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When Copies Are Abundant, Sell Uncopyable Things  (View post)

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
15 years ago3,842 views

Kevin Kelly is correct, for sure. You can get water out of the tap essentially for free, yet there's still an enormous amount of money to be made by selling water in bottles. Absolutely the same would apply to digital goods in a world without copyright laws.

The action of making an electronic copy of, say, a song involves no additional effort from the original creator of the work. But an autographed CD? Sure, those always sell well. A high-resolution DVD with sumptuous artwork like those we used to get with vinyl albums? Sure, that's not currently easy to copy and will sell well.

Patronage? It doesn't need to be only the fans who are paying. Steve Jobs might pay well for a band to perform a new song for the first time at his keynote. A philanthropic person might make a large donation in return for being publicly identified as the person who made the music possible (this happened all the time with classical music before copyright laws existed).

Live performances are always going to be popular, and that has an interesting effect on the economics of music – it reduces the inequality between the earnings of the superstars and the talented but less mass-market musicians (because they are both constrained by the number of people who can fit into the venues, even though the more mass-market performer can book a somewhat bigger venue and charge more).

And even in a world of free, limitless copying there is still going to be a lucrative market for guaranteed original, easy-to-find-and-buy, properly tagged, authorized electronic music. The only thing the industry needs to be afraid of is their fear of change.

The sooner it happens, the better.

Douglas Gresham [PersonRank 1]

15 years ago #

The major barrier preventing it happening is of course the record labels; they've got the money and control through the distribution chain (ie by controlling the scarcity of the music), which doesn't apply with the free music model. While artists, writers and consumers would win, they would be the losers – there are other ways they could make their cut, sure, but none that afford them the power and control they enjoy now.

What's most disappointing is that much legislation has been put in place to preserve their outdated business model and levels of control. Still, something has to give at some point.

Hashim Warren [PersonRank 4]

15 years ago #

Another generative that can be charged for is Community. You can give away content for free, then charge users to be in the "fan club"

/pd [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Todays world is based on the attention and intention economies. The former is driven by "Good Will" and the later "Trust".

The laws as we currently needs to be changed and part of that change is the various licenses that are springing up- GPL, CC etc etc.

Joshua Slive [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

Interesting post.

One factual error in an example: Apache (The Apache Software Foundation) does not offer paid support. It is a not-for-profit foundation that produces software in the public interest. There are, however, lots of companies that do offer paid support for Apache Software (Covalent, IBM, Redhat, etc).

MH [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

You can copy trust, this is exactly what professional counterfeiters do when they produce fake Windows boxes, fake watches, fake medicine etc.

It's all about copying trademarks and thus getting customers to trust your goods more than they otherwise would.

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

[put at-character here]Roger Browne: "[...] You can get water out of the tap essentially for free [...]"

Hardly free... we (who are fortunate enough to live in rich-infarstructure countries) pay for the privilege of clean --but also by design neutral/no-taste-- tap water out of our taxes. We *CONSUME* bottled mineral/ water essentially out of vanity, and overbundance. There are no analogies with parallell-track distribution of copyrighted products/services.

Micropayments, had they been priced corectly AND implemented inside/per spec of/ the very first NeXTStep www browser of TBL's (and subsequent Mosaics, etc) *might* have provided the route for some distribution of www content's intellectual value, but that ship has sailed long ago into the dark. So now we're dealing with a Balkanized web where practically every digital content owner sets his own idiot prices, and no solution is in sight. I suppose in time, after last traditional record (etc) companies have disappeared, an infrastructure for distribution of such "untangible" goods will come into being. Not unthinkably one built alongside flatrate monthly subscription, rather than Appleish piecemeal approach (for which, alas, there are suckers born every day).

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Ian[put at-character here]: Water IS essentially free (in rich-infrastructure countries, as you say). Mine costs under a Pound (two Euros) per thousand litres, and that covers all the costs for the supplier to make it available. Yet the supermarket sells hundreds of bottles a day at 50 pence (one Euro) per litre.

There IS an analogy with music, and it's a pretty direct one. If, as you say, people will buy bottled water out of vanity, then those people will also buy commercial music out of vanity (essentially, paying for how the product is packaged rather than for what the package contains). It's not always for vanity, of course. Sometimes it's for convenience, and there will always be people whose time is valuable, and who will pay for getting the music they want rather than messing around finding a free source.

All of Kevin Kelly's generatives (and some that he hasn't thought of) would drive the commercial success of music if it was market-driven rather than litigation-driven.

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Roger, we put different weights into/behind words – water, in whatever shape, is a commodity that is also a necessity. Bottled water in supermarkets is a luxury; elsewhere it may or may not supersede, or be a different distribution method for the commoditious [tap] water. Ergo either necessity or superfluous.

All of _recorded/duplicable_ music, etc, one could even say all of man's intellectual "ouvre" is, however, luxury. How much we'd like to think it necessary for survival, ie. perpetuation of the human species, it plays little rĂ´le in that (please spare us lame ANECDOTAL "evidence" to the contrary, ye budding replicants ;-)).

Food, shelter, sleep are necessities; everything else is contingent, including these metaphysics.

# "All of Kevin Kelly's generatives (...) would drive the commercial
# success of music if it was market-
# driven rather than litigation-driven."

"Market" in a Marxist sense; the capitalists define it, alas, differently.

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

"Market" in a libertarian sense. When a government hands out favours to select industry groups, that's not a market, for sure.

richard wright [PersonRank 0]

15 years ago #

so...there is a lot of money out there still waiting to be made!!!!all coming from people's capacity of desire-thinking!however,as some wisdom words are saying not all of us are able to watch things as they happen some of us can only see them happening!

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

> Food, shelter, sleep are necessities; everything else is
> contingent, including these metaphysics.

If you're talking about humans, then what about human warmth and some forms of communication? Even feral childs, which you might say are more animal-like than human-like and thus not fit above definition, receive animal care which is already above food, shelter and sleep, no? And aren't animals deprived of animal care sometimes dying at young age, due to lack of social interaction? And doesn't sensory deprivation lead to a human becoming unhumanlike because they are becoming mad? (I'm not trying to argue any side in the bottled water/ music copyright discussion, by the way.)

Ianf [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Granted, Philipp, the *bare necessities for survival* list is a bit extreme, yet still broad in a sense that "food" also comprizes "air"; and "shelter" may cointain both social networks and fashion – the latter a subcategory of the former called, perhaps, "need for differentiation among instances of the Hominid species" ;-))

Still, on a purely theoretical level, these three ARE the life's necesities; while the rest of your, --and mine: I'm not entirely inhuman-- "intangibles" are optional.

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