"That's impossible to answer unless you can specify "the Techdirt business model". I don't think you'll be able to in any coherent fashion, because TD doesn't espouse any single business model, rather general principles about recognizing economic realities."
That's probably the biggest problem with Techdirt. It vehemently decries protections like copyright and patents but offers few practical models in return.
When people question Mike Masnick's very blustery and single-minded declarations, he points to examples of artists selling t-shirts or giving away their Volvos as examples to earn a living. Are these approaches REALLY better than the copyright model?
Or he points to himself and says that Techdirt is free to copy and distribute yet he's able to run a successful business using the general principles he espouses. But Mike relies on other people's journalistic efforts to deliver the raw material on which he comments. And as far as I can tell, he's never produced anything artistic and/or original, like a movie or an album or a novel. So it strikes me that he's never really walked the walk.
The economic realities you mentioned aren't going to go away; most people recognize that. Hanging on to the old models won't work: We get it, already. But without something more solid to stand on than general principles and snarky rhetoric (which really don't answer very basic concerns like those mentioned above) Techdirt shouldn't be so quick to judge and condemn.
"All this talk about whether Mike M's REALLY been in business for himself or whether artists SHOULD keep making art for free or if organizations ACTUALLY start with a budget or with a market need is just nonsense."
Who cares about a $200 million movie? All this talk about whether Mike M's REALLY been in business for himself or whether artists SHOULD keep making art for free or if organization ACTUALLY start with a budget or a need just noise.
The folks at Double Edge Films wanted to make a contemporary fantasy film called Ink. They calculated that it would cost $250,000, got investors, mortgaged their house and produced it. It got posted on BitTorrent and became one of the most popular downloads at the time. 400,000 downloads at one point. Lots of people LOVING their film! Yea! The Techdirt method seemed to be working! Double Edge politely celebrated their popularity. But from what I can gather in an on-line Q&A but the Ink producer, of the 400,000 downloads, they only received about $400 in donations -- much of that generated from the Q&A itself. Distribution deals with Hulu and Netflix represented a trickle of money which, the producer said, would pay for production costs in about 50 years. I still don't see how Mike M's business model works for filmmakers -- even for less than modest films like Ink. I can see how musicians might make it workable, but a song doesn't cost $250,000 to produce. Nor does a song doesn't cost $40k, which apparently is what Double Edge's next film, Uncle Jack, cost. How long can Double Edge survive?
Is it really possible to recoup a $250,000 investment (or a $40K investment or even a $1K investment) using the Techdirt business model? Yeah, yeah, we can sell T-shirts and auction off lunches and give away our Volvo station wagons all in good, profitable fun. But who wants to do that when copyright gives you some defensible claim in court? Is it perfect? No. Is it abused by undeserving fat cats? All the time. But it's better than 400,000 free(down)loaders averaging .0001 cent per view.
[Oh, and you might recognize the filmmakers in question. They're the same folks who made the movie Ink and then celebrated when a copy was leaked via BitTorrent, helping the film become incredibly popular... I would bet these guys aren't going around whining, "but how can we make a $200 million movie?"]
As far as I could tell from one of the filmmaker's own comments, sure, Ink became incredibly popular but this didn't pay the bills. 400,000 downloads led to about $400 in donations. And distribution through Hulu and Netflix would cover production costs in about 50 years. That's worth celebrating? The filmmakers knew better to whine -- probably because it would just inflame piracy advocates and reduce their online reputation.
And when I tried to log onto Double Edge Films' site to buy Ink on Blu-Ray (and thus support the artists) Google tells me that site's infected with malware and is unsafe. Regardless how good and cheap your films are and no matter how many t-shirts you manufacture, there will ALWAYS be someone online somewhere to leech off of your efforts. It's just too easy.
This is not to say that more sustainable business models won't be developed for the digital world, but let's not be so gung-ho on current models that do not work.
... about how many people on TechDirt would consider themselves artists? I don't know of any creative person who would consider their work as fast food meals or screwdrivers or hammers, as some posters have compared.
Temporal works, like songs and movies, lose their value over time and exposure. Hammers, on the other hand, can be "owned" and used over and over again without devaluation. Also, making a fast-food hamburger requires less time, creativity and talent than composing.
(BTW TechDirt is not a creative work. It's simply Mike M commenting on someone else's journalistic efforts. It's a lot easier making that free for the taking than a multimillion dollar movie.)
The essence of the original debate is NOT that file sharing ain't a form of stealing (it is, simply because the rules under which we're supposed to live by say it is--all else is rationalization); it's that an intellectual property can no longer be "owned," as Chris pointed out, and creative people are threatened because the familiar ways of earning a living are quickly becoming obsolete.
For the artists out there, how are you making a living? t-shirts? Lunch with fans? Custodial work (alongside the hard working BruceLD)? Are you producing hammers, burgers or something else?
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