Dave Allen

We never read: a postscript to the Emily White fracas

posted by , 58 Comments

I’ve come to the conclusion, most likely long overdue and a massive generalization, that one can’t use the Internet to intelligently debate a topic. Especially when the subject of that topic is rabidly defended, whether right or wrong, by the subject’s supporters and one’s opponents. I now understand why Paul Krugman doesn’t respond to comments on his economics blog.

Case in point; my last post. I spent a week researching the topic and the ensuing debate around it, then another 12 hours pondering my response and a further 6 hours writing and editing said response. Within about 90 seconds of posting a link to my post on Twitter the first comment arrived. To say it was negative would be an understatement. That’s not what bothered me. What bothered me is that it would have taken far more than 90 seconds to read my post and the two others that I refer to. Online commenting is easy.

[An aside: the post I mention above was not gracefully presented and I am aware of it. Unfortunately the result was that the heart of the matter was overlooked by some, so the hailstorm of hate that I received in the comments that I had to delete was my own fault. The one's I left in only barely stick to the context and the topic.]

I know, I know, it looks like I’m whining but you can rest assured that I have no complaint here, so please don’t put words into my mouth in the comments area. I am under no illusion. We simply can no longer expect that anyone would give the time it takes to read three posts, digest everyone’s POV and then leave a smart comment or two behind. And commenters are even less likely to do so if two out of three of those posts doesn’t fit the prevailing worldview of what the former U.S. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, called “the nattering nabobs of negativism.’

I mention Paul Krugman above. He’s a particular hero of mine who I follow assiduously because he simply states the facts as they stand when compared to actual economic theory. Just today he wrote a post that includes this:

The type of macroeconomics Portes and I do offends conservative notions of how things are supposed to work in a capitalist society, so they reject the theory no matter how well it performs, and throw their support behind other views and other people no matter how badly they get it wrong.

I’d like to paraphrase that and move it into the context of my post about musicians versus the Internet:

The position I have taken on the Internet’s ultimate value to musicians offends musician’s notions of how things are supposed to work in a capitalist society, so musicians and their supporters reject the theory no matter how well it performs, and throw their support behind other views and other people no matter how badly they get it wrong.

Musicians are in business when they decide to sell their music and associated products like T-shirts. The Internet upended any notion that there will continue to be “business as usual.” It didn’t stop there; it has disrupted culture and society, human behavior and politics, arts and education and more. Markets have changed or disappeared; new markets must be found or created.

The Internet is the musicians best friend.

And now we have Mobile. I wonder if I dare write about that vis-á-vis musicians and their position on human behavior.


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  • Anthony Rue

    Another tell, backing up Rick’s point:

    Vivendi trots out the excuse that piracy is a market force that will keep in check the negative impact of additional consolidation. EU regulators: Not buying that one.


    “executives of the Universal Music Group will meet with members of the European Commission to discuss concessions to Universal’s $1.9 billion bid for EMI’s record labels.

    The deal, which would give Universal a global market share of about 40 percent, has been loudly criticized by rivals and consumer advocates, who worry that such concentration could hurt artists and fans.

    But for Universal and its parent company, the troubled French conglomerate Vivendi, a more immediate concern is that this week’s discussions will effectively set the value of the deal itself.

    When Universal bought EMI from Citigroup last November, the label assumed all regulatory risk in the deal, agreeing to pay more than 80 percent of the price by September, whether the deal was approved by regulators or not. (In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the deal.)

    The review in Europe has been tougher than expected, with regulators rejecting some of Universal’s core arguments, including its assertion that online piracy would keep the enlarged company in check.”

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  • http://www.north.com/author/dave-allen/ Dave Allen

    Why am I not surprised. All rather sad really..

  • Anthony Rue

    Today’s “Read Me” File, from the Wisconsin Law Review: Copyright and Innovation: The Untold Story, by Michael A. Carrier


    From Torrentfreak’s abstract of the paper:

    Nevertheless, some innovators didn’t give up, although when the labels were through with them many probably wished they had. The report details instances where innovators tried to get label approval but found themselves in extremely difficult situations.

    One recalled that the labels “don’t license you if you don’t have traffic” but once enough footfall is achieved then “they want to get paid for ‘infringement’ and the longer it takes to license you, the larger the ‘infringement’ number they can justify charging you.”

    Another described a litigation “Ponzi scheme” whereby settlements and other fees extracted from startups were used to fund the labels’ ongoing litigation strategy. However, like all Ponzi schemes there was a problem – maintaining momentum. “Once you stop suing new people there are no new settlements to pay for the ongoing litigation,” one interviewee reported.

    But the labels weren’t always unreceptive to new ideas – as long as they were bad ones. The report notes that the labels were happy to take “big, up-front fees” of “10, 20 million bucks” from startups they knew wouldn’t make it. Carrier reports that a leading officer from one label admitted that they would “cripple the companies by demanding such advances and guarantees that they go belly up.”

    Established services couldn’t make progress with the labels either, even when they did everything they could to avoid copyright issues. One, that boasted several million users and “interest from top-tier VCs – really the top of the top,” was also sued by the labels.

    “After they sued us, our opening offer to them was: ‘You guys made your point; we will charge anything you want to charge, and you can take any percentage you want to take,” a respondent reported. “It was literally an offer of a blank check.” The labels refused and said they wanted the service shut down instead.

    But for those who didn’t give in to the threats life could get very difficult, not just for their companies, but for them as individuals. The specter of personal liability often raised its head.

    One innovator was told by the labels that his company would be left alone but he would be sued personally instead. “We can make all kinds of allegations and it’s your job to prove you’re not infringing,” he was told, with the labels adding that the lawsuit would cost him “between $15m and $20m.”

    One of the respondents said it was “very scary” when the labels presented a “..multiple inch lawsuit for a couple billion bucks”, one with the potential to hang over his head for “the rest of [his] life.”

    The threats also extended to the families of innovators. One was told it was “too bad” he had children “..who are going to want to go to college and you’re not going to be able to pay for it.”

    Astonishingly, in some cases threats turned into actual violence. One respondent told Carrier about his experiences in the rap business of “people being physically intimidated” and “being hung out of windows.”

    The strength of the threats were augmented by the uncertainty inherent in copyright law. One innovator said it was like a protection racket or the way politics work in corrupt countries where everything is OK until it’s not OK.

    “You do what you want until one day you can’t and they come and your tail light’s broken.”

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