Bringing P2P in from the cold
Chris Castle catches up with El Reg
Interview Attorney Chris Castle has worked for the original Napster ("one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century"), Snocap and in digital licensing for Sony and A&M. In the first installment of our annual catch-up, he wondered whether Google may have annoyed so many rights holders that it's rethinking its strategy. Here, he talks about how he tried to bring P2P in from the cold at Napster, then Snocap.
Has the rhetoric changed much recently? Ten years ago everybody knew structure of the music business would change - particularly the role of intermediaries. But every day I read somebody say that any copyright intermediary between the artist and the public is evil?
That's a very 1999 view of the world. It's true record companies were the voice of the music industry once. But as more and more artists are owning the copyright to their sound recordings, and are entering this world of taking on more responsibility of distributing their own works, the “Them” is “Us” now.
It's not quite so easy for the self-appointed consumer advocates to trash copyright owners any more, because the world has changed. It was easy for the “consumer” groups to go after the record companies, that is very well-trodden ground for consumer groups accustomed to dealing with exploding cars and asbestos. They tried to apply those same tactics to music because the “advocates” saw a huge audience they could try to attract to their cause and politicize.
Some Internet messiahs tried to do the same from a commercial point of view—remember the “MP.com Manifesto”? If you read that now, it’s quite striking how similar some of these attacks are to that Manifesto. You see remnants of those tired old canards on certain email lists and academic ruminations.
It’s becoming increasingly common for individual artists to own their own works. Artists are waking up to what's being done to them online. I have artist clients who are mystified that Megaupload and Rapidshare are selling their stuff - like in a classic counterfeiter model. These sites take their recordings, sell downloads, keep the money, and don't even think about paying you. Many are conveniently located in countries that don’t care much about IP rights and it is very hard to use legal means to stop them.
This is also, of course, why the so-called “fifth principle” of the FCC’s “Net Neutrality” rules is so absurd — if you can’t “discriminate” between illegal and legal content, what does “nondiscrimination” even mean, and how in the world will an individual artist afford the adjudication necessary to determine whether content is legal or illegal?
This is the job of collectives and intermediaries. Arguing that “Big Music” is somehow anti-consumer is quite a bit different than arguing that “Big Pharma” is anti-consumer. “Big Music” has its flaws, but it actually represents people. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, MCPS-PRS, SACEM, GEMA—all these organizations represent songwriters. “Big Pharma” represents stockholders, not creators.
Another thing that happens to artists who get further and further into doing it themselves is that they often find themselves spending more and more time with the business of music and less and less time with the music.
It’s each artist’s decision when, if and which intermediaries they want to align themselves with — but if they do, I think that decision should be respected. Otherwise it’s like telling workers they can’t have unions because “Big Labor” is anti-consumer. You don’t see people stealing from Tesco because they object to “Big Labor”. Why should they be able to steal music because they object to Big Music?
Not everyone follows Professor Lessig's every word. At In The City in Manchester one manager was hearing the Pirate arguments for the first time. He couldn't believe someone was standing in front of him advocating copyright reduced to five years.
I think that Dick Augustsson aka Rick Hawkwing (or anyone else) talking a five-year copyright is kind of a joke. We have a five-minute copyright, now. That's how long it takes for something to be burned and put on a P2P network — and you’ll never get it completely off that network. Copyright can be five or 5000 years, it doesn't really matter. The actual term is five minutes.
Next page: "'Bollocks' I believe is the word?"
"I have artist clients who are mystified that Megaupload and Rapidshare are selling their stuff - like in a classic counterfeiter model. These sites take their recordings, sell downloads, keep the money, and don't even think about paying you."
That's because these site sell storage space and bandwidth, Rapidshare certainly has a policy of not allowing you to use them for copyright material and I do know that they will suspend access to anything they're informed about very quickly (often within half an hour), then delete it after 7 days if the uploader cannot prove rights.
I think they even suspend accounts for repeated infringements.
What next? Is Shell responsible for bank robberies because they sell fuel that's used in getaway vehicles?
Oh, and if you want my sympathy you can put away the kiddie pr0n and snuff video bogeymen - save them for the Daily Fail.
Fact is consumers are crying out for a new model that delivers much better value and convenience for them, but all we've seen so far is a lot of rhetoric and apparent price fixing that got a lot of the providers into trouble in the 90's and no-one willing to try any of the ideas that are out there.
'cmon guys, try /something/ FFS.
All I want from "Big Music" . . .
Seriously. All I want from Big Music is for them to realize that $20+ for a new CD is not worth it.
I'll pay that for a concert DVD, but not for a studio CD.
The other problem is that they can't sell me "modern" acts. Despite all the abuse I have heaped upon myself over the years, the one thing I will NOT subject myself to is modern rock.
Personally, I don't want a new distribution model - I just want a new pricing scheme, especially for 15+ year old albums.
Mine's the one with the cassette release of Dark Side Of The Moon shedding it's ferrous coating all over the inside of the pocket.
"rob people of performance rights"
Well, the sentence is absurd by definition: what is proposed is to change the "rights" and give people a 14-years exclusive right to something that he can't possibly "own" (no, you don't "own" the song you composed, you "own" the copyright onto it).
You "rob" someone of something when you take it illegally, not when you advocate a law that defines in one way or another what belong to whom.
That the first abusrdity, on the terms used.
But of course, AC, the most stupid part of your comment is not on the terms used. You should try and remember that copyright is NOT property. It is an EXCEPTION to the normal rule which is that ideas are not property.
It is an EXCEPTION that was created for the very clear and documented purpose of HELPING innovation. Creating an incentive to create.
IN NO WAY was copyright ever meant as a fundamental right (as opposed to what our interviewee pretends to believe) for anyone, but as a NECESSARY EVIL to push people into creating.
Read the Founding Fathers about this.
As a consequence, the question when considering a 14-years or life+50-years copyright should never be a question of interest of the artist, but of interest of the population: which copyright duration is best to encourage creation while putting as many things as possible in the public domain.
If we could experiment with the world, the way to go, the way the Founding Fathers would have gone, would be to try every possible copyright duration, see if creation is helped or hindered, and choose the SHORTEST possible duration that does not exceedingly impedes creation.
So the question here is: would there be significantly less creation if exclusive rights to the creation was assured for only 14 years?
This should never be a question of ideology, and anyone who transforms this issue into ideology misses the whole point of copyright.
This should be a question of simple efficiency.
For instance, do many people think drug patents should last "life" (say, even just 30 years) plus 70 years just like the copyright on Mickey Mouse?
That would be obviously completely stupid, drug companies don't need 100 years to make a return on investment, and consequently, the patent does not last that long.
Why do people who are not in the least passionate about the question of 14 or 100 years patent for drug companies get histerical when one talks about a 14 years copyright for music?
If I invent a drug, I'll be the only one to make it for only a few years, though I probably deserve rewards from society more than if I write a single, bad song. So why should an artist get life + 70 years?