Wednesday, 29 July 2009

So piracy is killing the music and movie industries?

The MPAA and RIAA (and their various non-USA equivalents) are famous for claiming that piracy (tapes, DVDs, digital downloads, etc) are "killing the [music/movie] industry".

Apart from the fact that these industry bodies (with a strong vested interest) have been claiming this ever since the introduction of 8-track tapes in the 1960s (and yet still the MPAA/RIAA lurch onward, living hand-to-mouth in their luxury penthouses, and somehow barely scraping by with continuing exponential growth ever since they first started making these claims), there's another problem with their claim:

The very day our culture stops producing popular music, television, news reports, novels, movies or art I will agree that "something needs to be done", about the expectation of free access, and would support instituting some sort of internet-wide micropayments system.

In fact, scratch "stops producing", and replace it with "noticeably slows production of". In fact, screw it all; scratch even that and instead substitute "stops continually increasing production of popular music, television, news reports, novels, movies or art".

Until then, commentary like this is simply worrying the sky will fall because you don't have the wit or imagination to develop new business models not based around repressive monopolies and artificial scarcity.

We had music as a species for long before we had trade bodies like the MPAA and RIAA around, and we'll have music long afterwards, too. The only difference is that in those times there wasn't an enormous, fat, unnecessary middle-man sat square between the artist and the audience, raking in cash hand over fist from both sides.[1]

If newspapers start to die because they can't afford to give away their on-line content for free then they'll stop doing it, people's expectations will change, and they'll start paying for subscriptions.

Although I hate to sound like a (big-L) Libertarian, the market will sort this one out just fine if left to its own devices.

Claims that "music/movies" or "news" will die are really worries about the deaths of "the RIAA/MPAA" or "some news organs unable to adapt to the changing conditions".

Obviously, however, the thought that bloated dinosaurs who refuse to adapt to the technological advancement of our species might go extinct doesn't really bother people.

Hansom cab drivers were pretty pissed off at the idea of the motor-car, but they didn't form industry bodies and try to ban cars or trains. And now - a hundred or more years a later - aren't we really fucking glad they didn't?


[1] And although we didn't have movies for anything like as long, ever-cheaper video recording equipment, the increasing popularity of sites like Youtube and the ability of even basic modern desktop computers to create high-quality special effects shows that even high-quality movies aren't out of reach of the talented amateur.