Composer Jason Robert Brown Still Standing By His Position That Kids Sharing His Music Are Immoral
from the well-that's-how-it-goes dept
As we noted in our original post on the subject, I thought it was good that there was a civil discussion on the topic, and I know that these discussions can get rowdy and angry at times. But I do find it a bit silly when anyone suggests that it's all one side who are obnoxious in their treatment of those on the other side. It's the internet. People are going to make short and angry responses no matter what you say. People are quite frequently obnoxious or threatening to me, but I hardly leap to the conclusion that the majority of people who disagree with me are somehow hostile or even make a big deal of it. It's the internet. Get used to it and move on.
For example, I find that Brown's dismissal of certain arguments to be every bit as "hostile and haughty" as what he accuses those from "the Slashdot World" of making:
In the Slashdot world, the idea that creators are losing something in the free and unauthorized exchange of their creative capital is somehow controversial. People who like to quote Stewart Brand's mantra "Information wants to be free" insist that the minute I express a creative idea in any fixed form, it becomes the property of the world.First of all, it seems like the only people who still use the (mis)-quote "information wants to be free" any more are people knocking down a strawman. The quote is meaningless. If people use it, they're using it as shorthand for a much more nuanced argument, but rather than respond to that argument, it seems that copyright system defenders use it to mock those who have more serious arguments by brushing them off as the "information wants to be free" crowd. And the argument is not that once you express a creative idea in any form it becomes "the property of the world," but that you physically cannot limit what happens to it. That's just how it is. That doesn't mean it becomes property of the world. After all, ideas are not property. But it does mean that because people can copy it at no cost, they will do so.
The question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to argue and whine and stomp your feet as the tide comes in... or are you going to adapt and adjust your business model?
The blueprints for your house should be free. Movies should be free. The DSM-IV should be free, regardless of the expense required to create these things.This is really frustrating because people accuse me of making this kind of statement all the time. It's not should, it's will. "Should" is a moral argument. "Will" is a predictive economic explanation. People aren't saying the information "should" be anything. They're saying it will be -- or, more likely -- already is. Again, the question is what do you do about it? Falsely claiming people are giving it moral value by saying "should" twists an economic/business model debate into a moral one.
I don't think I'm guilty of simplifying their side of the argument; they insist on simplicity -- the preachers of the "new ethics" imply that anything short of a tangible good or service should have a value of precisely zero, for the simple reason that the Internet makes it cheap and easy to disseminate intellectual property, regardless of the laws of copyright or traditional moral custom.You are guilty of simplifying the other side, and many of us do not insist on simplicity at all. We insist on accuracy -- and it is inaccurate to claim many of us are saying "should" when we are not. That an accurate explanation of basic economic (not moral) forces may seem simple does not mean we wish to simplify the argument.
Following on that logic, if it were as simple to reproduce a chicken online as it is to reproduce a copy of my song, everyone could just get free chicken whenever they wanted, provided they had enough ink in their chicken printer or whatever.Yes, that logic sounds perfectly sound. Is he really suggesting that an invention that could solve world hunger is a bad thing?
These same people insist that I should be happy to give my music away because it's free advertising, and that word of mouth will spur more performances of my work.The people saying that are pointing out that there are more factors at work here than just what Jason Robert Brown has said originally. They're not just saying that it will spur more performances. They're saying that the issue is more complex than you're making it out to be, and there are other business model options and that, perhaps, it would help to explore them, rather than to mock them.
I don't doubt, however, that if these people could figure out how to get to my performances for free, they would do that too.Indeed. If such things were available infinitely, than that would be the case. What Jason Robert Brown is ignoring is that as one thing becomes infinitely available, it always creates additional scarcities that he can charge for.
We can all rationalize stealing in any number of ways, but taking something that doesn't belong to you is theft, and I no longer have any patience with those who want to justify (or worse, ennoble) the taking of what is rightfully mine.Infringement is totally different than stealing. It is making a copy of something. You have not lost anything. This point has been made so many times it's silly that it needs to keep being made. And if he no longer has the patience to "justify" his (wrong) argument, why does he keep writing about it?
It seems reasonable to me that if you want that information, I should be able to charge you for it.Fair enough. It seems reasonable to me that if you want to read this page, you should have to pay me $100,000 to do so. What, you don't want to do that? Then my business model fails. But that's my problem, not those who chose to find alternative markets for my content.
The fact that you can get that information for free, thanks to some naive teenager or Crusading Copyright Killer, does not diminish my entitlement (both legal and moral) to be paid for providing it.Actually it does. And that is the point. Markets adapt based on supply and demand. When a product becomes infinitely available, supply goes way up, and the price goes down. Your sense of entitlement to a business model that no longer fits the market is what people are complaining about. They're not upset that you want to get paid. They just are letting you know that you've chosen a bad way to get paid, and they're going to get your works from alternative market places.
It's very easy for me to make that material available if I wanted people to have it, but it is enormously frustrating to have that control wrested from me by the simple act of someone scanning a copy of sheet music and sending it freely out into the world.The crux of the problem: Jason Robert Brown wants control. But copyright was never about "control." Markets change. Old providers lose control. Don't blame everyone else. Learn to adapt.
I write for the theater. It's not a particularly reliable or consistent way to make a living, but I have found my way to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle by offering my work for sale in ways ancillary to public performances. It no longer makes sense to produce and sell CDs of my work -- the expense of producing those recordings far exceeds the income earned in the current climate. Now sheet music is equally endangered.So you've adapted before, and you can adapt again. Welcome to a dynamic world.
It seems legitimate to wonder if there isn't some way to take back those income streams, if not through legal enforcement measures, than at least through changing the terms of the debate from "Why people should be allowed to steal all the content they want" to "Why creators are entitled to payment for the work they do."It's legitimate to wonder, but it's still asking the wrong question. You don't "take back" income streams that no longer make sense in a market. You adjust and adapt -- just like many other artists are doing -- and move forward. Instead, Jason Robert Brown is looking backward wistfully at a world that no longer exists.
And, again, no one is saying that creators shouldn't get paid or shouldn't make a living. They're just saying that it's your responsibility to find the right business model, and to adapt when the market changes. That's not "amazing." It's basic economics.