Musician Jonathan Coulton: I Value The Internet A Lot More Than The Record Industry
from the good-point dept
We’ve written plenty about Jonathan Coulton over the years, including two recent stories. The first was his revelation that he grossed about half a million dollars last year — even with his music being offered under a Creative Commons license such that you could share it. He made a lot of his money because people still pay him for the music just to support him, and also from touring. We also wrote about his thoughtful discussion over what the shutting down of Megaupload meant.
Last month he went on Jerry Brito’s Surprisingly Free podcast where he talked more about both of those things, as well as his general thoughts on his career and related issues. Where it got especially interesting was a bit further into the discussion, where he admits that he certainly still has an emotional reaction to finding out someone downloaded his music without paying for it, which makes his relationship with copyright more “complicated.” However, he then talks about how important the internet is to him, and how in the long run, if it comes down to the internet or copyright law, he’s got to side with the internet:
… where you fall on this issue, a lot of the time, comes down to how much you value things like a “free and open internet.” And, for me… if, as a consequence of nurturing this amazing thing, called the internet… if as a consequence of letting that do what it wants, we destroy a number of industries, including the record business, and maybe even including the rock star business, I think that humanity will be better off. I, for one, think that the internet is one of the greatest human achievements, ever. It’s an amazing tool and we have only just begun to explore the possibilities. To me, it feels like it’s a part of our evolution as a species. I value it as much as I value the Bill of Rights….
He later says (as we’ve talked about over and over again) that there are all sorts of ways to compete with infringement — and offering all works at a reasonable price in the formats people want, is a really, really good way to compete and get people to actually buy.
Towards the end, he also points out that the research still hasn’t really shown that piracy has harmed artists:
You need to reassess whether or not piracy is actually a problem. A lot of people assume it is… and they could be right. But I don’t think we’ve really determined the answer to that question. And I don’t think we can make smart policy decisions until we know the answer to that question. If, in fact, there is some small harm or no harm, then we need to look and see: what do we want to do with this society? Is it better for us to have some small amount of piracy, in exchange for all the other goodies we’re going to get if we stop spending so much time and effort trying to squash things…. We make decisions all the time about what we think is morally right and wrong, and more and more people are making decisions that are out of step with the laws. And that’s an interesting phenomenon, and we haven’t really unraveled what it means yet.
Again, this isn’t some “freeloader” as critics often like to label all sorts of folks who make these kinds of arguments. This is a very successful professional musician, whose success hasn’t come from the traditional gatekeepers, but from embracing the internet and what it allows, and developing new business models.