Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pogue on the copyright issue

Pogue on the copyright issue.
(Update: enjoy David's TedTalk copyright spoof song.)

He quotes Steven Poole:

"It [the Slashdot argument] says that books, music, films, software and so on ought to be freely distributed to anyone who wants them, simply because they can be freely distributed.

"What is the writer or musician to do, though, if she can't earn money from her art? Simple, says the Slashdotter: earn your money playing live (if you're one of those musicians who plays live), or selling T-shirts or merchandise, or providing some other kind of 'value-added' service. Many such arguments seem to me to be simple greed disguised in high-falutin' idealism about how 'information wants to be free.'

"…I think the Slashdot argument can actually be disposed of rapidly with one rhetorical question, as follows.

"Oh Mr. Freetard, you work as a programmer, do you? How interesting. So do you perform all your corporate programming duties for free, and earn your keep by selling personally branded mousemats on the side?

"Didn't think so."


Alex said...

Art should be left for evenings and weekends. Artists should have a proper job 9-5.

(by artist I include all TV personalities, singers, composers, novelists, painters, CPA's, stock brokers, lawyers, et cetera, et cetera ....)

ttl said...

David Pogue writes: "Actually, authors like me are lucky; our work is, at this point, pretty much protected with unbreakable copy protection. That is, our bound and published books can't be duplicated infinitely and distributed by the millions online."

But David, books are just as easy to copy. Just scan and 'Adobe distill' it into a PDF. There are now scanners that even turn the pages for you. No manual work needed. Torrent trackers list thousands of copyvio E-books (PDF) produced from paper source. For the most popular ones, there are even critical editions that improve on the original paper edition!

If your books are not to be found by torrent trackers, it must be because they are not very interesting -- torrent uploaders would rather spend the effort on other types of books (programming books, for example) -- and haven't gotten around to pirating your books yet.

There is nothing "unbreakable" about physical books. The best "copy protection" you have is the subject matter: entry level books on using a computer just aren't that sexy or sought after online. By the time people are knowledgeable enough to install a bittorrent client and browse to a tracker site, they pretty much know how to use the damn thing.

kronostar said...

His TedTalk music video is a very enjoyable addition to his article.
And incidentally, I put his name into a torrent search engine and came up with most of his recent books that someone must have taken the trouble to manually scan or got hold of the original pdf from the publisher. At first glance his Mac OS X Leopard missing manual was the most popular with several thousand downloads.

Anonymous said...

What happens to the world if all art is free? Worst case: people have much, much less art available that they can "consume" for their entertainment. Which means they might have to learn to entertain themselves. That's not such a bad outcome.

Eric said...

I think the key to making profit off of content like music and writing will rest on building an intimate relationship with your audience.

The corporate model is to sign a new artist, see what has potential and then milk that for all it's worth. Since everything was done on such a large scale it was impossible for the creator to forge anything beyond a surface relationship with the fans. Countless bands have gotten thousands of people to show up at their concerts, and many of them sell gold and platinum records, but when you get right down to it very few of those people are truly enthusiastic about it. The greatest of the great, like Pink Floyd, are exceptions; they have incredibly loyal and enthusiastic fans. At large, music is produced, consumed and thrown away like a mere commodity. There's no real artistry and there's no sense of connection between the people and the artist. I'd wager this is the stuff that people have stopped paying for.

I never cared much for Eminem or Nickelback. I'd download a few of their songs if I didn't have to pay for them, and I have, because that's as much as the music is worth to me. The singles tend to be catchy but their appeal wears off fast. If Pink Floyd released a new album I would pre-order it and I'd buy a t-shirt, too. Their work deeply resonates with me and I feel it's well worth it to support them.

A real world example of an artist that's thriving off of a niche audience is Jonathan Coulton. Here's a no-name guy who started putting songs up on his website for free. He put out one song a week. Eventually the right people linked to him and his work was good enough that he gained a following. Cut to the present and the people who downloaded his songs for free are buying the same songs in box sets. They're showing up at his concerts dressed like characters from his songs, or carrying props. He only draws a crowd of a few hundred but his shows sell out. He interacts with the audience by pointing out exceptional costumes or asking for volunteers to sing parts of his songs on stage with him. His audience is the kind where he can pick somebody at random, say, "come up here and sing this" and that person will do so, perfectly, without having to be told what to sing.

We're probably seeing the end of multi-million sellers and stadium concerts, but that doesn't mean there's no money in this stuff anymore. It just means we're going to have to include something that has been severely lacking in marketing efforts to date: the human element.

eolake said...

I have the Leopard MIssing Manual, but I'd like a PDF version. I've tried to search on Torrent sites, but I can only find versions of servers which demand payment. Or spam via Acquisition. Can anybody tell me how to do it?