Copyright As An Engine Of Free Expression?

from the need-to-delve-a-bit-deeper dept

I recently bought a copy of the new book by professor Neil Netanel called Copyright’s Paradox. From what I’ve heard and seen so far, it looks like a well-balanced book that explores what’s good and what’s bad about copyright. It’s on the stack of books to read, so I haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet (and might not for a few months at this rate). However, Netanel has been blogging a bit about the book over at The Volokh Conspiracy blog, and reader David Puglielli wrote in to ask if I had any thoughts on his latest post, where he discusses copyright as an “engine of free expression.” This is half of the book’s premise, and he promises to tackle the other half in a future post. Basically, the overall premise of the book (similar to what we’ve noted) is that any reasonable thinking person admits that intellectual property (in this case copyrights) has both benefits and costs at the societal level. The question is whether the downsides (the costs) outweigh the upsides (the benefits). In the post linked above, Netanel focuses on the benefit side of the equation — which is the encouragement of free expression. Basically, expression is good and if there’s monetary incentive then we should get more expression — and that’s a good thing.

However, as Netanel also notes, clearly copyright is not the sole driver of expression. He points to the internet as obvious proof that many people create content with no intention of ever enforcing a copyright — and, in fact, noting that more content is being created than any person could reasonably consume. He then argues that copyright provides an additional value and benefit above and beyond what would be created without copyright, saying that he lays out the reasons why in the book. When I read the book I’ll have to explore those in more detail, but there is one troubling point that I find in the blog post. In discussing that incentive to create, he notes:

“Many works require a material commitment of time and money to create. Examples include numerous full-length motion pictures, documentaries, television programs, books, products of investigative journalism, paintings, musical compositions, and highly orchestrated sound recordings constitute such sustained works of authorship. It is generally far too expensive and time-consuming to create such works, let alone create with the considerable skill, care, and high quality that the best of such works evince, to rely on volunteer authors. Nor are alternative, noncopyright business models necessarily more desirable than copyright. For example, we might not want our cultural expression to be populated with product placement advertising or devalued by treating it as a mere give-away for selling other products.”

I’m hopeful that he at least challenges some of those assumptions more thoroughly in the book, because it seems to open on the assumption that content that is produced without copyright in mind doesn’t necessarily require time and money to create. While I recognize that this is just a short blog post, it also simply brushes aside all alternative business models as not “necessarily more desirable than copyright.” That’s a big assertion that may not be true at all. It rests on the assumption that in the absence of gov’t granted monopolies, the free market would be less efficient at figuring out how to allocate resources to create additional expression. You can make that case, but it should require some evidence, considering how rare it is for central planning to beat an open market in the long run (the short run is a different story).

Also, in picking out one example to make his point, he uses a very negative connotation concerning content used as advertising and suggests that any kind of give-away of content “devalues” the content. This is incorrect on both accounts. While most people don’t think of it that way, content has always been advertising for something. So complaining about cultural expression being negatively impacted by it being advertising is inaccurate. It’s always been that way. The question is really just about what it’s advertising (and how upfront it is about what’s being advertised). As for the question of “free” content devaluing the content, again, that’s incorrect. Value and price are two separate things. Something given away can be quite valuable (especially if it makes another product worth paying a higher price). So while I agree that copyright acts as an incentive for certain types of content to be created, I think it’s worth exploring in more detail whether copyright really functions better than other business models in creating the best incentives. Hopefully the book delves deeper into this (or he’ll do so in a future blog post).

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Comments on “Copyright As An Engine Of Free Expression?”

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32 Comments
Stan Schroeder (user link) says:

greed.

There’s this thing called corporate greed. For example, product placement. Does it not devalue the content, when you see a James Bond movie and the actors are constantly intentionally showing off various brands which paid for this type of advertising?

Saying that copyright somehow stops this is untrue, because corporations want it all: the money from the copyright, and the money from advertising.

SomeGuy says:

Re: greed.

For example, product placement. Does it not devalue the content, when you see a James Bond movie and the actors are constantly intentionally showing off various brands which paid for this type of advertising?

That’s just an example of advertising badly. Bad product placement is the stuff Wayne’s World made fun of; nobody wants that, unless you’re going for campy comedy fare. But when the product placement is made more-natural to the content and not offensive or distracting… How many people saw Casino Royale and then wanted that sleek sports car? The car was part of the content, but the content also showed what the car was capable of on the road, and you can’t say it was an unattractive machine.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Devaluing

Giving away free copies devalues copies – it doesn’t devalue the intellectual work so copied.

And just because something takes a lot of work to produce doesn’t entitle the producer to demand compensation (in proportion to cost) having given away that work. The proper bargain is for vendor and customer to come to an agreement.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Devaluing

I should say that it’s not the giving away of free copies that makes copies less valuable, but the ready availability of free copies (an inevitability with published digital works on the Internet).

One can give away bottled water, but this doesn’t stop a bottle of water being highly valuable to someone in a boiler room.

Similarly, one can sell a copy of Red Hat Linux to someone in a remote location without an Internet connection. The copy is still valuable, despite free copies having been given away elsewhere.

Grndexter (user link) says:

Re: Re: Devaluing

You seem to be mixing up two different meanings of the word “value”. The one you’re using is value in an intrinsic sense – ie people have “value” – as opposed to economic value – ie a measure of utility (productive or otherwise.) Intrinsic value is present or not regardless of economic value or lack of economic value. To confuse the two is to confuse the issue.

A produced work, say a novel, may have both kinds of value, but copyright only deals with the economic value. If you read a quote that changes your life, it obviously has great “value” to you… but would you pay money for it? Doubtful. You read a novel that distracts and entertains you for 6 hours, you liked the book but wouldn’t read it again because it’s fluff. The novel too has value to you, but a different kind. It kept you occupied and entertained for 6 hours, and yes, you’d be happy to pay for it. Does it have intrinsic value? Probably not.

The quote has intrinsic value – but no economic value. A collection of quotes could have economic value, but not a single one.

Economic value is influenced by many factors – timing, positioning (location, location…) etc. Water in the desert has more economic value than water coming out of your kitchen tap as you stand there watching it flow down the drain. Water has intrinsic value – but that is not what you pay for.

If I understand how this web site works, you collect free content and sell it to those who haven’t the time, ability, or desire to collect it themselves, yes? So you are adding economic value to the intrinsic value of the free content (the collection/accretion process). I wouldn’t say that this is wrong – but I’d suggest that if you don’t already, you should perhaps begin a program to share your profits with those who wrote the “free” content that you collected. (Especially since, according to US law it’s copyrighted, and by collecting the material and selling it, you’re probably violating the law.)

If I misunderstand how this site works, then please excuse me – I can’t seem to find a clear statement of how it works and whether or not there are charges and what those charges are. I base my assumptions on the fact that you say you have “employees” which means that someone somewhere in the process has to pay.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Devaluing

GrnDexter, you appear to believe that copyright confers value upon an intellectual work. It doesn’t. It’s merely a means of shoring up the market price of copies by having the privilege of prosecuting suppliers of unauthorised copies.

There are two valued things in a copy of an intellectual work:
1) the copy,
2) the work.

These are both values in the economic sense, and naturally will depend upon the circumstances and appreciation of each party doing the valuing.

The value of a copy to someone will be affected by availability and cost of alternative sources of copies (to them).

The value of an intellectual work to someone will be affected by whether the work is novel, interesting or useful (to them).

So, a copy of an intellectual work is a combination of these two values to someone.

However, copyright does not affect the value of an intellectual work to someone, only the value of copies thereof. Copyright indirectly affects the value of copies by reducing market supply. Well, it used to. These days it has a lesser effect given a ready alternative supply of copies from friends and the Internet.

Grndexter (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Devaluing

Copyright does not CONFER value, it PRESERVES it and RESERVES it for the originator to do with as he/she pleases for a limited time.

You keep trying to treat a “copy” of an original work as if it were a separate thing from the work. If it’s a true copy, then the ideas and the words of the original ARE conveyed in a copy, and you’ve reproduced them for someone else’s use – there is no practical or real difference between them (except in work that each iteration is, by it’s nature, individual and unique. And even then, a copy accrues value from and to the detriment of the original. If copying is free, then you’ve just cheated the originator out of his/her right to be compensated for their labor and ideas.

If you invent a new tool and someone else decides that they have the right to copy it, and sell it (because after all, it’s not the ORIGINAL…) then you’ve cheated the inventor out of their idea and their work. In my mind you would be a thief.

Anonymous Coward says:

“…because it seems to open on the assumption that content that is produced without copyright in mind doesn’t necessarily require time and money to create.”

That is not what Netanel said. According to your own quote, he said:
“Many works require a material commitment of time and money to create.(….)It is generally far too expensive and time-consuming to create such works,(…) to rely on volunteer authors.”

In other words: even if people wanted to spend a LOT of time on something, they simply cannot, because they make no money doing it and everyone needs money to live. So, they need an income while “creating something”. Of course, the question is: what is the best way to sponsor an artist? Or, even more basic: what art do you want a culture to produce? Mainstream art “which sells” so artists can support themselves? Or art which is so original / complex / etc that it has only a niche market? Which is the better art? Should art have anything to do with economics at all?

Case in point: Johann Sebastian Bach. Even if you HATE classical music, you know who this guy is. What you might not know is that during his life he was completely unknown. He had fairly unimpressive jobs in relatively back-water towns, but he created absolutely magical music. Only a very select few connaisseurs knew about him. And yet now, a few hundred years later, he is regarded as one of the most incredible composers the world has ever seen.

Bach was able to create his music because he was sponsored by his church. He also held court positions, in which he got in trouble a few times because his sponsor didn’t like what he had created. But most of his brilliance was produced when writing for his church in glory of his god. Nothing to do with economics at all.

If people want to make money by making art, they have every right to do so. But should we force artists to have to make money, or do we value the art which they create as a contribution always equal in value to whatever money we sponsor them with?

Grndexter (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. The issue here (copyright vs free) isn’t about the material produced, but about WHO determines it’s economic value and how that determination is made. The Soviet Union paid artists and writers who turned out one of the largest and most expensive collections of crap ever produced. If you establish “standards” of quality, then you introduce stagnation and place a low value on innovation. The Mona Lisa is a nice painting – but would you like to see 3,000 pictures of someone smiling by 3,000 artists? Doubtful.

In a strictly market driven world, the art and writing tends to the lowest common denominator – the “tastes of the masses.” But is this necessarily bad? How many Victorian playwrights can you name? Probably only one or two (and the second because of the controversy involving the first.) The one you would name wrote for the masses, not the Crown, yet his work survives to this day.

That is the debate. Let’s understand that.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is not true that in a strictly market driven world that art and writing tends to the lowest common denominator at all times. While that often occurs it doesn’t always apply.

Common economic activity in Elizabethan times in England was about as free market as you’re likely to get. Heck, you could even trade with the Spanish as they prepared to send their Armada to England.

Out of this, among others, came William Shakespeare. The Globe Theatre, which he partially owned, had to turn a profit so he wrote his plays to put “bums in seats”. Nor was he a favourite of the Court by any means. That, 500 years later, his plays still plant bums in seats is a testament that a work can have mass appeal and still be high art.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Free Market and Copyright

As a follow-up to the prior posts. Netanel made the statement that “Many works require a material commitment of time and money to create.” which appears, on the surface, to be a rational reason for copyright. However, as Mike points out “Value and price are two separate things.”.

From the free market perspective, if you invest a lot of time and money in creating content that a free market would not otherwise support, too bad. You gambled and lost.

Regretfully, Copyright (today) is being portrayed as a justification to charge monopolistic prices to recoup costs for creating content that the free market would not otherwise support. To say this differently, if you create content, you are NOT entitled to a profit yet that is how copyright is being presented by the pro-copyright crowd.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Copyrights are privileges relating to intellectual property, i.e. that you can stop people making copies of IP (that they’d otherwise have a natural right to do).

It is privileges that benefit the privileged (publishers) and cost those (the public) who’ve had their liberty suspended to create the privilege (copyright).

The revisionist argument in favour of copyright is effectively that publishers can make better use (greater public benefit) of the public’s liberty to copy than the public can – hence the state’s decision to suspend it for the publishers’ benefit.

This is comparable to saying that a slave owner can extract and harness a slave’s labour more effectively (for society’s benefit) than if slaves were emancipated (a societal burden to society’s detriment).

Grndexter (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:#12

Sooo… writers are slaves and publishers are slave owners? You’re warped, dude. Copyright doesn’t protect the publisher – who is just a “copier” in your world. Copyright protects the originator of the material. The publisher has to PURCHASE the RIGHTS from the originator or they can’t “copy” the work.

And the publisher has the capital to advertise and has a distribution system that gets the work out to more people than the originator can, so both originator and publisher benefit. (Compare sales of books by self-published authors with sales of traditionally published books. If the self-published author works REALLY hard, they MIGHT sell 500 or 1000 copies of their book, which will cost them more than they’ll net.)

And in the US, copyright is not a “privilege” but a RIGHT!

Article 1, Section 8, clause 8 of the US Constitution says,
“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

So, I gather that you would be in favor of “freeing” we authorial “slaves” from our “oppression” by taking our work and giving it away? Like I said – you’re warped.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:#12

Copyright is a privilege intended to benefit the commercial publisher.

Logically, the privilege must be associated with a work, and consequently when a work is originated, the transferable privilege lies with the work’s owner (its author or commissioner). However, although author’s may find themselves in possession of copyrights, these are impotent in their hands. An author can only benefit from copyright in their work by selling it to a publisher who can wield it, and thus benefit from it.

As to the constitution, authors and inventors naturally lose the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries upon publication. Prior to publication this naturally exclusive right must be secured for a time limited only by the lifetime of the author or inventor, possibly a fraction more.

So, no, authors should not have their work taken from them, because (and as per the constitution) they have a natural, exclusive right to it. However, if authors give their work away or sell it, they logically no longer retain any exclusive right to it.

As to oppression, copyright and patent do oppress authors’ and inventors’ cultural liberty to originate, exchange and build upon each other’s published works.

Abolish copyright.

Abolish patent.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:#12

Copyright is intended as a monopoly for the creator of the work for a limited time period in order to reward the creator for creating the work should the market so choose.

It is not intended to create a perpetual monopoly which is the unspoken and unacknowledged goal of organizations such as the MPAA, for example, and the politicians who support them.

That is the disconnect. No one, for example, can make a reasonable case that the creators of “Star Wars” have not been recompensed in full for the costs of the creation and have not received a handsome profit besides.

The constant extention of copyright by politicians deals less with the creation but what really ought to be a Trade Mark issue. Mickey Mouse, for example.

snowburn14 says:

Putting words in his mouth

“…because it seems to open on the assumption that content that is produced without copyright in mind doesn’t necessarily require time and money to create”

No… I’d say it opens on the assumption that (a substantial portion of) ALL content DOES require time and money to create, and that copyright is just one of a number of ways to allow people to be compensated for that investment.

“While I recognize that this is just a short blog post, it also simply brushes aside all alternative business models as not “necessarily more desirable than copyright.” That’s a big assertion that may not be true at all. It rests on the assumption that in the absence of gov’t granted monopolies, the free market would be less efficient at figuring out how to allocate resources to create additional expression”

To say something isn’t necessarily true is NOT the same as saying it is false. It therefore rests on no such assumption…

I know we all want our content cheap, or better yet free, and copyright laws (or more to the point, their enforcement) are basically the only thing standing in our way. But let’s not get carried away with ignoring the advantages of copyrights… I mean, how many millions of people enjoyed such movies as the the star wars series, the LotR or the matrix trilogies, etc. Do you really think they would have spent that kind of money on special effects, actors, directors, or even the screenplays themselves, if they weren’t sure they’d make a ton of profit as the sole legitimate providers of the resulting content? I doubt it. And then where would you get your bootleg copy from, if it was never shown in a nice dark theater you could sneak a camera into, or released on digital media?
For that matter, do you think we’d have even made the advances we have in media formats (ie cds, dvds, blu-ray, etc.), if the big bad copyright enforcers hadn’t been pushing for better ways to distribute their content? Yes, the consumers played just as big a part in generating that demand, but would we have bothered without the special effects blockbusters being released?

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Putting words in his mouth

I think very few people begrudge artists ample reward for their labours, and many who enjoy blockbuster movies would gladly offer handsome rewards for the creators of such works.

The problem we’re facing today is not how to get something for nothing, but how to solve two problems:

1) To restore the public’s cultural liberty (suspended 300 years ago to create lucrative monopolies for printers).
2) To persuade publishers to exchange their cultural works for their audience’s money rather than the public’s liberty.

We cannot go back in time, but who’s to know, if copyright had never been enacted, what sophisticated systems of social escrow we’d have developed by now for the commissioning of public works?

It was a failure of imagination pre-empted by the ease of granting the monopolies, patents, and other unethical boons that kings were quite familiar with.

The Internet reveals the anachronism of copyright at the same time as it also reveals the greater ease of offering alternative mechanisms whereby audiences may commission the production of public works.

If there are millions of people who want a blockbuster and someone who will produce it for the right amount of money, you do not need copyright, you just need to create a market in which an audience can haggle with the producer.

If copyright actually worked, if it was still effective, we’d not be arguing about it, irrespective of whether it was unethical. The thing is, copyright no longer works. We now have to help people see what else can work in its place – and hopefully avoid more failures of imagination, e.g. tax.

Grndexter (user link) says:

Re: Re: Putting words in his mouth

# 17

Maybe you just don’t understand how copyrights work? The last short story I “sold” – I didn’t sell the copyright. That’s mine – unless I specifically sell it. I sort of rented it out. for a price, I allowed a publisher to print my work for a specified time, in a specified area. What the publisher got was “First North American Rights,” and “First Serial Rights” – both of which were used due to the way the story was published. After one year, I got my exclusive rights back… (Since 1st NA rights are a one time thing, obviously I can’t get that back – it’s like you’re only a virgin until your not, and then you can never be one again.)

Many contracts allow reversion of rights when the material is “out of print” for a specified time. (Which is another whole can of worms in the digital age.) But I now have the exclusive copyright to my story.

I sold the copyright to a little book I wrote because of the nature of the book, and because it wasn’t something that I was interested in keeping, and I knew up-front that the company would be buying it. But my name is still on the book, even though I no longer have a financial interest in it. In such cases the contract rules what rights you keep and what rights you sell… and no one forces a writer to sign a contract.

BUT – copyright is NOT a “privilege” – it’s a RIGHT. There’s a VAST difference between the two. God save me from people who would take away my rights to give me liberty.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Putting words in his mouth

Nevertheless, it is only your publisher who can actually assert the privilege of your copyright as far as its assertion is beneficial to them (and indirectly to you).

If copyright was a right it wouldn’t have been created through legislation 300 years ago. Copyright is designed to constrain all printers for the benefit of each. Unfortunately, it also constrains the public (because no-one originally imagined that the public could become printers).

As for people taking away your copyright. No-one is taking it away. They’re merely pointing out that you no longer have it, and trying to help you understand that this is actually for the best and a reversion back to the way things were 300 years ago, before such an unnatural privilege was legislated.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Putting words in his mouth

I know we all want our content cheap, or better yet free, and copyright laws (or more to the point, their enforcement) are basically the only thing standing in our way. But let’s not get carried away with ignoring the advantages of copyrights…

No, I’m not arguing because I want content cheap or free. I’m merely pointing out the economic realities — which is that a product with an infinite supply gets driven down to a price of zero — and that’s a good thing. That’s an efficient market.

I mean, how many millions of people enjoyed such movies as the the star wars series, the LotR or the matrix trilogies, etc. Do you really think they would have spent that kind of money on special effects, actors, directors, or even the screenplays themselves, if they weren’t sure they’d make a ton of profit as the sole legitimate providers of the resulting content?

You are again making the same assumption that it’s copyright that drives this. This is false. You also make a false statement by looking at the cost number and asking who will spend that much.

That’s wrong. Look at the demand for the product itself. Perhaps without copyright, the producers would have figured out a *cheaper* way to make a better product.

Also, just because you don’t have a copyright, it doesn’t mean you can’t still use the content to sell other scarce goods. I am confident that other business models are created in the absence of copyright that serve the demand for such blockbuster movies.

Finally, I could just as easily make the identical argument you made to *any* product: Do you really think that McDonald’s would invest all that money in building up restaurants if they weren’t sure they’d make a ton of profit as the sole provider of fast food?

Monopolies are bad. Everyone recognizes that. I’m not sure why that belief goes out the window when it comes to content.

And then where would you get your bootleg copy from, if it was never shown in a nice dark theater you could sneak a camera into, or released on digital media?

False assumption that it wouldn’t be shown. Movie theaters don’t sell movies. They sell an experience. You still eat out at restaurants even though you can eat (cheaper!) at home, right? Why? Because the overall quality of the experience is better. Same is true of theaters.

For that matter, do you think we’d have even made the advances we have in media formats (ie cds, dvds, blu-ray, etc.), if the big bad copyright enforcers hadn’t been pushing for better ways to distribute their content? Yes, the consumers played just as big a part in generating that demand, but would we have bothered without the special effects blockbusters being released?

Actually, we would have made MORE advances, because the focus would be on better distribution and quality, rather than on better ways to lock down content.

cram (profile) says:

Hi Mike

“Movie theaters don’t sell movies. They sell an experience. You still eat out at restaurants even though you can eat (cheaper!) at home, right? Why? Because the overall quality of the experience is better. Same is true of theaters.”

No, that analogy does not hold because while you can cook at home, as opposed to letting the restaurant cook for you, you can’t make a movie at home – you are at the mercy of the film company and by extension the film community. Movie watching, like listening to music, is strictly consumption. You have no active role as a content creator. Since the film/music people do all the work to keep you entertained, they expect to be compensated. Now why do you find that unacceptable?

“That’s wrong. Look at the demand for the product itself. Perhaps without copyright, the producers would have figured out a *cheaper* way to make a better product.”

What the…? How did you even come up with that? Making movies costs a lot of money, mainly because the people who invest their talent, creativity, originality and/or genius expect financial rewards, upfront. Moviemaking involves considerable financial risk to the backer, and copyright is in place because it aims to protect the producer’s right to recoup his investment and future profits.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, that analogy does not hold because while you can cook at home, as opposed to letting the restaurant cook for you, you can’t make a movie at home – you are at the mercy of the film company and by extension the film community. Movie watching, like listening to music, is strictly consumption. You have no active role as a content creator. Since the film/music people do all the work to keep you entertained, they expect to be compensated. Now why do you find that unacceptable?

Huh? The analogy is perfectly apt. The question is always why would people go out to see a movie when they could see it at home for less. That’s the same thing as the restaurant situation. The reason people go out to see a movie is because of the overall experience. The “active” role part is meaningless. That makes no difference to the key point: which is that just because it’s cheaper at home, it doesn’t mean people won’t go out and pay more if the overall experience is better.

What the…? How did you even come up with that? Making movies costs a lot of money, mainly because the people who invest their talent, creativity, originality and/or genius expect financial rewards, upfront. Moviemaking involves considerable financial risk to the backer, and copyright is in place because it aims to protect the producer’s right to recoup his investment and future profits.

In every other business, we reward those who figure out how to do things cheaper and more efficiently. Yet, in the movie business, people celebrate “the most expensive movie ever made.” And where does that money go? A recent study showed that the biggest cost is paying big stars huge fees… and another study showed that star power isn’t worth what it’s being paid.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060829/183311.shtml

So, yes, it’s perfectly reasonable to point out that the movie business is overspending.

Don’t ask me how will someone produce a $200 million movie. Ask how someone will produce a movie people want to see. It’s a different question — and it’s the second question that matters, not the first.

http://www.techdirt.com/search.php?site=&q=%24200+million+movie

Anonymous Coward says:

“Huh? The analogy is perfectly apt. The question is always why would people go out to see a movie when they could see it at home for less. That’s the same thing as the restaurant situation. The reason people go out to see a movie is because of the overall experience. The “active” role part is meaningless. That makes no difference to the key point: which is that just because it’s cheaper at home, it doesn’t mean people won’t go out and pay more if the overall experience is better”

No, the analogy is not apt at all. I don’t see why you don’t see it. At home or at the theater, you are only going to “see” a movie, not create anything on your own. You can always cook at home instead of eating at a restaurant, but can you make a movie/write and sing a song to entertain yourself? Most people can’t, which is why we have an entertainment industry. And because we are willing to be entertained at home, they sell us TV, DVDs, CDs. You are paying them to entertain you, regardless of whether at the theater or at home.

“In every other business, we reward those who figure out how to do things cheaper and more efficiently. Yet, in the movie business, people celebrate “the most expensive movie ever made.” And where does that money go? A recent study showed that the biggest cost is paying big stars huge fees… and another study showed that star power isn’t worth what it’s being paid.”

This is the problem of approaching everything from an economic angle, as you do. In the arts, cheap and more efficient are not as important as creativity/originality/etc, to which you can’t really put a price.

For you an MP3 file is worth practically nothing but the music it contains is worth a lot and that’s what people should be willing to pay for.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, the analogy is not apt at all. I don’t see why you don’t see it. At home or at the theater, you are only going to “see” a movie, not create anything on your own. You can always cook at home instead of eating at a restaurant, but can you make a movie/write and sing a song to entertain yourself? Most people can’t, which is why we have an entertainment industry. And because we are willing to be entertained at home, they sell us TV, DVDs, CDs. You are paying them to entertain you, regardless of whether at the theater or at home.

Creation has nothing to do with it. Let’s say it’s not even creating anything at home, but microwaving tv dinners. There’s still a reason people go out: for the overall experience.

This is the problem of approaching everything from an economic angle, as you do. In the arts, cheap and more efficient are not as important as creativity/originality/etc, to which you can’t really put a price.

Who said that I expected anything to be less creative or original? And are you REALLY suggesting that the reason movie studios spend $200 million on a movie is for creativity and originality? No way. They’re doing it as a business to make money.

For you an MP3 file is worth practically nothing but the music it contains is worth a lot and that’s what people should be willing to pay for.

Not at *all*. You are confusing value with price again. I think MP3 have plenty of value. They’re worth a ton. This is not about what I *think* something is worth, however. It’s about what the economics say the price will be. And that’s zero.

Price is not determined by what people see as the value of something. Price is determined by the intersection of supply and demand. Value (or worth) is a part of the demand curve. It’s only half of the equation.

I think air is worth a whole hell of a lot, but I don’t pay for it. Do you?

cram (profile) says:

“I’m merely pointing out the economic realities — which is that a product with an infinite supply gets driven down to a price of zero — and that’s a good thing.”

That “economic reality” is grounded in…you guessed it, piracy. Somehow you always evade the prickly issue of what happens to this theory of yours when a creator doesn’t authorize copies for distribution. Now if you are going to say all content is free the moment someone creates it and that no one must have to pay to consume it, then I have nothing to say.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That “economic reality” is grounded in…you guessed it, piracy. Somehow you always evade the prickly issue of what happens to this theory of yours when a creator doesn’t authorize copies for distribution. Now if you are going to say all content is free the moment someone creates it and that no one must have to pay to consume it, then I have nothing to say.

No. I’m just talking about the *fundamental* properties of the good. If it’s infinite, it’s infinite. That’s the supply side of the equation. You can pretend it’s not infinite, but it’s only a matter of time until someone figures out how to take that infinite nature and use it to their *advantage*. Then anyone still sticking by artificial scarcity is going to be in a lot of trouble.

cram says:

One last point:

“Don’t ask me how will someone produce a $200 million movie. Ask how someone will produce a movie people want to see. It’s a different question — and it’s the second question that matters, not the first.”

The question people should be asking is how someone will produce a movie that people WILL BE WILLING TO PAY to see.

I agree it’s the second question that matters, but it directly hinges on whether we as a people are willing to compensate the creator for the very act of creation.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: The $200 Million Dollar Movie

The purpose of copyright is to provide the content creator with limited monopoly for existing content for the purpose of fostering new creative content.

If someone wants to produce a $200 million dollar movie, it is at their own risk! Copyright is not an entitlement to spend as much as you want so that you can erect a toll-both to extort revenue. Whenever you seek to produce and sell content, you need to examine its viability in the marketplace. The value of that content is determined by those willing to pay for it, NOT by the content creator establishing (by fiat) what it is supposedly worth. Think of all the “starving artists” feverishly creating content just to earn the next meal.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The question people should be asking is how someone will produce a movie that people WILL BE WILLING TO PAY to see.

I agree it’s the second question that matters, but it directly hinges on whether we as a people are willing to compensate the creator for the very act of creation.

Of course people are willing to pay for the act of creation, but you need to figure out which people and how. People who go to the movies aren’t paying movie makers for the act of creation — they’re paying to have a good time.

There’s no reason that doesn’t continue in the absence of copyright.

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