What If Movies Went Away?
from the times-change dept
For years, in discussing how copyrights really aren’t necessary, it’s always only a matter of time until someone brings up the infamous $200 million question — first asked to me by someone at NBC Universal years ago: “But how will Universal make $200 million movies without copyright?” As we’ve explained, that’s the wrong question. The cost to make a movie is meaningless in this context — as it’s been shown that the cost of making a movie is actually inflated due to a variety of factors, including overly aggressive use of copyright, which allows inefficiencies to enter into the moviemaking process. Without copyright, moviemakers would have to cut down on some of that waste, and focus on actually making movies at more reasonable costs — which is absolutely possible.
The real question is how will movies make money — and that’s easy enough to answer. As plenty of folks have been pointing out for years, the movie business isn’t selling movies, but selling seats to an experience. Put on a good moviegoing experience and the money will still come in. Theater owners will have every incentive in the world to make sure good movies get made, otherwise they won’t be able to stay in business.
However, in the ongoing online debate being held by the Cato institute, Rasmus Fleischer makes another point that’s at least worth considering: what if movies really aren’t that important as a content medium. Now, personally, as a movie fan, this made me cringe, but the overall point he’s making is worth thinking about, noting that movies are a recent phenomenon, and other forms of “high art” have come and gone in the past without the world ending. He quotes Paul Oskar Kristeller:
There were important periods in cultural history when the novel, instrumental music, or canvas painting did not exist or have any importance. On the other hand, the sonnet and the epic poem, stained glass and mosaic, fresco painting and book illumination, vase painting and tapestry, bas relief and pottery have all been ?major? arts at various times and in a way they no longer are now. Gardening has lost its standing as a fine art since the eighteenth century. On the other hand, the moving picture is a good example of how new techniques may lead to modes of artistic expression for which the aestheticians of the eighteenth and nineteenth century had no place in their systems. The branches of the arts all have their rise and decline, and even their birth and death.
The point is quite clear. “High art” forms come and go — and when something new comes along to replace the old form, people don’t feel that it’s such a huge loss, usually because something the market prefers more comes along instead. If there’s really a demand for movies, a business model will be created to finance them and make sure they make money. However, getting rid of copyright may teach us that there are other art forms out there that are even better.