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
    Christopher Bingham (profile), 7 Jun 2010 @ 4:55pm

    File sharing isn't theft

    "The idea goes like this: Impose a blanket license on copyright owners, making it legal for all their musical works to be shared online. In return, ISP customers would pay a monthly licensing fee. Music rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI would collect the licensing fees and distribute royalty payments to performers and songwriters."

    Sorry, but that is simply a scam to funnel money to record labels again. Their payment models and collection methods more closely resemble extortion for mom and pop coffeehouses than anything equitable. Again they want to base the payment scheme on extrapolating the number of song plays from small samples - and they get to choose the sample pool.

    The bottom line is that sharing is not stealing. If I make a copy of your shovel I am not stealing your shovel - I'm creating another bit of chattel. If I build a few more shovels, based on your design, and sell them, I might be infringing on your market. If I give them away and say "keep it if you like it" the person has the choice to keep it or pass it on - which *might* have cost you a sale or it might not have.

    We've moved into a different business model of how music is heard and sold. In the old days, the only music that made it out to the market was controlled by a handful of gatekeepers - and they made the money. Now I can record a tune in my office and it can available to the entire world in minutes. It would be grossly unfair to anyone who creates to use the law to support the gatekeepers again instead of the creators.

    You can try to force people to buy every copy of your music, but good luck getting heard. File sharing is the new radio play. I'm selling more now than I ever did in the old days.

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