Blog - Unity Behind Diversity

Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Tagged: file sharing

The Songwriters Association of Canada Wants To Embrace File Sharing, But Does It Have the Right Approach?

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

in 2007, the Songwriters Association of Canada gained some international headlines with a proposal to legalize non-commercial peer-to-peer file sharing through an ISP levy. This sort of proposal wasn’t new, but had not been so prominently put forth by an artist organization before. There were serious problems with the proposal, but it stimulated a healthy debate and it started from many correct premises — that file sharing should be embraced, that digital locks and lawsuits were not a way forward, etc. But it was a non-voluntary, “you’re a criminal” tax that could open the floodgates for other industries to demand similar levies.

I was a member of the Songwriters Association of Canada from 2007-2011, and I had the opportunity to express my concerns about the proposal to many people involved. Last year, I attended a session with an update on the proposal, and was surprised how much it had changed. The proposal had dropped the legislative angle in favor of a business to business approach, with an actual opt-out option for both creators and customers of participating ISPs. Unlike groups behind other licensing proposals, the SAC has actually been responsive to many concerns, and unlike other artist groups, the SAC takes a decidedly positive view on sharing music and the opportunities technology provides to creators. This attitude comes through in the proposal:

Rather than a legislative approach to the monetization of music file-sharing as we originally envisioned, the S.A.C. is now focused on a “business to business” model that requires no new legislation be enacted in Canada.

Our basic belief however remains the same: Music file-sharing is a vibrant, open, global distribution system for music of all kinds, and presents a tremendous opportunity to both creators and rights-holders. […]

People have always shared music and always will. The music we share defines who we are, and who our friends and peers are. The importance of music in the fabric of our own culture, as well as those around the world, is inextricably bound to the experience of sharing. [emphasis changed]

As the copyright debate heats up again in Canada in light of SOPA and new pressures on pending legislation, this positive attitude towards peer-to-peer file sharing was expressed again in a recent TorrentFreak interview with the SAC VP, Jean-Robert Bisaillon:

We think the practice [of file-sharing] is great and unstoppable. This is why we want to establish a regime that allows everyone to keep on doing it without stigmatizing the public and, instead, find a way for artists and rights holders to be fairly compensated for the music files that are being shared. […]

Other positive aspects include being able to find music that is not available in the commercial realm offer, finding a higher quality of digital files, being able to afford music even if you are poor and being able to discover new artists or recommend them to friends. […]

Music is much better off with the Web. The internet network allows for musical discovery despite distance and time of the day. It has sparked collaborations between musicians unimaginable before. It has helped artists to book international tours without expensive long-distances charges and postal delays we knew before. [emphasis added]

However, significant problems remain with the proposal. For example, the original criticism still stands as to how this would scale for other industries — what about book publishers, newspapers, movie studies, video game manufacturers and other industries that are also crying foul about “piracy”? The SAC dismisses other cultural industries pretty quickly, as if only the music industry is concerned about unauthorized copying. And, just like private copying levies have suffered from scope creep, as people no longer buy blank audio cassettes or CDs, or short-sightedness, as technology changes rapidly, it’s not clear how the SAC model would adapt to growing wireless and mobile computing or more distributed file sharing. Many more questions remain: Would small, independent artists, who are not charting through traditional means, get fair treatment? Is it wise to largely rely on a single, proprietary vendor, Big Champagne, for tracking all distribution? Would consumers be paying multiple times for music? What does it mean to “self-declare not to music file-share” in order to opt-out?

But the central problem with the proposal is the SAC’s copyright crutch. Jean-Robert Bisaillon says things like,

The Internet has dramatically increased the private non-commercial sharing of music, which we support. All that is missing a means to compensate music creators for this massive use of their work. [emphasis added]

And the proposal says things like,

Once a fair and reasonable monetization system is in place, all stakeholders including consumers and Internet service providers will benefit substantially. [emphasis added]

The SAC seems obsessed with a “monetization system,” when the truth is there is no one model, no magic bullet. Rather, the the sky is rising and the path to success involves all sorts of different models and creative approaches, most of which don’t depend on copyright or worrying about getting paid for every use. Even a voluntary license plan is still a bad idea. The means to compensate music creators isn’t missing, it’s just increasingly found outside of copyright.

Still, it’s important for the SAC’s voice to be heard as the copyright debate heats up again in Canada. As a creator group offering a positive take on peer-to-peer file sharing, and denouncing an “adversarial relationship” between creators and fans, they offer an important counterpoint to the SOPA-style provisions being pushed by Canadian record industry groups. I would take the SAC’s constructive and responsive approach over record industry astroturfing and fear mongering any day.

Read the comments on Techdirt.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments Off on The Songwriters Association of Canada Wants To Embrace File Sharing, But Does It Have the Right Approach?

Surprise, Surprise: Canadians Aren’t Interested In ISP Levies

This post originally appeared on Techdirt

Michael Geist points to two new polls released by Angus Reid Strategies, which show that Canadians are overwhelmingly against the idea of ISP levies. It should come as no surprise that 79% of people surveyed about the possible Canadian content levy on new media said it would be an “unnecessary and/or inappropriate fee that would end up being passed along to consumers.” In another survey on file sharing, 45% of people said that downloading music free of charge was just “what people should be able to do on the Internet,” while only 3% believed that downloaders are “criminals who should be punished by law.” 27% said that it’s something people shouldn’t be doing, but that “it’s not a big deal.” 73% of people thought that a music tax was “unnecessary and/or inappropriate” (which ought to disappoint a few Canadian creator groups calling for this sort of thing…).

The survey also found that those who download music are “often the most voracious music enthusiasts,” more likely to buy a CD in the next month (41% vs. 34% of non-file sharers) and more likely to have attended a concert in the past year (65% vs. 52%), which should, again, not surprise many people around here. This is just another bit of evidence that “piracy” is not a problem and, instead of pushing for ISPs to collect levies or act as copyright cops, musicians should focus on connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy. Though, somehow, I don’t expect the whining to stop anytime soon…

Read the comments on Techdirt.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Post a Comment

The Problem With A Music Tax

I’ve written about the SAC‘s proposal to legalize music file sharing several times in the past, giving it mixed reviews. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one of the first times an organization of artists has proposed it, and some record companies are entertaining the idea as well.

I’ve come to a decision about the proposal: I don’t like it.

Royalties were not designed for the digital age. The proposal suggests what essentially would amount to a music tax. There is no way to opt-out and it applies to everyone with an internet connection. Since when are royalties taxes? Since when do royalties apply to everyone? Royalties were meant to regulate a few large distributors and broadcasters. In the digital age, everyone can be a distributor or broadcaster. It just doesn’t work.

The CMCC describes this as a “forward thinking approach.” It’s a forward thinking approach, but from backward thinking minds. Royalties are not the answer to everything.

The no opt-out clause really makes it a deal breaker. The proposal is to charge everyone a fee, regardless of whether or not they are actually infringing any copyright claims. It’s aptly described as a “you’re a criminal” tax.

The EFF writes:

We are big fans of a collective licensing solution for the music file-sharing dilemma: music fans pay a few dollars each month in exchange for a blanket license to share and download whatever they like; collecting societies collect the money and divvy it up between their member artists and rightsholders…. But this should not turn into, as some have called it, an “ISP tax.” Any collective licensing solution should be voluntary for fans, artists, and ISPs alike.

Further, what sort of precedent would this set? Mike Masnick writes:

The biggest reason, as Geist points out, is the second you do this, plenty of other industries will come out of the woodwork demanding a special fee get applied to internet connections as well. Newspapers that think Google and Craigslist are “stealing” from them will demand a special “news tax.” And then think of all those other industries who claim they’re being impacted by the internet. You’ll have a special auto-mechanic’s tax, to pay for mechanics who are upset about the DIY info found online. The “knitting tax” for all the free knitting patterns online. I understand that AAA may be upset about Google maps. Travel agents want that “travel tax” to pay for all that business that Expedia has cost them. Where does it stop?

I do applaud the SAC for bringing forth this proposal and I’m proud to be a member. It is “forward thinking” in the sense that it seeks a way to make the new technology work, rather than to pretend it can be somehow stamped out. But I don’t think this particular proposal provides an answer.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments (3)

Music royalties are not the answer in the digital age

((If you’re tagged in this note on Facebook, it’s because I value your opinion and am interested to hear what you have to say. Or because I’m pretending to value your opinion and would be interested in proving you wrong. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Either way, you may want to read the first post to get up to speed, if the topic interests you.))

I recently wrote about Billy Bragg’s op-ed piece in the NYT, claiming that musicians deserve a cut of the profits from Bebo’s sale to AOL. I lamented the sense of entitlement his position displayed.

I take that back. I don’t think it’s really entitlement. I think it’s habit, well-intentioned but misguided old patterns of thinking.

In the comments of the ongoing debate that’s sprung to life on Joe Weisenthal’s blog post, Billy writes:

And for the record Blaise, I also view the technology as a blessing rather than a curse – it has the potential to allow more artists to make a living than before.

I’m just concerned that there are enough safeguards in place to ensure that we are able to earn a living – that we don’t go from the old feudal arrangements with the record companies to a new shiny kind of feudalism on the internet.

I responded thusly:

I’m glad to hear you view the technology as a positive opportunity. I think where we differ is in our expectations. I’ve become more and more involved in the free / open source software community where users of the software have the freedom to redistribute software as they please, for a fee or not, and software is often available at no cost. Programmers still make money through the economics of abundance that Mike talks about, through monetizing the scarce goods (i.e. their time for custom software development, support services, brand name reliability like Red Hat GNU/Linux, etc).

It seems to me as if you are arguing that these royalties should exist because that’s what you’re familiar with. That’s how musicians have monetized their music over the last few decades. It seems as if you’ve worked backwards from a conclusion that royalties are the answer.

How are musicians to make money in a digital environment? Well, how did we do it with another huge technology challenge – radio… With royalties! Therefore, digital music needs fair royalties. And thus, the bebo’s were ripped off because they didn’t get their royalties.

That thinking has blinded you to the fact that they made a fair deal (they traded royalties for hosting and exposure) of which the terms haven’t changed, and I think it’s also why you refuse to turn the tables and allow your logic to work in reverse (in terms of musicians compensating Bebo for any of their success).

I reject the idea that royalties are the answer to digital technology. With traditional radio, being a broadcaster is analogous to owning a printing press. Owners of printing presses and radio stations were a small minority of the population, and distribution is on a large scale.

On the Internet, anyone can be a broadcaster or a distributor. And it can happen on a large (e.g. Bebo) or small (e.g. blog) scale. To take the thinking about royalties and copyrights that was developed to manage a few large publishers and mass distributors, and now attempt to regulate everyone in the same way just won’t work. Now, everyone can be a distributor. Enforcing regulation on digital technology is impossible and, more importantly, the benefits aren’t worth the drawbacks.

I’m young and inexperienced, so maybe I’m wrong. But I think the challenge to people who’ve been in the industry for a while is to understand that embracing this new technology can’t simply be a matter of adapting old concepts, like royalties, to the digital world. Digital technology is different in a fundamental way. So, too, does our approach as musicians need to be fundamentally different.

Billy is still dead wrong in too many ways to count on the initial issue he rose. In the case of Bebo, the rights holders made a deal of which none of terms changed with the sale, in the same way that the deal wouldn’t change if an artist got a record deal. Applying royalties retroactively, against the terms of an initial agreement, is flat out stupid and unethical. And denying rights holders the ability to make such an agreement, and therefore sites like MySpace and Bebo to exist (where you don’t need to be selected to be heard), would be unwise.

I think Billy is well-intentioned, but too used to old ways of doing business. What needs to be “safeguarded”? It seems that he fears exploitation in a digital world. If you embrace the economics of abundance, the distribution of your digital goods isn’t exploitation. It’s promotion, advertising for your scarce goods. If you don’t embrace that thinking, how can you even survive in a digital world? 98% percent of music acquired online is through file sharing networks. (Update: If… you believe the CRIA)

Embracing the economics of abundance means recognizing your abundant goods and leveraging them to add value to your scarce goods, rather than attempting to limit the abundant goods with artificial scarcity. The refrain is as follows: There is an inverse relationship between price and supply; as supply increases, price decreases, therefore as supply approaches infinity, price approaches zero. Digital goods are infinitely abundant insofar as they’re digital. But price and value are two separate things; price is a subset of value (monetary value). Since digital goods are abundant, they can be spread easily to add value to scarce goods (which can command a higher price). WIth respect to music, digital audio files are the abundant goods which can be used to add value to scarce goods such as embodied recordings (e.g. CDs), concert tickets, t-shirts, or a musician’s time (e.g. session work). (Credit: Techdirt)

I believe royalty-based systems are ill suited for the digital age. Royalties weren’t meant to be applied to everybody, yet anyone can be a distributor or a broadcaster in the digital world. The answer to monetising music in the face of digital technology lies in embracing the new digital nature of music through the economics of abundance, rather than attemping to create artificial scarcity.

What do you think?

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments (3)

Why free culture?

The other day, I wrote a (ridiculously long) post announcing my commitment to free culture, and more specifically, to free music. I didn’t expect anyone to read the entire thing, but my friend, John, not only read it but also responded to it on Facebook. I’m not sure what his privacy settings are like on that note, so as I reply I will quote him often.

John, I really appreciate your response. I didn’t interpret as “pompous” in any way, and I hope the same will be true for my response. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I really appreciate the opportunity to hammer out these points in more detail, the opportunity to have a real discussion and debate about them. It’s nice to be able to address these questions in a conversation rather than just on my own.

(0) Statement of Intent

My original post was largely addressed to people already familiar with the free software movement. Long as it was, I assumed for the most part that readers would already accept the idea of free software and argued for extending those freedoms to cultural works. I’ll try to reply to John’s concerns now, along with a few other commons concerns, without assuming such prerequisite knowledge.

Still, this is part of an on-going conversation and is not intended to be complete. I hope to develop a more complete and concise summary on my wiki over time.

Index

(NOTE: these links might not work on Facebook)

  1. Freedom — the ethical argument
    1. The Four Freedoms
    2. A Moral Imperative
  2. Economics
    1. Definitions
    2. Approaching zero
    3. The Economics of Abundance
    4. Let’s talk about music
      1. Selling music recordings
      2. Live Performances
      3. Session Work
      4. Other Merchandise
      5. Kevin Fox – an example
  3. Other
    1. Communism
    2. Exploitation
      1. The T-Shirt Example
    3. Nine Inch Nails — Ghosts
    4. Making a direct profit from your product
    5. Digital Audio Players
    6. Shakespeare
  4. Conclusion

(1) Freedom — the ethical argument

(1.i) The Four Freedoms

The Definition of Free Cultural Works describes the four freedoms as follows:

  • the freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it [freedom 0]
  • the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it [freedom 1]
  • the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression [freedom 2]
  • the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works [freedom 3]

This is generalized from the free software definition.

(1.i.0) Freedom 0: the freedom to use

This is the most fundamental freedom, to use a work that you posses. For software, this means “the freedom to run the program for any purpose.” For music, this means the freedom to listen to that music.

Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) is a huge attack on this freedom. With music, for example, you are unable to listen to music as you please if DRM dictates which devices or which software is permitted to playback your files, or even how many times or how often you can listen to them. Even though all DRM is circumventable, some countries (like the United States) legally forbid you to do so. Anti-circumvention measures mean that no one has any fair use rights, because DRM technology is law.

John hasn’t directly expressed any troubles with this freedom. This, I think, is the easiest one to accept. However, simple as it is, it’s often not respected. DRM is a technical measure that attacks this freedom, and legal barriers exist in the gray areas such as making multiple copies of a copyrighted item for personal use (e.g. backup, use on multiple devices, etc.). Fair dealing provisions in copyright law may be able to protect this freedom, but most large proponents of copyright law are also large opponents of fair use (e.g. RIAA/CRIA).

(1.i.1) Freedom 1: the freedom to study

For software, this is extremely relevant, described as “the freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs” (from the Free Software Definition). This includes access to the source code. In the Definition of Free Cultural Works, “the license may not, for example, restrict ‘reverse engineering’.” This is the freedom to open the hood of your car and make modifications.

For cultural works, the part of this freedom which may be more relevant is the freedom to “apply knowledge” acquired from studying the work. I’m not quite sure exactly what this means yet, but it seems reasonable. If there are objections, we can research and discuss further.

(( I do plan to release the “source” for my music (ie. multi-tracks), I think, even though it’s not required by the CC BY-SA license. The Barenaked Ladies did this for a few of their tracks when they were encouraging fan remixes. I think it’s a cool idea. ))

(1.i.2) Freedom 2: the freedom to make and redistribute copies

First, and perhaps this is the root of many of the rest of my questions, I continue to take issue with the freedom to redistribute software, music or any other such item at no cost. Thus I take issue with Myers’ point that he takes as self-evident [about] freedom of distribution[.] I believe that this promotes a kind of Randian piracy of creative effort. [- John]

This is fundamental. If you consider physical goods, there are no limitations on redistribution. If you buy something, it’s yours and you are free to do with it what you please, which includes sharing it with a friend, reselling it or giving it away. We don’t have this freedom with digital goods, such as software or music. The reason, I would argue, is that with digital goods, one needs not relinquish their own copy to share it with a friend. It’s actually copying, not transferring ownership.

But, what’s wrong with that?

I think digital technology is a blessing and not a curse. This is an advantage of digital technology. Sure, it will shake up business models that are based on scarcity if goods are no longer scarce, but businesses come and go with technology. We shouldn’t limit the usefulness of technology in order to protect out-dated business models. That sort of protectionism prohibits progress and does not have the best interests of society in mind. We don’t need to prop up the buggy-makers just because automobiles are making them obsolete.

It’s a strange idea for things to be owned by their creators rather than their owners. Imagine what implications that would have on all your possessions, none of which would actually be yours anymore.

John, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think your problem here is with the economic implications of such a freedom. I would argue that the economic considerations are secondary to the ethical ones, and that there are economic models that work.

Let’s look at the ethical side. Benjamin Mako Hill quotes Eben Moglen when addressing the issue:

The great moral question of the twenty-first century is: If all knowledge, all culture, all art, all useful information, can be costlessly given to everyone at the same price that it is given to anyone — if everyone can have everything, everywhere, all the time, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything?

If you could make lamb chops in endless numbers by the mere pressing of a button, there would be no moral argument for hunger ever, anywhere.

I see no system of moral philosophy generated by the economy of the past that could evolve a principle to explain the moral legitimacy of denial in the presence of infinite profusion.

Mako Hill continues,

With all its warts, copyright was a system that filled an important role at a particular time and in the context of particular technological and social systems around the production and and consumption of a particular intellectual good: eighteenth century printed books.

The only reason freedom two was ever restricted was that, in a certain specific context, it made some sense to do so. In that context, the average person couldn’t practically redistribute works anyways; few people owned a printing press. Now that anyone can be a distributor, the freedom is much more important and the trade-off of restricting it as an economic incentive for creation is no longer a fair one.

What about before copyright? How would works of Aristotle had been preserved if scribes needed to worry about licensing copies? How would such ideas spread and give rise to academic and intellectual debate? The advantage of the natural and free flow of ideas vastly outweighs any perceived advantages of giving creators an artificial monopoly over their works. The freedom to share something with your neighbour is more important than the creators ability to become rich. Plus, with the proper economic perspective, allowing the exercise of this freedom can help you make money.

I’m going to leave this as rather abstract and philosophical for now, but we can get into specific practical examples of the exercise of this freedom as the conversation continues.

As an auxiliary argument, there is absolutely no way that people will stop making use of technology that is so useful. The RIAA will never stamp out Napster spin-offs. DRM will never work, it is defective by design and unbelievably flawed in such basic technical ways. To believe that something infinite (a digital good) and in demand can be made truly scarce is foolish.

(1.i.3) Freedom 3: derivatives

If you accept freedom two, I think freedom three follows fairly easily. If permitted to distribute verbatim copies, why not permit the propagation of improvements or spin-offs as well? I addressed many of the main concerns in my original post. In short, derivatives can include modifications (a musical remixes, changes to the software code) or other uses as well (e.g. syncing music and video, like the way my high school Student Council used music in our videos). The derivatives are one of the most important parts of free culture, since it’s only natural for us to reuse and build on existing ideas.

I won’t go into depth here.

(1.ii) A Moral Imperative

I think a system in which the creator of something we legimately call a “tool” such as software, as it is explicitly called by many proponents of free software, should be able to directly monetize this tool but not be forced to offer it for free with no personal gain on the basis of some social moral. [- John]

But Rob Myers writes,

Free Culture is an ethical matter. As with Free Software, economic concerns are secondary… the economic harm [free culture] may cause for current business models is both acceptable as a moral consequence and can be offset by business models that are already being proven.

If you accept the ethical arguments, but hold economic concerns above them, that is a straightforward — and, I believe, misguided — example of the ends justifying the means. The ability to make a profit from one’s work is a good ends, as is encouraging the production of cultural works, but if the means involves violating people’s freedom, it’s unethical. Furthermore, it’s based on misguided thinking because cultural works can and will be produced, and profit can and will be made, without implementing a means that disrespects freedom. (That’s demonstrated by history, by current examples and by the economic arguments.)

To limit any of the above freedoms is unwise, unnecessary and unethical.

(2) Economics

(2.i) Definitions

Price
the amount of money needed to purchase something; a product’s monetary value.
Value
The property or aggregate properties of a thing by which it is rendered useful or desirable, or the degree of such property or sum of properties; worth; excellence; utility; importance. [1913 Webster]

(2.ii) Approaching zero

I read Techdirt a lot, which you can tell if you ever click through my links. Mike Masnick from Techdirt writes extensively about the economics of abundance.

We usually think of the economics of scarcity — the allocation of scarce resources based on supply and demand. Economic models based on scarcity break down when the supply is abundant. There is an inverse relationship between price and supply; as supply increases, price decreases (assuming constant demand). Thus, as supply approaches infinity, price approaches zero. Digital goods are infinitely abundant, therefore it’s natural and inevitable that their price will approach zero in a competitive market.

Note that value and price are two separate things. Value, as defined above, is much more than price; price is merely a subset of value — monetary value.

Mike Masnick writes,

[Price and value] are not the same. Value drives demand — but price is set by the intersection of demand and supply. If supply is abundant, it’s not going to matter how valuable your product is, price will get pushed towards zero.

We can see the price of digital audio files approach zero, the price of news articles approaching zero, etc. Free (as in price) music does not conflict with the free (as in freedom) market, basic economics still applies to infinite goods.

(2.iii) The Economics of Abundance

Many people think that economic models break down when a zero enters the equation. (“You can’t compete with free [as in price]” or “giving your content away isn’t rational”, etc.) The economics of abundance teach us how to make more economic sense of zero. Business models based on the economics of abundance recognize abundant goods and use them to add value (especially monetary value) to scarce goods. Basic supply and demand still applies to scarce goods, but abundant goods can be leveraged to increase that demand.

Kevin Kelly writes about eight “generatives” (things which can’t be copied) that are “better than free [as in price]:” immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, findability. You can find examples by clicking through the links or reading some of my posts on generatives. His suggestions aren’t exhaustive, but they’re a good starting point. (And yes, the word “generative” is silly.)

The economics of abundance is about monetizing the complements, or, more specifically, monetizing the scarce complements. In recognizing abundance when you posses it, you can capitalize on it, for example, as a promotional tool for your scarce goods.

The alternative is artificial scarcity, to pretend that your abundant goods are scarce and attempt to artificially inhibit supply. DRM is an example of this. This usually tramples on people’s freedoms and neglects much of the value of the goods you posses (i.e. their digital value). Also, it usually fails. How has DRM worked for the music industry?

(2.iv) Let’s talk about music

The language is very ambiguous here, so I’m going to be careful with my terms.

Music — an ordering of sounds, possibly words — has immense intrinsic value. Music is valued in and of itself. Music in this sense (e.g. a song, a composition) is also scarce. In order to get a new song, someone must write it. Though, a composition is not scarce in the same sense that physical goods are scarce because it is an idea and ideas are naturally free-flowing; when someone hears a tune, they might possess it without taking it away from someone else. From an economic perspective, however, a composition is scarce.

Digital audio files — a format of musical recordings — are infinite because they are digital. Whenever I say “music is an infinite good,” the “good” I am referring to is that digital musical recording, not the composition (i.e. the idea) itself.

Also, digital audio files are infinite, but CDs are scarce insofar as they’re physical. Thus, “music” can refer to either the composition (e.g. a song), a digital recording (e.g. an OGG file) or an embodied recording (e.g. CD). I’ll try to be clear.

Music is extremely valuable, though copies of digital audio files are easily made and therefore not as valuable, especially in a monetary sense (i.e. price). As an infinite good, it is natural and inevitable that the price of musical recordings will approach zero. This does not mean that artists can’t sell music recordings. This does mean that artists will want to sell other things alongside their recordings.

(2.iv.a) Selling music recordings

As an independent BY-SA artist, I still expect to make a significant amount of money from selling my music recordings (whenever I have something to sell). Recent examples have shown that people will still buy music they like when it’s available at no cost. People still paid for Radiohead’s In Rainbows despite the fact they could get it at no cost and people still paid for Nine Inch Nail’s Ghosts despite the fact that it was available on file sharing networks at no cost. People will still support the artists they like with their wallets (in generative-speak, this is patronage).

In both cases, artists added value to their offerings to encourage fans to pay. Radiohead offered the deluxe box set (generative-speak: embodiment), and Nine Inch Nails offered several packages which included added value (high quality audio files, artwork, CDs, DVDs, signed packages, etc.).

A CD is also a physical good and is therefore scarce. Most artists make money from selling CDs at concerts, especially independent artists. The more popular an artist becomes, the higher the demand for their CDs. In Rainbows has been selling on disc despite the fact that it is widely available online.

(2.iv.b) Live performances

For me, live performances have been my main source of (musical) income over the past year. This “product” is the least copyable of all. Even if all your music, all your artwork and t-shirt designs are released under free (as in freedom) licenses, no one can reuse your person in a live performance. Concert tickets are an important complement to music.

Songwriters who aren’t performers obviously wouldn’t be able to take advantage of this though.

(2.iv.c) Session work

Most of my musical activity in the last year has been on violin, partially because my band is dead (that’s another story), partially because I’m in demand as a violinist. There aren’t many violinists who are also folk/rock/songwriter savvy and I’ve been trying to leverage my skills recently by playing with other artists. This overlaps with live performances, but I can (and hope to) also offer my services on violin for work in a recording studio.

(2.iv.d) Other Merchandise

Bands make a surprising amount of money from other merchandise, such as t-shirts and posters. I don’t think it’s an epicycle (which John had mentioned) because a) it’s already an important part of life as an independent artist, and b) it’s in addition to (not in place of) selling music.

The point here is more of a “make sure you sell the other stuff too” if you’re music is widely available at no cost. This certainly applies to free culture artists, but also to musicians in general since all popular music tends to be available at no cost online.

(2.iv.e) Kevin Fox – an example

Kevin Fox is one of my musical heroes. He’s a singer/songwriter, guitarist and cellist. As a cellist in the music business, he’s in high demand. He’s played on some of Robyn’s recordings (as session work) and I spotted him in a recent Jann Arden music video. I’ve seem him play in the Andy Kim band (“Sugar, Sugar”) and he’s been the musical director for Shaye. His main product is himself.

For me, I hope to have a similar component to my music career as a violinist and multi-instrumentalist.

Also, as a side note, he makes money from making music, not from music that he’s already made. In what other careers does one make money from work they’ve done in the past? Usually, people make money from working. I don’t think it’s a tragedy if musicians do the same thing.

(3) Other

(3.i) Communism

John often brings up communism when talking about free software/culture, though often with some disclaimers about it being a bit of a tangent, but I thought I’d take a second to address the issue.

I don’t understand how free software or free culture is at all communist.

The systems of copyright and patents impose government sanctioned and enforced monopolies on ideas. Free software and free culture involves less government control, more free market, more personal freedom and allows for more freedom of expression.

Moreover, free software benefits many corporations. Companies like Google and Facebook wouldn’t exist without free software, they wouldn’t have had the ability to rapidly scale their software without licensing fees (freedom two) or adapt it to their particular needs (freedom one).

Just because free software/culture encourages collaboration and a sense of community doesn’t mean that it’s communist.

(3.ii) Exploitation

John’s uneasiness about freedom two seems to be largely based on a concern that creators will be exploited if they don’t have copyright laws to protect them. I believe this is a common myth that ought to be debunked.

First of all, copyright doesn’t prevent exploitation. I would argue that, in its current state, it encourages in many ways. How many musicians actually own the rights to their music (example), authors to their books? Copyright laws don’t necessarily protect the “rights” of creators if those rights are assigned to corporations. How many times have you heard about musicians in dispute with their labels? There are authors who can’t sell or distribute their own novels anymore because of publishing deals, even if the publisher refuses to print and sell more copies after they cease to become available. I’ve met musicians who aren’t allowed to sell me their own CDs because of their record deals. Copyright laws encourage the exploitation of artists by corporations.

Secondly, the purpose of copyright was not to prevent exploitation. The purpose of copyright was to promote the progress of science and useful arts (in the words used in the American Constitution, for example). Copyright doesn’t grant creators artificial monopolies to “protect their rights” or because they “deserve” such monopolies, but only because such monopolies were believed to be potentially useful, in so far as they promoted the creation of more works by offering a financial incentive.

Society traded away its rights in exchange for more cultural works. The deal may have been fair a few centuries ago, when the average person would hardly be able to exercise freedom two, but copyright laws are ill-suited for the digital age when we exercise such a freedom constantly.

(3.ii.a) The T-Shirt Example

Let’s say I decide to sell t-shirts (humour me, I’m not exactly that far yet, lol).

Take your example of monetizing music through t-shirts or other paraphenalia. Under the fullest extent of such a free licensing system, is not the artwork on the t-shirts also free for commercialization, and if not, why is it exempt. [- John]

I would release any artwork under a CC BY-SA license as well.

If it is free for commercialization, isn’t the person to benefit the most from the production of the t-shirts going to be the company that can produce and distribute them in the cheapest way, which could be, for example, the GAP rather than Blaise’s private records. [- John]

First of all, that’s a very narrow view of benefit. It only considers short-term financial benefit. Sure, there could be a lot of potential for short-term benefit for other companies, but the long-term benefit of all the advertising and publicity that sort of thing would generate can’t be neglected. If people are buying and wearing my t-shirts faster than I can make them, if the demand is strong enough that some big company wants to start selling and distributing them, by all means. They are entitled to make a profit from their work, and yes, it would compete with one of my side products, but it would serve to supplement and support my main product — me, the musician. T-shirts and other such merchandise may be a great source of supplementary income, but that merchandise has indirect value insofar as it acts as a promotional tool for other scarce goods, such as concert tickets or CDs.

That’s just focusing on freedom two. What if the GAP exercised freedom three? What if they took my shirt and modified it to make it “better” and started selling the modified version? That’s why I use copyleft licenses — the GNU GPL for software and now a CC BY-SA License for cultural works. Any derivatives or redistributed copies are required to maintain the same freedoms. If someone improved on my design, I would be free to sell the improved design on my own as well.

Also, there are ways to be competitive. Even though there’s value to others selling my shirts, I’d make more money if I sold them myself. Other people can’t create autographed shirts, for example. If the shirts are so popular that some major corporation is distributing them, that would presumably make an autographed copy that much more valuable. In generative-speak, that’s authenticity.

Many people buy band merchandise at concerts. If I’m selling my own “Blaise’s private records” t-shirts at my concerts, that’s an advantage I have over third-party competition. In generative-speak, that’s immediacy.

Patronage is also important. Kevin Kelly writes,

It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators.

Radiohead is the high-profile recent example here. But, as this relates to my t-shirts example, if I make my t-shirts available at a reasonable cost, easy to buy and I make it clear that the money will be directly benefiting my work, I would feel confident that I could compete with third parties.

And, again, insofar as third parties are successful, they are successful at promoting me.

What about examining this in a more positive light? Releasing t-shirt art under a free license allows for fan sharing. Fans could make their own t-shirts as well, without having to break the law. The positive effects that type of thing brings about with respect to building a community (in this case, a fan base) serves to counter any immediate economic setbacks from third party competition. There are benefits as well.

Increased competition may be a side effect of a free license, but the above examples show how this side effect is manageable and I believe any negative effects (e.g. increased competition) are outweighed by the positive effects (e.g. fan sharing, improvements on the design) and the ethical considerations (respecting freedom and the positive effects that can have on a community).

(3.iii) Nine Inch Nails — Ghosts

I found Reznor’s experiment interesting – giving away 9 of the 36 tracks and charging a nominal fee for the rest. In fact I think it’s brilliant, including the seeding of torrents. But I think it doesn’t work well as an example of progress towards free music because it must be conceded that a sizable (though unmeasurable) portion of the 1.6 million dollars made was made from people wanting the other 27 tracks that were not freely published. One can argue that the people paying $5 are just donating because they could easily have gotten the same thing from some file sharing site online but I don’t think that’s entirely true. I don’t think I’m the only person that still feels that file-shared music is unethical and does not consider that a legitimate means of obtaining a work. [- John]

John, you missed a key point about the release. It’s legally impossible for people to steal his music; it’s released under a Creative Commons License. Although it’s a non-free license (BY-NC-SA — doesn’t allow commercial use), music file sharing is explicitly permitted in the license, as are derivative works.

That brings up another common misconception about free software/culture though, that you have to give everything away. Reznor made the first nine tracks available at no cost on his site and spread them on bit torrent himself. He leveraged that popularity as a promotion tool, and then requested a bit of money for the remaining tracks if you wanted them through the official channel (another example of patronage).

Even more importantly, Ghosts II-IV (the tracks he charged for) have only contributed to a portion of his success. His 2500 limited edited ultra-deluxe packages sold out in under two days and, costing $300 each, those alone grossed $750,000 USD. People weren’t buying that because they just wanted Ghosts II-IV, they were buying it because they wanted “all the high quality downloads, two CDs, a data DVD, a Blu-ray high def DVD and assorted extras, all in a nice package signed by Reznor.” It wasn’t just the less-available tracks that were causing people to reach into their wallets. True fans wanted the extras and Trent delivered, using the infinite goods as a promotional tool for the more expensive scarce goods (in generative-speak, capitalizing on patronage, embodiment and authenticity).

(3.iv) Making a direct profit from your product

I think a system in which the creator of something we legimately call a “tool” such as software, as it is explicitly called by many proponents of free software, should be able to directly monetize this tool but not be forced to offer it for free with no personal gain on the basis of some social moral. [- John]

They can: they can sell their software. No developer is forced to give anything away at no cost. However, once you give it to someone else, to control what they do with it and to attempt to control what everyone in the world does with it is an abuse of power and disrespects people’s basic freedom of use.

If freedom two is asserted, then economic laws will eventually bring the price to zero, since the supply is infinite. As I see it, there are two options:

  1. Control your users, even though it is unethical
  2. Look at other economic models, such as monetizing the product’s complement (which is not at all exclusive to free software – proprietary software companies do this too), to make money without doing something unethical

It sounds radical, but I’ve heard RMS (Stallman) say that if there is no ethical way to develop software, then it would be better if no one developed software at all. Fortunately, there is an ethical way to do it. It just may require a shift in economic strategies.

It will always be possible to make some money from your product directly. Red Hat can still sell it’s enterprise GNU/Linux distribution, and I can still sell my CDs. But insofar as these products are digital and abundant, and insofar as copyright restrictions violate people’s freedom of use and freedom of speech, it does not make economic or ethical sense to impose barriers and expect to make your entire living directly from the products.

(3.v) Digital Audio Players

The first thing I thought of when you talked about using derivative products to make money off music which will ultimately approach a price of zero because it has infinite supply was iPods, and how Steve Jobs and company are surely laughing all the way to the bank about DRM-free music, and have been since day one, knowing full well that statistically no one had 20gb of purchased cd music to fill the devices with, but they did have 20gb of file-shared music and that’s how they cashed in. [- John]

I will never buy another iPod (unless I buy it for the hardware and run Rockbox…), but let’s talk Apple for a second. Apple’s 160 GB iPod Classic has an advertised capacity of 40,000 songs. Even at the relatively low iTunes price of a dollar a song, that would mean someone would have to spend $40,000 to fill such an iPod (unless Apple implements the rumoured music bundle). Technology is making music — digital audio files, that is — an essentially infinite good. We have huge, portable storage, and it’s trivial to copy a file. Whether or not this is a problem depends on freedom two.

The revenue from those 100 million plus iPods sold has, however, not been seen nor so much as sniffed by any of the bands whose music populates them. [- John]

Why should bands deserve any money from digital audio player sales? That seems like another popular myth, the type of statement that no one would ever apply equally to any other industry. One industry doesn’t deserve money because it makes another more valuable or profitable. Do hardware developers owe software developers money because the demand for hardware goes up when useful software is created? Do telecommunication companies owe Internet companies money since they’ve made a business around the value such web companies provide (e.g. no one would want an Internet connection if there wasn’t value online, but Rogers doesn’t pay Google royalties for delivering its site to users)? Do home decor businesses owe construction companies money for building the houses that they decorate? Do popcorn makers owe Hollywood for promoting the consumption of their product?

Sure, I think it would be beneficial to both parties to maintain a good relationship, but technology companies don’t owe artists any money. That’s just propping up out-dated business models.

(3.vi) Shakespeare

But the more interesting point is what would Hunt say about this. (For those who bothered to read this other than Blaise, Mr. John Hunt is a counter-cultural English teacher from our high school.) He would say that if music is truly in infinite supply as was suggested, then it must literally have no artistic value, since “there can only be one Beethoven”. [- John]

Funny you should mention Mr. Hunt. Shakespeare (Mr. Hunt’s ultimate hero, for those other than John) is one of the standard examples of how innovation happens without artificial monopolies, and how the best innovation can be choked by it. Shakespeare borrowed so many of his ideas from others, story lines for example. The value was in the innovation, not invention. He told those stories in a much more compelling way than anyone had before or has since. But, were they subject to artificial government sanctioned monopolies, they could have been largely off limits for reuse.

Shakespeare — author of some of the greatest cultural works of all time — lived in a world without copyright. If copyright had existed, he might not have been able to write some of the plays he did. He’s a testament to the free flow of ideas for cultural works.

I’ve explained the difference between price and value above, and compositions versus digital recordings. So, I think you misinterpret me to say “there can only be one Beethoven.” I’m not suggesting otherwise, just that, say, once someone makes a digital recording of a composition by Beethoven, we can have an infinite supply of that recording.

(4) Conclusion

John, your main issue was with freedom two. If you’re saying, “freedom two is unethical insofar as it removes the possibility for the author of a work to profit from it,” I respond that freedom two is therefore not unethical at all. And thus, it’s a freedom that ought to be respected.

I believe copyright is ill-suited for the digital age. It may have once been appropriate, but in the current climate it does more harm than good. It attacks people’s freedom of use and freedom of speech. Free software/culture is a moral imperative and economic considerations are secondary. However, economic considerations show us that a) free [as in price, at least] culture is inevitable and b) free [as in freedom] culture can make economic sense. Business models exist that already have been or are being proven.

There is no excuse but ignorance or fear for taking the unethical route.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments (8)

Analyzing the Songwriters Association of Canada’s proposal to legalize file sharing

Since the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) proposed to legalize file sharing, many Canadian groups have responded, both positively and negatively. The Canadian Music Creators Coalition called it a “forward thinking approach” that ought to be discussed, while foreign corporations’ Canadian representatives (such as the Canadian Recording Industry Assocation) slammed it as a “pipe dream.”

I first heard about this proposal in November, a few weeks before it was finalized and announced, through the Songwriters Magazine I receive as a SAC member. My initial reaction was a negative one, but as I contacted them and exchanged a few emails with Eddie Schwartz – the proposal’s architect, or at least overseer – I warmed up to the idea a little bit. There were still some concerns left lingering though.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m going to revisit and review the proposal to outline what I consider its strengths and weaknesses, as well as remaing questions I have.

(Numbers refer to the points listed in the proposal.)

What I like

I strongly support the SAC in bring forth this proposal. This is certainly the type of thing we need. It considers artists rights and freedoms as well as the rights and freedoms of music fans without taking a position to suggest that there needs to be a conflict between those varying interests.

The proposal looks at ways to legalize the act of file sharing rather than pretending it can be stomped out of existence and viewing it as a negative thing. It acknowledges that “file sharing is both a revolution in music distribution and a very positive phenomenon.” (2)

The proposal covers all types of file sharing from one individual to another for non-commercial purposes, regardless of the medium (ie. LAN, hard drives, CDs, DVDs, email, etc.). (5)

The new “Right to Equitable Remuneration for Music File Sharing” would not conflict with commercial music services, which could still continue to provide “value added” services for a fee. (9) One example would be security, in paying for a track from a commercial store, listeners could be assured that the files they download won’t contain any malware. Other examples could include digital album art, videos, etc. There would still be a market for additional and professional services. Take bottled water for example. In a country like Canada, we are fortunate enough to have easy access to water for essentially no cost, yet the bottled water industry is extremely profitable.

What bugs me

The fee is to be collected by ISPs, when it’s not really their responsibility. It does feel like a tax. There’s no way to opt-out included in the proposal, so my grandparents – who are surprisingly computer savvy, but don’t download music – would be paying the fee, as well as my office. Society doesn’t owe artists some sort of social welfare. Also, this makes the proposal difficult to implement if it requires cooperation from other groups to collect this fee.

I don’t trust Big Champagne (or other similar companies) and I don’t want a company, or a collective for that matter, deciding to which artists my money goes. Big Champagne uses all sorts of proprietary software to do their analysis, so there’s little chance for transparency or review of their methods. More importantly, the decentralized nature of file sharing makes it extremely difficult to measure. They may be able to monitor peer-to-peer networks, but they have no hope of monitoring songs shared via email or flash drives. I’d much rather play an active role in financially supporting artists. If I like an artist, I will buy their CD or go to their concerts. I’d like an opportunity to be able to support an artist when downloading music (e.g. Radiohead’s pay-what-you-can experiment), rather than relying on some organization to sent them pennies in the mail for my download.

Even if a minority of music listeners compensate artists in some way after downloading music (though the latest government study suggests that music downloaders buy more music), there are a wide variety of business models that can make a ton of economic sense. But that’s for another post…

Also, I find downloading much more useful for sampling purposes than as a substitution for purchases. How is it going to be determined whether a track I downloaded was listened to once and then deleted, or whether it became a favourite of mine? If it were a favourite, I’d gladly pay money for it. If I had to pay to sample it, I probably wouldn’t download it in the first place.

Most Importantly…

This is a free culture issue to me (free as in freedom). The laws should be based on respecting people’s freedoms and creating incentives for artists to produce songs. There is no natural right to a monopoly over works you produce as an artist; an artificial monopoly is granted, only insofar as it benefits society as a whole.

What sorts of things should people be allowed to do with music files they have obtained legally? That’s the fundamental question.

I believe they ought to be able to do virtually anything for personal use, which includes creating backup copies and format shifting. I also believe that people ought to be able to share things they own with their friends. If I like a song, I should be able to share it with a friend who might also like it. The fact that I can keep a copy for myself while doing this is a blessing, not a curse.

In a way, peer-to-peer file sharing is just that. But… does scale change the nature of the act? If I want to share a file with a stranger, that should be within my rights. But when millions of strangers get together and make virtually any songs available, does that change the nature of the act of sharing?

I don’t believe so. I’m not entirely convinced, but I can’t seem to grasp how the difference in scale would change the fundamental nature of the act.

If people should be allowed to share things they own with other people, they why should anyone owe money for file sharing anyways? It would be great to develop a way, a system, for interested music listeners to support artists financially, but if it’s reasonable for me to be allowed to share my possessions with others, then it would be wrong to force me to pay to exercise that freedom.

The Creative Commons Music Sharing License – which I’ve been using for my music – allows music files to be shared (copied, transmitted, distributed) so long as its for non-commercial purposes, with attribution and “as is” (ie. no derivatives). That seems to me a reasonable basis for true fair dealing of audio files. If that’s the case, why should we pay a fee for those rights?

I applaud the SAC for their proposal and believe it is certainly the type of thing we need to be discussing. I’ve signed on as a supporter. However, I’m a bit hesitant about making some special exception in the copyright act (with a fee attached) rather than re-examining fair dealing provisions.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments (2)

The difference between theft and copyright infringement

While I was very pleased with the proposal the Songwriters’ Association of Canada recently put forth to legalize file sharing in Canada, I couldn’t help but slam my head against the table when reading the “what some music creators have to say” link.

With the exception of the a few (most notable the Canadian Music Creators Coalition), the comments were laden with words such as piracy, thievery and stealing. There are some fundamental misunderstandings here, obviously; many of these songwriters just don’t get it.

But some of them made comments that were just plain stupid.

There is absolutely no difference between stealing a piece of recorded material which has accumulated costs all the way down the line during its production (recording studios, engineers, recording
equipment which must acquired and maintained, artwork, printing, promotional materials and publicity– all this must be paid for) and stealing any other manufactured product. If the end product is taken without being paid for, there is no source from which to recover these costs, let alone any money for the artist to live on.

It is stealing — plain and simple.

It is no different than walking into a clothing store and stealing the clothes. Somehow the consuming public seems able to grasp this concept when it applies to sweaters, shoes, or groceries, but cannot understand that the same chain of costs and the need for the artist to recover those costs and to make a living applies to the world of recorded music.

I do not understand why this is, but it is well past time that someone other than the consumer put a system in place to help us keep our music from being stolen.

It is no different than the fact that pretty much all traditional retail stores now have, and have had for years, electronic scanners at the exits in order to alert them when someone is attempting to leave the store with items they have not paid for. We have a right to the income from the results of our labour, just as anyone else in any business has.

– Joan Besen

Joan Besen is so unbelievably confused about this. The claim that there is “absolutely no difference” between unauthorized copying of a digital audio file and the theft of a physical good is flawed right at the core. There is one very important difference. When you copy a file, you do not deprive the owner of their copy. When you take a physical item from someone, that someone no longer has that item in their possession.

Theft is universally considered to be wrong because you are taking something away from someone else. Copying a file is fundamentally different. It’s duplicating, not depriving. Far from “plain and simple” as Joan suggests, the issue of what kinds of copying should be considered infringement and what constitutes fair use is a complex legal question.

The analogy to manufactured goods just doesn’t hold. At the very least, it’s impossible to claim there is “absolutely no difference.” With manufactured goods, you need to recoup costs for every particular physical item because each particular item must be individually manufactured. With digital goods, the “manufacturing” process happens once. Once the original copy is created, manufacturing costs do not change whether the file is never shared with another or whether every person on earth has 20 copies of it.

In this important way, Joan, there is a difference between theft and file sharing. For this reason, theft is widely considered to be wrong (thou shalt not steal), but the act of file sharing is only wrong insofar as it is unauthorized or illegal. Distinguishing between fair use and infringement is often a difficult legal question, especially in our rapidly changing digital landscape.

Joan is right that artists need a way to recoup the costs of produce their art. That is what copyright was originally intended for, to provide an incentive through creating artificial monopolies for these artists, insofar as it increased the promotion of art for the public. But Joan is wrong that these costs need to be recouped through sales of songs. She is stuck with pre-digital economic thinking.

Traditionally, economics have been about scarcity. You have scarce resources (CDs), there is a demand for them (music fans) so you supply them with the product for a fee. In the digital world, we are dealing with abundance, not scarcity. Digital audio files are abundant, so the supply and demand model just isn’t the same unless you create artificial scarcity through copy protection schemes. Rather, you can leverage the abundant goods to provide extra value to the scarce goods. Through file sharing, artists grow their fan base as more people can listen to their music. Having a larger fan base creates a higher demand for scarce goods, such as concert tickets or merchandise, or even physical copies of the music (as in the case of Radiohead’s In Rainbows discbox). And you can still charge for the service of distributing abundant goods, like Radiohead’s pay-what-you-can model, or through an online store that makes music easily available.

There are ways to recover the costs of manufacturing without making the ridiculous assertion that there is actually no difference between theft and file sharing. In fact, that seems to be the only way to go as we enter further and further into the digital age.

More importantly, proposals like the one made by the Songwriters’ Association of Canada will not be accepted on the basis that everyone gets labeled as a criminal and is forced to pay a penalty upfront through their ISP fees (or for any recording medium). Rather, the public will embrace these sorts of proposals because of a genuine desire to compensate artists while accessing music in the way that they want.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments (12)

Songwriters’ Association of Canada proposes to legalize music file sharing

The Songwriters’ Association of Canada (SAC) has released a proposal to legalize music file sharing in the country (found via Michael Geist). They’ve proposed a new right – the Right to Equitable Remuneration for Music File Sharing – which would legalize noncommercial music file sharing by collecting a $5.00 license fee per internet subscription to be distributed amongst music creators based on file sharing patterns. This proposal would compliment the commercial distribution of music, whether through physical CD sales or through digital sales, and SAC claims it would render DRM (Digital Rights/Restrictions Management – i.e. copy protection) “obsolete”. The Canadian Music Creators Coalition (CMCC) is a co-signatory of the proposal.

The proposal recognizes that the technology is a blessing rather than a curse and attempts to meet the needs of both music listeners and music creators.

File sharing is both a revolution in music distribution and a very positive phenomenon. The volunteer efforts of millions of music fans creates a much greater choice of repertoire for consumers while allowing songs – both new and old, well known and obscure – to be heard.

All thatโ€™s needed to fulfill this revolution in distribution is a way for Creators and rights holders to be paid.

This is quite contrary to the Canadian Recording Industry Association’s (CRIA) calls for more draconian copyright measures. The CRIA is self-proclaimed “voice and guardian of the record industry in Canada,” but they are increasingly out of touch with Canadian artists, representing instead the foreign interests of multinational record corporations. Many major Canadian independent record labels have left the CRIA, and now both the CMCC and SAC stand in opposition to its beliefs.

I am proud to be a member of both the CMCC and SAC – thank you for truly representing the voice of Canadian artists and defending the rights of music creators and music listeners!

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Permalink | Comments (3)