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The Mysterious Sale of Copies Despite Free Downloads · Wednesday January 07, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Too many people remain mystified that an MP3 that is free to copy or download can still become the best selling album, i.e. Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails.

That is a quandary that results from the copyright inculcated tradition of conflating the copy with the art. This is why people have so much difficulty figuring out why people pay for that which they can get for nothing.

So, let’s separate the copy from the art:

  • Those who value the art should pay the artist.
  • Those who value the copy should pay the printer.

There will thus remain a residual market for valued souvenir/collectible copies, e.g. vinyl.

However, in the digital domain the Internet is dissolving the idea that the art (and the commission to the artist) is bound with the copy.

We should then recognise that art should be released from the impotent shackles of copyright, changing from black to white a free market in the production and distribution of copies – distinct from the production and publication of the art.

Why should the artist receive a royalty from someone else’s hard labour in producing a copy?

Let the artist be paid for their art, not the production of copies.

The difficulty facing audiences today is figuring out how they can pay the artist for their art, given they don’t need to pay them (or anyone else) for copies.

For example, if you’ve already downloaded the MP3 copy for free, but want to pay the artist for their art, why also pay Amazon for a copy you don’t need? Why should Amazon get a cut of the money the audience wants to pay solely to the artist?

Steve R. said 3725 days ago :

This morning I was reading “Why People Don’t Believe In Paying For Music. Hint: Its All About Deflation.” on Against Monopoly, but didn’t come up with anything to really say. Your post raises a very real issue, we have continued to buy CDs, even though we are conflicted over it. I was particularity perturbed about paying $30 (20 Pounds, if I did that correctly) for a 40 year old Beatles Album!

Anyway, with the internet, the artists can now bypass the publisher. But then obsolete business models sputter on (out of tradition) for many years before expiring.

Crosbie Fitch said 3724 days ago :

Yes, I read that.

While there are savings due to technology in many walks of life, there’s a bit of a Parkinson’s law that means the same amount of labour is involved, it’s just that the product improves.

I think that by far the biggest factor in the decreasing price for copies is the fact that everyone can make their own, and thus an ever increasing number will refuse to pay the monopoly price and pay the black market price instead (<1%).

What hasn’t changed (despite technology) is the labour cost in the production of the art and the market value of the art. We can all make our own copies, but we still need to pay the artists we like to produce their art that we like.

Even though publishers will fight tooth and nail to prevent being disintermediated from the artist->publisher->retailer->audience value chain, artists will start selling their art to their audiences directly – given the market for copies has ended (or at least the monopoly protected copy market).

Publishers with any brain cells still working will adapt, which means getting out of the market for copies and into the the market for art. Suing artists’ audiences to punish disrespect of their copy monopoly is not the answer.

I look forward to intermediaries that can help audiences pay artists for their art, rather than for copies they don’t actually need.



 

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