Dear Free Haters: No One Has Said 'Everything' Is Free
from the once-again. dept
This is getting rather repetitive, but it seems that industry execs and lobbying groups who hate the fact that they have to “compete with free” consistently like to trot out tired old (and inaccurate) lines about how “you can’t make money if everything’s free.” Except that’s a total strawman. The latest to do this is Eric Baptiste, head of the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies (CISAC). In an interview with The Register, Baptiste repeatedly claims “there is no business if everything is for free.” It’s the kind of statement everyone has to agree with… minus the fact that it’s totally meaningless. No one is suggesting that everything be free. What people are suggesting is that there are some things that it makes sense to offer for free, and some things that it makes sense to charge for. The trick (and it’s really not that tricky) is understanding which is which. But, rather than helping folks like Baptiste are misleading their own constituents by making statements claiming that we’re moving to a world where “everything is free.”
What’s funny is he even seems to implicitly realize this with his next statement:
When you listened to commercial radio or watched the BBC or bought CDs, all those things are paid for one way or another – not always by the public directly, but advertising and payment and license fee all created a stream of money. Licenses are being granted and the authors are being compensated, it’s a real economy. When you move from this to nothing, to “everything is free”, that’s not a real economy. And nobody knows how to make the world spin with those rules.
The first part is exactly right. Not everything is paid for by the consumer directly. But the second part is dead wrong. No one is suggesting any business model where “everything is free.” Everyone’s been focusing on ways to take some stuff as being free and use it to make other stuff more valuable and worth paying for. And it’s working. So why is Baptiste pretending that people are pushing “everything is free”? It’s because the new business models upset the apple cart for an organization like CISAC, which wants to create a big collective licensing deal (collective licensing is easy, compared to actually giving people a reason to buy).
His real fear isn’t that “everything is free,” because that’s not happening at all. His real fear is that the new business models don’t require groups like CISAC. But, of course, he gets away with it, because reporters never seem to challenge completely bogus statements like that we’re heading into a world where “everything is free.”