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  • May 12th, 2011 @ 8:52am

    (untitled comment)

    Does anybody argue that paywalls are valuable to the user? Isn't the idea just to provide revenue for the business so they can keep producing content? I agree, I don't think there is a paywall model that could be "valuable to the user", but then again, you could say the same thing about any subscription model (the consumer prefers to get all the content for free, as opposed to paying for it.)

    Most paywalls seem to have been failures. What about Consumer Reports, though? I think they're in a somewhat unique situation. You can't access most of their content without paying a subscription fee, which I believe would be considered a paywall. On the other hand, the nature of what they do (reviewing consumer products) means if they were to have any advertising, it would be a conflict of interest. They pride themselves on avoiding such conflicts by instead charging a subscription fee for access to their reviews. It works quite well for them. But again, maybe this is because of their unique situation. The same wouldn't apply to, say, a news site.

  • May 12th, 2011 @ 8:45am

    (untitled comment)

    Thanks for the reasonable response. However, that's exactly the claim that people here have made, and there are surely countless other examples in other discussions:

    "...people who do things out of passion will always produce a better product than someone doing it solely to make money."

    The implication of this statement is that any artist complaining about money must be /solely in it to make money/. Why do people jump to this conclusion, when, as I've said, there is the equally possible conclusion that they are simply very passionate and want to continue being able to put all their time into their passion? You can see by the responses to my posts here that people immediately assume I am defending some sort of moral right for artists to make money, when I am in fact merely pointing out what you just said, which is that passionate people by nature want to do what they love and get better at it.

    I do agree that this brings up the discussion of what art's purpose is, and I actually made another long post about that in another thread. I'm in agreement with you that it is unreasonable to expect society to bend over backwards for artists who are unwilling to adapt to technology, and it is even more unreasonable for corporate interests to have so much influence over IP laws. But that's really another topic for another thread. I would be happy if more people would simply realize that not every musician complaining about money deserves to be labeled as having a sense of entitlement, when perhaps they just want to dedicate themselves to their passion.

    As for the validity of practice being more important than talent, I suppose we could again debate that endlessly as well. However, I really doubt we would have trouble agreeing on the point that artists do in fact benefit from practice, which is the only point that needs to be agreed on for the rest of my posts to make sense.

  • May 12th, 2011 @ 7:06am

    Re: So what?

    I know people pride themselves on 'witty' one-line responses, but believe me, they're not as clever as you think.

    Discussions like these (particularly on this site) typically revolve around the default position that intellectual property laws are restrictive, outdated, obsolete (etc) and have the opposite of their initial intended effect, which is encouraging creation to the betterment of society. (I agree with this position, for the most part. We need serious IP law reform.)

    So, it's safe to say that people - like you - participating in these discussions care about art and its relation to society. That is, after all, why we get so passionate about these topics.

    My point, therefore, should be of interest to anyone participating, since it adds another element to consider as we discuss what we should and should not do with IP laws, who it might affect, and how it might affect them. It's easy, but incorrect, to assume that any artists who want to work full-time on their art are simply greedy, not passionate, and therefore easily dismissed.

  • May 11th, 2011 @ 8:24pm

    (untitled comment)

    I think you missed the part where I said "all other things equal." I would argue that a musician who is more interested in playing Call of Duty and going to parties is probably not very passionate or interested in music for music's sake to begin with. It is incredibly naive (to use your term) to assume that of all professional musicians, when in fact the very best composers, producers and session musicians dedicate enormous amounts of time to their craft. They write and perform music because they love it, not because they make money from it, and no doubt would be making music even if they had to work 12 hours a day. That being said, if they had to work 12 hours a day, they simply would not be able to spend as much time on music, and thus would not be as good. To say otherwise would be to say you believe practice is irrelevant and only innate talent matters, something that has been more-or-less disproved (or at least made very uncertain.)

    But we're not just talking about musicians here. Pick any other creative field. How about graphic designers? Do you think the college student who designs logos for a couple hours a week will have the same level of proficiency and mastery as a full-time graphic designer who is doing it 8+ hours a day (probably during and after work?) Again, all other things being equal.

    You're committing the same logical fallacy as others have, saying that if an artist is a professional, they MUST be only in it for the money, and can't simultaneously be very passionate about what they do. There's no basis for this.

    A few things to note:

    * I'm not saying all professionals are good. Being a professional does not imply that you are good. It implies that you do something full-time. You can be a professional (X) due to nepotism, family connections, sheer luck, etc.

    * I'm not saying all amateurs are bad. Again, being an amateur does not imply that you are bad. It implies that you are not a professional.

    * I AM saying, very clearly, that artists benefit immensely from practice. I am also saying that if you are working full-time on something other than your art, you will generally not have as much time to practice.

  • May 11th, 2011 @ 6:49pm


    I agree with Alex. Almost all laws are anachronisms. For that matter, most societal traditions are the same way. So, like Alex said, this in and of itself isn't much of an argument against IP laws specifically.

    I don't quite agree that copyright is "no longer needed." I think it ultimately boils down to the question of individual rights, actually. My political views are very liberal, but fundamentally I do think that people are entitled to the fruits of their labor. When people (like me) say we should raise taxes to fund programs that benefit society, it's with that understand in mind: yes, you might work hard for your wages, but some portion of them must go back to society to keep it running smoothly.

    To say that copyright is completely pointless is basically saying that while the creator is entitled to do what they please with their work, it should also go to the rest of society to their benefit. I find it interesting that so many people think this should be the default position, whereas most (if not all) of us, even people on the far left like myself, would raise an eyebrow at anyone saying the 'default' tax rate is 100%, and we should make arguments to make it lower. Not the best comparison, but hopefully you get the idea.

    The big failure of copyright/patent is when corporations get involved (much like anything else.) I don't think it's unreasonable for a songwriter to have a say in how their song gets used. I would prefer, for example, to say "no" if the Westboro Baptist Church wants to use my music for a video. This is (IMO) why copyright is good. They can't just take my song and set it to a video filled with disgusting messages and hate speech. On the other hand, it would seem very unreasonable for a pharmaceutical company to monopolize patents on certain life-saving drugs and charge an arm and a leg for them.

    In short, I wish we could look at these different situations and think about how we can take a scalpel to IP law, rather than say that it is obsolete, pointless, and should be abolished completely. Nobody wants situation #2 to happen, and it's a tragedy when it goes. Nobody wants to see grandmas get sued by the RIAA. But I personally believe we can work toward a system that disallows this, while allowing for situations like a songwriter saying "no" to a hate group that wants to use their music to promote themselves.

  • May 11th, 2011 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Re: Straw man?

    Please read my response below - I'm responding to statements made in this very thread, so I'm not sure how you would qualify those as "straw men" when people are actually saying them. Then again, you didn't post anything of substance yourself, so...

  • May 11th, 2011 @ 4:26pm

    Re: Re: Straw man?

    That's actually not at all what I said, or anywhere close. I did not say anything about anyone "deserving" to make money. What I said was that /if/ an artist is able to spend more time on their art, they will get better at it (this is very basic, intuitive, and backed up w/ various studies, etc.) I then pointed out it logically follows that if an artist has to spend most of their time on something other than their art, they will not have as much time to practice as someone who can work on their art full-time.

    Again, for emphasis, this has nothing to do with anyone "deserving" anything or really even ethics at all. It's pure logic. If (more practice = greater proficiency) and (more time results in more practice) then it necessarily follows that (less time results in less practice), and thus, (less practice = lesser proficiency.)

    People frequently put forth statements like: "...people who do things out of passion will always produce a better product than someone doing it solely to make money." But this is a logical fallacy. Making money from art on a full-time basis is not mutually exclusive with "doing things out of passion". As per the points I've made above, someone who is truly passionate about their art would WANT to spend as much time on it as possible, improving their level of proficiency and mastery.

  • May 11th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    Straw man?

    I don't agree with the woman quoted in the article. I think it is silly to complain about something that creators can voluntarily enter into, and if you can't compete with free, then you have a problem.

    That being said, I've seen a certain straw man argument pop up in copyright discussions lately that has been getting on my nerves. It's something to the effect of, "Creators shouldn't whine about not making money. They should do it because they love it. If they complain about not making money, they should just do something else. We can live without them."

    This is pretty flimsy. Everyone by now has heard of the "10,000 hours" study, which conclusively showed that the concept of 'talent' is unambiguously unimportant compared to sheer practice time, especially when it comes to music. So, it is not controversial to make the statement that if one practices their craft, they will become better at it. If they put less time into it, they will not be as good as others who have. In the aforementioned study, musicians who practiced ~10,000 hours up to a certain point in their career were universally better off than those who practiced 7,000 hours and 4,000 hours. On the other hand, nobody who practiced less was at a higher skill level, and nobody who practiced a lot was no a lower skill level.

    Following so far? OK. So, why does everyone immediately accuse any creator that laments not being paid a "sellout" or something similar? Assume musician A is a full-time musician. Because they are compensated for their music work, they are able to be musicians full time, practicing 6-8 hours a day minimum (playing at gigs, in bands, whatever.) Now assume musician B is flipping burgers full-time. All other things equal, musician B simply will not have as much time to practice their art, because the majority of their day will be dedicated to non-music work. And, as per the rule of practice vs. talent above, the musician who practices much less will not be as good.

    So, with that in mind, please stop saying that all artists who want to make a full-time income from their art "don't deserve to" or are somehow less artistic than those who are hobbyists or part-timers. I'm not saying that hobbyists can't produce good art. I'm not saying that all full-time artists only produce good art. I'm just saying that *all other things equal*, enabling an artist to spend as much time as they want on their art without having to worry about a 9-5 job will result in better art, and that is not to anybody's detriment.

  • May 9th, 2011 @ 10:16pm

    (untitled comment)

    I have to disagree with Mike's analysis on this. Yes, execution is clearly very important for any idea, particularly when it comes to websites/apps etc. But this is a bad example.

    1. As another commenter mentioned, the kind of people who use Groupon (or similar sites) are the kind of people who want to save money. A cute description is fine, but the #1 common trait among all Groupon users is that they want to save money. They use Groupon so they can get good deals, and that is primarily what they care about. If other sites can provide better deals, they will use those (not that they are necessarily mutually exclusive.)

    2. Groupon was the first to bring this idea to mass market. So, they have a head start in terms of their userbase and brand reputation. (For what it's worth, the idea of group buys has existed long before Groupon, particularly in the world of pro audio software, where most businesses run such promotions themselves.)

    Mike's absolutely right that execution is important for any good idea. But in this case, the barrier of entry to put together a site for group buys is extraordinarily low. It takes very little execution ability to meet or beat the primary function of such sites (which is not cute descriptions, but providing good deals.)

    A better example would have been a company like Apple. MP3 players (quite advanced ones, in fact) existed before the iPod, but Apple took the idea and executed it very well. I remember when the iPod first came out, and I compared it to other MP3 players of the time, several of which I owned. There WAS no comparison, design-wise. The other players might have been more powerful, but the iPod had far better execution, and I ended up getting one.

    Designing hardware and software interfaces is NOT a simple task. On the other hand, setting up group buys/discounts is.