Copyright Industries Massive Success Shows That They're Dying And Need More Draconian Copyright Laws?

from the say-what-now? dept

One of the favorite misleading tricks of supporters of more draconian copyright laws is to put out a report each year about the "size" of "the copyright industries," by the "International Intellectual Property Alliance" (a trade group made up of other trade groups, including the RIAA, MPAA, BSA, ESA, NMPA and others) There are numerous problems with this report. First off, it makes the ridiculously wrong assumption that "the copyright industries" exist solely because of copyright law. That is, they use the size of the numbers to suggest that stronger copyright law is necessary. Yet that's ridiculous. They present no evidence that the industries would be any different size, if copyright law were weaker or stronger. They simply present that as the obvious implication. Furthermore, their definition of what makes up "the copyright industries" is insanely broad, and tends to include plenty of operations who don't actually want stricter copyright laws at all. For example, I'm sure Techdirt technically qualifies under whatever measure they're using. After all, we're a publisher, so technically we're in "the content industries." Yet I can tell you right now that exactly zero percent of our revenue is due to copyright law. That's true of many, many of the companies included as being in "the copyright industries."

Unfortunately, this myth persists that if you add up all of the broadly defined "content industries," it somehow shows why you need stricter copyright. But that makes no sense. If they actually showed a direct causal relationship -- or even any evidence that copyright policy directly drives aggregate revenue, they might have some argument. But they don't go near such things. But it doesn't stop grandstanding around the issue. With the latest release, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Orrin Hatch, along with Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Adam Schiff, welcomed the various lobbyists who produced this report (i.e., the heads of the ESA, NMPA, RIAA and MPAA) to cheer on the report and use it to falsely pretend this is proof that more draconian copyright laws are important.

This makes no sense and, frankly, it insults the intelligence of just about everyone, to pretend that total revenue within an industry is the automatic indicator of how policy should be determined for that industry. You determine policies based on deltas, not absolutes.

It gets even worse, when you look at the actual report, which shows the industries in question are doing tremendously well. In fact, as many are noting, the report actually appears to undermine the industry's entire argument that "piracy" is somehow decimating their businesses. Instead -- even through a recession, these companies are making a ton of money, and there's no evidence of significant job losses.

It's a pretty weak move when our Congressional leaders to then take those points, that simply do not support the need for more copyright law in any way... and then use it to support such policies. Each year, of course, CCIA puts out a report that shows that if that's how you're going to calculate "the copyright industries," it's only fair to use the same methodology to calculate the industries that are built from "exceptions to copyright law," which turns out to be significantly larger than "the copyright industries." So if any of the elected officials praising this latest report are intellectually honest, they should actually be advocating for weaker copyright laws. After all, the same methodology shows that exceptions to copyright law contribute much more to the economy than copyright law itself.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2011 @ 8:01pm

    Re: Re:

    Richard, here's the rub:

    WB's products are more popular today than ever, but because of piracy, only a percentage of the consumers are paying for the product anymore.

    There is no such thing as zero marginal cost. It's bullshit end to end. As soon as someone has to be involved, as soon as you get it over a network, as soon as there is a server, and so on, there is a marginal cost. Even Itunes has marginal costs.

    "Furthermore the new copying mechanisms no longer have any economies of scale. Therefore there is no need to aggressively market a few acts in order to take advantage of those economies."

    The costs to find, to record, to produce, to market and to promote acts are still significant. Try putting a band on the road for a month out of your pocket and see. Heck, just call up the tour bus guys and try to rent a single private coach for a month. Put them up in hotels, pay their meals, equipment... and then remind me how things have become infinite and free. Once I stop laughing, I will try to answer you again.

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