But the reverse, that *no one* would have bought it, is likewise not a reasonable statement either.
I don't think Mike (or anyone) is arguing that the only people who infringe music are people who would never pay money. In fact, Techdirt's highlighted a number of times that these same people -will- pay money, given a reason to.
I think the point is that music now is now free by default. The cost of distributing a song to everyone with a computer doesn't cost anything. Joel (and others) didn't want to pay money for the physical CD disc, and instead just got the music at cost online.
Customers will willingly (gladly even) pay money for things they want. Strongarm lawsuits, government protection, and grandstanding in the media aren't things customers want though.
This reminds me of Len Riggio, Barnes and Noble's chairman. A separate holding company which he owns actually has the rights to the Barnes & Noble name, which it leases to Barnes & Noble the bookstore (at like, a dollar a year or whatnot). It's a pretty funny poison pill- a hostile takeover would just net you the brick and mortar, but none of the brand equity.
I don't think it's just that the industry funds campaigns. So did the tobacco industry, but prevailing social mores eventually overcame the industry's lobbying.
I think the real issue is that people don't care about copyright law because it affects them very little, and that I think people generally believe the story the entertainment industry has put out: infringement is theft, and copyright reformists are pirate-hippy-thieves. I'm surprised how many people I talk to that feel downloading music (for example) is stealing directly from the artist. I think outside of people who are interested in this topic, most people believe the industry's propaganda. A politician isn't going to take a stand on an issue his constituents either don't care at all about, or think is actually wrong.
I know what I'd like to see is some propaganda in other direction. Informative articles are one thing, but what we really need is posters on the subway that say "Why buy a CD- only X% goes to the artist" or whatever.
I'm a little off topic here- but the politicians bit resonates with me. I think it's more of a bottom-up problem.
I think a lot of these arguments get muddled by using morality-laden words like 'fair'. There's nothing right or wrong about any price. But .99 cents for a song -is- too high (economically, not ethically), because the marginal cost of delivering me that song is $0*.
So no one needs justifications/rationalizations you put forward (though people do, of course). The simple fact is downloading a digital product incurs no cost to the producer. Any prize above zero is artificial, and economics tells us it'll have to come down. There's no morality here, it's just the way the market'll go. You can't charge money for something that's actually free, in the long run.
* Actually infinitesimally above zero, factoring in electricity, bandwidth and other frictional elements.
"This is not a portrait of a dying industry. It's illustrative of transformation. Newspapers are reinventing themselves to focus on serving distinct audiences with a variety of products."
I think the first two sentences of that are completely true. I just wish the last sentence was as well. It's like they know they need to try something different to stay alive, but just keep saying, "Hmmm, how about micropayments?" and so on.