We already discussed how the tragic situation in Norway is already being exploited by some politicians to try to ratchet up security theater, but it may impact other issues as well. In the 1,500-page manifesto that the madman, Anders Breivik, posted online before beginning his rampage, he notes that he used Modern Warfare 2 for "training" and "simulation."
I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game. It is probably the best military simulator out there and it’s one of the hottest games this year. … I see MW2 more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else. I’ve still learned to love it though and especially the multiplayer part is amazing. You can more or less completely simulate actual operations.
Separately, he talks up the value of using World of Warcraft as a "cover story" for why he was busy all the time, and notes that he did actually play WoW for a while to "isolate himself from the 'consumerist' world in preparation for his attacks." I'm at a bit of a loss as to how playing a commercial game like that isolates one from consumerism, but Breivik does not appear to be particularly big on logic.
But, of course, as with past tragedies involving people who played video games, this has only given new ammunition to those who push the moral panic that violent video games are evil. That article notes that the website "Conservapedia" is using this incident to call for the reversal of the recent Supreme Court ruling that laws banning sales of violent video games are a First Amendment violation. When I looked at the site, it was highlighting a stupid quote from a USA Today editorial about how evil violent video games are, predicting that the next tragedy would involve someone who "was first addicted to harmful video games."
That's an interesting spin. It's also ridiculous. There is no indication, whatsoever, that Breivik was "addicted" to these video games. Or that he was driven to do any of this because of the video games. There is no indication that without these video games he wouldn't have carried out these attacks (or other attacks). He had clearly decided to carry out such a massacre long before Modern Warfare 2 existed.
Like many people, I've been horrified all weekend reading story of the Utøya massacre in Norway. Although it's difficult to use such a fresh tragedy to prove a point, a post by Rick Falkvinge looks at why security theater in Norway was ineffective in preventing this tragedy, and how no further ratcheting up of security theater is likely to do much until it reaches ridiculous levels (random, frequent police raids of farms). The key point is the one Falkvinge concludes with:
Benjamin Franklin famously said, that “a people who gives up its freedom to gain a little security will lose both and deserve neither”. But now that it has been shown in the most gruesome, in-your-face way that we don’t even gain a little security by giving up these freedoms, then why are we doing so?
Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg is absolutely right when he says we must fight antidemocratic lunacy with more democracy and more humanity. His quote from one of the young on Utøya, "if one man can show so much hate, imagine how much love we all can show together", is one of the most statemanworthy I have seen in my entire life. Both when it came from the young surviving lady right off the island, and from Stoltenberg on repeating it in his official capacity.
It brings me to tears, and to something more important: hope.
As with past tragedies such as this one, we're already seeing some evidence that some people are using this tragedy as an excuse to ratchet up security theater. Editorials bemoaning the openness in Norway quickly appeared, and officials in other countries, such as the Philippines and Australia, have already used the tragedy to talk about changing security laws and even how such laws could prevent similar incidents from happening there. Of course, some of the laws they're talking about were already in place in Norway.
Thankfully, as Falkvinge noted at the end of his story, Norwegian politicians (so far) appear to be going in the other direction, noting how the response to such a cowardly (and yes, such a massacre is cowardly) and fear-inducing act is not more cowardice and fear, but openness and love. Hopefully those views continue to predominate in Norway. Giving in to such acts by increasing the culture of fear is actually what killers like Anders Breivik want.
Slashdot points us to the story of how two Norwegian day traders have been convicted and given suspended jail sentences for outsmarting an automated computer trading system, enabling them to make money. The details are not entirely clear, but from what's in the article, it sounds like they observed some patterns in the way the system responded to certain trades, and then they took advantage of that. Of course, that's exactly what automated computer trading systems, themselves, are supposed to do. They're supposed to notice patterns in trading and take advantage of that. So, would it have been illegal for the same automated trading system to notice patterns in certain human trades and take advantage of it?
We've made the argument repeatedly that saying unauthorized file sharing is hurting the music business lacks evidence. Instead, what we've seen, over and over again, is that more money is pouring into the music business, more music is being produced and (most importantly) that more musicians who embrace this new world are doing better than they would have otherwise. Now, we've pointed to research in the UK, Sweden and the US that have all shown aggregate growth for the music business, with some of the numbers suggesting more money going directly to musicians, rather than gatekeepers.
Like the UK and Swedish studies, this study, covering Norway, found that the aggregate amount going to the industry is up slightly (4% in real terms), mostly thanks to live shows more than making up for the decline in music sales (it's important to note that these researchers appear to have modeled their research on both the UK and Swedish studies, and made only slight changes, which they explain (and justify) in the report. The key finding is that musicians appear to be making significantly more these days than in the past:
Total artist revenues have gone from NOK 208 million in 1999 to NOK 545 million in 2009, which is an increase of about 162%. Excluding state subsidization, the income from 1999 to 2009 has increased with NOK 229 million, or 147%....
According to this, Norwegian artists have seen an increase in all four of their income sources during the past eleven years. This goes contrary to the common belief that artists have seen a decline in income because of the digitalization of the industry.
The loss of record sales because of consequences of the digitalization of the industry has not affected the Norwegian artists in the same brutal way as it has the record companies. Artists earn in general 20% or less from record sales, and a decrease in record sales would most likely be compensated by an increase in one or more of the other three income sources.
Now, it's worth pointing out -- as I learned when I attended Nordic Music Week last year -- that the Norwegian music industry is heavily subsidized by the government, which is one of the four revenue streams discussed above. However, that only represents about 30% of artist revenue in 2009. The largest single component -- again similar to what we've seen elsewhere -- is live revenue, which continues to grow. Even if you exclude state subsidies, the report found that Norwegian artists doubled their income in the past 11 years:
Adjusted for inflation, total artist revenue has gone from NOK 255 million in 1999 to NOK 545 million in 2009, an increase of about NOK 290 million or 114%. Excluding state subsidizations, the increase has changed from NOK 192 million to NOK 386 million, which is an increase of NOK 194 million or 101% This goes to show that the artists themselves, as a group, have seen tremendous more growth than the industry as a whole.
And, yes, there are more musicians out there to split the pie, but the growth rate in the industry has increased more quickly than the growth in musicians.
Since the total number of artists in 1999 and 2009 are available to the authors, it is possible to calculate an average income from music for artists in Norway. With 3200 artists in 1999 the average income from music would be about NOK 65 000. With 4100 artists in 2009 the average income from music is about NOK 133 000, creating an increase of NOK 68 000 or 105%. Adjusted for inflation the income has increased with from about NOK 80 000 to NOK 133 000, an increase of NOK 53 000, an increase of 66%.
Overall, the results, like those in Sweden and the UK, seem to clearly debunk the repeated claims from recording industry folks (and some musicians) that artists are somehow suffering under this new setup. Now, there may absolutely be cases where artists who fail to adapt are struggling, and there's no doubt that some labels that failed to adapt are struggling -- but there's increasingly little evidence that the overall music industry or artists as a whole are suffering. All of the evidence seems to suggest that it's not file sharing that's a problem at all. More money is going into the music business. The only problems are from those in the industry too stubborn or too clueless to adapt to capture the money that's flowing in.
Back in November, a district court in Norway ruled that ISP Telenor did not have to block The Pirate Bay, since the ISP itself was not contributing to any copyright infringement. Not surprisingly, the entertainment industry appealed, but Kristian Bysheim alerts us to the news that the appeals court has upheld the lower court ruling (Google translation from the original) by dismissing the appeal from the entertainment industry. It's good to see more courts around the world recognizing that ISPs should not be responsible for propping up the entertainment industry's business model when those companies fail to innovate themselves.
TorrentFreak alerts us to an interesting case happening in Norway right now. Apparently, the most expensive movie ever produced in Norway was (shocking, I know) found on the internet soon after it was released. The filmmakers got very, very upset about this and "launched an investigation." After figuring out what they believed to be the IP address of the first uploader, they went to the police, who basically said they weren't interested in getting involved. So instead, the fillmmakers filed a civil suit and attempted to get the name of the account associated with the IP address at the time of the first upload. But, at least in Norway, it's something of an open legal question as to whether or not a private company/individual can get such info, as it has the potential to violate data privacy rules.
Oddly, the court made its decision last May, but kept the verdict secret from the public. I guess I'm not that familiar with Norwegian law, but I find it odd that a verdict can be kept secret. Either way, whichever party lost (and no one knows who) appealed, and the Norwegian Supreme Court is apparently looking over the case.
Having recently returned from Norway, where I was impressed at the optimism and the willingness to embrace new technologies and services, it's disappointing to read the following story (found via brokep) of a Norwegian band who recently released an album on their own label and decided to put it up on The Pirate Bay themselves, as more and more indie labels are doing. Except... the band members are a part of the Norwegian music collection society TONO, who is among those fighting to have The Pirate Bay blocked in Norway. Since the band has allowed TONO to enforce its copyrights in performance situations, TONO is claiming that it can forbid members from putting their music on sites like The Pirate Bay (translation from the original Norwegian):
The management contract in TONO means that we can not allow the TONO-members post things on your own at some commercial sites.
Once again, examples of these performance rights groups working against the wishes of artists, rather than helping them out.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Nordic Music Week event held in Stavanger, Norway. It was a smaller event, mainly involving those involved in the music industry in the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland), with a heavy emphasis on independent musicians, as there were no major label representatives there. As such, the event was quite different than most of the typical music industry events I go to. There was very little fretting and worrying about "piracy" and such, and most of the discussions were quite forward looking and forward thinking. In fact, I'd say much of the event was downright optimistic about where the music industry was heading. While there were many great discussions (and I liked the fact that much of the event was focused around open table discussions, rather than just presentations), one of the most interesting presentations was by Òlafur Arnalds, an Icelandic musician, who started his presentation off by saying he disagreed with me and my presentation (which had been an updated variation on my NARM presentation), and had adjusted his presentation to be a response of sorts to mine. Except it wasn't. His presentation was yet another great example of a musician who understood exactly what works in the industry, even as he thought he disagreed with me. We later chatted briefly about it, and realized we're actually very much in agreement about where we stand on the industry. The confusion came about because he is really focused on the music, and felt that my presentation focused too much on the money aspect.
And, indeed, my presentation did focus somewhat on how to make money, but that's because if I just focus on the music, people complain that no one will make money and then no one will make music. But, of course, that's ridiculous. None of these models work particularly well if you don't make great music. And Òlafur Arnalds makes great music -- and once we started talking, even he admitted that in order to do what he does, he needs (and wants) to make a living (which he does). And his actual presentation was about how to do just that. It was all about how he closely connected with his fans and gave them a reason to buy (even if he didn't like to think that way). Instead, he noted that he needed to come up with a good story to go with the music, that would help attract his fans, better connect them to him while also giving them a reason to support him monetarily.
So, with that idea (having a story behind the music) as his basis, he came up with a great project called 'Found Songs', where he would write, record and release a new song every single day for seven straight days. He did it all out of his bedroom. His fans then stepped up and created artwork for each song, and in some cases, amazing videos, such as this one below, which is truly beautiful, and within days had thousands upon thousands of views:
You can watch the videos, look at the artwork people created for the songs and even download all the songs for free as mp3s. But, there's also a store where you can buy the beautifully packaged vinyl or CD versions of the album, and some higher quality digital downloads. In other words, it was yet another perfect example of connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy (and, yes, it involved great music as well -- which is, in fact, key). The importance of having a good story to go along with things, as we've seen with other projects, is a particularly good point. And, again, it shows how an infinite good (a good story) can increase the value of a scarce good (the products you're selling). He also showed how his own fanbase increased massively after doing this project -- much more so than when he was out opening for Sigur RÃƒÂ³s. So, in the end, we absolutely agreed, and I found out about some more great music and yet another great story and example to go along with all the others.
Beyond that, I met a bunch of fascinating people doing very interesting and unique things in the music industry in the Nordic region. All of the Nordic countries are working hard to help enable their bands to adapt to a changing music environment, and there are definitely some very creative indie labels, artists and managers who are thinking through and implementing some great ideas that left me quite enthusiastic for what comes next. I also got a chance to meet Moto Boy, who took part in our CwF+RtB experiment, and see him perform live (which was fantastic). Overall, a very encouraging trip.
I'm heading over to Norway in the next few days to give a talk at the Nordic Music Week event, and it's nice to see that the courts in that country seem to recognize how silly the IFPI's demands that major ISP Telenor block access to The Pirate Bay are. Telenor was smart enough to fight back, and the courts have now said that Telenor is not liable for what its users do, and should not have to block access to a site like The Pirate Bay. From TorrentFreak on the ruling:
The court ruled that Telenor is not contributing to any infringements of copyright law when its subscribers use The Pirate Bay, and therefore there is no legal basis for forcing the ISP to block access to the site.... In making its decision, the court also had to examine the repercussions if it ruled that Telenor and other ISPs had to block access to certain websites. This, it said, is usually the responsibility of the authorities and handing this task to private companies would be "unnatural."
Good to see a court recognize that the entertainment industry doesn't own the internet, and shouldn't be the one to determine what is and what is not legal online.
"Instead of demanding that Internet providers censor the Internet and monitor the content that's transferred, Telenor believes that the best way to decrease illegal file sharing is to put more effort into making legally downloadable content available."
But, as we've seen over the years, there are still many in positions of power within the recording industry who believe that the best new business model is to try to stomp out anyone who challenges their old business model. Eventually, they'll realize what a failed plan that is.