Getting It: In A World Of Digital Abundance, Sell The Scarcities

from the dickens-of-a-good-idea dept

A recurrent refrain from the copyright industries is that you can't make money from digital goods if they are freely available online. To which Techdirt has been pointing out for years that not only are there many ways of doing precisely that, but lots of people are already coining it as a result. One of the Guardian's columnists has noticed one of them - that in a world of digital abundance, you can make money by selling associated scarcities:

Earnings from recordings have been plummeting for a decade, while from live they are rising ever faster. Warner Brothers release albums free online to publicise forthcoming concerts. In Britain HMV is closing 40 shops while tickets for a Rihanna concert can cost 330 [$500], and for Coldplay 180 [$280]. A seat for Madonna is more expensive than her entire recorded output. A top American performer would reckon to earn between 80% and 90% of revenue from live performance. In the US alone, touring revenue that grossed $1bn in 1995 rose to $4.6bn last year.
The article then goes on to list other manifestations of this trend, such as Tony Blair's $160,000 fee for a speech "in the flesh"; a doubling of attendances at museums and galleries; 90% audience levels at the UK's National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company; and the fact that even "humble" authors find "appearances at literary festivals (those that pay) can compensate for dwindling book advances and, in the case of poets, eroding copyrights."

But one of the most telling examples is the following:

Performers such as Stephen Fry have taken to reading their books in public, Dickens-style
Dickens undertook his American reading tours in part because piracy of his works was rampant there, so he made little money directly from the many published copies. But amidst this unwelcome abundance, he was still able to sell the ultimate scarcity his presence to earn handsomely from the reputation his pirated works created.

The same is true for countless other writers, musicians and artists before Dickens, who lived when there was little or no copyright, and whose works could thus be copied freely. In other words, people have been using abundance to sell scarcity not just for years, but for centuries. Maybe it's time today's copyright industries got the message.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and on Google+

Filed Under: abundance, business models, economics, scarcity

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  1. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 7 Dec 2011 @ 8:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Tell me again, why are we let a dying industry ruin the internet?

    You make a valid point concerning DNS but as SOPA seeks to control DNS in the USA, then then they also seek to control those automated entries that appear during the constant updating of routes, name-IP relationships and so on on DNS servers in the Untied States.

    The easiest to control is the DNS server you use through your ISP and as most people don't change that or know how to that would effectively do what they want.

    On the other hand it becomes a game of whack-a-mole where the infringing site simply changes it's name and IP and there they are, back again!

    But this constant whack a mole may cause DNS server owners in the United States. mostly telcos, cabecos and universities to drop out of the automated updates to give them a chance to manually review them so they can protect themselves from the penalties outlined in SOPA.

    The rest of the planet won't be doing this which means that in short order you have, effectively, two Internets. Not completely fractured but from outside the US sites will be available, both legit and shady, that aren't in the US because of the perceived or real need for a manual review of updates. ou can write a script to eliminate most of the eyeball work but you can't eliminate it all.

    Either way it won't stop infringement.

    As for YouTube part of the terms of use is that you'll only use copyrighted work within a "fair use", "fair dealing" concept. Your idea could end up with people reporting what doesn't need reporting and not reporting what is due to confusion as most lay persons don't know the difference between fair use and infringement. A lot of lawyers can't give you a hard and fast rule either because the difference is largely contextual.

    The "safe harbour" rule is one of the few good things about the DCMA from a consumer/artist point of view and the reporting structure sounds more stazi-like than anything really that will stop or reduce infringement.

    You're right that there are plenty of other things to be alarmed about in SOPA than these but they're important too.

    It's the total package that is fatally flawed.

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