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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Copyright v. Right to Copy (cont’d…)

Posted by direwolff on October 15, 2004

It’s worth checking out a summary of the program to see who the speakers were and what they’re planning to speak about. Suffice it to say, the focus was on “Intellectual Property and the Artists’ Rights in the World of Technology”. Yep, another music industry bashing with perhaps only one real, but weak defender, in the form of Neil Potrow, prez of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (you know, the Grammy people).

So I took basic notes that are already looking like gibberish to me, but hopefully there’ll be some assemblance of something worth remembering here. I’ll place them in bullet form as I wrote them. Hoepfully, I haven’t bastardized the speakers’ comments too badly.

Ken Hertz (KH):
– KH started out by stating that the Copyright clause of the Constitution was supposedly intended to promote the arts and sciences by providing exclusive rights to the creators.

– But was really in the framers’ mind is tough to say.

– International treaties and industry lobbying has watered down much of the original concepts here.

– KH’s assertion is that Copyright law was intended for the middleman, not the creators of the works. The creators needed a way to license distribution rights and hence why this ownership mechamism was created.

– The intention of the framers may have made sense 250 yrs ago, but it’s no longer reasonable.

– The entertainment industry has focused on capturing and owning the distribution channel, where they don’t own the works.

– The entertainment industry is moving towards change kicking and screaming.

– Technology is a positive thing, but artists still need to get paid.

Bob Leftsetz (BL):
– BL doesn’t understand why the major labels are keeping the status quo on P2P distribution, as they could stomp a lot harder on this if they really wanted to.

– The music industry is run like a mafia cartel.

– The Net is the worse thing that ever happened to the record industry.

– Like the major TV broadcast networks, who’s market share dropped from 90% to 32% with the advent of cable, the same will happen to the major music labels because of the Net and satellite radio.

– This is all good for the artists. Those artists that fought Napster, like Metallica, had never used a computer and don’t understand what is happening.

Thomas Dolby (TD):
– TD doesn’t care about the industry, only the music and the fans are important.

– The middleman is now much less relevant in getting one’s music out.

– Technology moves much faster than the legislative process.

– Technology is not playing the traditional role of middleman, but rather being a facilitator for artists and fans to find each other.

– It used to be that artists had to use the labels because of their lock on distribution channels (ie. they own the store shelves at CD retailers), but with the Net, that’s now changing.

– While lots of constituencies here are pissed off, for the artists it feels good to be liberated from the controls of the major labels.

Right after Neil Potrow’s (NP) intro statement, KH made a statement about NP not being able to be objective because of the sponsorship issues between the major labels and his organization. This started a mini debate where NP said that this wasn’t true and KH reminded him that one of his clients just paid some big bill from The Grammys for promotional efforts.

– BL makes the point that Copyright protection isn’t for the artists, it’s for the major labels.

– BL further points out that more money is being made by more people, more artists are creating music they wouldn’t have ever been able to get paid for or been able to do previously, and more labels are making more money than ever before. So the arguments that P2P is eating their cake are bunk. It’s enabling more economic transactions and opportunities than ever before in history.

– BL tells the story of U2, who’s album was compromised when someone leaked it a song from it on the Net. He explains that U2 deserves no sympathy at the fact that they have such devoted audience that would be willing to get their music early and before it was completed. Afterall, how is it a problem that they now have to release the album early because of public outcry.

– BL states further that the release of music over P2P networks has not only created great exposure for artists (cites Hank Barry as an example of someone who’s done well here) and labels, and many have made more money on their CD sales as a result. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to artists.

– BL & TD agreed that artists have the potential of becoming celebrities and making the kind of money that professional baseball athletes are making.

– KH believes that 5 to 6 branded artists will release new music direct to their fans on the Net this year. NP chimed in that they’ll make less money however.

– KH also passed on the stat that 250 artists out of thousands released last year sold more than 10K albums. Hence, why the opportunity for more artists to get exposre is so high.

– BL stated that teenagers are already not listening to the radio. The youth audience has already changed its music consumption habbits and the music industry is not paying attention.

– According to BL, Sirius and XM satellite radio, are already set to become more successful than CDs this year. GM cars will come with XM radio included and the price of their service will get tacked on to the vehicle lease price.

– BL questions, why not license P2P technologies to all ISPs and have them pay the per subscriber fees.

– BL doubts that satellite radio will exclipse what happened with Napster because of archaic regulations that affect satellite content delivery.

– NP said that National Academy of Recording Arts and Science are investigating all of the alternative distribution strategies.

– KH believes that the industry misfocused their energy on prevention rather on monetization of these new opportunities.

– KH further states that the state of the law will never catch up with the technology. It’s not about the law, it’s about the economics.

– NP brought up the fact that Ray Charles’ album at Starbucks is selling very well, in part because it’s a more pleasant and condusive environment in which to buy music. BL however, quickly chimed in that Starbucks selling 30 CDs/day is like talking about what color ribbon to use on an IBM typewriter. That’s not where the revolution will is. The Starbucks phenomenon is purely tied to baby boomers who get their coffee there. As soon as they start buying online the Starbucks model is dead.

– BL believes we have to keep the fight going against the major labels because they can buy off government and stall change.

– TD brought up the fact that there are some new interesting P2P companies, WEED and Snowcap (Shawn Fanning’s new company), which invite people to pay for artists’ works and encourage good behavior.

During general comments and answers to long-winded questions (like one of mine ;-), interesting comments included:

– Superstar artists versus new artists will have different things to gain from the new medium and technologies. There will be a Howard Stern of the music industry that will release directly to the Net this year.

– New music filterers/toll collectors could be folks like Pepsi or Nokia.

– Most people are now trying to figure out how in a world of unlimited choice, will they be able to find the music they want/like.

It was definitely an entertaining evening and the perspectives put across by the panelists were worthwhile hearing and understanding.

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