Andrew Dubber's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the understanding-the-discourse dept

My criteria for “favorite Techdirt blog posts of the week” are necessarily shaped by what I do for a living. As the leader of an MA in Music Industries at Birmingham City University, it’s important for me to understand the key issues shaping the sector in the digital age. Especially since I’m also writing a book on the subject.

But the thing that really interests me (and my students can feel free to recite my mantra along with me here) is that “it’s a discursive practice – and it’s complicated.”

That is to say, if you’re going to analyze what’s going on in the music industries, and particularly where there are tensions about copyright and intellectual property, the discourse is the interesting bit. What people say, and why they say it.

There are some fantastic examples of all sorts of discourse in Techdirt, which excels at locating some extraordinary pieces of rhetoric and unraveling them in the context of a nuanced understanding of copyright law and (perhaps more importantly) the commons in the digital age.

Even better, the rhetoric that is employed within the extensive comments within this site are an absolute goldmine. The people who read and respond to this blog tend to be thoughtful, articulate and passionate. Or hilarious. I’d struggle to think of a richer vein of vested interests, entrenched positions, ethical frameworks, conservative and progressive discourse, parody, urgent political speech, the language of persuasion, argument and ridicule than the comments of Techdirt.

That’s why this website is required reading on my course – as is Music Week, which essentially acts as the centerpiece for major record industry rhetoric in Britain, and could provide a case study in discourse all on its own.

A fascination in what people say about the music industries online – and unpacking why they say it – drives my professional enthusiasm here. So my favorites over the past week will probably come as very little surprise to even the most casual Techdirt reader.

If You’re Going To Compare The Old Music Biz Model With The New Music Biz Model, At Least Make Some Sense was an absolute gift to someone like me. Not simply because of the post itself, but because David Lowery from Camper van Beethoven (my favorite of his various musical involvements) weighed in after a while.

He was, it’s fair to say, very, very cross. And while it would be easy to compare his outbursts to a child having a tantrum and dismiss him as a slightly absurd and antiquated figure of blustery, reactionary, sweary fun – it’s important to reconcile this piece of writing with a man who is clearly intelligent in all sorts of ways. An intelligent man who feels attacked and unfairly represented in a very public forum.

There is no reason to expect a rational debate in this context because Lowery is not saying “You have misunderstood my points – allow me to explain them to you,” but “I AM VERY ANGRY!” which is an emotional rather than a rational position.

This is a recurring motif in discussions of intellectual property – and it’s a large part of the reason that every day, there are dozens of stories of people who feel transgressed because not everybody is behaving according to their expectations of how the world should work.

And so the tantrum-filled, door-slamming, feet-stamping, territory-claiming behavior that Techdirt reports on (and which is codified in documents such as ACTA, SOPA and PIPA) is at least understandable as an emotional response which can be characterized as “That’s not fair!” or rather “That’s no longer sufficiently unfair in my favor!”

What people say, and what they mean by it was also the subject of:

Twitter Suspends Four Accounts Critical of Sarkozy: Is This What He Meant By ‘Civilizing’ The Net?;

RIAA Insists That, Really, The Music Industry Is Collapsing; Reality Shows It’s Just The RIAA That’s Collapsing; and

Canadian Universities Agree To Ridiculous Copyright Agreement That Says Emailing Hyperlinks Is Equal To Photocopying.

And if ever there was a case for one’s choice of words being a revealing and significant thing to pay attention to, then If You’re Accused Of Trying To Scam Facebook Out Of 50%+ Of Its Equity, Probably Don’t Have An Email Account Named GetZuck is it.

But perhaps my favorite post of the week is a fairly dry one (sorry Glyn) about ACTA’s compatibility with citizen freedoms as expressed under EU regulations.

What’s so good about the post Trademark Lobby Wants To Help European Court of Justice Forget About EU Citizens’ Rights is that it lifts out the language from a press release, and holds it up to scrutiny. And it asks some pretty important questions that we should be asking about most of the stuff we encounter in this sort of territory.


p style=”margin-left:30px;”>What do they say – and how does that measure up to observable reality?
Why do they say what they say?
What is deliberately not said in this context?
Whose interests does this piece of discourse serve?
What doesn’t make sense here – and needs calling out?

Discursive practices, such as the copyright industries (and copyright is, in itself, a piece of discourse), change over time, are different in different places and in different technological, social and cultural contexts. It’s a shifting ground, and you’re never going to be short of people who say extraordinary things, who get angry about what they consider to be their entitlements, and who use language to seek or maintain power.

For that reason, Techdirt is never going to run out of pieces of discourse that need holding up to the light at arm’s length and saying “Really?” to.

We just happened to have a particularly good week of it.

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Comments on “Andrew Dubber's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week”

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Anonymous Coward says:

concerning the generous offer from the International Trademark Association to assist the EUCJ in understanding ACTA and reaching a sensible conclusion, i wonder if anyone is going to have the nerve to tell them to ‘butt out’ or whether the response will be more on the lines of ‘we’ll let you know after we receive the incentives’?

Paid Shill says:

techdirt is a pirate blog because it disagrees with me and that automatically means it’s a pirate blog.

and I’m a paid shill that makes no sense and my employer isn’t getting his moneys worth because my shill efforts are only turning people against him. he ought to fire me and hire some other shill because anyone can shill better than me.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

This is exactly what draws me to Techdirt, and the whole copyright debate.

On the one hand, it’s impossible to lock down all content – either legislatively or technologically. Copyright law cannot prevent any and all copying of all creations of the last century. I doubt the internet could exist if that were the case.

On the other hand, all content ever created cannot be made freely available. It’s not that creators deserve to be paid, but those wishing to get paid would have no way to do it (at lease not from the sale of digital content). It’s very likely content would suffer if that were the case.

So the answer lies somewhere in the middle, or in things that have not yet been proven, which is what makes the debate so fascinating.

Legislatively, the pro-copyright side has been winning for at least 35 years. Pretty much all content from the last century will be under copyright until I die.

Technologically, the non-copyright people have won despite legislation. Chances are you can find whatever you want for free online, and your chances of going to court are slim.

A compromise is needed, and that’s where the debate lies. I figure the winner will be the one that figures out how to make the most money out of the situation.

crazylilting (profile) says:

The message has always been, that copyright law is to restrictive, prices are to high, distribution is not fair regionally, availability is minimal, and ownership of copyright material once bought isn’t a given and is in fact being attacked. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for file sharing, and protest is just as valid as the obvious ones. Just because i don’t have anything to do with file-sharing doesn’t mean i agree with copyright stake holders. I feel they are the only major cause of file-sharing problems that are so “pervasive” in society today. Sure some people think that they should have it for free buy i’d say that their numbers are very small, so small that it shouldn’t even be a blip on hundreds of millions that the entertainment enjoys.

I mainly work in construction, and simply get paid for the work i do. I increase the value of people’s assets and only see a small fraction of what that work is really worth. If i applied the same formula to my work as the entertainment system did, i’d be a very rich man indeed. But people wouldn’t like the idea of paying a portion of the profits made when they sell their homes, but rightfully it is mine. Without the work, they wouldn’t of been able to get the increased value of their property.

So when someone writes a song, say they spend 6 months doing it? how much is that song worth? The time it took to write it? It seems not, It seems like a blank check for years to come, not only that, if someone takes that ?1 fair market value, they can have another check write to them thanks to government, for 150,000 times the value of that song? It’s not meant to be fair after all, its meant to deter would be infringes. So all they have to do is make sure it is difficult to get hold of legitimately, and sue when people don’t follow the rules. It’s simply disgraceful.

People don’t need entertainment, they are programed to want it, by the very industry that produces it. Bands are manufactured to target audiences so successfully through the use of memetics and then they wonder why people are so addicted to it that they would steal it. I would argue that because of the use of manufacturing tailored products the industry is wholly responsible for people breaking the laws to get those products.

When you step out of the box for long enough that you are no longer programed to need something, you look at those who have to have something with pity. You can see how they are programed and you see how those who use this tactic create another problem to deal with to make people want it even more.

Anonymous Coward says:


The middle ground is freedom.

Is not like you can’t sell something others can get it for free, you can and people have been doing it for a long time now, there is a reason the cliche “He can sell a fridge to a Eskimo” exists and that is because people are able to leverage things, the exclusion tool is meant as a helping hand not a guarantee of anything.

In a world where you can’t exclude others you either ask up front for something or you compete in a market where others can and will copy you and despite what one thinks others can succeed and will continue to create, and there is no greater proof of that than open source, where people give away the product but still there are multi million dollar companies in it that are starting to appear, they have zero protections besides trademarks so they have to be nice and provide something of real value to others, now that is a foundation that is robust and resilient, once you understand what you have to do and you know you can be in a market with others there is nothing you need to worry about, even the people copying you becomes assets, it is based on cooperation and not exclusion, it includes others instead of excluding them and those people will be working towards creating a market which benefits everyone and not just a few.

Anonymous Coward says:


“I mainly work in construction, and simply get paid for the work i do. I increase the value of people’s assets and only see a small fraction of what that work is really worth. If i applied the same formula to my work as the entertainment system did, i’d be a very rich man indeed.”

Not really. This is perhaps the biggest lie of those who oppose copyright.

Your work is always done pretty much at “cost plus”. If you are doing renovation work, you buy $500 of supplies, you apply 10 hours of your time (at $40 an hour) and you charge $1200 for it. See the math there? There is only $900 in there, and you made $1200. Nice!

Now, would you like it if the people you are doing renovations for paid you only a fraction of the percent of your bill (say $1.20) and then you had to collect a $1.20 from 999 of their neighbors who liked your work in order to get paid in full?

Would you like to get paid $100 now, and $100 every time the house gets resold?

You need to understand that while there is potential for reward in the music or movie business, the risks are there and are substantial. Nobody pays the full price for music, everyone has to pay a little and it adds up over time.

The business models are different, and you cannot compare them to hourly labor.

crazylilting (profile) says:


lol… You have no understanding of how renovations improve not only the resale value of a home but how that also impacts the house prices of the neighborhood. Not to mention the percentage of increase over decades vs if the work was not done.

Besides i don’t oppose copyright. I just think it should be fair. I don’t begrudge someone getting rich by creating a catchy tune, but its never been easier to create and market it, and the price should reflect this and allowances made for copyright infringement. No one business model should be propped up as much as the entertainment industry is, especially when it profits so much more then other industries.

There is very little risk in creating a work and marketing it or no one would do it. Everyone wants to be a rock star and its no wonder.

Anonymous Coward says:


Ah I see, so the business models are different and you can’t compare them to hourly labor… except when you try and use such a comparison to say “Well, how would you like to do your 8 hour shift at your minimum wage job and not get paid for it?”

Right? It’s not comparable, til YOU want to make the comparison. Then it’s perfectly the same and any analogies you use in regards to it are perfect (except when they aren’t, which is all the time, which you’ll just ignore because it’s YOU making the point/comparison).

Hypocrite thy name is Anonymous Coward (specifically the Anonymous Coward coming in at and with comment number 30).

Anonymous Coward says:


“Expression on Trolls Face: Priceless”

I doubt IP extremists care, they’ve gotten so used to being wrong by now that it no longer affects them. Being wrong is just normal for them these days, where have you been in the last couple decades (ie: when they were going after every new technology, like the VCR, that came out equating them to the Boston Strangler of content creation).

Richard (profile) says:


Not really. This is perhaps the biggest lie of those who oppose copyright.

Your work is always done pretty much at “cost plus”. If you are doing renovation work, you buy $500 of supplies, you apply 10 hours of your time (at $40 an hour) and you charge $1200 for it. See the math there? There is only $900 in there, and you made $1200. Nice!

Of course the extra 300 is there to cover the time when work is not available.

There is no reason why the entertainment industry can’t run on the same model.

The reason they have historically preferred not to is because of the huge bonanza that comes when a particular pice of work becomes popular.

The entertainment industry has chosen to gamble for great riches rather than to accept fair payment for a days work.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:


Have you never volunteered for an arts organization. Many people create art with no expectation of income. Very few people do construction with no expectation of income, unless it’s for a relative or good friend. The problem is that we live in a world that has monetized art, and

There’s no reason that once the costs of producing a piece of art are paid for that it can’t be offered to the world for free. This includes the wages of the creators. But the creators aren’t working on a salary, they’re working on royalties, which keep paying them for the rest of their lives. So the whole system is very different from construction, where you are hired to do a job at a set cost.

Anonymous Coward says:


“The business models are different, and you cannot compare them to hourly labor.”

You’re right, the business models are very different, most artists don’t make much money off of copy protection laws/royalties, they make their money off of concerts. That’s just more reason to abolish IP laws, they serve to strip artists of their rights just to serve the sole interests of monopoly gatekeepers that contribute nothing.

and before you claim the negotiations are willful, that’s another lie too. Outside of the Internet (and now they’re starting to do the same thing to the Internet with what wrongfully happened to Megaupload and how other similar service providers are responding and how that affects potential newcomers) restaurants and other venues must pay royalties to host independent performers under the pretext that someone might infringe, or else those venues could risk fighting expensive lawsuits (even if they win the lawsuits, the penalties against plaintiffs delivering them are intentionally kept low while potential infringement damages are kept high). This (intentionally) deters many venues from hosting independent performers, which harms artists.

The government wrongfully grants broadcasting and cableco monopolies, which ensures that content creators have to go through a monopolist gatekeeper to get their content distributed and gain the recognition needed to attract a crowd to a concert.

Bakeries are even afraid to allow children to create custom drawings on their birthday cakes because they tend to draw infringing cartoon characters and the bakeries don’t want to get sued. The horrors!! and the laws are responsible, for making the penalty structure one sided in favor of IP extremists who receive very little penalties for abusing the legal system relative to the possible penalties potential infringers might receive.

Anonymous Coward says:


This comment alone should win for “Most Insightful/Funniest” next week.

After all the bills were paid, THE MOVIE WITH THE HIGHEST BOX OFFICE GROSS OF ALL TIME ($2.5+ billion) didn’t make any profit.


Oh that Hollywood Accounting. Always good for a laugh. And you wonder why people don’t believe a word you say or want to support you in any way. And it’s got nothing to do with wanting something for nothing, it’s your own ways that turn them against you. The movie that has made more money than any single other film in box office history has NOT made a profit? Lol. I’d say are you fucking kidding me, but I know after squirreling and expensing away all kinds of things that it’d definitely not make a profit. Which is why they’re supposedly planning a sequel already. Because as we know, if you grossed $2.5+ billion and DID NOT make any kind of profit at all, it’s definitely a smart idea to throw more money down the drain. [rolls eyes]

Troll, away with you. You do more harm than good for your side.

Also, I fail to see how pointing out how much money Avatar made ($2.5+ billion, just to throw that figure out there again) is “spreading anti-artist FUD”. The previous person said nothing about artists at all. Nothing that could even remotely be considered as anti-artist. Which, by all accounts, means that the one spreading FUD here is you. Since you’re attempting to put a spin on a verifiable fact made by the person you’re responding to.

crazylilting (profile) says:


Well actually that happens more often then you think. People get work done that they don’t have the money for all the time. You simply have to take the punches some times. Again if i got everything that was due to me i’d be pretty well off. That simply isn’t the reality of this world. Ask any small business man, and you will hear the same story almost all the time. We all struggle, and it is impossible for small business people to litigate every time someone can’t pay. I work far more then my 8 hours a day as a business person as well and get very little reward for it.

Argue all you want in favour of copyright but it will get you no where because common sense dictates in the end. copyright holders loose very little because people who download would not buy if that was the only choice given to them. They would subscribe to services that are fair, but that means the entertainment Mafia will have to share the profits and create better services or have people do it and by shares in those projects.

crazylilting (profile) says:


When i filed my taxes, I didn’t make a profit either. But I can tell you that my equipment is constantly being updated and improvements are being made to my workshop that i will eventually benefit from. It is a well known fact that the movie industry structures the cost to hide any profits. If they didn’t make money they would not be able to fund ACTA/SOPA etc….

crazylilting (profile) says:


habitat for humanity? I was there…

Supporting struggling artists by buying equipment and supplies… i was there…

Donating instruments to schools… I was there…

come up with a better argument to justify the amount of legislation the entertainment industry has. They don’t support artists… Artists have to sue the RIAA just to get what is rightfully theirs and work their asses off on tour etc… It is the Entertainment Mafia that makes the money from royalties etc… and now that it is getting easier for artists to go it alone, they are trying to secure their business model of extortion from artists and consumers from all angles. For Christ sake they want to musicians to be accredited through their own system to even publish…

Wake up

Anonymous Coward says:


Listen, I know that you’re an $8/hour shill and you don’t get paid enough to fact check, but maybe if you took the initiative and started fact checking a bit more, instead of instantly looking like an idiot every chance you get, your employer might bump up your pay to $8.50. So, basically, shill harder next time OK, just a word of advice.

I wouldn’t want you getting fired either, then where would Techdirt gets its comic relief?

crazylilting (profile) says:


Yes and for some to do is not meaningful enough. Teaching gives meaning to a lot of people, and they do it for a pittance. To take an idea, share it with others so they can build from it, is a valuable service that is under appreciated and under respected. It is the basis of advancements in this world. And those who undermine teachers are the ones who don’t have enough sense to keep their mouths shut.

Anonymous Coward says:


look Chubby, I this seems important to you so I’ll respond. I asked if he expected to be paid for his work. Seems like he does but he has a sliding scale sales model. That’s fine for him. If he can recoup his investment in this manner, good for him. But there’s a bit of a difference between someone offering their creative output for whatever someone else is willing to pay and offering your creative output for a set price and having someone else take it for free. I’ll try to be more responsive in the future, I didn’t realize you had nothing better to do than sit and your computer and wait for me to say something.

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