::going too fast can be good for you::

Monday, August 04, 2003
  Speakers' Corner
Another hot Sunday in London yesterday, passing by the fun but too-crowded London Red Bull Flugtag to celebrate my birthday (today) with some friends, and cycling past I saw for the first time in a while all the polemicists, demagogues and religious preachers who come out to the Marble Arch corner of Hyde Park every week. It is easy to forget how lively the debates can be, and the character and eccentricity of some of the speakers reminds one of the ideal Habermasian public sphere for political debate, of the polis, the ideal of spoken argument and politics. Among others, the marxists were out in form, as well as an silent old bearded chap with no listeners with a placard reading:
"Christian Atheism: Find Christianity without God".

Speaker's Corner is a wonderful, diverse, a fascinating attraction. Please go and visit, exhort, argue. Yet passing by reminds me of a troubling aspect of this often earnest political spectacle. That is exists is a wonderful thing; a space, but don't most of us see it more as entertainment than a real political forum where we can make a difference?

Perhaps this is what the internet does for politics too? It is a space, but mostly it is powerless unless there are many other contextual factors at work. That there is a space for debate does not mean that space will work in opening up real active seeds of change. The existence of a useful, global forum such as the Net may be necessary for open debate in the modern age, just as perhaps Speaker's Corner was in the 19th Century, but as with speaker's corner, the internet's existence is not sufficient in itself for opening up democracy and accountability.


Friday, August 01, 2003
  The Choices: Digital rights, music and the recording industry
Hello World.

OK, my new Blog: first post is on a seminar at a PhD summer school I'm currently attending at Oxford Internet Institute on digital music rights, hosted by John Palfrey from the Berkman Law School at Harvard (who host and write blogs too.

John, who's managed to blog a note about the session already, suggested five scenarios, or directions music rights might go in the future. We also added two extra from Nimrod Kozlovski, a fellow summerschool student studying at Yale.

When reading them, he asked us to think:
1. What kind of further information would you need to know about these 5 possible scenarios in ofrder to make an informed position
2. Methodologies: if we can identify the information we need as policymakers in this, what is a good methodology to get hold of it?
Please COMMENT yourselves on these scenarios. I will be adding some of our comments as you post your replies.

1. No Change to the status quo: keep the present unease, lack of clarity. Maybe move further downthe iTunes road.
2. Taking Property Rights seriously – I create therefore I own: IP shifts away from the current balance between a) rewarding creativity, innovation; and b) contributing to the public good. The shift would reverse recent trends from a) towards more b),a nd back to a).
(Hodcomment: Some less-conservative commentators might complain that this doesn't reward creativity as much as it rewards big record and distribution companies to strengthen their economic rent-taking.)
3. Explore technological defences to piracy. EG. DRM technologies. Watermarking, encryption, and sue. Spoofing, putting out fakes on the P2P network. Sending messages to P2P filseharers on the network to cease and desist
4. Music as a Public Utility – Regulate the way that public good is provided in the market. Esp where an oligopoly / natural monopoly is involved, such as the music business. Eg for comparison: Electricity company regulation., or making flat pricing. Or Clamp down on what the content providing industry can do. EG anti-media concentration.
5. Tax + Royalty/Compulsory Licensing Scheme. Tax providers of services on the front end. EG ISPs, hardware manufacturers, blank media/disk manufacturers. Count the no. of times people use any form of downloaded media, and redistribute the proceeds in proportion. Have a tech. system to survey how many times people listen to the songs. Prof. Fisher. Stream as 1, download as 150.. But, some people get less – Recording industry doesn’t like it. They get CD and sold media money, but have no control over how much money they get from online sales, as it's distributred centrally according to stats, not marketing or competitive pricing. This is option a. Tax proportionately option b) is a levy, which is a flat rate tax, which avoids the redistribution problem.
6. No copyright at all: To make money you have to perform it. You can’t sell it leveraged across a medium. You have to show up and do the graft.
7. Public-sector storage and dissemination of copyright material. (done a little in Israel). Government builds a central archive, where they can’t censor: people have access. Access could be reliable, easier, and is cheaper, as you don't need blank media. Administratively easier than 5. Something like 4: brings government into the loop.

During the discussion I came up with another, which John suggested should be option 8. I'll be writing a paper on this when I get the time.

8. You can only make money on new songs and songs you haven't made a lot of money on. For this, you must shorten copyright time for songs which have gone platinum or which have made N amount of money for the artist (enough to incentivise the musicians). Then once they've made a shedload of cash from the song, copyright automagically expires so they HAVE to perform it live - and write MORE songs!!!
This means that unsuccessful or young, new, niche artists still receive their money, but once your song becomes mega-successful, you make a lot of money, up to a point, so then everybody can share the love. You then capitalise on your new chart / reputation fame by performing!. Artists make a lot of money still, but not from copyright, which is mostly economic rent for the record label in any case.
In other words, you are a) reducing copyright terms for popular works and b) making artists perform and create more music.
This may well have the added side-benefit of stopping established artists getting tooo lazy.
This one is a version of 6 which is less extreme.

Top marks to Dr PAlfrey for cunningly using us to see if we might have some thoughts which might further research in this arena!

So, I'll post our responses to these questions while you post your responses here, and the discussion will on... has moved to guess where...:: ::communication : networks : information : music : mayhem : streetluge::

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