As one whose livelyhood and fortunes have gone from boom to bust over my lifetime, I can attest that living on the cutting edge of technology can disrupt fortunes and futures. As an individual of modest means, my only choice has been to adapt.
The power of basic computing and open networks has revolutionized and democratized. That has threatened the business of governmental tyranny and the big media oligarchy. They will use brute force to hold onto power rather than adapt to take advantage of new technology. The them, the lions share of a shrinking pie is preferable to a dominant position in a rising tide that lifts all fortunes.
New media author and self publishing pioneer Cory Doctorow presents a bleak reality that can only be overcome by the diligence of the average citizen.
After announcing that SOPA would be delayed until 2012, it’s hearing date and potential vote has been quietly rescheduled to 12/21/2011. While SOPA claims to help stop piracy, it also gives DHS even greater ability to act without due process. Even if that wasn’t a violation of the 4th amendment, DHS has a horrible record of abusing the power it already has. It’s time to once again call our representatives to remind them they are sworn by oath to protect the constitution.
More nanny state skullduggery on our Internet: check out who’s at the top of the SOPA’s author’s donor list.Then have a look at who’s been downloading!
Meet the most distracted generation as mobile data use explodes. Age demographic shows data usage peaks at 25-34 and declines with age.
Doing the only right thing to restore customer confidence: Sprint is the first wireless provider to ditch Carrier IQ.
An old tactic as a new trend? Buying new business in a very slow economy. Verizon offers $300 to competitors subscribers in the southern US to jump ship. Groupon burns some of it’s IPO cash trying to stay ahead of copycat offerings from Amazon and Ebay.
A few lucky souls in San Francisco will be getting uncapped 1GB broadband for about what most US cable subscribers pay for 30MB or less.
So the RIAA’s endless quest to shake down file sharers has improved the fortunes of impoverished musicians, right? Well, at least in 2009, that couldn’t have been farther from reality.
As a whole bunch of folks have been sending over, RIAA President Cary Sherman made $3.2 million in 2009
– the highest paid “non-CEO staffer who is a federally registered
lobbyist in a tax-exempt organization” by more than double. Meanwhile
Hypebot adds in the details
that Sherman’s official “boss,” RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol made “only” $1.6
million that year. Kinda makes you wonder what exactly the two of them
did that deserves that kind of cash. (Techdirt)
Surprised? Actually this is business as usual. The music industry always uses the impoverished artist as leverage for creating laws that protect it’s interests. With a very few rare exceptions, those interests have always been the suits rather than the performers.
While we’ve seen a renewed emphasis pay for performance, that’s really the way the business has operated since the time of minstrels singing for their supper. The recording industry’s biggest secret is that it is also based on the pay for performance model. Contrary to the myth it likes to perpetuate, the only money the majority of artists see from a recording is what they receive up front. In other words they are paid for the performance so the industry can resell a recording of it endlessly. Creative accounting assures that artist royalties from those sales are as rare as a #1 album.
I’m not advocating for theft. Unfortunately, theft is typically defined by those who can pay large have laws written in their favor. At this time intellectual property and artistic works are still owned by their creators until they sign them away. Thanks to a free and open Internet, artists no longer need a music label or publisher to distribute en mass. A growing number of them are no longer willing to assign their rights to a label, insuring that they will be the legal owner of any revenue from their work.
Big music keeps telling us that file sharing is to blame for the plight of starving recording artists. Even a significant number of high profile musicians have bought into the ruse. At the risk of repeating myself, while file sharing has helped erode industry revenues, the condition of the unpaid artist is as old is the industry itself. Sure a few megastars get big checks and big advances. The rest are typically victimized by creative accounting even if they don’t sign a one sided contract.
In keeping with standard operating procedure, the industry has been applying its traditional style of accounting to music downloads. This hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the numbers are big enough to attract the attention of the legal profession.
I want to be very conservative and so will assume that half the music distributed on iTunes is from catalog sales of artists with older label contracts, and the other half is from music distributed from sales of more newer artists. SoundScan numbers from last year show 648.5 million downloads of “catalog” singles in the US, meaning songs more than 18 months old, compared with 523 million for current tracks, so this seems like a very safe assumption. Using this quick and dirty math, the potential unpaid royalties to artists from just iTunes sales would be around $2.15 billion. Admittedly some of this money has already been paid to music publishers, so the number may be overstated somewhat, and could benefit from a finer accounting. But then again, existing iTunes downloads could be 80% based on catalog sales which would make the number much higher. So the amount is significant. (Future of Music)
A couple of decades ago, there would be no way to question label accounting with this level of specificity. Industry data available to anyone on the free and open Internet provided the third party audit trail that makes this suit likely to succeed.
The same internet transparency that enabled big music to hunt down file sharers may be the instrument of its demise. Is it time for recording artists to celebrate? Maybe. The big pay off in class action suits tends to go to the law firms that handle them. Assuming the Internet remains free and open, it may become simpler to seek legal remedies at a lower cost in the future.
That’s been our opinion here at Third Pipe. The MPAA and RIAA have worked in concert with the other two biggest threats – the federal government and the legal profession to create an environment that has nearly crippled home grown American innovation. With the feds busily creating the India and China threat meme, even the big government loving Harvard Business Review has seen the light:
One of the greatest threats to the US’s ability to innovate lies within: specifically, with the music and movie business. These Big Content businesses are attempting to protect themselves from change so aggressively that they risk damaging America’s position as a world leader in innovation. Many in the high technology industry have known this for a long time. Despite making their living relying on it, the Big Content players do not understand technology, and never have. Rather than see it as an opportunity to reach new audiences, technology has always been a threat to them. (Harvard Business Review)
The relationship between big media and lawmakers has never been closer. If you need recent proof consider Former Senator Chris Dodd’s soft landing at the MPAA. Dodd championed the MPAA’s cause with reckless disregard for the larger business community during his tenure in the senate. Lawmakers have consistently backed ever more draconian copyright laws. Claiming to be aimed at piracy, these laws have made anyone who copies a DVD movie that they have purchased on to an ipod a criminal.
Big media’s management seems to be more interested in setting up endless toll booths to collect incremental income every time media changes format or location. Oddly enough, it’s the very technology it attacks that has enabled it to implement these tollbooths to some degree. What big media fails to understand is that a lower sell price in more outlets for product that costs nothing to replicate equals more revenue. It’s much easier to claim we need more laws to protect us from Indian and Chinese boogeymen.
But what about that political offshore pirate meme? Is lax intellectual property enforcement in foreign lands putting us at a disadvantage? Absolutely, just to a lesser degree than big media. There’s no reason the offshore problem couldn’t be largely eliminated. It would require playing hardball with trading partners, just like they do with us. That would benefit the broadest range of American businesses by leveling the playing field a bit. But, playing hardball with other countries is generally not in the best interest of big multinationals like GE, Disney and Sony – who also just happen to have significant big media holdings. Therein lies the real problem. It’s called crony capitalism.