History Repeats Itself: How The RIAA Is Like 17th Century French Button-Makers

from the no,-seriously... dept

As regular readers know, I’ve been working through a series of posts on how economics works when scarcity is removed from some areas. I took a bit of a break over the holidays to catch up on some reading, and to do some further thinking on the subject (along with some interesting discussions with people about the topic). One of the books I picked up was one that I haven’t read in well over a decade, but often recommend to others to read if they’re interested in learning more about economics, but have no training at all in the subject. It’s Robert L. Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers. Beyond giving readers a general overview of a variety of different economic theories, the book actually makes them all sound really interesting. It’s a good book not necessarily because of the nitty gritty of economics (which it doesn’t cover), but because it makes economics interesting, and gives people a good basis to then dig into actual economic theory and not find it boring and meaningless, but see it as a way to better understand what these “philosophers” were discussing.

Reading through an early chapter, though, it struck me how eerily a specific story Heilbroner told about France in 1666 matches up with what’s happening today with the way the recording industry has reacted to innovations that have challenged their business models. Just two paragraphs highlight a couple of situations with striking similarities to the world today:

“The question has come up whether a guild master of the weaving industry should be allowed to try an innovation in his product. The verdict: ‘If a cloth weaver intends to process a piece according to his own invention, he must not set it on the loom, but should obtain permission from the judges of the town to employ the number and length of threads that he desires, after the question has been considered by four of the oldest merchants and four of the oldest weavers of the guild.’ One can imagine how many suggestions for change were tolerated.

Shortly after the matter of cloth weaving has been disposed of, the button makers guild raises a cry of outrage; the tailors are beginning to make buttons out of cloth, an unheard-of thing. The government, indignant that an innovation should threaten a settled industry, imposes a fine on the cloth-button makers. But the wardens of the button guild are not yet satisfied. They demand the right to search people’s homes and wardrobes and fine and even arrest them on the streets if they are seen wearing these subversive goods.”

Requiring permission to innovate? Feeling entitled to search others’ property? Getting the power to act like law enforcement in order to fine or arrest those who are taking part in activities that challenge your business model? Don’t these all sound quite familiar? Centuries from now (hopefully much, much sooner), the actions of the RIAA, MPAA and others that match those of the weavers and button-makers of 17th century France will seem just as ridiculous.

If you’re looking to catch up on the posts in the series, I’ve listed them out below:

Economics Of Abundance Getting Some Well Deserved Attention
The Importance Of Zero In Destroying The Scarcity Myth Of Economics
The Economics Of Abundance Is Not A Moral Issue
A Lack Of Scarcity Has (Almost) Nothing To Do With Piracy
A Lack Of Scarcity Feeds The Long Tail By Increasing The Pie
Why The Lack Of Scarcity In Economics Is Getting More Important Now

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Comments on “History Repeats Itself: How The RIAA Is Like 17th Century French Button-Makers”

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misanthropic humanist says:


Keep on this Mike, it’s a fascinating research topic. I hope you get a publisher to take a book of your own on it one day.

Protectionism is an ancient common theme, the alchemists, the swordsmiths, the stonemasons, the brewers all have this in their history. The aims are always benign to start with, to protect (literally, in a good way) otherwise etherial knowledge that was only passed down word of mouth from generation to generation. Then it becomes the task of controlling it, to become gatekeepers of knowledge, and finally it becomes an offensive to stamp out rival knowledge. And it’s cyclic, with hubris always before fall, often involving the destruction of the very knowledge the gatekeepers sought to preserve.

History has shown one thing to be consistent. You can have paradigm shift or incremental progress, evolution or revolution. It really is either/or. If you block the flow of progress eventually it will come busting through depite all your efforts. Evolution and incremental progress are always more comfortable than revolutionary movement, and yet generation after generation there are those who will stand their armies before an irresistable force. Blocking irresistable forces causes more misery in the end than allowing them to roll gracefully by.

I read a fascinating book (whos title escapes me for the moment) on
strategic control of technologies, well before 9/11 and the “terrorism” hysteria. It brought up all these familiar arguments. That the common man was not responsible enough to have forbidden knowledge. That popularisation would debase high standards (of safety for example). That the means to innovate should be restricted.

Before shaking your head in agreement, consider that this (rare and possibly classified text) was all about biotechnology and nuclear technolgies. Does that change anything with such a scary context? I argue that it does not, in a reality where box-cutters and public transport become the preffered tools of destruction.

As a psychological observation I have one thing to say that fits perfectly into your picture of the “economics of abundance”. What is the mindstate of the protectionist? Is it that he fears his means of income is threatened? Is it that he fears losing control over knowledge and the means of production will disempower him? Only a little, it is more subtle. The protectionist fears the end, the limit. His greatest fear is that “that’s all there is”, there is no better way, nothing more, nothing beyond. He fears he has reached the peak of achievement and can never do better, it is an intellectual mid-life crisis of a kind, and so begins the quest to build a wall around what he has.

Kevin (user link) says:

Scarcity in Economics

Great Post. After your post last month about scarcity I picked up the book you refered to, “Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea” Great book.
I also have read Heilbroners’ book a few times since high school, most recently about 2 years ago.
it’s good to revisit old books to get fresh ideas.
I escecially like the chapters onThorstein Veblen.

Dan says:

Not the Same

At the risk of being flamed. . . .

These are not the same situations.

The RIAA and MPAA want to keep people from stealing their property. The button makers wanted to keep people from making a new kind of button. The RIAA and MPAA are not (YET) stopping people from making their own new music and movies.

I don’t like the tactics these organizations are using anymore than you, but they do have a right to protect their intellectual property.

Now, if the button makers were going around arresting people for reusing buttons on different clothes than they were originally sewed to you’d have a better comparison.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not the Same

I see your point, but one could argue that they are the same. The button makers were making buttons to fit a specific design, basically selling copies of the original button, for use on clothing. Tailors began making their own buttons, basically producing their own copies of the button makers item. When I buy a CD I am buying the a copy of the music industries original. People can now download music, making their own copies of the music industries item.

Mousky says:

Re: Not the Same

It’s about the business model. Mike is pointing out how instead of changing their business model, the button makers turned to the government to protect their industry. This is exactly what the RIAA and MPAA have been doing over the past 10 years. Instead of changing their business models, the RIAA and MPAA have turned to the government to extend the life of copyright, to make it illegal to circumvent copy protection schemes, having the ability to file lawsuits willy nilly with little to no repercussions, and so on, to protect their out-of-date business model.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not the Same

your wrong. it’s exactly the same. the riaa which is representing an industry which was proven GUILTY of breaking anti-trust laws, is trying to prevent other means of distribution from growing. “nip it in the bud”

riaa and the recording industry in general controls distribution. they also control the exposure via advertising.

both traditional advertising and traditional distribution can both be replaced by the internet, removing the multi-billion dollar middle man. Example: A band becomes a huge success due to a site like MySpace. Their name becomes a household item, they give away their music for free, and heard on ipods and other digital devices across the entire world, spread via bittorrent, podcasts, etc etc etc. They go on tour, and make a killing selling merchandise and tickets.

This is the RIAAs worst nightmare. It’s far worse then the piracy, and means their and the recording industries eventual irrelevance.

yes the piracy issue is a problem because the new distribution medium is difficult for the recording industry to get a handle on. the fact is, they don’t want to get a handle on it, they’d like it to stay the same. HEY PEOPLE, BE GOOD LITTLE SHEEP AND GIVE US YOUR MONEY THE SAME WAY you’ve been doing for the last 50 years.

you see the RIAA is not about music. It’s about advertising dollars and distribution costs, which since they ‘ve been the only game in town, get to set the prices “as they see fit”.

one last time for the really stupid: the riaa’s product isn’t music. it’s their advertising and distribution service. that’s their product. the internet is competition to that old dinosaur of a product. the internet makes distribution and advertising CHEAP.

it’s exactly the buttonmakers.


jn says:

Re: Watch the slippery slope! (Not the Same)

Consider the effect of the recently reintroduced bill, “Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act“, AKA the PERFORM Act. It is easy to argue that the efforts of the RIAA to encumber distribution channels with DCMA schemes of their (the RIAA’s) choosing make it more difficult for independent musicians, podcasters, etc. to create and distribute their own content.

Instead of simply making it illegal, the RIAA can make it infeasible by continually raising the levels of cost and difficulty. Not much difference, from my perspective.

Let me be clear; I do not advocate breaking the law nor ignoring copyright constraints. However, I equally emphatically do not regard the efforts of e.g. the RIAA and MPAA as being about protecting the royalties of creative artists. These industry organizations are concerned with retaining their role as middlemen between creators and consumers, and the profits and power that accrue to that role.

By analogy…
A greedy landowner builds a bridge across a river, using property he owns on both sides. He then begins to impose a toll on everyone who uses his bridge. OK, so far, legally and ethically.
He then tries to prevent competition by buying up nearby parcels of land along both banks, leaving the only river access in slivers of land too narrow to support bridge building. Legal, though of questionable ethics.
People continue to build narrow piers on the remaining land, ferrying themselves (or others) across the river in rowboats. The bridge owner counters by getting politicians to write laws that crossing may only be done using horse-drawn or motor vehicles. Down the path to corruption.
Then the pesky uncooperative “bridge-toll-pirates” go out and buy jet skis and continue their “unauthorized” ferry operations. So the bridge owner attempts to get legislation requiring pneumatic, rubber-tired wheels on all river-crossings (claiming some sort of “passenger safety” issue). …and the arms race continues!

There’s nothing wrong with an invester putting resources into a profit-making venture. But when he attempts to put artificial constraints on new technology solely for the purpose of retaining his position of power and profit by inhibiting competition, then he is abusing his role and his fellow citizens. Any politician who colludes with him in this effort is corrupt.

simon says:

so how come

so how come when another party (see here allofmp3’s like) make-it in sales, without their initiative, consent, whatever, with same kind of legal product (because they are legal in their country) are slapped down and constrict by pressure (see Credit Card refusal to collaborate) and their money in legal fees (up to 20% from sales) were turned down

RIAA ans MPAA stick to same platform sale : cda/whatever, ignoring what they are selling, who cares this day about a cd , so soft and easy to deteriorate, all want digital format, high quality, playable on all supports at affordable prices to kick out free, high compressed, low quality digital music available on share networks

yes, we wanna buy the music, yes we want to buy the films, yes i want to go with my external hard drive at shop and say how much this movie costs, please put-it on my hard-drive and mark-it as purchased on my personal card, so i can retrieve-it again at service price anytime i will desire from shop.

i want to see a shop offering this : come with your personal digital support and get your movie from us: high definition, rental for 3$ , 1-5 views, no copy option, media player included , full purchase, 12-15$ option to retrieve at any time again for only 1-2$ service cost …

same thing for music/music albums/ whatever including print-outs, etc …

and i wanna see them worldwide so i can get them too here in belgium ,without having to download lower quality ones from share networks, due to traffic limitation …

Consti2tion says:

Re: so how come

Actually Microsoft kind of does that with Zune. You can Rent digital movies for 14 days for X amount of Microsoft points (roughly $10-$15 for new releases) and if you want to purchase it its about $20, and you can choose between HD or SD (SD is significantly cheaper than HD) and they have music and TV shows as well.

misanthropic humanist says:

Not the Same

“Now, if the button makers were going around arresting people for reusing buttons on different clothes than they were originally sewed to you’d have a better comparison.”

A good point well taken Dan, insofar as reasoning by analogy can be.

However I must correct you on this point,

“The RIAA and MPAA want to keep people from stealing their property.”

The MAFIAA (get used to it 🙂 do not own that intellectual property.
They claim to represent interests who do, who in turn claim to represent interests that do. That’s two levels of indirection. The only people who have a legitimate claim to that property, the artists, are almost universally opposed to the lawsuits and abuse.

“The RIAA and MPAA are not (YET) stopping people from making their own new music and movies.”

If you consider the suppression of mashups, remixes and sampling which are legitimately granted under Fair Use provisions, then yes they are.

Fromtheinternets says:

Re: Not the Same

Actually….P Diddy, Will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, The Game, Mary J Blige , Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather and Jamie Foxx, created an ORIGINAL video in support of Megavideo and Megaupload, and it was Subsequently taken down by Universal Music claiming Copyright infringement, even though they had absolutely no rights to the video or any of its content.

Elin whitney-Smith (user link) says:

control of innovation

In Holland and later in England the newly literate craftsproducing class changed how they ran their businesses. Men like Jack of Newburry hired 100 apprentices and gave them material to weave and collected the cloth when they were done. Because he, unlike his father, could read and keep track of his business with double entry book keeping he didn’t have to live in common with his apprentices.

The guilds objected, as they did in your exerpt so Jack simply moved out of town.

This was the beginning of capitalism and the incredible wealth of the West.

greg says:

i hate you for this....

you’re making me defend the RIAA….

however….. in order for the analogy to be proper, the RIAA would have to be angry that people started recording their own music and stopped buying theirs. Or – these cloth button types would have to be making bit perfect bootleg duplicates of the traditional buttons then giving them away for free.

Ill be honest, Im a pirate and Im proud to pirate, but this anti-RIAA rabble rabble mindless din is just getting embarrassing.

Anonymous Coward says:

RIAA ,a recording industry trade group paid for by Geffen Records, Island Records, Universal Music Group, Concord Records, EMI Recorded Music, SONY BMG, Buena Vista Music, Curb Records, RCA Music Group, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, The Atlantic Group, Koch Entertainment, Wind-up Records, Virgin Records America, Tommy Boy Records, Capitol Records.

Please associate the companies that fund the RIAA with each mention of it. That way people will start associating it with who the bad guys really are.

bodo (user link) says:

You don’t need to go to other industries. The history of copyright is full with interest groups trying to maintain their grip on production and distributions channels well from the early 1500’s.
One thing one can learn from history is that there were times when massive piracy was able to induce a change in how business is done.
two great books on the topic:
Patterson L R: Copyright in Historical Perspective, Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 1968
Plant M: The English Book Trade, George Allen & Unwin, 1939

David says:

Not getting the comparison...

The RIAA doesn’t care if you use innovative new tools to make your OWN music. What they care about is using new technology to steal the work of other people – people who have put in the time to make a product and are setting a price for their property which people are then free to pay for or not in a voluntary transaction.

I honestly would like somebody to explain to me how so many seem to be for the piracy of intellectual property. It’s just mystifying to me.

Are we saying that just because we can pirate music and movies now from the privacy of our own homes – that just because the technology exists to allow us to do so, that it’s okay to do it?

The technology exists to counterfeit money failry easily, but nobody thinks that’s okay.

I just don’t see why it’s so bad that people who make movies and music want people to pay for the product they’ve made if they choose to consume it.

It’s great that some people are making their own content and want to distribute it for free. Awesome. But that doesn’t mean that NOBODY, then, should have the right to create content with the intention of charging users for what they’ve made if that be their choice. Just like any other product.

I can put in the time, money and effort to create teddy bears and give them away for free through the mail if I wanted to. Nobody disputes that. But if I wanted to charge people for those bears, nobody would bat an eye. So why do people think that those charging for movies and music shouldn’t have the same right?

Jason Ruttiger says:

Re: Not getting the comparison...

I am definitely NOT for stealing other’s intellectual property – but I WILL defend (by ANY MEANS NECESSARY) my rights for Fair Use. If this means ignoring the DCMA and inventing a way to allow MYSELF to make backup copies of media (read: intellectual property), I WILL DO SO – and I will defend to the death my right to do so.

Chuck Pelto (profile) says:

Abundance Is Good

TO: Mike
RE: Consider Our Alleged Medical Care Crisis

I think you could apply this methodology to solving our problem with medical care in this country.

The proverbial elephant in the living room, as far as I can tell, is the fact that the AMA has a hammer lock on the priesthood of medical practicioners.

If we had more doctors and such, we’d have more competition. And, consequently, lower costs.

In my honest opinion, there is enough blame to go around for EVERYONE on this; patients, politicians, drug companies, insurance companies, government bureaucrats, etc., etc., etc.

All the politicans want to talk about all of them, except for the AMA. And I find that a bit curious…..



Homer says:

RE: Not getting the comparison...

Well, David,

Here’s the problem with your argument. I *am* a producer of unique and copyrighted information, and I am thoroughly opposed to the position of the MAFIAA (thanks for the insightful description, misanthropic humanist :o)).

The MAFIAA are not really opposing piracy (more accurately, copyright violation). They aren’t concerned with the wholesale distribution of the intellectual property of their ‘members’ (if they were, they would spend their time and effort pursuing those who are actually distributing *for profit* copies of movies and music, etc. *as a business*), instead of wasting their time suing individuals. What the MAFIAA want is *control*. They want you to pay, frequently, and expensively, for the *right* to use what you have already purchased. They are TERRIFIED of the idea that they are not needed, as middlemen, in the transfer of concept from creator to consumer.

The MAFIAA produce no content, they create no new music, they create no new movies. They do NOTHING other than suck the life from those who create, at the cost of those who consume. Just like any ‘protection racket’, they want their ‘cut’, though they have not actually earned it.

They are sucking at the teat of the state, buying elected officials, greasing the wheels, because they live in fear that the actual producers of content can live without them. Electronic distribution is NOT a threat to copyright, it is a threat to the middleman, who takes a cut without providing a *real* service.

Why do you think that the *vast* majority of the artists (whom the MAFIAA claim to represent) oppose the heavy handed tactics used by the cartel? They know, instinctively or otherwise, that the MAFIAA only make the actual producers of content look bad by association.

Those of us who create content *do* want to be compensated, but even more than that, we want to be *heard*. Besides, the existence of the MAFIAA does not correlate to our being compensated, they expend a fantastic amount of effort to make sure that they compensate the actual artist as little as possible.

David says:

I am also a content producer. Of motion pictures. And online piracy has the potential to completely devastate my industry. Making a movie takes about two years from concept to completion. It takes hundreds of people working on it. And it takes literally millions of dollars to pull it off(well).

This is a different animal from music. Nowadays, you can make a good track of music on home equipment for less than $10,000. You have to make a lot less to make it worthwhile as a business venture.

Take away the profit motive from movies and they’re just done. What investor in his right mind is going to pony up millions of dollars and two years of his life to make something that some punk will then just rip off “because they can”?

If people adopt the idea that just because they have the technical ability to download a movie without paying for it – that it’s somehow their “right”, then there just won’t be any more movies. Period. At least not of the kind that anybody’s going to actually want to watch.

This has already happened in Hong Kong, where VCD piracy(a form much less threatening than the internet for a variety of reasons) has decimated an industry that was once one of the most creative and vibrant in the world.

Twenty years ago Hong Kong was making about 350 movies per year, many of which were the creative envy of the entire filmmaking world. Last year, Hong Kong made 60 films – and I don’t think a single one of them was worth watching – there’s just no money there anymore, because nobody wants to put in a bunch of cash to get ripped off buy a kid buying his movie on the cheap at a stall in some arcade.

I’m not asking for draconian measures or unfair business practices. I welcome actual competition! But outright theft of intellectual property is NOT the same thing as competition. Stopping somebody from downloading a copyrighted work should be recognized as the act of “the good guys” – they’re trying to stop stealing after all, right?

I just don’t see unfairness in trying to make sure people don’t steal these products.

Once again – the button-maker comparison doesn’t work at all. Nobody is trying to stop people from using new technology to make competing films or music. All they’re trying to do is stop them from stealing the films and music that other people have already made.

k-then says:

Re: No Movies or . . .

If the rise of youtubing continues with its accompanying decay in the levels of visual and content quality people are willing to accept, there will be no call for movies at all. People will be quite happy to watch cell-phoned videos of passing sidewalks and consider it awesome.

The lack of $ spent on movies will get to the point where there is no capital available for movie making unless an alternative way to fund the movie makers is found.

Tim Connors (user link) says:

Re: Re:

David, you can also produce a decent enough movie for under $10,000. Yes, in modern times. I have seen a couple of movies in Australia within the last decade, and one this year, that cost that much to produce, and they were a hell of a lot more interesting than hollywood blockbusters.

That line that it has the potential to devestate your industry isn’t going to be bought again. It has been repeated by RIAA members since the time of cassette tapes, everytime a new technology become popular. It hasn’t killed their members — in fact, they are still releasing press releases boasting about record profits alongside press releases complaining about teh intarweb. If it hasn’t killed them, MPAA members claims that “it has the potential to kill our industry” just doesn’t have credibiility. What makes your and their industries more important than every other tech industry combined? Why, other than having lots of bought representation, do you think laws should favour you guys more than everyone else?

Again, the RIAA, when lodging suits against individual people, may claim that individual customers may be costing them US $65,000 when they download music instead of buying it. But I am yet to meet a person who would pay a fithieth of that for their collection. They haven’t really cost $65,000 — the figures are deliberately inflated. Both of your industries have very little credibility.

You say that the movie and music industries aren’t trying to stop anyone making their own content. The MPAA is currently forcing hardware manufacturers to go down the lines of DRM. Microsoft is going along with this because they finally have the means to stamp out Linux on newer hardware (heck, they can make it illegal, and persue Linux developers the same way that DVD Jon and Sklyarov were persued). MPAA members love it because they will be able to stop small content producers from producing their own content — if they can’t produce a DVD with an official key, Windows will refuse to play it because it *must* be pirated. Just like the RIAA wanted to impose taxes on blank media, because then small content producers would have to pay the tax paid to RIAA members, nominally to protect their own work, when in fact RIAA wouldn’t be providing that service to them!

Trey (user link) says:

Re: devastation

Ah yes, the folks in Hollywood are at such a threat. I mean you can see it everyday. I just don’t see how they can manage to pay everyone with those profits. (note the sarcasm)

An invasion of privacy on a whim is the problem with this whole “MAFFIA” thing. There is no real threat to your industry. Every theater is always packed in every city I’ve been to. The only one that would be threatened by the free distrubution is the little guy that doesn’t make it to the theaters, like all the great independent films out there. But isn’t that what the little guy wants, to be heard….to be seen. From that distrubution then the true compensation is given under the human truths-to be understood, to feel in control, to feel special, to belong and to reach ones potential (to be loved). After that recognition, the artist will get what he deserves for that production.

Most people are generally good hearted. Most of these “pirates” just want to stick it to the organizations that profit hugely without providing any true service to mankind. They just leech off others in order to get even more money. And that goes for those that profit from selling copied property. What made them change the policy from pursuing those that copy for profit to those that just do it for personal use? Is it because it’s easier to copy now due to technology, more people can see/hear this stuff now. There are also more people. Stuff also costs more money. BUT, people as a race are developing at a much faster rate due to the information exchange. Communication has, in my opinion, been the greastest contributor to the advancment of the human species. Stop being so selfish. Our FEAR of being the only ones in the universe has brought it to this. Imagine(remember) that we are not. We can be stomped out just like a hill of ants. Life is much more than what we see. Think of the world before the microscope. We just havn’t developed the tools yet…..
Woah….I’m writing my book now……if you would like to know/share more just contact me.

Homer says:

So, Tell me

How is the behaviour of the RIAA, etc., going to prevent the scenario you describe?

My point isn’t to argue that there’s something wrong with copyright protection, etc.

My point is that the actions of the MAFIAA (I like that acronym :o) ) ISN’T GOING TO HELP, *AT ALL*.

If they were truly about actually protecting the rights of the artists, I would be 100% behind their efforts. But there is one simple fact behind this whole thing: THEY DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE ACTUAL PRODUCERS OF THE CONTENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The situation you describe for Hong Kong would have been better addressed by putting the resources into pursuing the distribution rings, instead of getting an aneurism about individuals.

The button maker comparison is entirely accurate. The MAFIAA are opposed to any distribution method that bypasses them (e.g. makers of buttons).

And apart from all of the above, the draconian measures supported by the MAFIAA concerning the actions of individuals (the DMCA, DRM, etc. ) simply DO NOT WORK at the stated task. They do not prevent piracy, they do not prevent illegal use of copyrighted material. They do nothing but inconvenience the honest customers. As a content producer, I choose NOT to believe that my customers are, by default, dishonest thieves, out to rob me blind by letting their friends watch or listen to my product.

It is the default assumption of dishonesty that I have the biggest problem with. When you tell your customers that you have to inconvenience them for their own good, because they’re criminals at heart, and they’ll rob you blind if you don’t treat them like thieves and liars, then you’ve already lost your battle.

I’m all for getting compensated properly. I also believe that the vast majority of my customers are willing to compensate me, and I don’t believe that treating them like shit is the way to make that happen.

I’d rather put up with the handful of freeloaders, if the alternative is to tell my honest customers that I think they’re scum, out to rob me blind at the first opportunity.

My point isn’t that I don’t think there aren’t good ways to address piracy. My point is that, so far, all of the ways presented by the MAFIAA, are, without a single exception, THE WRONG WAY!!!.

When you assume, by default, that your customers are thieves, then that is exactly what they will act like. If, on the other hand, you treat them like people, most of them will do the right thing, and the rest can be accepted like collateral damage (and that kind of thing has been, and will always be with us).

M. Simon (user link) says:

Grateful Dead Marketing

What does an artist get out of the $9 to $15 that the stores charge? $.50? So why can’t that be delivered for $.75 for a whole friggin album?

You know the Grateful Dead built their whole business model on giving away music. Are the MAFIAA to stupid to study how they did it and replicate the model?

The Dead had 10s of thousands of people advertising their wares for FREE. That is worth a heck of a lot. In fact flogging the product is the main cost of creating a popular band or a hit movie.

If distribution cost is around $.002 per CD then you need to look at a different way to profit. Ancillary items like Ts, Cover art on poster board – etc. Stuff it still takes capital and production talent to produce well. Or events like concerts where you pay for the live experience.

M. Simon (user link) says:


How does broadcast TV make any money?

They sell friggin advertising.

So Sony sets up a site for downloaders and makes you watch 5 seconds of commercial for every 500 MB of down load.

How hard can it be to figure this out?

The MAFIAA is stupid. The way to beat movie pirates is to find a business model that allows you to undersell them.

Sure the profits may be less or not. So fire the huge production staff. Advertising is expensive. Go with viral word of mouth. etc.

i.e. figure out how to become the low cost producer.

How do you make money on a $30 million dollar (cost) movie? Sell $60 million in ads.

i.e. figure out a new business model.

So a lot of folks will be out of work – well you know what they say – let them get a real job.

David says:

#28 and #29

None of what you guys are saying excuses stealing in the first place.

You seem to be taking the attitude that “if we have the technical means to steal, then that’s our right, and content providers will have to work around US instead of the other way around”.

I don’t buy into that. I think it’s within a business’ right to try and prevent the theft of their product.

The business model of the Grateful Dead will work for one band out of a thousand, and it’s not our place to tell somebody else what their business model should be.

We can certainly tell them with our dollars – what we choose to buy and what we don’t. Deciding what something is worth to us and what is asking for too much and giving us too little in return. Those are the working decisions of a proper market.

But the market requires honesty to work. A social contract of voluntary transactions. When you say “I CAN steal so it is my right TO steal”, then there is no longer an operating market there. You, as the consumer, are deciding your own price for the product that somebody else makes. And your price is zero.

The way a market is supposed to work is one person has a product and sets a price – if you want the product more than you want that much money, then you voluntarily make the trade and everybody wins.

Your way seems to be “We can steal and we’re gonna steal and too bad if you can’t figure out how to make money while we’re not paying!”

You can’t whine about big business not adapting to a business model when you, as the consumer, are not participating in the fair market in the first place.

Homer says:

Re: Re:

But the market requires honesty to work

If you think I’m arguing otherwise, you are *so* missing the point.

You can’t say that you expect honesty to be a part of the process at the same time as you are saying (implicitly or explicitly) that the customer is, by default, dishonest.

There is nothing in my argument that says (in any form) that I think that stealing is okay. I accept (however sadly) that some shrinkage of that type is inevitable. For me, the costs (in effort and trust) to try and prevent every last bit of it isn’t worth it. I’m not going to treat my honest customers like criminals on the off chance that I might keep one or two other people from stealing.

In the areas where I am a customer, I make every effort to do right, and be honest and forthright in my dealings with those I do business with. But for any person (or business) who treats me badly because they fear (without evidence) what I *may* do, I have no regard whatsoever. I will not steal (thereby confirming their misguided worldview), but I will also not do business with them, no matter what, nor will I advise others to do so.

I would expect no different treatment from my customers if I were to treat them so shabbily.

If the efforts of the RIAA, MPAA, etc. were specifically designed to actually address theft of service and copyright violation, I would have little problem with them. But the behaviour they engage in (that every customer is, by definition, a thief, out to defraud at any opportunity), the belief that their antagonistic practices do anything but alienate those customers; that is what I rail against.

Their business methods *do* need to change, to adapt to the way information can be spread.

While I would rather it be otherwise, there will always be those who take from others, and there is no reasonable scenario that will make that go away (at least not at any cost that can be borne).

The right solution is not to hamper or alienate your honest customers, but to reward them. Offer extras that can’t be downloaded, or that are tied to a particular account. There are a number of ways to handle the problem without telling your customers that you despise them.

Treat them like you want them to be your customers, instead of your enemies. As strange as it may seem, all indications are that most people are actually willing to pay for what they get.

You’re not going to squelch every instance of theft, but if you treat your customers like dirt, they aren’t going to have too many qualms about treating you like dirt in return.

David says:

Sorry – last comment should’ve addressed #29 and #30.

By the way #30 – you can’t “sell advertising” and make back enough money to pay for one $60 million movie. You just can’t. A TV series and movies are different things.


They HAVE to target the individuals with internet piracy. There are “distribution rings” when you’re talking about piracy of physical goods. But not electronic file sharing. There are no “rings” to target when people are just emailing or file swapping copyrighted material. It IS by definition a problem of individuals in the internet age.

And the default assumption isn’t dishonesty – you don’t have to assume it. You can look at it all around you. Just look at how much pirated material is swapped about online. I know literally dozens of people who never buy music at all – they only steal it online. And they think that’s completely fine.

Also, doesn’t every industry put in measures to prevent the theft of their products? Should Wal-Mart decide to “not assume its customers are thieves” and uninstall all anti-shoplifting measures? Of course not.

Why is it okay for other industry to take preventive measures to stop stealing, and prosecute those they catch stealing, but it’s somehow not okay for the entertainment industry to do the same?

Homer says:

RE: 32

I’m not entirely disagreeing with what you say in principle, but moreso in practice.

You mention the antitheft devices that companies like Walmart, et.al. use.

That’s a good point, but there are a couple of major practical differences:

For one, these devices are largely effective (not bulletproof, by any means, but a reasonable deterrent).

Second, they impose, at most, a very small inconvenience to the honest customer (a few more seconds in the checkout line while they are removed, etc.). They do not continue to interfere with the lawful use of the product after that.

You also make the point that there are individuals who are a big part of the problem. But you haven’t really addressed how the ‘protections’ and other efforts by the *AA’s actually do anything to ameliorate that behaviour.

The thing is, the various forms of DRM, legal restrictions such as the DMCA, and so on, present absolutely *no* deterrent whatsoever to those individuals you describe.

Unlike the physical security methods you mention in regards to Wal-Mart, etc., the intellectual property ‘protections’ place a greater onus on the honest user than they ever do on the dishonest user.

Chuck Pelto (profile) says:

The Button-Maker Analogy

TO: RIAA Defenders
RE: Where This Analogy Works

Defending RIAA, and their ilk, against the new technologies via government intervention is VERY MUCH akin to the French button-makers. And that’s the point here.

The point is not, repeat NOT, one of fomenting the violation of copyright laws. We HAVE copyright laws. And they ARE enforcible. Look at what happened to NAPSTER et al.

What the entertainment industry is doing is using Congress to shackle and manical everyone else.

Case in point….

….look at the miserable way we do our personal DVDs.

Can’t get one that will hold 9 GB of data. Why is that? Because the entertainment industry is paranoid about our breaking copyright laws. Fair-use and/or data management efficiency be ‘damned’ as far as THEY are concerned.

Similar to the egregious implementation of the “regionalization” of DVDs with movies on them. Why is that there? For the sake of the entertrainment industry. Not, repeat NOT, for OUR benefit.

The entertainment industry, like the medical industry, is attempting to be a monopoly. The medical industry is just much more effective about it.


[All professions are a conspiracy against the laity. — George Bernard Shaw]

Infidel753 (user link) says:

Movies doomed to disappear?

Has there ever been a successful business model in a situation where exact copies of the product were easily obtainable for free, by means over which the content producer had no control? Is there any reason to think this is possible?

Even the advertising-based model of broadcast TV will be in real trouble once the capacity of the average home intenet connection gets high enough to allow TV shows to be swapped around as easily as music is now. There are already ways to avoid commercials while watching TV, but they are more of a nuisance than they’re worth to a lot of people. What happens to advertising revenues when a commercial-free copy of a TV show is available on the internet within an hour of the original broadcast?

Music won’t disappear, of course — there will always be people who put their own music on the internet just to get heard, not caring that there’s no money in it (the musical equivalent of bloggers).

But I don’t see how movies can survive. In a few years, internet connections and hard drive size will be such that high-quality copies of movies can be swapped around like songs today. The production costs of something like Titanic or Lord of the Rings can probably never be brought low enough to make them profitable on the crumbs of revenue that would still remain then. Expecting the industry to “adapt to the changing market” under those conditions is like expecting a chef to figure out how to prepare a meal with no ingredients. Businessmen aren’t magicians.

And I don’t see what can be done about it. The RIAA’s tactics have not been effective at stopping file sharing, but what would be effective? Probably nothing.

So in five or ten years, movies will just stop being made (aside from very low-budget productions). Business responds to incentives, and when it’s no longer possible to make a profit on what you’ve been doing, that’s a pretty strong incentive to go into another line of work.

yes says:

Re: Movies doomed to disappear?

> The production costs of something like Titanic or Lord of the Rings can probably never be brought low enough to make them profitable on the crumbs of revenue that would still remain then.

> So in five or ten years, movies will just stop being made.

I doubt that.
But I believe that mediocre actors will stop being paid $20 million for 6 weeks of work.

Either they work for less, or they will be replaced by ones that are willing to work for electrons.

I believe that in five to ten years time, there will no be large difference in the movie experience for films like Titanic or Lord of the ring if they are entirely computer generated.

There will still be an audience willing to pay enough to finance a Woody-Allen-type film with real actors, but these are not costing 100 million today.

And there will be an enormous competition that will bring prices down.

For the last 100 years, a really large group of people would have liked to be a director – probably at least as many as would have liked to be an author of books.

But there are probably three orders of magnitude more different books printed each year than different movies shown in cinemas.

With books, it is hard or even impossible to tell if they were written on a small or large budget.

How much better is the last “Harry Potter”, where the author could have afforded to buy an island to be undisturbed, than the first “Harry Potter”, where the author lived in a small flat with noise coming up from the street ?

The same will be true of computer generated movies, and then everybody that today loads his holiday video up on YouTube, will be able to generate something with a higher technical quality than “Nemo” or “Shrek” on his home PC and perhaps a couple of friends PC’s spare capacity.

Also, Films with real actors will be cheaper.

Amateur digitial video cameras today are probably much better than professional studio equipment 10 years ago, and who needs a dollys and cranes if there is electronic image stabilisation and 10 million + pixel resolution to electronically zoom and pan in postproduction on your home PC?

Exotic locations?

Buy “views” from any place on earth at ebay, or download them from a “movie-sourceforge” and mount your actors into them.

Of course, there are probably not a million Spielbergs out there, but i would expect a couple of dozen.

While I do not shed a lot of tears for the likes of Tom Cruise or the Disney execs, I am afraid this will be very tough on people in the movie industry like set decoraters, caterers, lighting technicians, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Movies doomed to disappear?

Has there ever been a successful business model in a situation where exact copies of the product were easily obtainable for free, by means over which the content producer had no control? Is there any reason to think this is possible?

Yes! It’s called anime. And I can only wonder why it’s growing so fast.

Yemi (user link) says:

Re: Movies [not] doomed to disappear?

I think that you can make money on movies in a new business model. I know that there have been many advances in technology and they become cheaper every year. I also know that the software side does not get as cheap, but does allow you to do more for a similar price year after year. Now if we do not have to pay actors/actresses, directors, a few others millions of dollars to do a single movie, I think that you can cut down on the budget. I do respect talent, but it is a bleeding shame that we pay millions for it.

Once that price cut happens, then we move on to the actual effectiveness of the acting, editing, and other post-production work. Have you seen DVD’s that have director commentary, blooper-reels, alternative endings? That takes money to make, add, or be lossed against (blooper). If you cut some of that out, you can save some more money.

Now you also have a larger market to work in over the internet. So if you charge a moderate fee and include some carefully placed advertisement in the movie (not scene spliced, literally a part of a scene), you can feed some your earnings potential. The movie does not have to be free, if it is cheap enough, many would not care to buy it once. If you really drop the bottom line price (except long-term profits) you can get people to buy it multiple times (tv, ipod, phone, etc.) and not think much of it.

There are a number of models that could work, and you have to think hard to make the most of them. I also invision a subscriber fee for a VHS quality streamed viewing of any movie from a library and a one time per movie fee for a DVD quality stream from the library.

It could change Sony, Warner, or who ever into a media storage facility. They may not make millions, but they can still keep a roof over there heads. It may also just have some indies to house/host there movies, get subscribers, and look to move to a Sony only when their movie needs to survive slashdotting or the like.

These are ways in which some people in the industry can make money with new models in film entertainment. Good day.

Yemi Bedu

Jordan says:


Look, I’m no fan of the RIAA, but many of the people here only serve to make the RIAA’s case for them. Most of the replys to David are along the lines of “well I don’t like the RIAA’s business model, so they should expect to be ripped off.” That’s absurd. If you so loathe their business practices, don’t buy their product. It doesn’t excuse stealing or copyright infringement.

Futhermore, the RIAA owns the content as opposed to the artist for a reason: they spend tens of thousands of dollars helping an artist produce and distribute his or her music.

Kurmudge says:

Extremes on both sides

Everyone is talking past each other here. The issue is not whether or not someone should pay to buy the item in the first place- of course they should, and piracy of some degree has been around forever. The issue is whether or not the distributor can use the government to permit him to collect over and over from the same person who already paid, for the same thing, and also prevent a lawful owner from doing what he wants with what he paid for- for his personal use. If I buy a CD, I want to be able to play it at home, in the car, or on my mp3 player (not iPod; they try to control everything). I also want to be able to back it up in case the dog chews it. No one else is getting it or avoiding paying for it.

For example, I bought an e-book. I learned after I got it that the pdf file was locked to prevent me from printing out any pages (it was impossible to read and refer as needed to the end notes without printing the end notes out), and I was also not able to open the file again when I upgraded to a new computer, all because the publisher was trying to prevent people from reasonable fair use. I finally went to Amazon and bought a used copy of the same book; used to make sure that the publisher would definitely not get any of my money again (not illegal yet, but wait till the book publishers get the DMCA and similar rules applied to hard copies). If I ever need to read something from that publisher again, you bet I won’t buy it new; if necessary, I’ll go to the library, borrow it, and scan the sections I need.

There is a happy medium between the piracy free-for-all and the DMCA “we own your copy of the content, we just license you to listen to it 3 times in one format” dream. My daughter just moved to the UK, and is having a problem being able to play DVDs she bought legally. Bunk.

Creative marketers will adapt and win, the luddites of publishing and music will die. Some stuff filmmakers might want to do won’t get done because it isn’t economical. That has always been the case. There are medical treatments that don’t get developed either. In the 16th century, patrons such as the de Medicis took care of such things.

But no one has a right to steal someone’s work, nor does the creator have a right to put it out there and exercise permanent control of it in an unlimited fashion. There is a middle way, and we’ll get there eventually, unless the influence peddlers in the “entertainment business” buy off Washington.

And, David, no one owes you the chance to have the job you dream of. I want to be the boss of my favorite football team, but the competition is too stiff with too few opportunities. Those with talent and drive will continue to make the fillum pieces that they want to, the rest will go flip burgers. Nothing new.

Fitzwilly (profile) says:

Re: Extremes on both sides

My daughter just moved to the UK, and is having a problem being able to play DVDs she bought legally. Bunk.

The reason for that is because of difference between PAL and NTSC rather than anything else, as she and you should know by now. As for playing her Region 1 DVD’s in the UK, she should also know enough about DVD’s to have already invested in a region-free DVD player. It’s all in the planning, and she didn’t plan properly enough, so she’s gotten burned.

Of course, if I’m wrong in her case, respond and let me know.

David says:

Good posts. I’ll answer some later today when I get some time.

Just wanted to respond to the last bit of #39 real quick…

I think you misunderstand. I don’t think anybody owes me anything at all. I have earned the job I have – nobody has given it to me.

All I ask for is that people don’t steal what it takes me two years and lots of blood, sweat and tears to create. I simply ask that if somebody is going to choose to consume my work, then they pay me the compensation that has been set to do so. If they don’t want to part with that money to watch my movies, then they can voluntarily decide to keep their cash. Simple.

What’s wrong with that?

Mark says:

Most people will pay

Much of the music I have bought over the years I first downloaded illegally. Now I use the Napster service, and can preview most of the music I want (but I still prefer CDs to paid downloads because of the cumbersome DRM crap).

If there had never been a Napster (the original) or Kazaa, good artists and producers would be worse off now. Sure, if I had never used file sharing, I may have bought a few more lousy albums and one or two decent ones, but there are so many artists whose work I never would have discovered. And after so many lousy albums, you grow wary of taking chances. Netflix is another elegant solution that (obviously) many people are willing to use.

So, David, I’m not insulting you here, but this is the consumer’s perspective: If your movies suck, then not only do you not deserve the money of people who bought into the deceptive marketing, but you’re not losing any money through file sharing because virtually no one is watching your stuff anyway. Even in the age of a terrabyte of internal storage, a crappy movie isn’t worth 1GB of my hard drive space.

If I had downloaded your movie and I really liked it, I’d want to buy it if I could, because that’s what you do when something value to you. You pay for it.

David says:


What I “demand” is just the fair workings of the market. I set a price, you voluntarily choose to pay it if you think it’s worth it, and not pay it if you don’t. What you don’t get to do is set your own price, at zero, and take it “just because you can”. That’s simply called stealing.

You can’t do that with a DVD player. Or a loaf of bread. Or any other product. You don’t get to “set your own price” – especially at zero – and walk off with it. If you do, you’ll get busted for stealing. Entertainment is no different, or shouldn’t be – it’s only different because it’s technically possible to engage in the theft without getting caught. Whereas it’s very hard to do that with the DVD player or the loaf of bread.

Of course the market sets the price in the end, if the producer of the product wants to stay in business. If he doesn’t set a fair price, then he will go out of business. It is your right as a consumer not to consume. That is how you set the price. It’s NOT your right to refuse the producer’s price and STILL consume the product. That is not a market at all. And it’s not the way the actual market for goods works in other industries.

When you engage in theft, just because it’s technically possible to do so, there is no longer a market operating. Period.

If it became technically possible for every consumer to set their own price – even zero – for a loaf of bread, regardless of what the producer of the product is asking, how is that a “market”? It isn’t. And of course that wouldn’t work.

So you can talk about markets all you want, but what we’re actually talking about here is no market at all.

The producer sets prices. The consumer can buy or not buy, but he MUST pay the price for the goods if he consumes them in a fair market. The consumer helps the market set prices by voting with their dollars – by purchasing the product or not based on the producer’s price. Over time, the reactions of producers and consumers cause the market to come up with the best price.

That is a fair, voluntary market system. Where everybody’s rights are protected. It is completely and overwhelmingly fair.

What you’re talking about is no market system. Nor is it in any way “fair”.

M. Simon (user link) says:

Movies doomed to disappear?

What the market is telling the movie folks and the MAFIAA is that their product is overpriced.

They can accept that and change their business model or the new competition will eat their lunch no matter how many content protection schemes they get Congress to mandate.

Now is the time to change while they still have significant cash flow.

When air is easy to “steal” you figure out how to make money by giving it away.

The trend is your friend.

M. Simon (user link) says:


The way a loaf of bread is protected from theft is you put it in a store.

If you put it on the street it is harder to keep opportunists from taking what they want.

You know recorded music was feared because it would put an end to live entertainment. Movies were feared because they were cheaper to put on than plays.

Now we know live content is easier to protect than recorded content.

Call it the live entertainer’s revenge.

David says:


The “market” isn’t telling them any such thing. Thieves are.

The “market” telling you something means consumers are unwilling to pay the price you are asking to consume your product.

When you remove the choice consumers must make – “pay the price to consume the product or keep my money” – by saying it’s okay for them to reject the price AND still consume the product, then you are no longer operating in a market situation.

Just because something is technically possible it doesn’t make it right or correct, or a “right”. It’s technically possible for kids to pull security tabs off of CDs and take them out of the store, but I don’t know many people who would argue then that “it’s the market telling these stores their wares are overpriced!”

No, it’s not. It’s simple theft.

The market telling you something is overpriced is people choosing not to consume your product because they don’t like your price. Not stealing it “because they can” and just tough luck to you.

Sam says:

Finally getting to the point

The last few comments are finally getting to the point of the discussion, IMO. With computers, the internet, mp3s and so on, the incremental cost to produce an additional copy of a song, or movie is dropping towards zero. No more records to stamp, jewel boxes to mold, cassettes to record, boxes to ship, shelves to stock, cashiers to hire, train and pay, stores to light and heat. Just an instant and nearly costless transfer of bits.

People know this to be the case. If I wanted to make a copy of one of my CDs, the material cost would be less than a dollar, based on retail prices for blank cds, jewel cases, etc. But in a store it would cost $10 to $20. People know this, they aren’t dumb. So if the incremental cost of producing a copy of a movie or song is dropping, why isn’t the price charged for a movie or song not dropping as well?

Because the industry wants to continue to charge the same amount for a product that is costing them less and less to produce and distribute. And when people see the inherent greed and look for an alternative way, the industry wants to go after them legally, to force them to pay the artificially high price based on an obsolete, high priced distribution system.

If the industry was to charge for a movie or song closer to their actual cost of production, then the problems of piracy would dwindle, because the differential between the cost that the industry can produce for and the pirate can produce for converge. Loss of profit motive for the pirate.

The internet and technology is an excellent way to force the cost out of products, so that they are priced closer to their actual cost of production. That is what piracy is doing – forcing the industry to price closer to cost, and that is what the industry is fighting so hard to prevent.

TJ (user link) says:

Stay on topic, folx!

Some of you are missing the point here and are focusing on buttons vs music. From what I read, the comparison here is not between the button makers and the RIAA themselves, but the *tactics* that each group was/is employing to try and oppose the sea-change. Each group wanted government to pass laws to allow them to search end-users homes for products they didnt like. The button-maker guild wanted to enter homes and search closets. The RIAA/MPAA want to digitally enter your computer and search your files. In a free society, intimidation tactics are doomed to fail, and fail miserably. If the RIAA/MPAA want to continue to exist, they will have to come up with something to make themselves more attractive to customers (better product/better pricing/something noone has ever thought of before).

If you want to argue the actual substance of the article, fine please do so, but so many of the previous comments set up straw-men that I wanted to respond.

Chuck Pelto (profile) says:


TO: Jordan
RE: Where Have I Heard ‘THIS’ Before?

“Look, I’m no fan of the RIAA”… — Jordan

Maybe somewhere in the 50s or 60s. It went along the lines of….

“Look, Many of my friends are _________.”

You can fill in the blank.

The facts remain.

[1] Why do we have to abide by the “regionalization” of DVDs?
[2] Why can’t we do DVDs at 9GB?

Answer me that????!?!



Jordan says:

I don't give a d*mn what you heard

iMaybe somewhere in the 50s or 60s. It went along the lines of….

“Look, Many of my friends are _________.”

I don’t have to prove anything to you, but I’ll do it anyway. I abhor the RIAAs business practices too. In fact, I freely admit to pirating music, but I don’t try to justify it like many of the folks here. I’m stealing; if I get caught it’s my fault and I’ll take my lumps.

[1] Why do we have to abide by the “regionalization” of DVDs?
[2] Why can’t we do DVDs at 9GB?

Answer me that????!?!

What’s your point? Unless these 2 facts justify piracy, then this is entirely irrelevant to what I’ve said before.

David says:


This argument doesn’t make any sense.

Yes, an actual DVD may only cost $3 or so to make and ship. But the average movie costs about $65 million to make.

The entertainment industry is not selling cars – where each manufactured car cost a certain amount to produce and get to a dealer, and thus they should charge x amount to make a bit of a profit.

The movie costs what it costs and it makes what it makes based on how well the audience responds to it. Provided it’s a paying audience, of course.

Two movies may cost the same amount to make, but one may make $300 million and the other may make $3 million. What the movies are “worth” are what a paying audience says they’re worth by choosing to go to the film, buy the film, recommend it to friends, etc.

David says:



The comparison between the RIAA and the 17th Century French Button-Makers is plainly a specious comparison – and on two levels.

First of all, the button-makers stopped the innovation of the cloth button to avoid competition. But the RIAA isn’t trying to stop people from using new technologies to create competing products at all. They don’t care if you use these new tools to make your own “buttons”(music, movies, etc.). They are just trying to stop you from using this technology to steal the “buttons” they have already made.

It’s just not the same thing.

The other section of the “comparison” is better, but still not that good. It mentioned that the authorities were allowed to search people’s houses for these competing products and stop people on the street if they were caught wearing the contraband.

While this was no doubt ridiculous and anti-competitive, it still doesn’t work as a comparison to what the RIAA is doing.

Again, nobody will search your house or stop you on the street for carrying original material created using new technology that belongs to you or a content producer who gave it to you willingly.

Having somebody search your house for competing products is lunacy. That’s what the button-makers were doing. Having somebody search your house for stolen goods is fairly routine. That’s what the RIAA is asking.

And it’s hardly unheard of that the RIAA would want these kinds of actions today. Afterall, police can search your house if you are suspected of having illegal drugs or stolen property. They can stop you on the street if they see you carrying a stolen item, such as somebody’s pair of sneakers or ipod.

So why should stolen entertainment be any different?

This button-maker thing sounds good for people who want to bash the RIAA, but the comparison just doesn’t hold up in any respect. It’s specious.

Homer says:


There may not be a literal relationship between the button manufacturers and the *AA groups, but there is still a good portion of commonality in viewpoint.

First and foremost is the idea that it is appropriate to run to a governing body to protect a current business method.

While I agree, in principle, that it is acceptable to seek measures to deal with copyright infringement (not theft, they are clearly not the same thing), there is still the viewpoint of the *AA members that they are entitled to more than copyright protection, they also believe that they are entitled to the protection of their profit method, regardless of the realities on the ground.

While you are syntactically correct in your assertion that the *AA aren’t explicitly arguing that they should repress competing distribution methods, it is clear, from their actions, that they do believe that they are entitled to protection from those competing distribution methods.

DRM, as one example, does not address copyright infringement, it attempts to address distribution (and it fails miserably at that task).

They are opposed to alternative distribution methods. They’re aware enough that they cannot actually say that that is what they oppose, but the efforts they go through are not substantively different, in principle, from the button makers referenced in this context.

As for your argument about looking for stolen items, I’ll accept that, once the *AA groups actually use the appropriate standards of reasonable suspicion and probable cause that the police are bound by. Instead of ‘john doe’ warrants, and non-independent ‘experts’, if they actually show reasonable cause, and tie that cause to a specific suspect, and get a legitimate (signed by a judge) search warrant, then I’ll agree that they’re operating within the same framework as legitimate law enforcement. Here’s a hint for you: Right now, they rarely do that. And they are far more likely to go after a user, instead of a distributor, even though the distributor is clearly the more egregious offender.

I am, in no manner, an apologist for those who violate copyright, but the actions of the MAFIAA do far more harm than good, in the realm of copyright. What they do is the ethical equivalent of trying to kill someone who is stealing a loaf of bread. They need to quit overreacting, they need to start treating their customers like customers, instead of thieves, and they need to start accepting that they are now buggy whip makers in the era of the automobile. They are, by far, their own worst enemy.

Homer says:


A further elaboration:

While it may be literally accurate to say that the RIAA, etc., aren’t exactly like the 17th century button makers, they have far more in common than they have in difference.

While the *AA aren’t *explicitly* shooting for suppression of competition, they are clearly doing so implicitly.

In both cases, the plaintiffs are seeking government intervention to prevent legitimate competition and aid in the protection of their current business method.

In both cases, they seek intervention or legislation to suppress activities that are legal (in the case of the button manufacturers, actual competition, in the case of the *AA, fair use activities such as space and time shifting, etc.).

And so on.

As I’ve stated before, if the *AA’s restricted their activities to those offenses that are clearly infringement, I would have no issue with them. But when the try to tell me that it is illegal to copy my legally purchased DVD to a portable player for my convenience (space shifting), then I am not obligated, in any reasonable fashion, to pay attention to them.

They don’t merely want legal recompense for actual infringement (I support that), they want to roll back fair use and first sale. They UTTERLY OPPOSE any freedom of action on the part of their customers who have legitimately acquired copies of content.

Any group that can, with a straight face, claim that ‘ the VCR is to the movie industry as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone’ is seriously demented, and completely out of touch with reality.

That’s why I (as a content producer) despise them. They have no concern for my interests in protecting my property, they’re only interested in how many times they can suck payment from their customers for the same thing, over and over again.

Nick (profile) says:

The button guild, no doubt, viewed the innovation of buttons as their intellectual property, and they were blessed by authority to be the only ones to make something that functioned as a button. The point is that for a large organization to think they are in the right while the rest if the world disagrees with their logic is indeed possible and still happening today.

Berend says:

Re: Re:

The MAFIAA is trying to stop me from creating a competing distribution channel. For sure.

And they want to search my house for movies and music I created, and I am distributing. Sharing my own music, that I created, on a peer-to-peer network is piracy is also piracy. And they want to arrest you for copying a song I gave you permission to copy.

If I cannot setup a competing distribution channel, it doesn’t matter if I can create competing content.

Berend says:

Re: Re:

The MAFIAA is trying to stop me from creating a competing distribution channel. For sure.

And they want to search my house for movies and music I created, and I am distributing. Sharing my own music, that I created, on a peer-to-peer network is also piracy. And they want to arrest you for copying a song I gave you permission to copy.

If I cannot setup a competing distribution channel, it doesn’t matter if I can create competing content.

M. Simon (user link) says:

#63 Mike


BTW for most folks new modes of thinking are very difficult after age 20 or 25. If at 40 or 50 you wake up and see that all the knowledge (or most of it) that you have accumulated is wothless it can be very hard. David is going through grieving. He is in the first stage. Denial.


Evidently you tube has figured a way to profit from other people’s videos of watching the side walk.

Andy Warhol was way ahead of his time. People thought he was an insane artist when actually he was a visionary.

Christopher Taylor (user link) says:

Hong Kong

David: while I don’t doubt that movie pirates in Hong Kong have caused problems for the movie industry there, I would humbly suggest another influence might have been to blame for the reduction in movies: the change over to Communist Chinese control. While the Communists might or might not be stomping on creativity and freedom (something typical to the ideology), they have managed to chase almost all of the people who are responsible for this out of the area.

Would you want to live under Communist government? Would you feel free to be creative and artistic? Neither did they. The industry, I suspect, left rather than was destroyed by pirates.

Fitzwilly (profile) says:

Re: If that were true

…then the CPC’s economic mandarins wouldn’t be trying to get co-productions between Hollywood studios and Chinese movie companies (in mainland China) started, would they?

Also, I don’t know that the movies made after the handover were any different than the movies made before the handover. Is it possible that David’s right about this one?

S Barnes says:

Follow the Money

It seems one large point is being ignored. It may be free to give everyone a copy of the Lord of the Rings, but it still cost $300 million over something like 5 years to make. How is the movie studio going to make that money (with some sort of return) back? $300 million is a lot of money, I don’t think google ad-words will pay for that no matter how many hits it gets on YouTube.

What worries me (your average consumer) is no one will be willing the invest large amounts of money in new movies because they won’t be able to make it back. And I for one think a large budget is necessary for certain types of movies (action, sci fi, etc..) to be good.

If you have a SPECIFIC idea on how to get a return on that investment (not just using it as “free promotional material”) you have something. Otherwise say good bye to epic movies.

Peter says:

Re: S Barnes Follow the Money

Yea, no one is going to make epic movies anymore, there is just no profit in it with all the thieves out there.

(The following is from Wikipedia)

The final North American box office stands at $377,027,325, and the worldwide take is $1,118,888,979 (about $741 million overseas). It was the second film in history to earn over $1 billion in box office revenue in its initial release (the first being Titanic in 1997). This compares favourably to the first two films of the trilogy: in their first 35 weeks of theatrical release in North America, the gross income of the first two movies was $313,364,114 and $339,789,881. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, has helped the Lord of the Rings movie franchise go on to become the highest grossing motion picture trilogy worldwide of all time, besting other notables such as the Star Wars trilogies.

Its amazing if you make a good product people will pay for it, even if they could get it for free.

S Barnes says:

Re: Re: S Barnes Follow the Money

I know epic movies make money now, but they make it on the “scarcity” model. It is insanely profitable, IF you make a good movie. From what I have read above of the “abundence” model it might be profitable, but I don’t think profitable enough to pay for a $300 million dollor trilogy.

The author seems to be saying that the industry could be making more money by making more cheap movies, and selling lots and lots of them.

I couldn’t care less how much money the movie industry can make, I care about quality movies. So even if the “long tail” might be profitable, I don’t think it has anything worth watching in it. The industry might make more money, but my favorite movies (expensive epics) would be axed.

Dan says:

My two bits

Hello everyone. I’ve really enjoyed reading both sides of this argument.

David, I think you’ve represented your points quite well, considering the generally hostile atmosphere. While I don’t agree with some of your arguments I think you make a good case, and many of the responses to what you’ve said have been less than convicing.

I believe that for the movie industry the solution can be found in a scenario outlined in a previous post. #63 made the case of a baseball game, which is an entertainment experience availble for consumption on two levels. You can either pay $50 (or whatever) per ticket, plus $6 per beer, plus $4 per hot dog, etc. for the “experience” of being entertained, or you can watch the game at home on TV for “free” (plus ads, or maybe a couple of bucks for pay-per-view), and bring your own beer and hotdogs. Even with the option of accepting a potentially lower standard of entertainment for substantially lower cost people (in huge numbers) still open their wallets to go to the game. That tells me that even if people can download your movie for “free” (or an inexpensive digital-rental arrangement) they’ll still pay to go to the theater, provided you can make the entertainment experience worth the expense.
All of this places a good deal of responsibility on the theater venue itself (For me that means no advertising in the theater, or “piracy is wrong” messages, there’s just no excuse for that kind of consumer abuse), but also on the industry to control costs and deliver “entertainment” rather than just a “film” (It’s been covered, but the production process is grossly inefficient, actors/producers/directors are incredibly overpaid, and creativity is at an all-time low). The point is, people will always be willing to pay for good entertainment, but the internet is not going away. Downloading movies is not going away, it’s going to keep getting easier.

None of this applies to music. If a musician/group can’t make enough money touring or playing local venues to survive then they’re not doing a good job.

That’s my two bits. Thanks everyone.

Mike B. says:

Small differences

I love this thread! I’d like to make some distinctions: Stealing a button from a button maker = theft. Stealing a design from a button maker = infringement. Making your own button = innovation. Moving a button from one coat to another = fair use. Buying a button and giving it to someone else = gift.

I’m against theft and infringement. They deprive the creator of justly-earned revenue. If you come into possession of someone’s creative work without paying for it, you are a thief. You should have your right hand cut off the first time. Exceptions are gifts given to you by someone who legitimately purchased the product and similar transactions. However, the exceptions should not provide for the unauthorized reproduction or duplication of the product. If I can fasten and unfasten the button and use it in different places, that’s still fair use. If I can buy a button design and replicate it as often as I want for my own use, that is still fair use. Buying a button design under the pretense of personal use and selling replicas is definitely NOT fair use, and giving those replicas away for free is not fair use either, because you are aiding and abetting someone else’s theft.

What is so hard to understand about those conditions?

Before someone else brings it up, let me say I am aware of some of the murkier areas peripheral to those conditions. For instance, there are only about 32 story plots, and all stories are variations on those plots. Someone recently tried to patent a story plot which has been around for over 3000 years. The actual concept of a button as a means of keeping clothing together has been around since the earliest cave man had to keep warm. I agree that natural discoveries and common principles shouldn’t be patentable, but that is not the topic here.

Buy your own buttons.

Noregreb says:

"Theft," tactics, and misrepresentation

A couple points I’d like to make.

First, characterizing this as theft. If I download for free a copy of your song or movie, I haven’t stolen from you any more than you have stolen my money by making a photocopy of it. The only thing I can arguably have taken from you is your right to deprive me of it unless I allow you to extort money from me for it.

To this day, I’m nonplussed by the reaction and tactics of the MAFIAA who, when the Napster boom began in the 90’s began enjoying record-setting sales, I believe due to the worldwide enhanced (and free to the record companies) exposure of their for-sale material to audiences ignorant of its existence. In clamping down on — and ultimately wiping out — Napster, they bit the gift horse that fed them, eliminating their free advertising and angering and alienating their customer base. And then they complain about the sharp drop in sales….

I would have a lot more compassion for the weeping recording and movie companies if their products were always competitively and commensurate-with-value priced — full current price-fixed retail for 50-year-old royalty-free content is ridiculous — and if the producer/seller were actually responsible for the quality of the content. Lock up the content so that it must be purchased to review, hire some shill to quote on the packaging saying “this is great!”, and when I get home to find one marginally good song on a $20 CD or what inevitably would be found on a $40 DVD of Battlefield Earth, how could anyone argue that I haven’t been defrauded? Imagine the laughter at my local music store or video store if I go back there wanting a refund because my purchase turned out to be a piece of creative crap.

So, in part, I look upon my ability to download a song or a movie as a necessary step to avoid giving money in exchange for something I would, after full examination that they actively refuse prior to purchase, regard as worthless, only because they managed to trick me into it. If I download a movie that I really like, I go buy the DVD when it’s available (I’m not even going to comment on the works that are unavailable because the holder strategically refuses to release it — Disney?). I would do the same with CD’s except for the fact that RIAA’s actions all the way back to Napster have offended me so much, I feel it’s my duty to deprive them of all of my money, even if it means I’ll hear no music because of it.

indifferent children says:

re: #63

Mike, differentiating between IP infringement and theft is splitting hairs. But why stop there? See, every time somebody ‘steals’ a movie (or checks a DVD out of the library, or loans a DVD to a friend, or buys or sells a used DVD), they are literally RAPING the film maker. To differentiate this IP infringement from RAPE is just splitting hairs. That’s why David is walking funny.

Curtis says:

You are all wrong, especially David. See #57 (part

First off… every one is not really wrong but there are a number of errors in comments on both sides of the issue. I am choosing to comment on Davids perspective in comment #57

David I do not blame you for wanting to make a living at your chosen profession and obviously we are in a time of upheaval for businesses based on content. The thing that has amazed me is that a number of people have made very astute observations that you don’t like and you seem to ignore them or lump them in with the ilk that seem to be condoning illegal copyright infrindgement. (note that indeed it is not theft but it is illegal. This is one of several things that is a fact that you seem unable to cope with as you continue to use the words theft and stealing, infringement is the correct term (don’t come looking to me for an investment if you don’t know your own area of business!). There are several others, like the idea that honest people don’t like some reasonable freedoms taken away in order to protect your business from those that are unethical. This is what I will get into below.)

If fact, I want you (and others in your business) to do well because I like to have access to new and interesting entertainment. This can only happen if you (entertainers and etc.) have some kind of incentive to continue making new content. The trick for our society is to allow this incentive, provide appropriate ways to curtail illegal infringement, and not infringe anyones rights in the process. This seems to be the goal of a number of people in this forum. You seem to be most focused on item 1 & 2 while others seem to be focused on item 3. Somehow all three must be balanced.

In your comment #57, you say “The comparison between the RIAA and the 17th Century French Button-Makers is plainly a specious comparison” and
“They are just trying to stop you from using this technology to steal the “buttons” they have already made.

It’s just not the same thing.”

To a degree you make a valid point here. There is a difference between buttons and music or video. A number of different views in the forum stem from this difference. Someone made that comment that in the 17th centurey this was not about the buttons themselves but about the idea of making a button. The idea of making something is a little more like music and video but there are still some differences.
The problem we have is that of protecting intellectual content and the rights of individules rights within society (Yeah, I know that is a very general statement. As an aside this is all about Intellectual property law (includes copyright and patents (etc)) and I personally think that this area of law as practiced is very broken and if not fixed will cause big economic problems (about 30 – 40 years) in the future. This is the big issue (most likely to hurt us all badly) that is so far out in the future that politicians will not do much to fix it.

Ok so lets get to where there seems to be a problem in your thinking…
you then said, “…mentioned that the authorities were allowed to search people’s houses for these competing products and stop people on the street if they were caught wearing the contraband.

While this was no doubt ridiculous and anti-competitive, it still doesn’t work as a comparison to what the RIAA is doing.

Having somebody search your house for stolen goods is fairly routine. That’s what the RIAA is asking.

So why should stolen entertainment be any different?”

I see two immediate problems here –
First you say people were being searched then that that is not what the RIAA is doing, then that the RIAA only wants to search you and this is fairly routine and should be OK. (I don;t really see much need to reply to this other then to note that you refuted your own conclusion.) The more important question is if the RIAA should be allowed to search for infringement. (see below)
Second this is not all that the RIAA is pushing to do. They are also trying to mandate DRM in designs that play content. (And may have other approaches that I will skip here.)

Lets talk about the searching and the DRM as issues. The question is if these things should be disallowed, allowed, or mandated and under what conditions.

About searching:
Under law in the US (for the last 50 years at least) A search warrent can be provided by a court If there is evidence of wrongdoing. This is as true for copyright infringement as for any other law. So exactly what does the RIAA really want? They can already do a search. This should be allowed and it is allowed.

Apparently the RIAA wants to have full open access to search all consumers at any time without need for a court order. I’d say that this infringes on the consumers right to privacy. If you think this is OK because it will only catch people that have done something wrong then think about the following: I have over the years collected many recordings of Music and Video. Some were purchased (LPs and VHS tapes) Some were recorded off radio and television and are legal fair use recordings. Interestingly enough many of the best things I have recorded under fair use, I have later purchased on CD or DVD (I have more disposable income now.) Some of the very favorites I have converted to formats I can play on my computer or MP3 player (used when I travel) I have also damaged a number of original media (scratches, corrosion on some CDs etc) so I have started a program to back everything up. (also fair use) I do not share any of this material on the internet. (Sometimes I listen or watch with family members – ie fair use) What happens to me when I have one of these searches happen to me? Do you think it will be easy for me to go back and show legal right to every file under fair use? What will I need to prove to be safe?

As a creator of media you should note that I have spent several thousand dollars over the last five years specifically on items that I originally recorded under legal fair use doctrine. So those recording (which you seem to complain about even in this case where they are legal) have resulted in income to the original media producers.

About DRM (digital rights management):
My problem here is that the RIAA and others are attempting to Mandate inclusion of DRM circuitry in all electronic entertainment devices.
keyword mandate
While I do believe that if Sony wants to make a player with DRM type Z and Turner Broadcasting only releases media that works with DRM type Z That this is their right to choose this approach to marketing. I think it is wrong to have legislation to mandate DRM in all devices.
Why do I think that… because it removes my right to create devices without DRM and my right to choose to market my content without DRM. (I am an Electrical Engineer and would like to be able to create the next big product. One of my professors (Thomas Stockham) developed digital recording (see Soundstream Inc.) His technology started the CD industry. He did most of the initial work on a very small budget. If DRM is leagally required in all devices then when I do similar development work on a shoestring (hoping to create a new industry) I become a lawbreaker. The required inclusion of DRM (with patent licenses to obtain) increases the complexity and cost t to the point where I cannot compete with the Multinationals. Development of new things in an inventors garage (Jobs and Wozniak creating the Apple computer) will be a thing of the past.

There are other reasons I think that mandating DRM is bad. In fact in the case where a manufacturer uses DRM I believe that they should loose the copyright on the “alternatly” protected work. I believe this because the copyright is granted as a protection in return for the work moving into the public domain at the end of the protected time period. The DRM prevents the work from moving into the public domain so the social contract between society and the creator is broken by the creator. Thus they have chosen an alternate protection to copyright. Why should they have the copyright protection if they have “stolen” the incentive that was to be given to society in ruturn for the granted protection?


RIAA can already search under the laws of the 1950’s. They can sue for infringement. Manufacturers can make a player and media using DRM today. Neither of these things needs legislation to allow it to happen. But the DRM legislation does take away real rights from others.

As I said before:
The trick for our society is to allow an incentive for creative endevor, provide appropriate ways to curtail illegal infringement, and not infringe anyones rights in the process.

Doing this correctly is much harder then tossing together some DRM laws that the RIAA and friends are pushing.

From everything I have seen so far you (David) are in denial and refuse to look at the entire situation. You have made some good comments and the need for appropriate protection of content is important. Unfortunatly the current path pushed by RIAA and others is not a good solution.

Anonymous Coward says:

>You seem to be taking the attitude that “if we have the
>technical means to steal, then that’s our right, and content
>providers will have to work around US instead of the other
>way around”.

I head read this entire thread and have not once see anyone post a message with this view, howver I have seen several post a “you seem to support piracy” response, and then then attack back.

I can only conclude that these posts are intentionally being left by people with vested interest in protecting that industry.

In fact, movies can exist without the MPAA, music without the RIAA. They did before they existed. The pain garage bands and independent film makers have today in selling their wares are the results of these organizations. Internet provides a distribution channel to millions with minimal costs and WITH NO MIDDLEMAN. The RIAA is on record statng they want to stop legal copying and all personal recording devices. They WANT to eliminate ownership and charge per listen. They see the possibility in technology to do it. They have been making CDs for years and the costs have never dropped nor have artists compensations increased.

The internet is eliminating dependency on promotional and distribution channels. it is leveling the playing field between user and distributor, and creating direct connections between artist and fan.
It is obvious that the RIAA is not going after the people pirating material — they are going after control of the consumer. When you listen to people, it is obvious they are willing to pay reasonable fees for products and want artists to be compensated. No one ever says they believe music should be free. When you listen to the artists, it is obvious they, like all creative people, are happy to be heard and would do it even if they didn’t get paid (and often do). The artist is not scared, the consumer is not scared (except of the government or these organizations, not of the internet and digial media). Only these middlemen are scared.

Everytime I hear a “just because you can steal it doesn’t make it right” is stating a position no one disagrees with but is also NOT what is being discussed.

Froboz says:

The purpose of DRM

The main purpose of DRM and DMCA is not to prevent piracy. It is to prevent fair use.

I have a perfect example for you. I own a DVD movie. I also own a Pocket PC. I would like to watch my movie on my Pocket PC. Software tools exist that will allow me to compress that movie into a format that I can watch on my Pocket PC, so I have used those tools to convert the movie so I can watch it on my Pocket PC. I have just broken the law. I am now a criminal, because I had to bypass the Macrovision protection on that DVD to get it into my Pocket PC for viewing. That is a violation of the DMCA. In theory, the MPAA could sue me for that. I find that ludicrous.

What the MPAA wants is for you to buy separate copies of the same movie 5 times over. One for your home DVD player. Another for your Pocket PC. Another for your PSP. Another for your cell phone. Another for your I-Pod. And another for your digital camera. Etc. DRM is how they will enforce that.

No thanks. I’ve got a work-around.

Steve says:

David, i don’t know if you’re still reading this thread, but the industry is far from dying. It has taken a big blow, sure, but it will survive. The best way is ofcourse, through advertising.
If your movie has a coke can sliding across the screen every 20 mins, pasted over the picture, there is no software that can delete that without erasing parts of the movie. Another way of forcing people to watch advertising is to plant it inside the movie itself, like they did in I, Robot. Ofcourse this will take some time for the audience to getting used to but we’ll accept it just as we accept commercials everywhere. Besides all this, if i buy a DVD and watch it a 100 times with a 100 different girls, they’re not stealing anything, but they’re still not paying for their ‘copies’. (they might have to perform certain favours though 😉 )

Hope this helps

xir0 says:

The problem with the RIAA’s business model is that it does not exist.

You pay the same amount at the movies to see a well produced, mega-budget blockbuster as you do to see a boring, low budget film. This is akin to paying the same amount for a Ferrari and a Honda Civic. The quality of the goods, as well as the production costs, vary enormously for each example. Why should I, as a consumer, pay the same amount?

I have a proposition. If I believe all of the advertising hype about a new movie/band, I shall go and purchase these goods or services. If these goods or services are not up to the standard I was lead to believe, I should be entitled to a full or partial refund, or given a replacement which is to the standard advertised. It’s like any other industry. Sure, subjectivity may come into it, but why should I pay for something I don’t get?

There was prior discussion about downloading a movie and purchasing it if you feel it is up to your standard. Think of it as a “low-definition preview”. This then enables the viewer to make an informed decision, whether to pay $20 to see it at the movies, rent it for $5 from the video store, or not watch it at all. This fits in with David’s “fair market” ideal, where a balance is struck between demand and supply to provide a beneficial balance.

I personally condone piracy, but the fact of the matter is that it is here, and its here to stay. Prosecuting a few individuals and demanding ridiculous sums of money will do nothing. Once you sit back, open your eyes and scale up the enormity of the problem, millions of file sharing services worldwide, and ever increasing use of anonymizing software, you will see this.

patman says:

wake up !!

It’s really scary to see how far behind we are today.

If you are a true artist your main interest is to be HEARD. Any decent musician or artist would be able to live very well on their music even if EVERYONE could share their work. You have to think alternative revenue streams and perhaps no GOLD humvee the first two months you make a hit. How people think that you cannot make a living on concerts, live performances, materials are beyond me. That’s how a musician should be making their money.

Imagine what a healthy win win situation for everyone if artists made their music available online for free and had their business model around concerts, material, performances, shows, etc. Oh yeah, middle man like MPAA and RIAA would not gain anything here.

Culture needs to be shared and enjoyed ! I made a home video of my 1 year old daughter. I didn’t even dare to put some cool copyrighted background music because I’m afraid that some IDIOT (MPAA or RIAAA) would sue me. I’d be “using” their kind of music.

If you don’t understand any better you can argue that downloading music is “stealing” music. Just like Mona Lisa, every time you make a xerox copy of her you are stealing the work. But it’s culture which needs to be shared and enjoyed. This is the main issue, people are never going to understand this because they are soo close minded. Culture HAS to be free and there ARE enough alternative revenue streams to make it happen.

Bottom line, as long as it’s for non profit – things need to be shared. If you don’t want your work to be admired then DON’T release it.

I say to you all that MPAA / RIAA is to the American consumers and the American innovation as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.

M. Simon (user link) says:

Reply to David #31


David says that Grateful Dead marketing will only work for 1 band out of a thousand.

I think he is totally correct. Only one band in a thousand is worth it.

Record companies should get some real A & R men if they want to make money.

My kids would rather listen to my collection of 60s music rather than most of the crap the companies are putting out today.

The quality of the merchandise has declined.

Mighty Mouse says:

An interesting discussion

There’s been some pretty good points raised here (although only David and one or two anonymous cowherds have chosen to support the cartels).

I’ve noticed it implied here (and in other arenas) before, but it bears repeating:

Any business that treats it’s customers, a priori, as criminals, deserves to be sodomized with a chainsaw.

A business cannot claim high ground and expect honest behaviour from their customers if they do not treat their customers as honest in the first place (by assuming dishonesty, you engender it).

I’m a pretty straightforward person, I’ll treat you as you treat me. If you come at me with the attitude that I’m axiomatically dishonest, I’m not likely to disappoint you (and you should only be burned in your bed with napalm if you think that way). On the other hand, if you accept that I’m decent and honest, I’ll be further inclined to behave in my default honest schema.

I’m entirely okay with reasonable recompense for product provided. But when you axiomatically assume criminality, you remove any tendency to act honestly, because honesty is not reinforced.

No matter what the MAFIAA does, there is no way, whatsoever, to excise those who choose to be dishonest, no matter what. But by treating all of your customers as dishonest by default, you only exacerbate the problem.

Jane Q. Public says:

Preaching To The Choir

While it is refreshing to see someone writing on the subject, this issue of the RIAA and MPAA not realizing that the market is changing under them is something I started shouting about a full 8 years ago. You are not only preaching to the choir, in some cases you are stating the painfully obvious.

Strong DRM must eventually lose simply because it is not realistic given the market as it already exists, even without regard to what it will become. While it is in the interests of society as a whole to encourage profits for originality and innovation (which is why patents and copyrights exist in the first place), there is no law that the same economic model will continue to encourage that profit. If we do not understand and move with the market, it will leave us… regardless of whatever protectionist measures are put in place.

I have tried to convince supporters of the RIAA and MPAA that I am not their enemy, but rather I have been trying to teach them how to survive in the new market… to no avail. It is their own preference and their own decision to try to legislate themselves a profit based on an old market model that no longer exists, unrealistic as that may be.

It is a basic tenet of free markets that no industry is guaranteed a profit if they do not work within said market. They are not, and ultimately that will be their downfall.

Rob S. says:

Infringement, theft, and other definitions

I hold several patents in the area of high technology and I think everybody can learn from the system in place there.

As everybody knows (or not), that every patent applied for is made public during examination and is permanently published at the online database of the USPTO.

The prior art, total content, and detailed workings (indefinite language is not allowed so as to prevent abuse) is thus made public knowledge.

Other companies (other than the company of the patent holder) can consider the content and even privately test the thing out.

Once they are sure that they want to use the content for their own profit, they would license or buy the patent from the original inventor as if the creation of the content was a service, which it is because, if the service was not done, then the content would likely not exist for consumption at the current time.

The price is mutually agreed.

Now, the problem many people see with digital content is that they cannot evaluate or sample the content before they pay for it. If it is unsatisfactory, they cannot return it.

Also, another problem is that once DRM is in place, the product can no longer be called stand-alone (or not a real product for all practical purposes because it cannot be fully consumed).

There needs to be some kind of very different solution on the part of governement to this problem because unlike for patents, no such *fair* system exists for digital content.

Only one thing can be surely stated though;
a digital product that is not stand-alone is not a product worth downloading or buying for any consumer.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the problem that everyone has with paying retail prices for music is really a very simple fact: you don’t need a CD to get it. This eliminates the production costs of the physical object, costs to transport it, costs to rent retail space to put it on display, etc. The music exists as data, and with today’s technology, can be copied so easily that the costs to distribute 1 album are practically zero.

Imagine if it cost a car company $1 to build a car, and everyone in the world knew it, and yet the companies insisted on selling them for $20,000+? People would be outraged, and either boycott or steal.

What it comes down to is that the current distribution method has made obsolete the system which has been in place for over 75 years, and those who are accustomed to making money the old way can’t adjust.

I read an interesting point in another article: If a legitimately sold song costs the consumer $1, but 49 out of 50 songs are stolen via internet downloads, then the music industry would actually make the same amount of money selling their music at 2 cents per song if each song was paid for. Speaking personally, I would have much more peace of mind and be entirely willing to buy music at this price in order to get rid of the fear in the back of my mind that someone might try and throw me in jail or pay a fine larger than I could ever possibly afford. All the music industry has to do is supply downloads at 2-3 cents per song and I believe everyone would forego “illegal” acquisition methods in favor of a more convenient and accessible legitimate download site.

My two cents 🙂

A Jabberwocky Named Dennis says:

It is quite amazing that people can actually agree with monopolization in this age. As someone said early most artists don’t really care if people download their music providing that the downloader visit concerts, buy merchandise, or buy the music itself.

I have been downloading for probably a year, and everytime I’ve ever downloaded a movie or song I’ve heard/seen it once and then deleted it. If I enjoyed it I go out and buy it. Downloading for me is more about awareness really. In a forum or Blog no one can put a link to a physical DVD or CD for people to know why they’re ranting. But a torrent file is simple to use.

Another problem the MPAA is is having but seems to downplay is both Netflix and TiVo. Netflix movies get shipped to people and a good 80% or more people I know who use it rip the image of the DVD and send the DVD back. TiVo’ing movies takes absolutely no effort at all and you can have the file all wrapped up. But why isn’t the MPAA attacking them? Because Netflix and TiVo have legal teams to fight back, whereas a defenseless 13 year old girl who downloaded Gwen Stephani is a great target.

When will the recoarding and movie industres learn you can’t fight progress? They are like the Ottoman janissaries attempting to hold on to outdated canons in order to keep their social status. If they gave up their rigid stance the MPAA and RIAA may gain supporters for anti-Piracy, but their power-hungry attitude makes them appear to be more like a bully demanding lunch money than a multi-Billion dollar corporation.

The analogy is still correct, for you nay-sayers who say “Well, they aren’t stopping original material, just stolen works…” because the MPAA and RIAA refuse to allow anyone to use even CLIPS from their song/movies without prior permission. This includes education purposes.

shek says:

take a ste back

way towards the top of the comments someone pointed out that the button situation is different from the RIAA and MPAA situation because “they arent preventing people from making new music and movies” and plaing the intellectual property card. This seems like a good point, but if all the content tha is out there is “intellectual property” i would argue that i should only pay a one time fee for the rest of my life for a certain piece of content, and from then on i should be able to access that content however i wanted (CD, MP3, ripped DVD, streamed over the internet, etc….) without any additional fees what-so-ever

Anonymous Coward says:

I would say more of there problem on people not buying stuff is the fact that the keep changing things up and ticking people off.

1. Advertise a movie. Lots of money. Problem, they advertise them all wrong. You see a commercial showing parts of the movie. “That looked funny. I want to go see it.” You get to the movie and the funny part of the commercial (or other part) isn’t even in the movie. Seen it happen over and over. No longer go to movies. I have no idea anymore what I will get.

2. DVD’s. Wait and wait for DVD. You see all the commercials for its release. Go out and buy it. Great, you like it. 3 months later. MAFIAA. “O hay guys we are releasing this movie again but now it has a bonus disk. Extra parts stuff. Come buy it again.” 6 months after that another version. I have done that. I have 3 versions of Stargate the movie. 2 of I Robot. And a few others. I Robot was the last movie I bought. My fault but they have now killed themselves. Tired of the same movie re-released just to get another 15 to 20 from ya. Don’t even want to start on TV shows onto DVD. Even worse. Not for the re-releasing but the price. “You saw them all free, now come buy 1 season for 100.00 bucks.” (X-files and a few others) Most are not that bad but still bad enough for being free over the air waves.

3. Going out to see movies. Maybe they (MAFIAA) should go after movie theaters. The prices they charge to see the movie and get a little something to munch on. Please.

This all still goes for CD’s too. Over priced. Crap. You hear a great song on the radio. Go get the CD. No wonder you never hear the others on the radio. They suck. To buy the same thing online (full album) gonna cost you 2 to 3 times as much and you get none of the art work and such.

And they wonder why they are losing sales. That still gets me. If they are losing so much money from sales and “piracy”. How are the still making profits? Didn’t they make a profit overall last year still? Guess it wasn’t enogh for the CEO’s Bonus. He shouldN’T go without his 3 houses.

I don’t download movies or music. Why would I want to. Most of it sucks anyway. Stop putting out crap and when they FINALLY make something worth wild. Make it priced for buying.

O yeah. Stop paying actors 20 million a pic. I’ve seen better acting at my kids 5th grade play.

Have a good one

CaptainReality says:


To all the moralisers out there saying ‘but it’s theft’.

The kids don’t care. You’re up there with the people telling them to abstain from sex, not drink, and not smoke pot (meanwhile, the music that you’re moralising about is telling them to have sex, drink, and smoke pot).

The kids are the main potential market, and they’re not buying music anymore; they’re downloading and copying from their friends. All the moralising in the world won’t change this. Attempting to sue them won’t change it (and hasn’t so far). DRM won’t change it. They’re going to keep doing it, and they’ll do it more and more. It’s becoming passe amongst young people to admit that you ever buy music. This is a simple fact; moralisers HATE facts; they get in the way of their crackpot moral theories.

So, moralisers, how does it feel to know that you’re utterly irrelevant, utterly powerless, and you’ve lost? Truly, the moralisers know what it is to be a loser.

Lee Dennis says:

stupid laws

About 1950 in Montgomery. AL the painters union tried to get the city to pass a law prorbiting the selling of paint to anybody except liscened painters. Also they wanted to outlaw using a brush wider than 4 inches, and outlawing paint rollers. A large retailer stopped this. They said almost all their paint sales was to homeowners. At that time they were the countrys largest store.

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