Music Industry Trying To 'Store An Iceberg In The Sahara'

from the rethinking-copyright dept

Catharina Bethlehem points us to an interesting speech by copyright lawyer Hans Bousie at the Eurosonic Noorderslag Festival in Groningen (Netherlands), in which he suggests that the major labels are trying to "store an iceberg in the Sahara," with their current strategies. He basically argues that thanks to copyright law today, everyone demands their "fair cut," except that the "fair cut" isn't actually all that fair, and it ends up that lots of large entities take out their own giant cuts, leaving little (if any) money for the actual creator. This, he argues, is the fault of the way copyright law today works, and how it's not set up for modern technology.
Imagine all the music in the world as one large iceberg. This iceberg is guarded by the music industry. If you want a chunk out of it, you must buy it. But they made a big mistake; they are desperately trying to store this iceberg in the Sahara and refuse to tow it to a safer place. They might even think that itís too expensive to tow the iceberg all the way up to the poles. The tragedy is that the industry is not even aware that the iceberg melts, so what they are trying to sell is slipping away and is freely admissible as plain and simple water. So on the Internet music is available like water, entirely free, but, unfortunately, illegal.
He argues, instead, that copyright should be changed, such that it's not considered a "property right," but rather "a right to a creative income." More specifically, he's arguing for low compulsory licensing rates, basically making it easy for innovators to innovate around music without having to negotiate huge and expensive deals, while also guaranteeing that folks actually get paid. While this is definitely better than what we have today, I'm not at all convinced it really makes sense in the long run. When you have compulsory licenses, what you end up with is a regular fight for certain folks to convince whoever controls the compulsory rates to raise them. The market gets thrown out the window for some guy sticking his finger in the air and having it blown on by those who want him to push the rates up. It's a process prone to abuse.

The simple fact is that no one can or should have a "right to an income" from their own works. You merely have the right to put in place a business model and see how the market reacts. That could provide you with a very nice income or it could provide you with none at all. It's the business model that decides, and we shouldn't be having the government randomly deciding just how that business model works.

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  1. identicon
    Cath, 26 Jan 2011 @ 4:37pm

    Sweet to see this story on Techdirt. Thank you Mike.

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