Monday, April 02, 2007

iTunes + EMI

This is good news: reports that iTunes will soon list the Beattles songs. The price of these songs will be $1.29. I think the price is outrageous; however, I would love to see elastic prices on iTunes. The idea that every song is worth the same price ($0.99) is ridiculous. Price elasticity is one of the primary components of the free market. I would love to see this market get to the point where we had different media coming at us from different channels (with artists and studios having enough control over distribution that the market doesn't devolve into a free for all where artists are incapable of selling their wares.)

I do not believe you can derive a perfect copyright law from the aether. Markets really need the flexibility to experiment with different ideas. The Napster ideal was that, if you could get your hands on media, you should be able to republish it. Napster destroyed the flexibility to experiment with different pricing schemes. All music, movies and media would become free the moment someone republished the music by dragging it into their Napster directory.

The pendulum swung to excessively restrictive DRM. Hopefully, we can find a sane balance where common sense fair use restrictions apply. The interest has created a situation where we are all publishers ... however, we should have respect for the creators of content.

Apparently part of the reason for the $1.29 price is that the EMI songs will have a higher quality and not include DRM. It is great that we are seeing groups differentiate their products on multiple levels.

In this regard I actually prefer the Movielink model to iTunes. MovieLink includes two levels for their products. You can "rent" a movie online. A rented movie automatically deletes itself after a set period of time. You pay more and buy a movie. You get to keep the bought movie forever. It still has the hassles of DRM.

AD: Speaking of downloading movies (ahem) You can download Monk. Monk is the first show since Get Smart that is worth watching.


Reach Upward said...

Widespread self enforcement of respect of creators' content can occur only in a moral society. The less moral a society is, the more compulsion is required to keep it in line.

In today's world where cheating in schools is epidemic and worship of individual desire allows almost anything to be justified, do we have enough people willing to deal honestly when content transfer is easy?

y-intercept said...

I agree that our system of individual freedom is premised on people having a strong personal ethic.

I disagree with the statement that our problems are the result of "worship of individual desire." When you look at cultural phenomena like Napster, you find that the issue was driven largely by a desire to define a new group identity. Music sharing is a hip counterculture culture

The pro-IP people are generally individuals who don't want their stuff (their individual creations) to be subsumed by the public domain.

The people who threw hundreds of hours to republish their parent's record collection on the net weren't doing it for money. They were doing so from a sense of altruism and for the glory of being part of the group identity.

The ethics of a Robbin Hood world gets weird. Robbin Hood defines altruism as the greatest ethic. Property rights are an illusion; so taking stuff from artists and giving it to the people is the greatest ethical act ever conceived by man. Robin Hood sees property rights as a sin against the peoples.

It is the pro IP side that is driven by respect for the individual.

Reach Upward said...

We all romanticize over the myth of Robin Hood and similar do-gooders that go about righting all of the wrongs and challenging the despotism of the status quo. But how can the rights of the individual be respected when the individual's right to the product of her/his genius and hard work (property) is not respected?

This is the illusion of the communal system where everything belongs to everyone. In this system, incentives for individuals to create new content diminish, ultimately creating a high demand-low supply situation. This will happen even if it is undertaken with the most altruistic of aims.

I agree that it is nearly impossible to develop good IP law that adequately addresses the needs of both the producers and the consumers, especially in light of frequent technological advances that change the equation. In grad school I went into my IP course (taught by a practicing IP attorney) with black and white ideas and came out with muddled grey ideas, due to the system's inherent inequities and inflexibility.

Despite the failings of human nature, your proposed solution seems to be superior to what we have today.

y-intercept said...

Speaking of copyright, Professor Lee A. Hollaar of the U offers a great resource on digital law. It is a very muddled area.

IMHO One of the reasons that debate is so shrill these days is that groups have worked to transform society by redefining morality. Of course the same charge can be leveled at the classical liberals who turned the feudal order upside down by emphasizing individual rights.

It is not so much that people are less moral these days as it is the fact that our intelligensia has defined a new morality where doing mean things to others is standard day to day business.