Lars Has His Say

from the silly-drummer dept

Well, feel free to read what Metallica’s Lars Ulrich had to say to Congress concerning Napster. It’s a little more clear headed than some of the stuff he’s said in the past, but I still think he’s still completely misunderstanding what’s going on. He makes it sound as if the government is completely responsible for determing how Metallica can make a living. The government hasn’t helped me make a living. He also continues to compare downloading music to physical theft of CDs, which is obviously not true. When you steal a CD you have actually removed a tangible object from somewhere, thus denying the possibility of selling that exact item to someone else. Passing along a digital good is not the same thing.

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Comments on “Lars Has His Say”

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audris says:


mike, you’ve mentioned several times that theft requires the actual physical removal of an object and etc. what do you consider it then, when someone takes a diskette and copies confidential corporate information which is clearly the property of the corporation, and afterwards sells/uses/gives away that information? That would be considered passing along a digital good. The original property is still in its original spot. But to me, I still consider it to be theft. I’m not arguing that Napster=theft, I just don’t think that your definition of theft is the strongest argument against people calling using Napster theivery.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s an excellent question. The difference here is in the nature of the good in question. That is, when we’re talking about music, it is obviously a good that has been designed for consumption by a marketplace. In this case, the marketplace has set a price for the good at zero, and the musicians can’t seem to accept that.

When talking about corporate information, you’re no longer talking about a good that has been built to be put in the market place in any format. It is, rather, confidential information that has been designed to stay in one place.

The equivalent argument I can make in the music world, is that I do not think it’s okay when some musicians have found that songs they haven’t released have somehow gotten out into the world, and are available on Napster. That’s a different story. Their product is not in the marketplace.

But, once the material is released into the market place (by the original creator of that material, or whoever owns the rights), then it’s up to the market to set the price and find the most efficient course of distribution. I’m not saying that the original owner can’t try to influence where it goes (exactly what Lars is trying to do), but I’m pointing out that technology has a way of pushing things to their most efficient, and trying to hold back that tide is close to impossible. And, once an item is in the marketplace, then putting false barriers on it and saying that digital copies are equivalent to walking into a record store and stealing a CD is misleading.

Todd says:

re: price

The price in the marketplace is not zero; rather, per my comments a month or so ago, the price is search costs + patience costs + bandwidth. If you add + distribution costs + record label margin + artists margin, the general equation fits the real world and the internet. The artists and the labels have a wonderful time asserting that their piece of the three variables above is soooo low that they can’t exist if Napster takes volume away. Back to Napster, assuming they continue to exist in their current form, all of the variables save bandwidth costs and patience costs are zero. But bandwidth and patience aren’t generally free. Free ISP doesn’t mean free bandwidth, unless PacBell is giving away phone lines, too. Patience is another story; there are some who value their time, some who don’t know how, and some who take time away from work to post economic arguments in the reply section of Techdirt. Go figure.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: price

As always, good clarifications from Todd… However, I have to make a point on bandwidth. I do agree that it is a cost to the system, but one that is not a variable cost paid for in dollars by the user… Also, at a certain point the time factor that the bandwidth leads to is close to a non-issue. So, I don’t see bandwidth as a real variable cost involved in downloads. Patience again depends on the speed of the connection that you have, and at a certain point it becomes “virtually” free. So, yes, there may be a small cost nowadays, but these are costs that will decrease with time until they are effectively zero in terms of a variable cost/per song.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: price

Truly a fixed cost amortization issue, to be sure: invest $300 to $3000 in a PC, subscribe to cable or get a phone line, then pay additional fees for high-speed access or flat rate for dial-up, and, voila, your variable cost is zero. Truly, it is. Problem is that the poor souls logging in from the public library will ask Napster who? As might the sad lot who still use AOL and get disconnected mid-song (as is the experience among the taunted few AOL users in my office). In other words, some real hurdles for Napster to be as ubiquitous as Lars and others would try to have us believe.

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