ABA Journal Highlights How The Music Industry Is Thriving And How Copyright Might Not Be That Important

from the wow dept

Michael Scott points us to one of the best summaries I've seen of the state of the music business today -- published in the ABA Journal. It's an incredibly balanced piece, that really does carefully present both sides of the story on a variety of issues, and presents actual evidence, which suggests the RIAA is blowing smoke on a lot of its claims. The piece kicks off by highlighting that the music industry appears to be thriving, and then noting that it's not the same as the recording industry, which has been struggling.

Much of the piece does present the RIAA's viewpoint on things, such as the idea that the legal strategy the labels have taken has been a "success." However, it follows it up by questioning what kind of success it has been when more people are file sharing and more services are available for those who want to file share. From there it segues into a discussion on "three strikes" and ACTA, which includes the jaw-dropping claim from an RIAA general counsel that "three strikes" was "never even put on the table." I've heard from numerous ISP folks who say that's not true at all. However, the article does a good job (gently) ripping apart the RIAA's claims, with evidence to the contrary, and does a beautiful job digging deep into ACTA to show how the text might not explicitly require three strikes, but is worded in such a way as to make it hard to qualify for safe harbors without implementing three strikes.

The latter part of the article then focuses on how the music industry really is booming, and how more people are making music, and there are lots of opportunities for musicians to do well these days, even without relying on copyright law. The arguments made (and the people and studies quoted) won't be new to regular Techdirt readers, but it really is a very strong piece, targeted at lawyers (many of whom may not have realized some of these details). For example:
If the ultimate goal is to promote the creation of new works, then perhaps it isn't really necessary to take stronger legal actions against illegal file-sharing because the evidence does not suggest that it is hindering the creation of new works by musicians
I certainly don't agree with everything in the article, and there are a few statements from the RIAA folks that could have been challenged more directly. But, on the whole, it's definitely one of the better articles I've seen looking at the music industry from the perspective of the legal profession that doesn't automatically drop into the "but we must protect copyrights!" argument from the outset.

Filed Under: business models, copyright, music, music industry


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  1. icon
    Karl (profile), 30 May 2010 @ 2:07am

    Re: An ARTIST (or copyright holder of the Art) can CHOOSE , when , or when NOT to,, enforce their control rights.

    Hi, Technopolitical! It's been too long, old chum.
    "Music creation" for the pursuit of Art for Arts sake, is very different than trying to make a living out of it.

    Copyright law does not care if you make a living off of the "useful arts," just if more of it is created.

    That's because copyright law is not there to protect artists' incomes. Copyright law is there to grow the public domain. Creating a temporary monopoly on profits from art, is just an incentive to make that happen. If that incentive doesn't get the right results (i.e. it results in fewer public domain works), then it's not doing its job, and should either be changed or abolished.
    For a struggling full-time musician, every CD sale , legal download, and paying gig is how they feed themselves.

    Plus every T-shirt sold, every business deal (Fahrenheit 9/11, Slacker Uprising), and every merchandising deal (the Martin M-21). None of these are negatively affected by file sharing - just as paying gigs are not. All have been steadily increasing since file sharing became popular. The only things possibly affected are CD sales and paid downloads - and if you're on a major label and don't break into the Top 10, you will never make any money on mechanical royalties anyway.

    If fans of smaller grossing , but well respected artists --- like Steve Erle** for exmp. -- can get the music for free , when they would otherwise pay, they are taking food off of the Musicians table.

    The "when they would otherwise pay" condition is pretty important.

    Artist: "You can't listen to my music unless you pay."
    99% of file sharers: "Fine, we won't listen to your music."
    The other 1% will pay anyway, even if they can get the music for free.

    Also, you're probably thinking of Steve Earle (Steve Erle is a photographer). If you believe he's underrated, maybe you should help get the word out. Make an MP3 "mix tape" of his best songs, and share them with people who haven't heard of him. Maybe post it in a music blog, with a writeup about how great he is. Share his music to as many people as possible, so that you can get the word out.

    Oh, wait - that's "taking food off of the Musicians table." I guess he'll have to languish in obscurity, then.

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