Friday, February 22, 2008

RE: Kjerstin regarding online sharing

In my post DVD-Jon at it again, Kjerstin posted a link to a piece in The Guardian titled "All this online sharing has to stop", and stated that there are no differences between music and other intellectual property substantial enough to justify why distributors of music should be granted different working conditions than any other creator or distributor of copyrighted material.

According to the journalist, newspapers were among the first ones getting their content ripped off and spread all over the world because apparently a lot of people copy-and-paste entire articles from online newspapers to blog sites without paying a thing, and even passing it off as their own. Thus, newspapers are hurt just as bad as the music business, but being superior to mere mortals, the newspaper bidness has learned how to "adapt to the world as it is, rather than dreaming of what is used to be".

Now I don't know about you all, but copying entire articles and passing them off as original (i.e. without citing the source and providing a link) isn't something I encounter a lot. Maybe I'm hanging with the wrong crowd or something. But ok - people are ripping off online content from newspapers and sharing it, so that industry should suffer just as much as the music industry, right?

I massively disagree. Let me ask you this; what does the back end of news revenue look like? How often have you browsed the shelves of your local book store looking for that newspaper from two years ago that had this article you were interested in? How often do newspapers print multiple editions of an issue over prolonged periods of time to meet customer demands? Let's say that the journalist is correct; there is a black market of pirated news articles with bloggers functioning as some kind of pirate bay for news. How often have you come across a blog lately with "Breaking news - JFK shot in Dallas"? What about "Hindenberg erupts in flames - Oh the Humanity"? "This just in - Man Lands on Moon"? Not so much.

So if news articles have a very limited shelf life seeing as how they're - well - news, then any revenue deprivation from pirated news content can only happen in a short period of time, right? What about music? Is anyone still interested in songs from last year? Yeah? What about from ten years ago, or twenty? People still buy "Thriller", don't they? What about Beatles and Elvis tunes - anyone interested in buying their records? Sure. What new albums have they released? Well; despite Elvis being rumored to be alive and well, he has not released any new material lately. Neither have the Beatles. How much royalties do journalists get from new editions of articles they wrote and were in print ten years ago?

The music industry HAS a back end of their revenue, as has Hollywood. Which means potential revenue, which means greater potential loss of revenue. In terms of Dead Presidents, this is plenty difference between the music industry and newspapers.

In the Guardian piece, the journalist wrote something with a great potential for bacfiring on his smug ass...."The IFPI - the International Federation of Phonographic Industries - is the global music industry organization whose very name tells you how long ago progress overtook it." Great logic, Sherlock! Be sure to use that argument to try and score some points the next time you write anything about NAACP, for example. Obviously, the NAACP is obsolete, and its members preoccupied with keeping things how they were fifty or more years ago. Good job, Chuckles!!

10 comments:

Kjerstin said...

Apologies in advance for hijacking your comments, but...

How often have you browsed the shelves of your local book store looking for that newspaper from two years ago that had this article you were interested in?

Funny enough, a major part of my working day consists of doing just that. Let’s say that on average, for every article I write, I have to read 3 others, often published years ago. The same probably goes for everyone else working in media and communication, as well as for students writing essays, or teachers preparing assignments or lectures, etc. Looking for these articles takes a huge amount of time, and very often they’re not to be found because electronic storage of newspaper articles is erratic at best. Luckily I’m just sufficiently technology savvy to access the newspaper archive Atekst through the back door, or else half of my income would probably be spent paying for access to articles from Atekst. If you happen to read blogs on politics or societal issues, you probably often see things like “I remember reading this interesting thing in a newspaper a few years back, but since I can’t find it, I can’t link to it”. And when I google my own name, I always find that my old articles have attracted new links from new places since the last time. (Some of these links come from “news services” that collect and post deck copy from articles published elsewhere, which gives them some kind of “content” that can attract clicks and get readers for the ads that are the real content of the site – which means they are effectively parasites living off the hard work of people like myself.)

So: There can be no doubt but that there is a huge market for old newspaper articles.

On the other hand, as a freelancer I frequently come across instances where I, as a freelancer, agree to write an article for a newspaper or magazine, for a one-time use on paper, and we decide on a compensation for this. Only later do I discover that the paper/magazine has also published my article on their web page, and maybe even sold it several times for downloading (for example from Atekst) or reprinting, without me ever receiving a penny for this. For photographers, of course, the problem is even bigger. Once a photo has been published on the internet, you have practically no control over whether it’s reused again and again without your permission. I know about a few photos that I’ve taken for very specific purposes, which have been republished even by serious news sources without giving me any credit or payment. Some freelancers solve this problem by suing the paper, but most of us find other ways to deal with it.

So: There can be no doubt but that the recycling of newspaper articles represents a very substantial loss of income for journalists.

Added to all this is the huge discussion going on since the last few years about how newspapers can get people to pay for things (read: news) that they can get for free on the internet anyway, and if not, what the newspapers should do to survive.

Still, to my knowledge, no newspaper or journalist has so far asked internet providers to track down people downloading their articles without paying so that they can be sued. Instead they restructure or go bankrupt or find other ways to deal with it.

So if you could just explain in a bit more detail what makes the music distributors so special that they need to be sheltered from a changing technological environment that everyone else has to cope with…?

Wilhelm said...

So: There can be no doubt but that there is a huge market for old newspaper articles.

Not saying this is not a problem, but rather that it's a much bigger problem for music industry and Hollywood. Would you agree that the fraction of the population likely to listen to music or watch movies exceeds the fraction working as teachers and journalists? How much of a problem this is for students is extremely difficult to gauge, as it is quite common for teachers to provide students with pertinent material, plus the unfortunate fact that students are very likely to plagiarize/"share" work.

Still, to my knowledge, no newspaper or journalist has so far asked internet providers to track down people downloading their articles without paying so that they can be sued.

Interestingly, there have been a number of cases where departments and faculties at Norwegian universities (or at least one university) have been sued because their official web pages contained images the institution in question did not own the copyrights to. Consequently, several departments/faculties have established new and quite strict rules for images used on official web pages, even if it's for lab/group subdirectories.

So if you could just explain in a bit more detail what makes the music distributors so special that they need to be sheltered from a changing technological environment that everyone else has to cope with…?

Well; I would throw in the movie industry as well, actually. But before I go into that; would you agree that the level of rule enforcement should be proportional to the damage done?

And when I google my own name, I always find that my old articles have attracted new links from new places since the last time. (Some of these links come from “news services” that collect and post deck copy from articles published elsewhere, which gives them some kind of “content” that can attract clicks and get readers for the ads that are the real content of the site – which means they are effectively parasites living off the hard work of people like myself

This was kind of funny when it followed this:

Luckily I’m just sufficiently technology savvy to access the newspaper archive Atekst through the back door, or else half of my income would probably be spent paying for access to articles from Atekst.

;-)

Kjerstin said...

would you agree that the level of rule enforcement should be proportional to the damage done?

Define "damage", and I'll try to consider it.

"And when I google my own name, I always find that my old articles have attracted new links from new places since the last time. (Some of these links come from “news services” that collect and post deck copy from articles published elsewhere, which gives them some kind of “content” that can attract clicks and get readers for the ads that are the real content of the site – which means they are effectively parasites living off the hard work of people like myself

This was kind of funny when it followed this:

Luckily I’m just sufficiently technology savvy to access the newspaper archive Atekst through the back door, or else half of my income would probably be spent paying for access to articles from Atekst."

I know, it was meant to be. But I hope the rest of the point came across too: That it's perfectly possible for the same person (or industry) to be on both ends of piracy and copyright issues, and that to confront those issues by playing the "everyone is so mean to me" card is a completely inadequate solution.

Wilhelm said...

Define "damage", and I'll try to consider it.

How about "pecuniary bereavement due to loss of revenue from theft of copyrighted material"? I think we agree that every industry who publishes copyright-protected material stands to lose revenue from people jacking their stuff. However, what I'm saying is that the music industry - and movie industry for that matter - lose comparatively more (a lot more) than the newspaper industry.

Do you dispute that the number of potential downloaders of music and movies is bigger than the number of people likely to gaffle newspaper articles? Your example for those who download newspaper articles includes journalists, teachers, communication workers and the odd student. All of those groups are likely to download music and movies for free, along with just about everyone else.

Also, if we stick to newspaper articles, I'm sure you would agree that the average cost of making one article/piece is somewhat smaller than what is costs to record one song or even worse, one album. Not to mention what the cost of making one movie has escalated to. You can download a song just as easy as you can download a newspaper article.

Probably a lot easier in fact, since all kinds of "pirate bays/hubs" for filesharing of music and movies seem to be quite organized and in fact international. Beside the private citizen jacking music and movies for their own personal use, you've got a huge market for pirated cds and dvds in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

So if a) there is a larger market, b) the market is somewhat organized and c) the cost per item is vastly different, I'd say that music and movie industry can reasonably be assumed to lose much more than the newspaper industry.

And I'm not bringing the argument of art vs. not into this, as the lines could get blurred out in a hurry.

I know, it was meant to be.

I was counting on that.

..it's perfectly possible for the same person (or industry) to be on both ends of piracy and copyright issues...

Absolutely, but it's not the same. For example, it happens all the time that some artist more or less steals a phrase, a riff or an entire song structure from another ("sampling", right?). And this results in lawsuits quite frequently. For example, I know that some artist who got quite a hit from sampling guitar and even background vocals from "Roseanna" by Toto got sued and lost, and consequently said artist never saw dime one from the hit - all the money that didn't go to litigators went straight into the pockets of Steve Lukather, who wrote the song. Because when artists rip off other artists - and they do - there are someone who can be held accountable; the record companies. With filesharing; not so much, although Lars Ulrich sure did his best. ;-)

If anything, I'd wish that stricter rules for this sort of thing would have existed earlier. If so, artists like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin would have been a lot worse off, and a great number of black artists who were recording post WWII would have been deservedly better off.

Anders said...

So, to bring this back to the original content or high-jack it once again (you decide), here are some of my thoughts.

Business vs. private.
Of course any commercial use of music, be it in a movie, on radio, in-store music, sampled in a song, etc, etc should not be free. And I think this part is more or less good, apart from the odd case like the one Wilhelm mentions Toto. So, basically, we are talking about the private use of copyright material.

Piracy
Of course I think we all agree that ripping a complete album and selling it is piracy and shouldn't be allowed. Even mass distribution single files for free I think we all agree should be illegal and also considered piracy*.

Privacy
I do support the record companies right to protect their copyright material, but I can't see that this is such an important right that they should be granted special privileges to break into peoples privacy. Especially monitoring people that are innocent, but also even people who do share lot of files. I hold the right to privacy quite high, and I see absolutely no special circumstances around file sharing that should allow a private company to break into people’s privacy. So I strongly object to the recording industry's attempt to dictate laws affecting file sharing.

Fair Use
I also think that today’s laws are starting to affect what I would call "Fair Use". Posting an own made guitar tab for a song online, a ten second sound sample, a private recording of a song or adding music to your home made movie, is supposed to he free of charge in my mind. Of course, as long it's private; for commercial use: Pay for every second of a song used. I do fear that the creativity and development of new music, movies, etc can and will be affected if the recording industry get their will.

Also, as I said before on this blog, when you sell a music file for downloading or a CD, it should be possible to play it on any suitable device that you want. And Forbrukerombudet in Norway agrees with me, and have called the copy protection on downloaded files and CDs that prevents people of doing that, illegal and demanded that the record companies/ stores removed it. And it seems that they are finally heard.

Technology
Of course "new" technology has made this a problem. It wasn't like people didn't copy movies and records in the past, but the problem was limited by technology. A cassette tape and VHS tape would deteriorate in quality for each generation of copy. An mp3-file could be shared and copied without loss of quality. Also, the internet provides easy access to many other people to share/ distribute it too. Newspapers are affected by this as well, because the sales number of paper-based news has declined. So Kjerstin actually has a good point comparing the news industry to the music industry: The news industry has handled this new technology way better then the music industry (which has chosen to sue their main target customers).

Statistics
Although it is sort of irrelevant for the legality of file sharing if the record sales are damaged or not, I do object to a lot of the statistics from the record and movie industry. It's not like every downloaded file is a sale lost. In fact, I some of the "research" statistics from the recording industry is as credible as the one from the tobacco industry. I've read one independed research paper, and it concluded that there wasn't any large impact on music sales. The decline in music sales could just as easy be explained by the fact that the "format conversion" period, where people went from LPs to CDs and rebought their collection on a new format are over. The only group negatively affected, was the small artists (to my surprise, I've always thought they would benefit from the extra exposure).

Double standards
They expect people to follow the letter of the law all the time, but the record companies don’t apply the same standards to themselves. I did mention the illegal copy protection above, but I will also mention one more thing: YouTube. There is loads of copyright material on there, why isn't it shut down? Some of the major companies even have profiles on there and post material. Do you think the artist see any cash from that? Double standards indeed.

Anyway, my final word on this subject which also summarizes my thoughts about this is: I do see the need for record companies, but in case of money, my sympathy would always be with the artist. Especially the small ones, because there is where most of the interesting music is created.


*Copying a CD to a few close friends and family is actually legal as long as you do it for free.

Wilhelm said...

I hold the right to privacy quite high, and I see absolutely no special circumstances around file sharing that should allow a private company to break into people’s privacy. So I strongly object to the recording industry's attempt to dictate laws affecting file sharing.

I tend to agree, with the caveat that I think the record and movie industry lose way more money than the newspaper industry, which was all I set out to illustrate with this post. The record companies etc. are free to protect their business as long as they themselves don't break the laws in doing so. Luckily, the system has checks and balances for use against identifiable entities such as record companies should they break the law. Enforcing law when the perpetrators are small, more or les unknown cells is far more difficult. It's almost war vs. terrorism ;-)

And Forbrukerombudet in Norway agrees with me, and have called the copy protection on downloaded files and CDs that prevents people of doing that, illegal and demanded that the record companies/ stores removed it. And it seems that they are finally heard.

Cool - so the system works, right? It may be slow, but when the record companies break the law as in this example, then sooner or later they will have to yield.

A cassette tape and VHS tape would deteriorate in quality for each generation of copy. An mp3-file could be shared and copied without loss of quality.

This, together with Napster requiring users to register and sign off on some copyright agreements of their own was the reason those douches got shut down.

Newspapers are affected by this as well, because the sales number of paper-based news has declined. So Kjerstin actually has a good point comparing the news industry to the music industry: The news industry has handled this new technology way better then the music industry (which has chosen to sue their main target customers).

I never contested that newspapers also stand to lose revenue by people jacking their stuff. However, I disagree with those losses coming even close to what the record industry and Hollywood are experiencing. Unless you can poke some really large holes in my arguments above......

But sure; the newspaper industry appears to have coped better with the situation.

..and did I mention that the intended funny in the Guardian piece regarding the anacronistic name reflecting backwards thinking on the part of the organization was REALLY bad taste?

Although it is sort of irrelevant for the legality of file sharing if the record sales are damaged or not, I do object to a lot of the statistics from the record and movie industry.

The legality of file sharing is not affected by the magnitude of loss, but how grievous the crime is and what priority it is given by law enforcement is. Stealing a bike and gafflin' bags from old ladies are both illegal, yet one will (hopefully) be given a higher priority. Or maybe the example should be breaking into a tools shed vs. multiple home burglaries.

Regarding numbers, it is a well-known fact that 85.3% of all statistics are made up on the spot, but I think that if you compare the potential number of transgressions towards the newspaper industry relative to that of record companies and movie industry, and consider the cost of recording and publishing one movie or one song vs. a newspaper aricle.......

Anders said...

I think I have a bookmarked the link to the survey, but haven't got it here. Will try to look into it when I get back home. It does say that the record industry doesn't lose any money, which is quite contradictive to their claims (Small artist being the exception).

The point isn't whether the record industry looses money or not, it is that they use bad statistic to try laws that affects my privacy to pass. Sort of like the US using the "war against terrorism" as an excuse for the security staff at Gardermoen to fondle my groin every time I have to fly somewhere...

Anyway, I do think that the end of the story here is that the recording industry will adapt to the new technology, make money and stop these stupid chases after the file sharers (some interesting experiments have been done, like Radiohead making paying for their latest album optional). After all, it doesn't make sense to start a war against your target customers. Remember, we regulars in here are old geezers and not in the main target group anymore. The young ones are, which is also the group responsible for most of the downloading/ file sharing (since they have grown up with this option). And I do believe that most people would prefer to buy their music online and get great quality audio, and a hassle-free and quick access to the tunes.

Wilhelm said...

Sort of like the US using the "war against terrorism" as an excuse for the security staff at Gardermoen to fondle my groin every time I have to fly somewhere...

LOL...yes; the United States gov't spent years in the situation room sketching out elaborate schemes for how they could invest billions of USD to get high-school dropouts at Gardermoen to fondle you.

Good call, broski!

I have no doubt that their projected losses are padded. Which makes their numbers or budget projections equal to any other budget projection in the universe.

Anders said...

LOL...yes; the United States gov't spent years in the situation room sketching out elaborate schemes for how they could invest billions of USD to get high-school dropouts at Gardermoen to fondle you.

Actually, I blame it on my celebrity look-a-like. In some circles it gives a high status to have fondled a famous person...
;-)

Wilhelm said...

Man; there are so many ways in which the "celebrity-lookalike" thing can be bad for you when considering who the "celebrity" supposedly is.......

Still don't see it, though. Not at all, which - all things considered - is a good thing, right?