when the music is free instead of for sale, this will create an increased demand for all the scarce goods that will offset or overtake the money lost from not selling the music anymore. This is conjecture. A new equilibrium will be reached, but to say that you can tell whether free music will, on the whole, result in a net increase or decrease in money to artists (and supporting professions) makes me a little skeptical.

    The general argument says that if the music is free, many, many more people will be exposed to it than if it is sold, and therefore there is no way this can result in anything but a net increase in demand for scarce goods. This might not be true, for a number of reasons. It might free up disposable income - but to buy non-music-related goods, like beer. It certainly will not increase the number of hours in a day a person has to listen to music. Even if music becomes easier to produce and distribute, it vastly increases competition between artists for listeners' biologically- and physically-limited attention spans.

    The Internet is not a Magic Marketing Machine, and as much as you don't want to admit it, your personal preferences are guided in large measure by how products are marketed to you. Right now, marketing budgets for music can come at least partially out of music sales, but in the future they'll come out of touring and T-shirt and lunch-date sales, which is to say the musician's pocket.

    Further, how does free music change the incentives in how music is created? If you want people to buy your music - and that's all they get, just the music - you have an incentive to create music with qualities that will make people want to pay for music. If you want people to buy your T-shirts, you have an incentive to create music with qualities that will make people want to buy T-shirts. If you're selling beer, you have an incentive to create music with qualities that make people want to buy beer.

    Advertising companies have been using music to sell other scarce goods for decades.

    Exactly right. And when the purpose of music increasingly becomes advertising, what kind of music do you think people will create? What kind of movies? What kind of books? Maybe classics like this.

    The CD makers will lose a job, but so did the Buggy Whip manufacturers in their time.

    A question, then: would you characterize the Buggy Whip manufacturers as having a "business model problem?" Would you offer to sell them consulting services to help them with this problem? What would you tell them if they hired you?

     

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    Sheinen, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 1:19am

    I cannot believe you are picking apart the analogy based on its scientific merit. It's a fucking analogy! A Hypothetical work of fiction chosen to parralel that of the entertainment industry.

    He doesn't need to supply a schematic of the fucking replicator explaining why the alpha core duo-replicating high beams cannot reproduce the cellular blueprint necessary to make a yorkie bar.

    Wipe the semen stains off your anoraks, switch off your monitors and join the real world for 2 seconds.

    Fuck!

     

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    Sheinen, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 1:21am

    And Mac and Me was awesome!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 1:41am

    Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    The idea is that without artificial scarcities aggregate output increases and price goes down. Many people already create free music under the CC license.

    http://www.jamendo.com/en/

    Many people create music on their spare time perhaps, as a hobby, and they want the world to listen to their music for free and enjoy just because they enjoy music. Not everyone necessarily makes music just for the money. So new music will, and certainly does, exist without the need for copyright. So stop making up all these fake scare tactics, "if there are no copyrights there will be no art," such is a lie, people will product, and have produced, art/music and such with or without such restrictive copyright.

     

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    Jörgen Sandman, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 1:46am

    Oh dear...

    Michael Long:
    Bad analogy. Let's say it can clone a tomato. Fine. That's the same exact identical tomato, each and every time. Which is fine if all you want to do is to eat the same exact identical tomato, over and over and over again.

    How can you tell the difference if you have a can of chopped tomatoes or a can of chopped cloned tomatoes? Tomatoesauce? Ketchup? I know I couldn't tell the difference. I suppose one has to eat tomatoes like apples to really give a care...?

     

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    Doctor Strange, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 1:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    The idea is that without artificial scarcities aggregate output increases and price goes down.

    How do you propose to demonstrate this increase in aggregate output? How do you intend to calculate it with respect to infinite goods? Aggregate output requires you to sum all the value in an economy. I understand that there is a distinction between price and value, but one's a darn good indicator of the other. If a song has any nonzero value, and I can make an infinite number of copies of it, does that mean it has infinite value? If a song is free, how do you measure its value in practice?

    "if there are no copyrights there will be no art," such is a lie, people will product, and have produced, art/music and such with or without such restrictive copyright.

    Who in the bloody hell is making this argument? Why are you raising this in a reply to my post? I'm certainly not making this argument. I don't really know anyone who raises this argument, except people here that want to caricature anyone who hints at disagreement with the party line.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 2:06am

    Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    "This is conjecture."

    The hypothesis that without intellectual property music will stop, art will stop, progress and innovation will stop, and the world will come to an end is conjecture.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 2:36am

    "The college kid that used to spend $15 of his disposable income on a CD now has it "freed up." Maybe that goes to music-related scarce goods, but it's equally likely to go to alternatives, like beer. In general, the disposable income from the beer money will not end up in the pockets of music editors, producers, marketers, etc...after spending $15, the college student no longer gets music OR beer, he gets music AND beer. This works out great for the college student and the beer brewer, but sort of shitty for the musician, the producer, the engineer, and the editors. If they are smart, they will retrain and move into a growth industry, like the beer industry."
    ----------------------

    LOL

    Exactly.

     

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    groan, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 4:24am

    Another a circle jerk by techdirt economic illiterates

    What about the poor shmuck that wrote the software for the replicator? I'm guessing he gets paid in infinite tomatoes?

     

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    herodotus (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 4:58am

    "The hypothesis is that when the music is free instead of for sale, this will create an increased demand for all the scarce goods that will offset or overtake the money lost from not selling the music anymore. This is conjecture. A new equilibrium will be reached, but to say that you can tell whether free music will, on the whole, result in a net increase or decrease in money to artists (and supporting professions) makes me a little skeptical."

    Well in some cases, I am more than skeptical. Professional audio engineers are doing much worse now than they were 15 years ago. The kind of independently run recording studios that serviced the burgeoning punk and metal movements of the 80's are almost completely gone. And it is just going to get worse, as more and more of these unemployed engineers have to fight with all of the recent graduates of music tech diploma mills for the tiny handful of jobs left in the content industries.

    But if the question is: 'is all of this change good or bad for the art of music?', then the answer is very definitely GOOD. For most of the past 100 years, a handful of people with money had a stranglehold over the making and distribution of musical recordings. Nothing that they didn't like passed through this iron web. Unless one thinks that these people were infallible, it is quite obvious that music is better served by eliminating this stranglehold than it is by maintaining it.

     

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    PRMan, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 5:22am

    Re: Another a circle jerk by techdirt economic illiterates

    "What about the poor shmuck that wrote the software for the replicator? I'm guessing he gets paid in infinite tomatoes?"

    But if he tweaks the software, he gets paid in free food for life.

     

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    Griper, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 6:35am

    I hope they set up a tomato neutrality system, is there a backup to limit single point failure? When everyone is dependent on the machine what precautions will be placed to safeguard the integrity of the output? Will unscrupulous individuals seeking to push there grown tomatoes be able to limit/divert/restrict tomatoes sent to various parts of the world? Is there one guy in charge?, What if he doesn't like your favorite tomato and says he can only produce a bitter variety only 10% of the population wants.

    All these precautions will cost real money, so calling it free is wrong, easy to produce and distribute, sure but not free. No one can run a system without cost. I have to pay my isp to access the net to read your blog . So just because I don't pay you directly it doesn't mean it is free.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 6:51am

    The heck with free tomatoes. I want the patent for the replicator.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 6:53am

    Re: Another a circle jerk by techdirt economic illiterates

    It's sad that you think that the primary driver for inventing such a device, that would end world hunger in an instant and improve the lives of billions, would be making a quick buck from software royalties.

    Especially since the communications medium you're writing the comment on was made possible by research donated to the world for free in the first place. If Tim Berners-Lee had been motivated by profit, you probably wouldn't be able to read this (or any other) web site to do your trolling.

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    "The hypothesis is that when the music is free instead of for sale, this will create an increased demand for all the scarce goods that will offset or overtake the money lost from not selling the music anymore. This is conjecture."

    I would like to modify the definition of your conjecture slightly - I think most will agree that it is basically the same.

    My version of the conjecture is this:

    "The net effect of the free sharing of non-scarce content is to increase rather than reduce the (scarce) resources available for the production of that content and hence to increase the amount of content that is produced."

    This is a conjecture that is believed without question by all major western governments.

    It is a conjecture that is believed with such force that thousands are imprisoned on the strength of it.

    It is a conjecture that is believed by the mass of the population and by certain individuals with such force that murder has been committed based on it.

    Of course the context in which it is believed is not that of mainstream music, movies or photographs but rather of a certain type of movie or photograph.

    Anyone found in willful possession of these images is prosecuted on the basis that they are "encouraging" the production process regardless of whether any form of payment has been made.

    It would be interesting to observe the prosecution of someone who was found to have a mixture of fileshared child pornography and fileshared mainstream music and movies.

    For the first set of files:

    We are prosecuting you because by sharing these files you are supporting, encouraging and (indirectly) financing the production of this offensive and abusive material.

    For the second:

    We are prosecuting you because by sharing these files you are undermining the production of this material and taking away the living from those who produce them!

    To which the defence should reply: "You can't have it both ways surely!"

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:03am

    Re:

    "The heck with free tomatoes. I want the patent for the replicator."

    Ok - let's make a replicator replicator then. How are you going to finance that through IP?

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:13am

    Re:

    Well in some cases, I am more than skeptical. Professional audio engineers are doing much worse now than they were 15 years ago. The kind of independently run recording studios that serviced the burgeoning punk and metal movements of the 80's are almost completely gone. And it is just going to get worse, as more and more of these unemployed engineers have to fight with all of the recent graduates of music tech diploma mills for the tiny handful of jobs left in the content industries.

    Yes - but that's due to the commoditisation of the hardware involved and the fact that it's been made easier to use. It's nothing to do with filesharing. It's analogous to the effect of the motor car on train drivers.

    I used to have a good job designing specialised CGI hardware and software for the training simulator industry. Then graphics got commoditised and I had to move on. That's economic progress - you have to live with it.

     

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    captn, trips, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:33am

    The goal of humanity should be to abolish money and in turn inequality. The only way that would be feasible is through free anything on demand.

    I know this strikes fear into the heart of some. They imagine lazy people surviving while not working. They probably see entire populations of ethnic minorities just hanging out all day, morbidly obese women laying around sucking high fructose corn syrup through a hose watching soap operas and the utter collapse of society.

    The interesting thing about this idea is, WHO decides what you can replicate? obviously I couldn't replicate cocaine or enriched uranium. So if company A. invented something and patented that object, or held IP over that object (like mickey mouse ears) I would have to exchange something for that. The question is, if we could somehow assemble atoms into any object, how would they control the population. It would be the hackers that replicate cocaine instead of drug lords smuggling it in.

     

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  31.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:34am

    History

    Albums - Hard to produce, impossible to copy, low profit margin.
    Tapes - Easier to produce, easier to copy, higher profit margin.
    CDs - Much easier to produce, much easier to copy, much higher profit margins.

    Whoops. Now the music industry has realized that in their chase for higher profit margins, they have driven themselves out of business. But the future for musicians is about the same. 5% of $20 is the same as 100% of $1. But now the scarce good is not analog albums, but signed CD sleeves, T-shirts, concerts, etc.

    This is coming to Hollywood. I predict the "blockbuster" has about 10 years left. After that, we'll be back to smaller movies. You could take 1% of the budget of GIJoe and make a movie 100x as good, if the movie was made by artists and not a corporation only thinking about profits.

     

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  32.  
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    larry bartell (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    "There will be the same job for the touring musician, as long as they are touring. Managers will get a cut of income, but not income from album sales - just a cut from touring. Songwriting, editing, engineering, and production expenses will have to be paid from somewhere. Right now, many of these are paid out of album sales, but if the music is free, they'll come out of the "scarce goods." That's a net loss unless something makes up for it."


    It's true that diminishing revenue from CD sales may mean that there will be a smaller pile of money to divide among the musicians and the people who helped to create and promote the music. Label executives, managers, marketers and distributors may not make as much money as they once did. That's bad for them, because some may lose their jobs or have to take pay cuts. But it is a reality. There is no law that says something "has to make up for it." The industry is not simply entitled in perpetuity to make the same profits it once enjoyed, back when people were willing to pay high prices for CDs. Things change.

    If the musicians are very good, and many people come to see their shows and buy their merchandise, then there will still be lots of money to spread around even without CD profits. Maybe it won't be as much as in the old days. Maybe it will be more.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:47am

    Re: Re: Another a circle jerk by techdirt economic illiterates

    Feel free to correct me for any mistakes made in this comment.

    The original physical structure for the internet arose from a cooperative efforts of universities and private contractors under the guidance of the Advance Research Projects Ageny (ARPA), an arm of the DOD, with these efforts leading to what was then called the ARPANET. This activity involved not only the creation of the necessary hardware, but the creation of various protocols necessary to facilitate the transfer of data over the newly-developed hardware system. While certain named individuals are generally associated with specific portions of both the hardware and protocols, by no means can any of them be deemed its inventor. Far too many people in numerous location combined their efforts to achieve what finally emerged when the ARPANET was deployed.

    With the basic structure of the precursor to what we now call the internet, new individuals came on the scene, likewise academcs, other governmental orgainizations and private contractors, who crafted new methodolgies for facilitating the more efficient transfer of information over the newly developed system. Again, it would be inaccurate to say that any particular person was the inventor of these new information transfer methodologies. At all times it was a cooperative effort involving persons scattered primarily throughout Europe and the United States.

    Whether or not patents were secured for any of the hardware and information transfer components, it seems faily clear that if such patents were secured they did not appear to have any significant impact on the development of both the hardware infrasture and information transfer methodologies.

    This is not particularly surprising since at that time the Bayh-Dole Act was not on the horizon, and most private contractors, who depended heavily upon a steady stream of government contracts, were almost certainly unlikely to bite the hand that fed then contracts.

    In summary, trying to associate the current system in place with a single individual is much akin to identifying a single drop of water as responsible for the creation of our oceans. It cannot be done for the simple reason that a very large number of individuals were required to work cooperatively to achieve the goals of a hardware infrastructure and data transfer methods.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    Re: Re:

    One does not finance through IP. However, it seems more likely than not that the prospect of securing IP would certainly incentivize persons and companies to allocate R&D funds towards its invention, protyping, productization, tooling development, manufacture, and insertion into the market...whether via sales of units or the sale of replicator services.

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Another a circle jerk by techdirt economic illiterates

    trying to associate the current system in place with a single individual is much akin to identifying a single drop of water as responsible for the creation of our oceans.

    Yes true - but the point is that the internet and - even more so the web - came out of the culture of pure science - which is a free and sharing culture. The government funded it on the basis of defending the United States - but the participants did it more on the basis of making the United States worth defending (to quote the director of FermiLab.)

    Tim Berners-Lee, as an individual did not create the internet or the web on his own - but his attitudes are exemplary of most of those who were involved. To use your analogy he was just a drop in the ocean - but you can find the chemical content of the ocean quite well by sampling just a single drop.

     

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  36.  
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    ..., Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    Why The Future Will Not Be Like Star Trek

    For those who have not seen this yet, enjoy

    http://www.c4vct.com/kym/humor/futrek.htm

     

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  37.  
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    ..., Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:21am

    Re: Why The Future Will Not Be Like Star Trek

    Damnit, what happened to the rest of it ?

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:31am

    Replicator Replicator

    You've not thought it through have you.

    Once you sell one replicator replicator then the person who buys it can use it to make as many as they like - so your market is undermined. If you don't allow them to make copies (i.e. impose copyright or patent conditions) then they can't use it so it loses its value.

    The replicator replicator is a bit far fetched - but consider a genetically engineered virus that infects mosquitoes and stops them from spreading malaria.

    Unquestionably a good thing - but once you release it into the world it's unstoppable and its work is automatically done. So you can't find a way to get a revenue stream so it HAS to be funded "upfront" or from the goodwill of beneficiaries after the event.

     

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  39.  
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    MGeorgieva, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    Re: Replicator Machines

    While reading your comment, I couldn't help but think about Maya's calendar indicating that in 2012 the world as we know it will end. ;-)

     

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    Griff (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    If only people were reasonable...

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    What were we thinking of?

    The tomato replicator exists! It's called a tomato plant. It is also a tomato replicator replicator - and the business of tomato growing got on just fine - until the GM guys came along and invented DRM for plants (making the offspring infertile) so they could restrict the supply...

     

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    Griff (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    If only people were reasonable...

    I think that if downloads had been available for a reasonable price back when illegal filesharing first started, then people might have made different choices.

    Just because it's nearly infinite it does not mean it has to be free, just very cheap. And it (music) is not free to produce. Even if a million people listen to it, if they do it for free that won't pay the artist to record it.

    I pay for downloads (MP3 from Amazon) but never bought a download when all I could get was DRM obstructed stuff that wouldn't play on my cheap but capable MP3 player. More inconvenient that a CD. Yes if I DO buy a CD the first thing I do is rip it to Sonos.

    I pay 5 quid for download. Don't get a booklet of lyrics, but that's my choice.

    If I was prepared to go looking for free and illegal content I could quickly get hold of more than I can ever find time to listen to, presumably
    Someone with the time to listen to that much content (students ? unemployed people ?) probably don't have the cash to buy anything near the amount of music they could listen to. So what would the record labels have them do - buy just a few albums then listen to them repeatedly ? A smart record label might simply ensure that they got a good "market share" of that guy's listening attention in anticipation of the guy's future loyalty when the bands were touring. A bit like Microsoft turns a blind eye to piracy in poor countries rather than lose desktops to Linux.


    Problem with the tomatoes analogy for me is that the free content (tomatoes) can be made into other non free content (Pizzas). Free digital music does not support obvious other value added services. (Maybe someone will pay me extra to burn a CD and add a booklet of lyrics ?).

    A better analogy is that the tomato is the digital music but people soon tire of that actual tomato breed's taste and someone has to put creative effort into genetically engineering a new tomato (that can then be replicated for free).

    We cannot listen to the same Radiohead album forever, can we ?

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: So who always wants to eat the same tomato?

    BRAVO!!!

    Not to mention, I have started discovering new music that I never would have bought. For example: Iron and Wine, the lead for the "band" is Sam Beam, to look at him on an album cover you would expect a very 70s-ish pop Folk crap fest. I never would have given it a second glance. I obtained one of their songs I liked it so much.. I downloaded to whole album. I know you say "Ok you like their music but dont want to pay them for it". I wont pay for it, because it's effing silly to pay for replicated tomatoes. I did however goto the bands website and ordered several T-Shirts. If they come my way, I will surly pay to see them. Not only that but I told one of my best friends about the band and he bought their first album on iTunes. Last time I spoke to him he had his friends listening to it and they all love Iron and Wine now... Put a calculator to this their net + at least $100 for me, my friends and his friends ... I cant keep track byond that but I would guess its in the thousands... All because I "stole" a few songs... Funny how it doesn't work out like that when you steal something that has actual scarcity as opposed to imaginary scarcity, imposed by the corrupt politicians who turn tricks for campaign contributions.

     

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    diabolic (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    Re:

    I understand your point up to the last two paragraphs where you start making stuff up. Let's look at that $15 of disposable income again. It used to be that one could see a concert for about 2 to 3 times the cost of the album or CD, it used to be that the cost of the t-shirt was about the same as the cost of the CD. Now the concert ticket costs $90 and the t-shirt costs $25. The made up college student then has to go without music or beer for 6 months to see the concert and cannot afford the t-shirt. After forgoing entertainment for 6 months and then supporting the band directly the college student does not feel bad about downloading some of the bands tracks. We can all make up cute stories to support our ideas but those stories do not mean much.

    Take a look at the music industry by itself, the cost of live performances has skyrocketed (not sure why so many folks are willing to pay the price) while the price of recordings may have hit the limit of what folks are willing to pay. This is in a way your broken window theory, live performances have eaten up the disposable income that would otherwise be spent on purchasing recordings. One part of the industry is eating into the profits of the other. On top of that, the price of recordings is pushed down, nearly to zero, by the infinite availability of recordings.

    Even though recordings are essentially infinitely available, there is still demand for new and different recordings - at a higher level than ever. This clearly makes the case that artists, editors, producers and others that create music and recordings are in high demand. For the marketers and distributors however the landscape has change - the technology may be the cause but destroying or limiting the technology is not the answer. Its time to adapt to the new landscape, maybe that means marketing and distributing beer instead of music.

     

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    J.C., Sep 12th, 2009 @ 9:47am

    Narrow Replicator...

    While a replicator for tomatoes would indeed be a boon for the reasons illustrated above, a TRUE replicator--one capable of making anything--would destroy all business. It is for this reason cracked.com named it the number one 'awesome sci-fi invention (that would actually suck)'. http://www.cracked.com/article_15655_5-awesome-sci-fi-inventions-that-would-actually-suck.html

    Wh ile an infinite supply of tomatoes would open new avenues for business, an infinite supply of pasta dishes, pizza, canned tomatoes &c&c would destroy that whole sector of business. Similarly if nothing ever had to be manufactured then the only work left would be in the service sector but even that would be almost unnecessary insofar as if one can procure anything one's heart desires by the push of the button then why work for a wage?

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Re: Narrow Replicator...

    if one can procure anything one's heart desires by the push of the button then why work for a wage?


    As in the world of the 19th century aristocrat....

     

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    Rob M, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Tomatoes

    Interesting, but it misses the crucial point that no-one has, or claims, copyright or patent rights on a 'tomato'. * Like them or not, respect them or not, there is such a thing as intellectual property, and the creator of an original work retains as much right over that work as he cares to.

    This is not to say the music business itself hasn't been completely crazy over the whole issue.

    However , rather than libertarian or free-marketish, the whole file-sharing thing seems damn near Marxist in most of the justifications offered.

    * I know, not entirely true, there are agricultural patents on strains and varieties of tomato, potato, soybean, etc.

     

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    Richard, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    Re: Tomatoes

    Not to mention plant breeder's rights...

    (Often a big bone of contention in horticultural circles.)

     

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    diabolic (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Re:

    Well in some cases, I am more than skeptical. Professional audio engineers are doing much worse now than they were 15 years ago. The kind of independently run recording studios that serviced the burgeoning punk and metal movements of the 80's are almost completely gone. And it is just going to get worse, as more and more of these unemployed engineers have to fight with all of the recent graduates of music tech diploma mills for the tiny handful of jobs left in the content industries.

    Advances in technology have driven those independent recording studios out of business. Now more than ever everyone has access to affordable, high-quality, recording gear - most of it computerized and automated. Unlike punk bands from the 80s, today's punk bands can be their own 'independently run recording studio'.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Re: Replicator Machines

    we could feed the world

     

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    Monk, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    Microsoft Windows business model

    Forget about tomatoes and sci-fi food replication machines! - What about the real MS Windows business model???

    Windows owns 90% of market share, but MS never sold this amount of licences! - so, most of this share is made of 'pirate copies'. Why isn't MS broken???

    In fact, 'pirate copies' of MS Windows increases MS revenue! - it keeps Windows on top of the market, and on top of our minds. MS is happy enough with OEM licences sales, so, let individual people pirate copies for individual use!

    Why music / movie industries can't understand this model? many people will NEVER buy a CD/DVD - not because they can pirate it, but simply because many people dont care much about it. I like to listen FM radio, but I dont buy CDs, and I dont download them, either. Same for movies - I may sit in front of TV and zap around, looking for something to watch, but I rarely go rent/buy a DVD.

    So, why can't entertainment industry simply let people pirate song / movies freely, beneficting from the viral publicity, and charge for 'OEM' contents, from cable TV, online radios, concerts and public reproduction?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re:

    "There will be no industries who are paid to produce new goods."

    Not true at all.

    http://www.jamendo.com/en/

    But just ignore the facts and play the favorite republican game of, "lets see who can come up with the most elaborate doomsday scenario involving the abolishment of intellectual property."

    I know, I know, lets create a horror movie with the worst part being the abolishment of intellectual property and the world coming to an end.

    If republicans are ever to have me take them seriously they need to stop resorting to baseless scare mongering nonsense every time they try to promote their position. BTW, I'm not defending democrats either, I'm in favor of libertarians / the pirate party.

     

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    Fsm, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    Analogy is flawed.

    Didn't read the comments because there are too many, so if this has already been said ignore it.

    I think the analogy is flawed because only the tomatoes are free, you still have to pay for everything derivative of tomatoes like ketchup and canned tomatoes, because of the labor involved. This would be like saying "you can listen to the band play notes, but if you want finished music you have to pay."

     

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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    Re:

    One caveat:

    'Content' is not an infinite good. Copies of that content are the infinite good.

    A live music performance is still worth paying for because it's live. A recording of that performance is, thanks to technology, now an infinite good.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Analogy is flawed.

    Isn't that exactly the point of the analogy? There will still be jobs even though the tomatoes would be free because you still have to pay for other things. Besides, isn't the point of having jobs and an economy to lower scarcity. If tomatoes were free then there is less of a need for jobs since the point of having a job has been moreso satisfied with fewer jobs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 2:24pm

    I'm afraid that tomatoe replication may lead to this:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080391/

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re:

    LOL, there is not 1 iota of made up in my cute story. Not one.

    1. The T-Shirts were $12 - $15 I bought 2 of the ones that were 12 and one that was $15. (although I just looked and the prices seem to have dropped :( )

    2. I never said I went to a concert just that I would go if they came my way. $0

    3. My imaginary friend well call him Snuffelupagus for this post. He's kinda real.. I mean he's a real person, but he insisted on paying for replicated tomatoes out of fear, which some people do. Others don't I remember him telling me that it was $10 in the iTunes store.

    all in all I spent about $40 + maybe his $10 but it goes on and on.. I have no agenda, I just find it really easy to rationalize downloading music when I support the artists in other ways. Especially when you consider that they end up getting like 1/30 of the take and the rest is getting funneled into a lobby that ultimately wants to have Gestapo police powers to deal with file sharing. It's actually unethical to support that if you think about it.

    -- I don't know what to tell you other than your wrong. My friend Snuffy is not a college student either, I dont know where you got that from.

     

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    Random Dude, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 3:25pm

    analogy fails for one simple reason

    The analogy between the replicator and file sharing fails for one simple reason. The replicator actually *creates* the content in the first place (from raw materials). But all file sharing does is copy an already created file. So you're still left with the conundrum: how do you put money into the hands of the creators when file sharing distribution is essentially free/infinite & it's so easy to get the file.

    I'm not defending the music/movie industry business practices. Of course, there's tons of fat there to be trimmed there. And of course, there are alternative business models to the one the RIAA and MPAA favor.

    My only concern is that if I like content enough that I think it's worth my money-- how do I get that money into the hands of the people who actually made a contribution. No one has really solved that problem, and the solution isn't likely to come about any time soon. Wait 20 years. Maybe.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 6:03pm

    Re: analogy fails for one simple reason

    "The analogy between the replicator and file sharing fails for one simple reason. The replicator actually *creates* the content in the first place (from raw materials). But all file sharing does is copy an already created file. So you're still left with the conundrum: how do you put money into the hands of the creators when file sharing distribution is essentially free/infinite & it's so easy to get the file."

    Not to quibble, but I say thee nay. The download software actually assembles the file from raw materials too - the bits available to use for storage in RAM, or later on the hard drive, or the CD/DVD media. And the replicator just copies the already created tomato too (you don't think it just magically knew how to make the tomato from nothing, do you? The name "replicator" should give you a big clue that something had to exist first to be replicated). So the analogy is quite apt.

    Your conundrum is more interesting. The answer is the creators have to create more content if they want more money. You know, just like virtually everybody else on the planet. I don't subscribe to the notion that "creative work" like writing music is so different from other work that involves creative synthesis of ideas (eg. software development, any kind of design, architecture) that it deserves special treatment. It's certain not special enough to justify the "do something creative once then sit on your duff for the remainder of life and collect royalties" model which isn't available to most other creative careers. Foisting that notion on humanity has to take the prize for the biggest con job in history. The new model for creating music, for example, should be similar to the way most people make a living in creative fields: produce a creative work, deliver to customer, get paid a reasonable sum of money, create something else, deliver to customer, get paid, etc. Expecting to be paid again and again for past work is out of step with the way most of the world works. Alternatively, if that's the way we're going to play the game, then *everyone* should be treated likewise. Sell your car? Pay the automobile manufacturer their cut. Sell your house? Pay the architect and the developer. Invite people over for dinner? Pay again, oh and the recipe you used to cook with also. Collect your paycheck at work? Pay up to everyone who taught you your skills used to perform the work.

    Running the world this way is probably unworkable due to the enormous overhead caused by tracking the provenance of every single thing. So I'm not sure why people seem so hellbent on allowing a few creative endeavors to get special treatment. Seems to me the real answer to promoting the creative arts properly is to work out a system to pay for the creation of a work that fairly compensates the artist in exchange for the work. Once. Then the existence of an "infinite replicator" doesn't really have an impact, since it's just a way to distribute the infinite good.

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 6:45pm

    So where does the money come from if the tomatoe is free?
    How is the tomatoe distributer getting payed if the tomatoe is available for free?

     

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  61.  
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    Mike, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 7:13pm

    Re: Replicator Machines

    "our world as we know it will disappear as well"

    yeah...

     

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  62.  
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    A chicken passeth by, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:49pm

    Re: Re: analogy fails for one simple reason

    Still, you have to consider this.

    With less emphasis on intellectual property, creators no longer have to expend effort (and most importantly, CAPITAL) to:
    1. Ensure that their product does not infringe upon the products of others.
    2. Ensure that their product cannot be infringed upon by others.

    Lowered production costs in return for lower returns. Also, excluding the need to ensure no infringing material allows for either more development time, OR a faster time-to-live.

    That doesn't sound all that bad, does it?

     

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    strangeratrandom, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 8:57pm

    Here's where your wrong.

    (first I say I am against the music industry). But In your analogy there is a major problem as those tomato farmers who are out of business can't just start growing other products. As the other products are being made by the replicator also. Then the pizza and pasta sellers you commented about how they can now sell the product for less, and use the money else where. They can't as well as they too are out of business, because of the replicator.

    The music industry does need to adapt, as the music industry has been for far to long making a huge profit off sitting on their bums and collecting large incomes from artists. Where the music industry only gives a small percent of the profits from the record sales to the artists and forces the artists to have concerts to make a living.

    No matter which way you look at the situtation there is a problem, I believe that the internet/file shairing is going to put an end to the music as a career. What the industry will end up being is what it was created for in the first place which is where someone liked entertaining people because they truely liked it and not to make a living off of it.

    The movie industry is a whole different ball of wax. What they will end up doing is going to put an end to the DVD, and cause theators to electroniclly block video devices, or place devices to detect those who are trying to pirate the movie.

     

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    DanOfSoCal, Sep 12th, 2009 @ 9:01pm

    Free tomatoes

    Tomatoes are free you dingbat! Since when have you paid a tomato plant for its tomatoes?

     

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    herodotus (profile), Sep 12th, 2009 @ 9:18pm

    "It's certain not special enough to justify the "do something creative once then sit on your duff for the remainder of life and collect royalties" model which isn't available to most other creative careers. Foisting that notion on humanity has to take the prize for the biggest con job in history."

    I don't support copyright law the way it exists today. Not at all. But this is an issue that gets glided over rather glibly around these parts, and a few things need to be said regarding it.

    Writing popular songs is special in various ways. It's not as if one person can continuously squirt out popular songs. The whole process is actually rather fortuitous.

    A person can hone their craft, certainly; they can study and practice and try to keep from growing stale. But they have no control whatever over whether or not anyone else will like what they do.

    The idea that someone can turn out updated music the way that a company can turn out updated software is kind of risible. Because the thing that makes a song popular isn't 'quality'.

    Judged on any kind of objective level, the music of King Crimson is of infinitely higher quality than anything U2 has ever done. The musicianship is of a much higher caliber, the music is more complex, more intricate, deeper, harder to make, and gives much greater rewards when listened to repeatedly.

    But no one really gives a shit about any of this.

    What people want out of a pop song is a huge dose of what they already know combined with a tiny little bit of safe, sanitized originality: enough to be able to distinguish the new catchy little ditty from the last catchy little ditty, but not enough to make them think or anything annoying like that.

    And so, if one of these 'interesting' (i.e. 'non-big-time-corporate-rockstar-celebrity') musicians have a hit, it will be a sheer coincidence. They just happened to touch a nerve at the exact right time. Their later music might not be popular precisely because they worked at their craft and, well, grew up.

    This has little to do with replicated tomatoes, but it is a reality that many people here seem unaware of, so I thought I would throw it out there.

    Plus, I am on my fourth beer.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 12:21am

    [quote]it makes no sense to artificially limit an infinitely available resource[/quote] There is no such thing, nor will there ever be.

     

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    derich2, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 12:44am

    Alright.... thats enough

    It is because of this post that I am no longer going to visit techdirt ever again.

    This analogy is pathetic (read above posts if you want to know why, plenty of people have been ripping this thing a new asshole). I'm no fan of the music industry, but c'mon techdirt..... do you seriously agree that this argument is valid? It wasn't like this before, but recently you guys are continuously letting strong opinions cloud your common sense.

    There isn't any reason to visit this site anymore.... it makes me sad but goodbye techdirt.

     

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    DMNTD, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 2:20am

    Give Up...

    and let the cards fall where they may. I promise..we will get past greed..good day.

     

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    Fsm, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 3:08am

    Re: Alright.... thats enough

    You make a valid point. I'm holding out hope for them though.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 5:46am

    Terrible analogy. Just like all the other ridiculous analogies that compare IP to water, air or any other naturally occurring thing that existed before the first mudpuppy crawled out of the primordial ooze. Food and entertainment are also widely different things with widely different social ramifications at being made infinite. Lumping all of these unlike things together and proclaiming it to be "the best analogy I have ever heard" is a sure sign that your unwavering bias has trumped any vestigial rationale you once possessed.

     

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    ChronoFish (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    Replication is the end of the economy as we know it

    While a little of topic, I would like to extend the discussion about replication rather than focus on DRM.

    It's an interesting analogy RE the tomatoes. But what happens when EVERYTHING can be replicated? Then the only things that can be truly bought and sold are 3 things:

    1. Services
    2. Original Ideas (which takes us to DRM)
    3. Raw materials (where branding is irrelevant -> commodity)

    No distribution channels (your computer (desktop, laptop, phone) is the "store").
    No manufacturing (everything can be "printed")

    What remains? How do you buy food and raw materials if you can't find some sort of basic income. I'm sure the economy/society will evolve with "the replicator" where there is no limit to goods beyond the raw materials you have on hand.

    Maybe all that is left is relationships and conquest?

    -CF

     

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    spinsheet (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    One tomato to one song

    I feel that this analogy only works if there is only one piece of content that is being replicated (downloaded) over and over again.

    It seems that this tomato is created once and then replicated over and over. There is only one artist that created this tomato. It's easy to see how only one tomato creator could eventually make a good profit on his creation but in reality there are thousands (millions?) of tomato creators out there.

    While I don't think that this analogy exactly falls on its face, it gets pretty diluted with each and every additional tomato variation that becomes available for replication.

     

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    Stephen Macklin, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 8:06am

    Re: lolwut

    Agreed, in an absolute fantasy utopia people would create and create and create. But even in such a world there will be people whose creativity will be more highly valued than others.

    And even if you could exactly replicate a Monet painting down to the subatomic level there is still only one original. And it will still have a higher value than any replicated copy.

    Even in the tomato example, there will be people who will want "real" tomatoes and they will be even more scarce and cost even more money, but just like the people who only buy organic today there will be a market.

     

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    herodotus (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    I have never seen so many people being so bitchy about a fucking analogy.

    It's a figure of speech for chrissakes.

    Next up: Mike Masnick mixes metaphors and writes verse that doesn't scan properly. News at 10

     

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    Richard, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    Re: Alright.... thats enough

    if anything this shows that a community of passionate people cannot be left to dwell on one post with no clear guidance for an entire weekend without generating sufficient centrifugal force that we loose a few readers that were in the middle, thats a lot of spin over a very, very open and utterly hypothetical analogy.

     

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    diabolic (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    I have to agree with larry here, the industry seems to have some sense of entitlement to certain profits and ways of doing things. Things change, things that are out of our control like disruptive technologies. Those that do not adapt to the change get left behind.

    While I do not agree with this article, Doctor Strange gets it wrong too. I understand that money goes into producing recordings. I understand that if you create a product you have control over where a sale occurs, when a sale occurs and how much the sale is for. At the same time if your product is not what the customer wants or is not at a price point the customer is willing to pay then you will not make a sale. The music/recording industry works hard to create unbalanced contracts with both artists and customers. Bands are given terms where they give up all or most of their rights for life in exchange for creating some recordings one time - sounds like a Faustian deal to me. Then after the recordings are produced they are sold at a price point that is exactly the maximum each market is willing to pay. This is a win-win situation for the music/recording industry while all other parties get a raw deal. In response to the raw deals artists charge more for live shows (and other scarce goods that are not the recordings they gave up their rights to) and fans buy fewer recordings and start sharing them. The music/recording industry has created a situation that drives artists and customers away rather than drawing them in and they feel entitled to do so in perpetuity - that is wrong.

     

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    Ben Zayb, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    "There will be the same job for the touring musician, as long as they are touring. Managers will get a cut of income, but not income from album sales - just a cut from touring. Songwriting, editing, engineering, and production expenses will have to be paid from somewhere. Right now, many of these are paid out of album sales, but if the music is free, they'll come out of the 'scarce goods.' That's a net loss unless something makes up for it."

    Songwriting, in many cases, is also done by the touring musician. In cases where it is not, then songwriters should be paid by the musicians who want to sing their songs. Simple.

    Editing and other post-production matters (except for engineering) are a one-time expense. An expense that can eventually be recouped through ticket sales instead of album sales.

    Engineering is always part of a show, whether it's for recording or a live performance. In live performances, engineers and other production crew are paid by the show/concert promoters who have other monetary sources (as in sponsors and advertisers).

    Managers... do you honestly believe that even in the current situation, they get a share of record/album sales?

    If your argument against the free-instead-of-for-sale hypothesis is based on the belief that the aforementioned services are paid for only/mostly/primarily by record sales, then you give a very weak argument.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 10:43am

    "I have never seen so many people being so bitchy about a fucking analogy."
    ------------------

    Probably because at it's core it's an insult disguised as an analogy. It is comparing something ridiculously narrow to something ridiculously broad. It is comparing something that existed BEFORE humans to something that can only be made BY humans. It is comparing a bodily need (food) to a plethora of luxuries. A magic replicator that can only make a SINGLE, SOLITARY variety of tomato is not in any way, shape, or form analogous to the combined efforts of the music/film/literature/video game/etc industries.

    And yet Masnick says it's "the best description/analogy of what we've been trying to say here that I've ever heard."

    LOL

     

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    Luci, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 11:20am

    Re: Replicator Machines

    Wow. Great job extrapolating outside the box. Now, please. Set aside the keyboard and read the article, again. Because you, apparently, have very low reading comprehension. There is nothing about recreating sandwiches or soups. The replicator in the analogy only replicates tomatoes. Whole, fresh tomatoes. You still need someone else to make the finite goods. Breads, pastas, seasonings, soups, sandwiches, salads.

     

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    herodotus (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 11:32am

    "Probably because at it's core it's an insult disguised as an analogy."

    Insult? To whom? Perhaps someone is being a bit sensitive?

    "It is comparing something that existed BEFORE humans to something that can only be made BY humans."

    Actually, tomatoes as we know them today are not remotely natural. Every single variety on the market is bred by professionals, either working for a private company or at a university agricultural research center. Even the heirloom varieties only have to be 100 years old.

    "It is comparing a bodily need (food) to a plethora of luxuries."

    No. Food is a bodily need, but tomatoes could disappear from the earth without a single person going hungry. In the context of the global food market, tomatoes are a luxury.

    "A magic replicator that can only make a SINGLE, SOLITARY variety of tomato is not in any way, shape, or form analogous to the combined efforts of the music/film/literature/video game/etc industries."

    1. The post says nothing about the replicator making only one kind of tomato. The fact that you put that in caps tells me that you didn't read it very well.

    2. There are over 7000 varieties of tomatoes.

    3. Given the fact that 'the combined efforts of the music/film/literature/video game/etc industries' are all in the end a bunch of ones and zeros, the analogy is not really all that far off. This is especially true if you consider that to bring a tomato to your table involves the combined efforts of: agricultural scientists; farmers; the manufacturers and service technicians who make and maintain harvesting equipment; the people who make the boxes they ship in; the middlemen who buy wholesale and bring them to the retail market, and so on.

    4. None of this explains why people are being so bitchy about a figure of speech.

     

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    spinsheet (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 12:31pm

    Analogy

    @herodotus

    Yes, it's an analogy, an inaccurate one. One creates an analogy to make a point, an inaccurate analogy makes an inaccurate point.

    If I were to say that no auto maker could make a profit by giving away free cars then it only makes sense that music creators cannot make money by giving away free music, would that be accurate?

    Mike's analogy does make sense in some ways; however, it misses the point in others.

     

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    Chucklebutte (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    !

    Perfect!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 2:16pm

    "None of this explains why people are being so bitchy about a figure of speech."
    ----------

    Because figures of speech should still make some modicum of sense and even with all your dissecting, this one still doesn't.

    "Perhaps someone is being a bit sensitive?"
    ----------

    No. It's a common theme here to equate entire bodies of IP to naturally occurring resources that existed before humans ever lived. It is insulting to equate someone's hard work with air, water, or plants that predated us especially as a justification for stealing it (linguistically speaking of course).

    *CUE your spiel on how there are many people working to maintain the quality of our water and air and it is thus a perfectly reasonable example...

    "Actually, tomatoes as we know them today are not remotely natural. Every single variety on the..."
    -------------

    I bow to your superior tomato expertise -- although a cursory search did indicate that wild tomato strains are still thriving in South America. And just like the analogy said, the farmers could grow a new crop. And do so with comparatively minimal change to their equipment, workforce, facilities, and distribution chains. What "new crop" are the entertainment companies supposed to grow?

    "In the context of the global food market, tomatoes are a luxury."
    -------------

    The context to which I was obviously responding to was that a tomato replicator would end world hunger -- a sentiment always mentioned with these scenarios as if the biological NEED for nourishment is no more profound than the WANT for the latest proprietary entertainment. But you already knew that. Nice straw man.

    *CUE your spiel on how a tomato-only diet would be unhealthy and instead of starvation everyone would be dying of severe diarrhea...

    "Given the fact that 'the combined efforts of the music/film/literature/video game/etc industries' are all in the end a bunch of ones and zeros, the analogy is not really all that far off"
    ----------

    Completely irrelevant. If you're so set on being a reductionist, a tomato is simply atoms, which means it's "not that far off" from an elephant and they should therefore both grow on stems and be 99 cents a pound...

    *CUE your spiel on how in some parts of the world elephant meat actually is 99 cents a pound...

    *CUE your secondary spiel on how the elephant's trunk could easily be classified as a "stem" given it's early stage of embryonic development and...BLAH BLAH BLAH

     

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    Enigmatic, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 5:06pm

    How can you "steal" an infinate good?

    I think this gets to the heart of what the music and movie industry have been in error over for so long. They have continually accused those who freely take music and/or movies of costing them sales, when in reality there is no guarantee that a person would have indeed purchased the item had they not obtained it for free.

    I would like to take that a step further however, something which highlights the utter nonsense of their claim.

    READ ON

    If the "crime" is the loss of revenue caused by finding an alternative means of consuming the product, then consider this:

    I invite a group of friends over to watch a movie. Now that they have all watched the movie they are less likely to go out and purchase the movie now that they have seen it. Am I not costing the company a potential sale by doing this? How then is my crime any different to that of those who freely download it?

    While there may be some level of variation with factors like wanting to own and re-use a copy, there have been studies which show those who freely download such things are often the ones who purchase more than those who don't, which flies in the face of their claims that sales are being missed.

    Ultimately however I think the whole thing comes down to "appropriate pricing". The actual cost of production (1 DVD, a plastic sleeve and a paper cover), is incredibly small by comparison, barely costing more than a few dollars. Thus the majority of the price comes from the assumed "value" of the commodity and the level of supply/demand. Prices are made higher and higher on purpose to distinguish them from other products and to "make hay while the sun shines" so to speak. You can clearly see by the discounted shelves which items are not in demand and the prices drop very quickly as a result.

    When faced with an expensive item, people will naturally seek out a cheaper alternative, effectively creating the very problem they are complaining about. If however the price was made more appropriate, brought down to a more acceptable level, I almost guarantee that your average person would rather pay $10 for a good quality GENUINE product, than go through all the hassle and time wasting of trying to obtain a free copy which may/may not be the same quality.

    In effect they will increase the number of sales dramatically, where each of those people who would love to own a copy but thinks it is beyond their price range, would now purchase it because it is within reason. the increase in sales would mean more profit.

    So even without an infinate good, I think the analogy is still a very good one and can be used to show an "extreme" view which as it turns out is still profitable for those who can find it.

    As a last note... Think about this: Sand is free, you can reach down and grab a handful any time you like, heck grab a thousand handfuls! Yet people still gladly pay for sand in quantity, why? Quality aside, sometimes people would rather pay a modest amount than waste the time it would take to do it themselves. If they trippled the price of sand I guarantee more people would simply go grab their own.

    The music/movie companies have nobody but themselves to blame. This situation is a natural result of them artificially inflating the value of their product. Any "normal" business would have realised they have not found the "sweet spot" of supply/demand and that dropping the price would increase turn over and thus increase profit. They still have "big company" mentality

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 5:38pm

    Are you seriously asking what the difference is between buying a DVD and letting a few of your friends watch it once at your house versus buying a DVD and uploading it to the internet? Seriously?

    I bet you never go outside for fear of being trampled by an ant...

     

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    Ian McIntosh, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 6:00pm

    omg tomoto omg!

     

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    uhmno, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 6:50pm

    The following is a copy/paste of a comment someone made on slashdot a while ago when the French were discussing their 3 strikes law:

    "30 years ago, in 1979, if I wanted to get a permanent copy of some content – say, a novel -, I would have to purchase a bunch of paper, some inks, find the appropriate tools (thank god, Xerox already existed), spend a couple hours preparing stuff, and would end with my copy of the novel. At the same time, a professional content copier – which I would call, say, a printer – would purchase paper at a discount compared to me, inks the same, have the tools ready for use, spend 1/1000th of the time I did per copy. Requiring the services of a professional content duplicator to make my copy of some content made economical sense.

    Today, making a copy of some content involves about a milliwatt or so of electricity, a tool I already have, and 5s of my index or middle finger to do copy/paste. Using a professional content duplicator to make a copy of some content is an economically non-viable proposition, no matter how you turn around things. You cannot justify charging 15$ to make a DVD copy of a movie when I can make the same copy, at the same quality level, for one cent. And when I purchase your DVD, from my point of view, I am paying somebody 15$ for making a copy for me. That’s good, if your DVD is a luxury item. But for a common economy good? Not working.

    The profession of content duplicator is dead. Or dying. Like any profession that is no longer economically justified, it will go, like the hordes of people who slaved at hand looms to make cloths when Mr. Jacquart came with his automatic looms. They yelled, they ranted, they ran into the streets (hmmm, how many popular showings of movie industry people have we seen in the streets so far?). And in the end, they went, for no one would pay triple or worse prices for the same product.

    The entire content industry is running in circles because, for good or worse, they all have hitched their cart to the profession of content duplicator. We still need people to create content (we call them artists). We still need businesses to find “good” content creators from the masses and advertise this content (we call them editors). We still need businesses to take the raw content, polish it, make sure it’s well done (we call them producers). We even need business to deliver that content to us (we used to call them retail chains). What we no longer need is content duplicators. However, the whole content industry has decided (well, evolved) around the content duplicator. Why else are artists paid by the copy, if not because they use the content duplicator as the driver of their revenue. Everyone else in the industry does. Steve Jobs knew it when he was asked if he favored Blu-ray or HD-DVD: he said it didn’t matter, because the idea of making expensive copies of content was already dying.

    With that profession dying, they need to find out new methods of doing those services, and get paid. One segment of the content industry has already found it: the distributors. The guys who are delivering the content to the consumers are already there; they’re called ISPs, and they charge people for the delivery of content – any content – and they’re happy. They don’t care if the content is subcription-based TV, iTunes songs, web pages, or BitTorrent P2P streams. They have found out the new business model of content delivery, and they’re ready for the 21st century. The rest of the content profession still hasn’t figured out, or, in the case of the old delivery channels will be dead. As usual when business models change, most of the old business go titsup and new business appear instead – only rarely will an existing business figure out it needs changing, figure out how it will change, and do it."

     

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    Enigmatic, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 10:47pm

    Re: Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps you can explain the difference then:

    SAMPLE A:

    I purchase a DVD (1 sale), upload it, and 5 people download it (-5 sales).

    SAMPLE B:

    I purchase a DVD (1 sale), invite 5 friends over and we all watch it (-5 sales).



    While I am sure you could come up with scenarios where it is different, all of those scenarios would be specifically tailored to counter my claim, and I could come up with equally plausible scenrarios which support it. This doesn't change the fact that any method of providing material for viewing (ie making it available for download, inviting friends around to watch it) has the "potential" to reduce their sales.

    Why condemn one and not all of them?

    The point I am making is that its a fine line between what is considered acceptable and what is considered criminal, yet the end result is pretty much identical.

     

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    Enigmatic, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 10:57pm

    BRAVO!!

    I couldn't have put it better myself!

    This captures exactly what the issue is and shows how much of a "non-issue" it really is.

    What I find the most amusing about all of this is the shift in "content creators". More than anything else, the extortionate costs of movie making come down to the logistical costs of making the movie and the actorial costs in getting desired people to act in them. With the evolution in computer graphics the way it is going there will come a time when it will be economically viable to replace both the logistics and the actors of movies and produce the same quality of movies for a fraction of the cost.

    Why on earth movie studios are not investing all of their profits into the creation of virtual worlds and amassing digital "assets" as well as programs which can replicate the real world is beyond me. They could produce multiple movies with the same base world engines and "re-use" the same technique over and over again, reducing costs each time. When a movie can be made for $1 million, then charging people say $1 to purchase it (in any format) becomes economically sound again.

     

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    Hamish MacEwan (profile), Sep 13th, 2009 @ 11:21pm

    But who/how will pay?

    "Even if every single song, book, and movie was distributed digitally for free, there would still be a need for the music, publishing, and movie industries. There would still be demand for editors, producers, marketers, and all sorts of other services that these industries have always provided."

    Yes, but they are not the downstream of the free tomatoes, they are the farmers, breeders and harvesters of the scarce component, the original tomato. Free replication post creation, where's the money for the creators?

     

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    Richard, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:24am

    Re: BRAVO!!

    Well the games companies ARE doing exactly this - so maybe they will displace the movie companies in time.

    I guess Pixar are doing it too

    and I'm busy creating automated mechanisms for laying out the virtual sets. The target is to bet able to feed in the text of a novel and automatically generated sets for all the scenes.

     

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    Richard, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:41am

    Re: But who/how will pay?

    "Free replication post creation, where's the money for the creators?"

    They will be commissioned up front by people who want the work to exist.

    In the case of recordings of pre-existing music (e.g. classical music) it can be done via concerts.

    You hold a concert, people buy tickets - which funds the concert - then you can release the recording freely. Everyone has been paid at the time for their work so there is no need for the dead hand of copyright to overhang the whole thing. If the recording is good then it acts as promotion for the next concert by the same performers.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:52am

    Re: Replicators

    The problem with the replicator analogy is that we don't have one. Or, rather, we do, but for one specific class of products.

    Did you even READ the post? Because that's exactly what the analogy sets up.

    Yikes. Michael, please read before you disagree.

    Unfortunately, we don't have replicators for everything else, so the people who produce the "infinite" products we want and need can't just replicate the food and clothes and cars and homes that they need in turn. For that they need money, and for that they need someone to pay for the products that they create.

    Seriously. Try reading. The WHOLE POINT is the fact that we don't have replicators for everything -- so there's still money to be made in all of those OTHER things.

    Hence the disconnect.

    The only disconnect seems to be your failure to read the post.

    Or are they, like the studios, in it mostly for themselves?

    Huh? What does that have to do with anything?

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:55am

    Re:

    So I will agree that infinite goods shift jobs around. That there will necessarily be a net gain is certainly up for debate. In some logic, breaking a window creates more jobs, but we know that to be false. Let's argue that goods becoming infinite somehow reduces an inefficiency in the market. In the broken-window parable, it's the equivalent of shatter-proof glass. Dr. Wile E. Coyote of the ACME corporation creates ACME 100% shatter-proof glass. Lasts a thousand years. The primary effect of this is to put the glazier out of business. Maybe it "frees up the glazier to do more important things," but it doesn't create a job for him. If it creates a job at all, it creates a job as a shatter-proof materials chemist, which does the glazier piss-little good.

    But it frees up the glazier to find a better, more socially important job. That's the point of the broken windows parable. Or did you miss that?

    I suppose the argument is that this is good for society, and consumers especially: after spending $15, the college student no longer gets music OR beer, he gets music AND beer. This works out great for the college student and the beer brewer, but sort of shitty for the musician, the producer, the engineer, and the editors. If they are smart, they will retrain and move into a growth industry, like the beer industry.

    Jump to conclusions much? Why is it shitty for the musician when it means they can do more for less, and make more money at the same time?

    Geeze. Some people really go to amazing lengths to get nowhere.

     

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  95.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    How do you propose to demonstrate this increase in aggregate output?

    All of economic history has shown that when you make a market more efficient, the overall market size increases.

    Are you going to suggest that this ONE time in history, those basic economics won't apply? Do you REALLY want to make that bet?

    I would suggest that given the history, that the burden is on you to "demonstrate" that the aggregate output doesn't increase.

     

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  96.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:00am

    Re: Another a circle jerk by techdirt economic illiterates

    Another a circle jerk by techdirt economic illiterates

    If you could point to a single economically illiterate point I have made, I would appreciate it. Otherwise, I will assume that your insulting language suggests you can't.

    What about the poor shmuck that wrote the software for the replicator? I'm guessing he gets paid in infinite tomatoes?

    Yeah, because no one created the internet without getting to control it... oh wait...

    Who's illiterate again?

     

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  97.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:03am

    Re: Tomatoes

    Interesting, but it misses the crucial point that no-one has, or claims, copyright or patent rights on a 'tomato'.

    But they do claim "ownership" of the tomato. Same thing.

    Like them or not, respect them or not, there is such a thing as intellectual property, and the creator of an original work retains as much right over that work as he cares to.

    Indeed. How's that been working lately?

    However , rather than libertarian or free-marketish, the whole file-sharing thing seems damn near Marxist in most of the justifications offered.

    How do you figure? A centralized gov't backed monopoly? And supporting lessening that power is Marxist? Really? Yikes.

     

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  98.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:05am

    Re:

    There is no such thing, nor will there ever be.

    The first problem is denial...

    There are infinite resources. Might want to look around.

     

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  99.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:07am

    Re: Alright.... thats enough

    This analogy is pathetic

    Why?

    I'm no fan of the music industry, but c'mon techdirt..... do you seriously agree that this argument is valid?

    Yes. I do. Why don't you?

    It wasn't like this before, but recently you guys are continuously letting strong opinions cloud your common sense.

    Really? Rather than just insisting this is bad, why not let us know why.

     

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  100.  
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    Richard, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:25am

    Re: Re: Marxist

    " rather than libertarian or free-marketish, the whole file-sharing thing seems damn near Marxist in most of the justifications offered.

    How do you figure? A centralized gov't backed monopoly? And supporting lessening that power is Marxist? Really? Yikes."

    I think the problem here is trying to confine a two dimensional reality into an old one dimensional political spectrum.
    Socialism has been proposed in a variety of forms - only one of which is the top down - government imposed version. The bottom up co-operative/mutual model is also possible. Similarly capitalism can exist in a "big company/corporatist semi-monopoly" format or in a small company/startup, fair competition version. Personally I reckon the small/big thing is probably more important than the capitalist/socialist version. Small seems to be associated with more freedom in both cases.

    Filesharing is definitely a small = good, big = bad thing and probably pretty much neutral on the capitalist/socialist political spectrum.

     

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  101.  
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    Upstart Crow, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:54am

    C'mon, people.

    Sheesh, peeps. There's no greater waste of time than to over-analyze a metaphor, or, even worse - analogy.

    The geeks rush to attack the analogy and pick it apart. That's something that's always bothered me about my fellow geeks - too much attention to irrelevant detail rather than the underlying substance.

    An analogy will never be perfect. If you want a perfect model for debate, discuss the actual facts and issues - an analogy is for clarifying broad issues or for isolating particular facets by making one look at them in a new light... e.g., the analogy. Every analogy, and metaphor, for that matter, will fall apart under too much scrutiny over detail.

    All that being said, bravo to the general analogy. No, it's not perfect, but it illustrates the basic problems that the media industries are facing and helps us understand their dilemma and misguided attempts to thwart the changes to their doomed business model.

    LL&P.

     

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  102.  
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    Richard, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 2:57am

    Re: Microsoft Windows business model

    "Windows owns 90% of market share, but MS never sold this amount of licences! - so, most of this share is made of 'pirate copies'. Why isn't MS broken???"

    They also gave away a lot for zero marginal cost. Many corporate and educational licensing arrangements are effectively on an "all you can eat" model. We have a huge stash of XP licenses most of which will never be used....

     

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  103.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Marxist


    Filesharing is definitely a small = good, big = bad thing and probably pretty much neutral on the capitalist/socialist political spectrum.


    I'm not sure I agree with that. We've seen how smart content creators have used file sharing to their own advantage to make a lot more money than they have before. So why would it be classified as "small = good"? I don't think size has anything to do with it, really.

     

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  104.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 3:51am

    Excellent analogy, imho.

    It reminds me of the idea behind Open Source software: software is free and can be copied and used by anyone, but the services and all the infrastructure needed by the software (the tangible stuff) is where profit can be made.

    At the moment, companies like Microsoft (they're just the best example, not trying to start a flame war) try to make software a scarce resource and apply the restrictions of physical goods on it through strict licensing -- but that is not a good thing for anyone except themselves, I think.

    The new business model that is starting to emerge in software is "the cloud", which I must tell you I don't like one bit. They lock up everything, so they can provide a service that can be charge for. Technology-wise it's like going back to the 1960s with dumb terminals (worse than that if you factor in network problems), but they're prepared to present this as the "new and improved" computing. Very annoying for those who can see where this is headed. I hope it doesn't catch on!

     

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  105.  
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    Brad, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 6:12am

    great, just one unanswered question

    I like the analogy, but one thing remains, to find out where to generate the revenue from the new system. I agree that we need to look to the future, and that people will always need music, art, and cinema. The only challenge would be finding where exactly the best place to place revenue generation in that space. I bet whoever can figure out. I'm guessing that whoever comes up with that answer will be a lucky person.

     

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  106.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 7:04am

    Re: Replicator Machines

    Game over for anything but niche live performances and personalities. You see, the tomato machine doesn't just copy--it removes the need for originals. Originals will still be there, when people get bored, but demand will be vastly lower than at any previous point.

    i disagree. if anything, the need for new originals would increase because the price of failure would be eliminated or at least significantly reduced and the market will be filled with so many products. with free replication and distribution, you can just make stuff and put it out there to succeed or fail on its own merit. communities will build around the good stuff and those communities are where the markets for scarce goods will materialize.

    this community building will require marketers and publishers to get people involved. with so much media out there, you will need someone to help you find the stuff you like. as a science fiction type you have to be accustomed to sifting through volumes of the bad stuff to get to the stuff you like. now take that activity and imagine doing that for every genre of music, television, cinema, and book. a company could get rich on selling convenience alone with no other value-add.

    the only game that's over is the mass production of media that appeals to a broad audience. the new game is in taking the millions you would have spent on a single project and making hundreds, possibly thousands of new projects that cater to specific interests. people support media that they believe in. people don't believe in auto-tune and reality television.

    with each of those new projects, they will either succeed or fail, and since fewer dollars were invested, they don't need to earn as much to turn a profit and succeed and fewer dollars have been risked in the case of failure.

     

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  107.  
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    MCR, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 7:10am

    I'm not sure u can use a food analogy, as it's a basic requirement of life. For example, we already have replicator technology in use for our most basic requirement: air. Air is free, readily reproducable, and though it's quality varies by area, it's quantity has never been a problem. Of course, people pay money to have their air smell better or compressed into a can, but those are services that require additional resources.

     

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  108.  
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    Sean, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    Re: So who always wants to eat the same tomato?

    You're either being stupid, obtuse, or both. The important piece of the analogy is that just because an item becomes infinite, doesn't mean an entire industry is ruined. The movie doesn't have to be the same one over and over and over, because once a new movie is made, it can be replicated forever. See, new movies will continue to be made, but they are now just an infinite good, like the tomato, which is the point of the analogy - infinite goods/remove of scarcity. New books will be written, but they will exist infinitely and can be replicated over and over immediately.

    Regarding your last 'paragraph', they are put out of business selling the music/tomato (the infinite good in this scenario) but can now make money selling something ELSE.

     

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  109.  
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    Sean, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    My god

    It would seem we're replicating diplomas and degrees because there's no way so many people could not understand such a basic and accurate analogy of infinite goods.

     

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  110.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Scarce goods are where the money is at

    "A question, then: would you characterize the Buggy Whip manufacturers as having a "business model problem?" Would you offer to sell them consulting services to help them with this problem? What would you tell them if they hired you?"

    I would tell them they do have a business model problem. If they asked, I would tell them to stop making buggy whips, and start making tires.

     

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  111.  
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    trench0r (profile), Sep 14th, 2009 @ 4:30pm

    Re: Re:

    I agree with mike on this one, although I don't think it frees the glazier in question to suddenly go out and become a social worker for illiterate children (a worthy cause, be it as it may), I think people feel entitled to their profession. Listen people, we can't all be glaziers, I mean yeah I guess we could all be astronauts or presidential candidates, but I think what mike said is that the glazier in question could do something better with his time than make glass, and I for one do not think it makes him any less of a master glazier to boot. Plenty of skilled glaziers do it as a hobby, for fun, for free, or at least, on their own terms... how's that for entitlement?

     

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  112.  
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    Benefacio, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 6:03pm

    This one completely misses the mark

    'It's about the best description/analogy of what we've been trying to say here that I've ever heard.'

    I disagree since the analogy still has a valid distribution industry for tomatoes. To make it closer, the replicators need to be cheap and easy to produce as well as widely abundant such that the vast majority of the population has access to free tomatoes without the need for packaging or transport. This would more closely, erm replicate, the situation where content via digital file transfer is eliminating the need for a cd/dvd and the ancillary jobs that surround it as a means of transferring content.

    'This would put tomato farmers out of business.'

    No it would not since there will always be a market for home grown tomatoes. We already see this in the tomato production industry today without the need for replicators. It is not important anyway since the creation of content is not in jeopardy, only the profitable transportation of content is. The farmer will find reduced demand for tomatoes, to be sure, but he can always grow other food that is not replicated as well as specialty tomatoes. Neither the pizza place nor the chef is in jeopardy at all since none of them are in the tomato transport industry.

    'And there is still a demand for the people who bring the tomatoes from the replicator to your table. There is still a demand for the person who stews and cans the tomatoes, or dices and seasons them. And all the other food items, the ones that aren't in infitnite supply, still need people to produce, process, and distribute them.'

    Maybe so, but all of them will see reduced demand for their goods and services as we are already seeing in the music industry. Heck, the CfW+RtB campaign highlights just that issue.

     

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  113.  
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    Enigmatic, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re: So who always wants to eat the same tomato?

    Sean,

    But is this the case?

    I have to wonder if people would make movies or write books unless they knew they could make a lot of money for doing it. I like the concept of this, and I do believe that infinate availability doesn't directly cause problems, but there would be a threshhold under which people will no longer produce things as a result.

    Using the infinate tomato analogy as an example, if the time/effort/cost of producing the tomato was higher then people would stop making them, it is only because the original production costs are low does the infinate supply negligable.

    This is where the movie/music business is caught. So much money is poured into videos and movie effects and paying the stars that the juggernaught MUST maintain a high yield of return on their products to make it worth them doing it in the first place.

    So I think this is not something in isolation (nothing ever is), its part of a larger system and the more you increase the availability and reduce the price, the less will be produced due to the higher costs of doing so.

    Personally I think what is missing here is the "sweet spot". The point at which people would rather obtain legitimate copies of things over free copies. When faced between free and a $50 DVD, when you only paid $15 to see it at the movies, who wouldn't choose the free version? The companies already made their money back with the movie sales, so why then are they screwing people over even more by charging a LARGER amount for a product that cost them next to nothing to replicate? If however they put a price point of say $5-10 on the item, less than what they did at the movies then you will find a lot more people would prefer to get a high quality copy through legitimate channels (which is fast and efficient for them), than go otu of their way to try and find a decent copy to download for free. It then becomes in their best interest to get the legal copy because it is more economical in the long run.

    The upside of this is that a reduced cost OBVIOUSLY increases the quantity sold... this is called "turnover", and I think major companies have lost sight of this in a MAJOR way. By halving the cost of their goods, they could potentially DOUBLE their sales, which means they end up with just as much money as they previously had, but with a lot more happy people in the process.

    You cannot replicate the cinema experience (as much as we try with projectors and home theatre), and so people will always gladly pay to go and see a movie or a concert, regardless of whether it is available for free (we could all just wait until its on the TV, but we dont, because we WANT to see it NOW). But the higher they put the prices up the more they are pushing people to make the decision to go for free.

    In this context, infinate and free replication is a completely moot point because while it may be free, it isn't without cost in time and effort, and human beings put a lot more stock in reducing their effort than they do in saving a few bucks. Turn that into saving $50 and you have a totally different story... whats the difference? The "sweet spot", that point at which people's effort is reduced below their outlay.

    Its the whole reason why people still go to video shops. Its easier to pay $5, grab it on the spot and watch a good quality version instantly than going through the motions of doing a search, finding a decent copy, waiting for it to download, etc, etc, etc

     

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  114.  
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    Enigmatic, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 6:42pm

    Re: Re: Alright.... thats enough

    Mike,

    I dont think the analogy is pathetic but it does have one major flaw (which those who can use their brain will easily overcome).

    Replicating tomatos is the first step in the process. Prior to the replication the tomato doesn't exist, and after the replication an infinate supply exists. Nothing is required as "input" for this process to function.

    The movie/music industry however is different in that there is a prior step before replication can be done, and this prior step is both time consuming and costly. You cannot replicate if you don't have anything to replicate with, and so an infinate and FREE supply as a result of their hard work and effort would result in fewer and fewer being made to start with, which means there is nothing to replicate and the whole thing becomes a mute point.

    The analogy does however show a "tendancy" towards one extreme which I think perfectly highlights the fallacy created by Music/Movie companies about their lost revenue. It correctly shows that an infinate and free supply does not automatically mean nobody would buy it.

    Like i said... people with brains should be able to use the analogy correctly, only because they realise the purpose of an analogy is to "EXPLAIN" something to those who are struggling to understand the rudimentary concepts. Once those rudimentary concepts are understood, there is no point in sticking with the analogy.

    So all those people who are picking the analogy apart instead of using it as "reference" need to learn the reason one is used to start with.

    Good job!

     

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  115.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2009 @ 7:02pm

    "See, new movies will continue to be made, but they are now just an infinite good, like the tomato, which is the point of the analogy - infinite goods/remove of scarcity."


    BUT...the analogy predicted that the tomato farmers would GO OUT OF BUSINESS and STOP FARMING TOMATOES in light of an infinite tomato machine!

    You are suggesting that the tomato farmers would growing new breeds of tomatoes even though that is not at all what the analogy suggests.

     

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


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