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Streaming/Downloading Sophistry/Duality · Wednesday August 20, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Ian Betteridge is bothered.

He’s immensely irritated by those ‘assholes’ who give good businesses grief by being big and clever – or not.

In this case, the business suffering from grief – in the form of RIAA’s litigious attention – is Muxtape, an online service that simulates the liberty we used to enjoy in recording great music from the radio receiver or Gramophone records onto Compact Cassette tapes in the privacy of our own homes.

Fortunately, some kind coders realised they could greatly improve the service by enabling people to actually make recordings, rather than just pretend they did. There is no harm in this, after all, Muxtape remains unaffected. The same information is sent to users as normal, it’s just that thanks to neat scripts the users actually get to hold the cassette tapes they so lovingly made in their grubby little hands. The digits in their digits, as it were.

So, strangely, just because of this user enhancement, completely beyond the control of Muxtape, the RIAA is leaning on it. Because the RIAA does that sort of thing – to protect its monopolies concerning who gets to make recordings.

It seems Ian Betteridge blames those who improved Muxtape, rather than those monopolists who would prefer it remained a sham, remained a child’s toy as in “Let’s pretend we’re making recordings”, and “Let’s pretend the cassette tape on the screen is actually real”, rather than a useful tool for adults.

I disagree and suggest that we should not blame those who add value just because it upsets those who’d rather that value not be added.

Moreover, on the subject of assholes, these aren’t those big and clever coders who recognise the technical insignificance of the difference between ‘streaming’ and ‘downloading’, but those luddite legislators who decided that the law should recognise a significant difference. The same digital bits are communicated. The law simply holds that their different names, in indicating a different metaphor, distinguish between the delivery of a copy of a recording and its recordable transmission. This reveals the law to be an ass when it comes to the communication of information. It is folly to shoehorn the Internet into metaphors of inked paper and telegraph.

Revealing this anachronistic sophistry may well upset devout believers in a digital distribution/transmission duality. It is also likely to cause political and litigious grief to those businesses attempting to rely upon it – this technically insignificant, but legislatively critical distinction. However, there’s a greater cause at stake than just avoiding any erosion of a fragile metaphor that might bring little businesses to the bullying attentions of their bigger brothers.

The moral imperative of our time is to abolish these mercantile privileges of monopoly, that not only allow corporate bullying and extortion between businesses, but also allow corporations to persecute individual members of the public should they fail to accept the suspension of their cultural liberty.

Having the streaming/downloading sophistry revealed is an inevitability for all businesses, large or small, YouTube or MuxTape. Those entrepreneurs in this field will be technically astute enough to understand the fragile, technically insignificant, though legally significant, difference between streaming user uploaded works and file sharing. It is not the responsibility of the public to cooperate in maintaining any pretence or archaic law: that, of the music legitimately communicated to them, some bits they may keep, some bits they should discard, some bits they may copy, and some bits they should not.

So, rather than admonish people for pointing out the elephant in the room, they should be commended, for the sooner the law finally recognises it the better.

Free speech is free communication of one’s own or another’s published intellectual works, whether by voice, morse code, or TCP/IP, and whether by physical delivery of paper, piano roll, magnetic tape, acetate discs, or memory stick, and without grant of monopoly over any particular pattern or arrangement of expression.

Ian Betteridge said 5588 days ago :

But Crosbie, producing something which ensures that a product will no longer exist is, in the real world, not improving it. It’s breaking it.

Adults take responsibility for their actions. The scripters do not.

Crosbie Fitch said 5588 days ago :

If you gave one of your neighbour’s kids an MP3 player and later found that they’d been mugged by the bullies at school for it, I can tell you’d blame yourself for being so negligent and irresponsible in causing them such harm.

Privileged corporate bullies may be such an inescapable part of the commercial infrastructure in your world that their bullying is always the fault of the victim (or those that bring the victim to the bully’s attention), but in my world, I believe the bully should be the one to take responsibility for their actions, and for the privileges that so iniquitously empower them to be called into question.

Ian Betteridge said 5588 days ago :

If I gave my neighbour’s kid an MP3 player, nothing in that act would enable the mugging. If I gave the muggers a knife, it would. See the difference?

Xanthir, FCD said 5588 days ago :

Ian: Correct, it certainly would make a difference. Could you now explain why you are implying that the coders produced a knife rather than an MP3 player, and that they then handed this knife to the RIAA?

The knife the RIAA is holding is copyright law, and it was handed to them by Congress (after excessive begging by the RIAA’s lobbyists). Crosbie is correct in that the coders simply produced something which made Muxtape a more attractive target. They did not produce the weapon used in the assault.

The Fickle and Fleeting Freedom of a Creative Commons License · Friday October 24, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Scott Carpenter has noticed that a Creative Commons license is worth less than the paper it could have been printed on. Indeed, if it had been printed on paper, it might have been worth keeping.

In Free Culture ‘Take Backsies’ on Flickr Scott tells of how a photographer has subsequently removed the CC licenses applying to his photos on Flickr and reverted to undiluted copyright.

Having promoted the photographer in exchange for the liberty apparently provided by his CC license, Scott no doubt has a bad taste in his mouth now that his liberty has apparently been withdrawn – despite theoretically remaining irrevocable.

This is another reason why copyright is unsuited to digital work. You don’t have a piece of paper on which the license is printed (something that was once difficult to counterfeit).

In terms of online publications, one’s only hope in demonstrating that a liberal license was ever provided is the Internet Archive.

Although, copyright licenses are just as ridiculous as copyright in their application to digital works, they do serve as a form of ward against those who still believe copyright is sensibly applied to them. Thus the GPL needs no power against those who don’t believe in copyright, only against those who do.

Really, when championing free culture, the artist has to make a public statement rejecting copyright. A standard license is not something that can really be ‘attached’ to digital works, and it doesn’t hold much weight if the artist is fickle.

Admittedly, avowals against copyright can be implicitly expressed to some degree by wholly neutralising licenses such as the GPL, but then these are effectively recognised and recorded by a large number of deriving coders.

This is why those in the free culture movement (unlike free software) could never really form a consensus endorsement of a license. The manumission of one’s audience cannot be sufficiently performed by permissive licensing (especially given the pollution of CC’s pix’n‘mix). It needs a public statement rejecting the manacles of copyright that bind them. The artist must tell their audience emphatically that they are, and will always be, free.

Of course, copyleft licenses can still be additionally applied to non-s/w works (such as photos), but then with less reuse, there’s less establishment of their copyleft status.

What you’re left with as assurance is the risked reputation of the self-publishing artist.

As we have seen, the artist can piss about with CC licenses, tweaking the terms, even reverting back to full copyright, and not really worry about this fickle behaviour having much affect on their reputation.

This is all in line with Lawrence Lessig’s misguided belief that copyright can and should be wielded by the author as a means of authorial control rather than be reserved for the publishers it was originally intended for.

This is why an artist’s avowal is far more significant than a CC license, and indispensible for those cultural works that may see little reuse.

It gives us a much bigger clue in determining which kind of artist they are:

  1. The Lessigite artist who believes they should control what people do with their published work, and the uses to which it may be put. The sort of artist who one day may feel generous in giving their audience a little more liberty, and another day less, and considers this their authorial prerogative. If you can copy their work, it’s because they’ve permitted you to, not because you have any right to.
  2. The libertarian artist who believes that no-one, especially themselves, should control what other people do with their published work, and who will not change their mind. Nevertheless, this artist still expects honour and integrity among their audience, for themselves and their work to be truthfully represented, as they truthfully represent those artists and works they build upon.

Being the latter, this is why on my blog I put my reputation on the line. I don’t just piss about with a CC license.

“I will not accept the enslavement of my fellow man, nor any imposition upon his liberty, as reward for the publication of my art”

That means I reject copyright, and will not assert it except as a means to prevent anyone else asserting it, e.g. via copyleft licenses such as the GPL.

Having a single published statement of my rejection of copyright (its grant to me of the public’s suspended cultural liberty) then backs up any copyleft licenses I might provide for those who find them useful.

Scott Carpenter said 5524 days ago :

Hi, Crosbie — thanks for the pointer and for expanding on the discussion. I appreciate your steady support of true digital freedom.

drew Roberts said 5520 days ago :

I think I am fairly close to where I think you are (well… we shall see)

I will use the tools that copyright law gives me to bring about a better situation.

I prefer Free and copyleft licenses for my artistic works in general.

I have some internally unresolved reservations when it comes to my image (photo) and especially that of my child.

I also want this freedom for non-digital works, I am not sure where you stand on that bit.

I do think that BY-SA is too weak for photographs and illustrations and am considering using just BY for at least some of them.

I am also testing the BY waters for some of my lyrics although I am way more leery with lyrics than with photos.

And again, you captcha just does not display properly here.

all the best,



Scott Carpenter said 5520 days ago :

I have similar concerns about family pictures, and tend to use BY-ND for those, although that does rely on copyright remaining a more intrusive mechanism. (And not that I think it does all that much for me, but I still use it.) I wouldn’t miss it much in a copyright free world.

What do you mean when you say BY-SA is too weak for photos?

Crosbie Fitch said 5520 days ago :

Drew, Scott, I’ll shortly be publishing another blog article on the subject of ‘reservations’ and ‘concerns’.

As for non-digital works, copyright is still unethical. The only difference is that copyright at least remains marginally effective in the material domain. Unlike file-sharers, mass copyright infringers (CD copiers) tend to have enough inertia and funds that they can be caught and/or dissuaded from entering the market place. Then you start needing things like WIPO to assert copyright monopolies in the far reaches of outer Mongolia.

Creative Commons ‘Share Alike’ may not be quite as copyleft as it could have been, but it is the most liberty propagating license they have.

The BY bit is rather misguided. Of course everyone wants to be given credit, to have their name in bright lights or even the small print, but this is a matter of respect, not something extracted from people on threat of prosecution. “But it’s such a little thing! Surely, it’s the least obligation I can expect from those who use my work?” Well, if it’s such a little thing, then it should easily be given as an honourable mark of respect, rather than dishonourably forced from someone via legal compulsion. It’s like disabling a DVD player’s remote control whilst copyright ‘educationals’ or warnings are shown. Taking small liberties from your audience to force their respect makes them respect you less, not more.

It is strange that you find CC-BY stronger than CC-BY-SA (or the latter too weak). The SA gives your audience (and you) more liberty, the lack of it, less.

Incidentally Drew, check out the response from Fred Benenson (Culture Program Associate at Creative Commons), and let me know if the ReCaptcha thing displays properly on that page beneath their comment form. What browser are you using?

Of course one can utilise digital signatures to corroborate works with licenses, and can provide online facilities to assist licensors and licensees in this regard, however that such arcane steps have to be taken to reassure punters that their license (partially restoring their rightful liberty) is bonafide and permanent is a big clue that Creative Commons is not the way of the future. It’s DRM again, but from the other direction. Instead of asserting that certain liberties cannot be taken with a specific copy by unauthorised persons, it asserts that certain liberties can be taken with a specific copy by authorised persons.

Tomorrow, when you take your memory stick into a shop for an enlargement of your wedding photo, they’ll demand to see (in the jpeg’s metadata) your digitally signed CC-BY-SA license certifying your authorisation to produce printed copies (which must of course have the original photographer’s details printed upon them – along with a derivative CC license).

What a fricking mess.

drew Roberts said 5518 days ago :

“It is strange that you find CC-BY stronger than CC-BY-SA”

That is not it. I find BY-SA stronger than BY but for photos, I think the extra strenght is not enough whereas it is much better when it comes to music.

Therefore, the extra baggage of a copyleft license may not be worth it in the case of photos.

For instance, if you use a BY-SA piece of music in a video or movie, you have to make the video or movie BY-SA or negotiate another deal. But, if you use a BY-SA photo in a magazine article, the article nor the magazine need to be BY-SA. (According to thinking on the cc lists.)

Does this make any sense to you?

I will try to comment more later when I have a bit more time.


Crosbie Fitch said 5518 days ago :

Drew, I think you’re referring to the non-copyleft back-door in Share-Alike, i.e. that the parts of a combined works that don’t derive from the included CC-SA work don’t also need to be Share-Alike. In other words, a combined work can be copyrighted without license, as long as CC-SA licenses are still provided for its CC-SA components.

CC-SA isn’t as copyleft as the GPL, but it’s the closest to it that CC have. This is because CC wasn’t based upon a libertarian philosophy (as the GPL), but on an authorial philosophy. Lessig wanted to make it convenient for authors to modulate copyright, to select the liberties they fancied restoring to members of their audience, not to design a copyright neutralising license for the benefit of the public (including the author).

Perhaps you could explain what precisely you mean by ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’? CC-BY-SA appears to me to grant the public more liberty than CC-BY – for all art forms. In terms of combined works, neither license affects the copyright of the combined work.

drew Roberts said 5517 days ago :


for instance in this license:


Under 1.b. we find:

“For the avoidance of doubt, where the Work is a musical composition or sound recording, the synchronization of the Work in timed-relation with a moving image (“synching”) will be considered a Derivative Work for the purpose of this License.”

So they put in some extra “strength” for the case of audio being used in video.

I have a lot of posts on this weakness in the mailing list archives over at cc.

I suggest one solution is to require the same license for any other work that gets a copyright and includes a BY-SA work. Compilations that don’t warrant copyright protection would not raise this requirement.

What I am saying is not that BY-SA is not always stronger than BY, it is. What I am saying is that BY-SA is stronger for some types of works than it is for others. AND, in some cases, BY and BY-SA MAY be close enough to make the extra protection of BY-SA not worth it in the face of the extra “costs” a copyleft license imposes.

all the best,


Crosbie Fitch said 5517 days ago :

So they put in some extra “strength” for the case of audio being used in video.

I’m doubtful that ‘strength’ is the best term here, if you mean ‘more copyleft’.

The license arbitrarily disambiguates between a derivative work and a combined work, given some might consider the resultant work combined ‘audio+video’, and some a derivative ‘movie’.

The CC-BY no doubt makes no provision for either interpretation given it mandates no restoration of liberty to derivative works.

I suggest one solution is to require the same license for any other work that gets a copyright and includes a BY-SA work.

You have the audacity to suggest that CC create a proper copyleft license? Wash your mouth out with soap!

What I am saying is not that BY-SA is not always stronger than BY, it is. What I am saying is that BY-SA is stronger for some types of works than it is for others. AND, in some cases, BY and BY-SA MAY be close enough to make the extra protection of BY-SA not worth it in the face of the extra “costs” a copyleft license imposes.

That is the explanation I was after. Thanks. :)

This brings me back to my point that licensing is missing the wood for the trees. The critical issue is that the artist reassure their audience that they won’t prosecute them for enjoying their natural cultural liberty (only in extremis for denying such liberty to others), and that the licenses they provide are simply a further assurance and enablement of this manumission.

DMCA: The Cultural Sniper Rifle · Friday November 21, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

There was a very good article on the Million Music blog yesterday:

This asked why music bloggers had changed from sympathy and tolerance toward major record labels to outright condemnation, and wondered if this had been due to the labels’ recent ‘assertion of their rights’ by exercising their powers under the DMCA that had resulted in people’s entire blogs being taken down rather than just an offending post.

So I commented thus:

Individuals (human beings) have natural rights. Corporations don’t, they have privileges.

Copyright is a privilege that suspends the natural right to cultural liberty (specifically the right to share and build upon published works) in order to grant a lucrative monopoly to publishing corporations.

The DMCA is simply an enhancement of powers granted to copyright holders.

So, the majors are not asserting their rights, but exploiting their privileges.

If anyone was going to assert their rights it would be individuals asserting their right to share copies of published music recordings.

Unfortunately, most file-sharers and people who publish blogs containing mp3 files don’t realise they have a right to do what they’re doing.

Users of Google’s ‘Blogger’ service are reliant upon Google, so really they should host their blogs themselves on their own PCs if they don’t want them taken down by those privileged by the DMCA.

The blogger agreed in a subsequent comment with my moral viewpoint, but invited my further explanation.

So I then suggested in a second comment that if the labels kept on using the DMCA (or EUCD) as if it were a cultural sniper rifle, that eventually they’d have so many victims that they’d prompt a rebellion, that the worms would turn – if they haven’t started already. Cultural participants will either develop bullet proof vests (defenses against the DMCA) or will shoot back (use the DMCA against the labels).

Shortly afterwards it seems (from my referral logs) that someone from Universal Music found the post and its comments so disagreeable that they’ve ‘persuaded’ the blogger to discontinue publication.

Time: 21 Nov 2008 11:06am
Host: ip-167-167-136-2.ukrom.umusic.com
Page: index.php
Referrer: http://millionmedia.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/bloggers-vs-majors/
Method: GET
Status: 200

Interesting times…

Anonymous said 5492 days ago :

From the Google cache of http://millionmedia.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/bloggers-vs-majors

Bloggers vs Majors
Posted on November 20, 2008 by millionmedia

So, question: How do you turn this…

“Most bloggers share views, opinions and songs that they adore in the hope of bringing that music to the attention of a wider public. Most bloggers are first and foremost music fans who spend a great deal of cash keeping things going.”

into this…

“First and foremost, none of you should ever pay for a Columbia product ever again. Fuck them. If you feel you can’t live without their music then just download the bastard stuff illegally, better yet just live without it, but under no circumstances give these chiselling vipers a cent of your money ever again”

Well, how about deleting blog posts because they feature music from Major labels – so far Universal & Sony BMG appear to be the instigators.

In another round of ‘Copyright vs Common Sense’ the Majors appear to be asserting their rights to issue take-down notices to Blogger.com and demand the removal not just of the offending track, but the entire blog. Not surprisingly, this is getting bloggers rattled and it’s going to get VERY interesting to see who comes out of this worst – anyone want to bet who it will be?

Crosbie Fitch said 5492 days ago :

Thanks Anonymous.

I thought I’d take the opportunity to see which articles Million Music quoted in their post that they were subsequently ‘persuaded’ to unpublish.

The first quoted article appears to be Dial 999, 911 or whatever the number… posted on the 26th of October by The Vinyl Villain.

The second article (cited by the first) is a very perceptive, if understandably emotional Don’t Be Evil post made on the 23rd of October by SongByToad.com.

Both articles are well worth a read, especially if you question my allusion of the DMCA as a ‘cultural sniper rifle’. There are good pointers and comments too.

It seems that if Google starts being relied upon to both host blogs and maintain archives thereof, that they obtain the power to control the global conversation, at least in terms of discovery and the power of historical revisionism as coveted by such wealthy customers as the record labels and other publishing corporations.

Tel said 5480 days ago :

No one has any “natural” rights. They have the rights that they are prepared to fight for.

We offer humans certain rights (such as liberty) because in the past someone fought for our liberty, and a mutual decision was made that it was better for all concerned if those rights were granted, and we would be able to live in peace.

I’d kind of like to redesign a WWW that worked a bit like the way “git” does (and p2p), with hash based content addressing. The design would be to make it impossible to retrospectively edit pages without leaving an obvious trace that something had changed, and also make it very difficult to remove the old version.

Is Downloading Illegal? · Sunday January 25, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

There is considerable propaganda attempting to mislead the public into believing that downloading is a criminal act on the part of the downloader, e.g. “Illegal downloads caused considerable losses to the music industry last year” or “If you download copyrighted music you are committing a serious crime”.

So, let’s get the legality of downloading established once and for all:

  1. Downloading is the act of communicating a file from a supplier’s server computer to a recipient’s client computer, at the latter’s request, and at the former’s consent.
  2. Downloading a file (containing or representing an intellectual work) involves the manufacture of a copy.
  3. The copy is manufactured by the supplier (by their server) because they (unlike the downloader) are in receipt or possession of the source work, or have access to it.
  4. The manufactured copy is communicated by the supplier to the downloader (the recipient) via a computer network (whether electronically, optically, or by radio transmission, etc.).
  5. The downloader receives the manufactured copy, but does not participate in its manufacture (impossible without the source) in the download process.
  6. It is possible that ephemeral, intermediate copies were produced by the network and other devices during the transmission of the copy and its storage by the recipient.
  7. The recipient (their client computer) may have had to assemble the final file if the copy was transmitted in small fragments rather than in one piece, however, the act of such assembly does not constitute copying.

If the intellectual work is not protected by copyright no infringement can occur.

If the intellectual work is protected by copyright, and the supplier is not licensed by all copyright holders to the work to manufacture and distribute copies, then the supplier may infringe copyright in the process of manufacturing and supplying copies to downloaders.

In no case does the downloader, the recipient of a downloaded file, commit copyright infringement.

Having downloaded, the downloader may then commence the manufacture and supply of further copies to others, which is of course a potential infringement.

Culpability for copyright infringement lies not with who requests an act of copying, nor with who receives a copy, but with who performs the critical act of manufacturing a copy (and who distributes/transmits it).

In conclusion:

  • Downloading may involve copyright infringement, but this is not an act committed by the downloader.

Alex Bowles said 5430 days ago :

This is dangerousnly clear, Mr. Fitch. You should be careful with this stuff. It may lead to actual understanding, and an unshakable resistance to propaganda. Many people will be unpleased.

However, some of the people who will be very pleased can be found on Jon Taplin’s blog (Communications Prof at USC’s Annenberg school).

Apple’s abandonment of DRM prompted an excellent conversation, to which this bit of clarity is an excellent contribution. I’ve taken the liberty of reposting the whole thing there (http://jontaplin.com/2009/01/07/drm-rip), with a link back here.



Crosbie Fitch said 5427 days ago :

Thanks Alex, it was quite an interesting conversation on that Taplin blog.

The Future of Copyright is a Train Wreck · Wednesday January 28, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

I am reminded by Improbulus (via ORG) that David Lammy, Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property (UK), has launched an Intellectual Property Office initiative on the future direction of copyright:
© the future – Developing a copyright agenda for the 21st century

It begins “The copyright system is of fundamental importance to the future health and prosperity of our creative industries and our economy”, but a century or two ago a similar initiative might just as well have begun “The trade in slaves and their exploitation is of fundamental importance to the future health and prosperity of our manufacturing industries and our economy”.

Both of these statements demonstrate a lack of imagination, bordering upon a self-interested refusal, to envision a future in which a healthy and prosperous industry can be achieved without suspending individual liberty.

Of course, it is not in dispute that the suspension of individual liberty can be lucrative to those privileged with its suspension, nor that such beneficiaries will be keen to retain it. However, this unethical exploitation is not something to look forward to in the future, but an embarrassment to consign to the history books.

As for the IPO’s request for comments on the future direction of copyright I’d suggest that it can be compared to that of Robert Mugabe’s direction of Zimbabwe. Presumably well intentioned, but all his directions lead Zimbabwe to its doom. Despite everyone else’s attempts to stop the runaway train of his ‘government’, it continues on, inexorably as if in a slow motion crash.

Until people start recognising that copyright is an unethical anachronism, a vestige of a bygone era in which individual liberty was considered secondary to industrial prosperity, then any direction will be the wrong direction.

Copyright has to be abolished. Asking for comments on the future direction of copyright is like asking the same for slavery (with any unenthusiastic comments to be ignored).

Just as with Zimbabwe, the sooner copyright runs out of steam and its crash is complete the better for everyone, when people can rediscover their culture free of its totalitarian yoke and resume the enjoyment of their freedom to share and build upon it.

Attempting to adjust the direction of copyright onto an apparently less damaging course, at best simply postpones its inevitable crash (abolition) and thus extends the duration of its current damage.

The plutocratic publishers (à la Mugabe) do not need my assistance in their lobbied direction of copyright toward abolition – and they are doing an excellent job of making it sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, until people see the damage that copyright does they will be unable to recognise that it should be abolished. Therefore, Cassandras such as I eventually realise, despite trying, that there’s nothing we can do or say to avert the disaster.

The train wreck that is copyright’s future has to happen.

Alex Bowles said 5427 days ago :

Hegel would likely agree. And so would Gibbon.

Steve R. said 5427 days ago :

The copyright debate seems to overlook two important, but very subtle points. Fist we do not need copyright to be creative. Many people create for the joy of it and out of altruism. Many of the pro-copyright posts that I have read cannot seem to grasp the concept that the voluntary generation of content is a benefit of society. Simply put, if it can’t be monetized its evil.
Second, the pro-copyright crowd, in terms of getting revenue for the creator, has the risk/reward relationship backwards. Simply put, the pro-copyright crowd mistakenly asserts that people won’t create if there is no copyright protection. Why create if my work can be stolen? History I believe demonstrates that people do create whether or not a copyright “toll booth” exists.
As a corollary, the assertion of the pro-copyright crowd is that the ability to obtain revenue “fosters” creativity. Again history demonstrates that people do create even without the expectation of getting paid. Graffiti would be a good example.
As an example of creativity and altruism without the expectation of getting paid, the internet has allowed numerous forums to flourish where participants can make content available for free. I frequently use a forum that helps users with Microsoft Access. I am perpetually amazed at how much help they provide without any expectation of getting paid. The people who create free content really do help both our economy and society in general. Altruism is good and should be encouraged.

Art Outlaws Without Lawful Reward · Thursday March 05, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Mike Masnick introduces us to a great new work, the like of which I have not seen since the Grey Album.

Let us wonder why this musician ‘Kutiman’ may not have either prepared his derivative art or even obtained our reward without seeking the permission of all those whose work he sampled.

Even if each of his sampled videos was CC-NC licensed, this mixing artist may not receive a single one of our pennies without theoretically becoming liable to copyright litigation – unless they painstakingly obtain permission from each and every copyright holder.

Why should such permission be required?

Why must this artist’s liberty be so suspended? Why may we not even reward them for their excellent intellectual work? Kultiman has provided attribution and links to each of the constituent works, so it is not as if we’re discouraged in also discovering and rewarding the underlying artists.

Elexis Trinity

Juice Lee

If such art can only be created and rewarded outside the law, then we must look to outlaws for such art, and reward them as outlaws.

Copyright is an unethical constraint on society’s cultural liberty and those societies who choose to remain bound by it choose cultural stagnation and obscurity.

Scott Carpenter said 5389 days ago :

This is pretty cool — thanks, Crosbie. I missed it on techdirt.

Scott Carpenter said 5389 days ago :

Have to amend my comment. This is incredible. I’m blown away by “Mother of All Funk Chords.” What a great art form, and another example of why copyright as we know it is harmful.

Crosbie Fitch said 5389 days ago :

It does blow your socks off doesn’t it!? :-)

My immediate thought was “Heck, I want to give this artist my patronage!” rather than “Heck, this artist deserves an advance from a record label given their exploitation of our suspended liberty”

enondengod said 5388 days ago :

Things like this hit me in the stomach and nestles in my heart like pure happiness. How can this do anything other than create something greater than than the sum of parts?

Girl Talk does the same for me.


MPAA Dystopia · Thursday April 02, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

The film industry’s latest advertisement in their campaign to prolong their anachronistic privilege of copyright (at the expense of suspending the public’s natural right to cultural liberty) is a bit of an own goal.

The amusing and yet depressing irony about the video clip is that its producer’s cultural liberty to incorporate the original soundtrack from Jaws has been suspended by copyright – and it comes across as if they didn’t fancy the prospect or expense of obtaining clearance – so they substituted something vaguely reminiscent.

This evasion does no credit to John Williams (the composer of the original music to Jaws), and implies that even the producers of the advert have no compunction in hypocritically avoiding paying the royalties they’d presumably otherwise argue he’s due. Isn’t that ‘copyright theft’?

They thus reveal the perverted, illiberal world they’d like us all to live in at the same time as ‘thanking’ people for similarly abstaining from taking natural liberties with the movies they buy. Those poor people the MPAA would thank for not yet having deprogrammed themselves from the brainwashing that it’s wrong to share copyrighted music and movies, and wrong to use copyrighted theme music in your own videos that you upload to YouTube.

On the other hand, when it comes to Knock-off-Nigels, most of us loathe them with good reason, those dishonest types who share inferior quality VHS transfers or videocam recordings and label them as full quality DVD rips when they should have truthfully described them. No-one will mourn Nigel’s passing (he was probably an MPAA employee).

So, come on everyone, let’s be honest. There is no shame in sharing and building upon published culture. Copyright is an unethical constraint on society’s cultural liberty and those societies who choose to remain bound by it choose cultural stagnation and obscurity.

Let’s see this video remixed with the appropriate musical segments from the original Jaws movie and uploaded to YouTube; let’s make John Williams proud that his music isn’t consigned to copyright oblivion to suffer the indignity of crude substitution. Let’s show the film industry what cultural freedom is all about, and how much more culturally vibrant and diverse the world is when artists are free to share and build upon each other’s work.

Don’t forget: that’s free as in free speech, not ‘free’ as in ‘free beer’.

Scott Carpenter said 5363 days ago :

They even use the line, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” !!!

Great post, Crosbie.

The Total Music Vortex · Friday May 29, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Let us say that 35,000 CDs have been released every year since 1980, and will continue to be released.

Let us also say that a CD can generally be represented as a 100MiB MP3 file at an acceptable bit rate.

From the ‘back of envelope’ table below we can estimate that the cost of storing all the CDs ever released on a hard disk drive will fall to about $100 in 2015.

I suggest that the next file sharing application won’t be one that lets people pick and choose which CDs to share or audition. It will simply replicate and distribute EVERYTHING. There won’t even be any point in deleting all the CDs one doesn’t like. The problem will be entirely one of deciding what the heck to listen to.

Even so, once we have discovered the musicians we like there will still be the problem of how to persuade them to make more great music. Even all the music ever released can pale next to one more album from a favourite artist.

Don’t worry. That’s the problem I’m working on – enabling a musician’s fans to exchange their money for the musician’s production of music. It’s not rocket science. You just have to bear in mind that it’s not about enabling CD manufacturers to sell copies, but about enabling musicians to sell their music to their audience – directly instead of via record labels and CD manufacturers.

When you’re selling music instead of digital copies you don’t benefit from a monopoly; on the contrary, you want your music to spread far and wide.

Year Price of 1TiB HDD CDs MP3 TiB Storage cost
1980 $1,336,434,513.25 35,000 3 $4,460,831,447.94
1981 $735,038,982.29 70,000 7 $4,906,914,592.74
1982 $404,271,440.26 105,000 10 $4,048,204,539.01
1983 $222,349,292.14 140,000 13 $2,968,683,328.61
1984 $122,292,110.68 175,000 17 $2,040,969,788.42
1985 $67,260,660.87 210,000 20 $1,347,040,060.36
1986 $36,993,363.48 245,000 23 $864,350,705.39
1987 $20,346,349.91 280,000 27 $543,306,157.68
1988 $11,190,492.45 315,000 30 $336,170,685.06
1989 $6,154,770.85 350,000 33 $205,437,640.87
1990 $3,385,123.97 385,000 37 $124,289,772.73
1991 $1,861,818.18 420,000 40 $74,573,863.64
1992 $1,024,000.00 455,000 43 $44,433,593.75
1993 $563,200.00 490,000 47 $26,318,359.38
1994 $309,760.00 525,000 50 $15,509,033.20
1995 $170,368.00 560,000 53 $9,098,632.81
1996 $93,702.40 595,000 57 $5,317,013.55
1997 $51,536.32 630,000 60 $3,096,378.63
1998 $28,344.98 665,000 63 $1,797,619.69
1999 $15,589.73 700,000 67 $1,040,727.05
2000 $8,574.35 735,000 70 $601,019.69
2001 $4,715.90 770,000 73 $346,302.24
2002 $2,593.74 805,000 77 $199,123.51
2003 $1,426.55 840,000 80 $114,279.38
2004 $784.61 875,000 83 $65,472.90
2005 $431.53 910,000 87 $37,450.41
2006 $237.34 945,000 90 $21,389.85
2007 $130.54 980,000 93 $12,200.23
2008 $71.79 1,015,000 97 $6,949.38
2009 $39.49 1,050,000 100 $3,953.91
2010 $21.72 1,085,000 103 $2,247.35
2011 $11.95 1,120,000 107 $1,275.91
2012 $6.57 1,155,000 110 $723.68
2013 $3.61 1,190,000 113 $410.09
2014 $1.99 1,225,000 117 $232.18
2015 $1.09 1,260,000 120 $131.35
2016 $0.60 1,295,000 124 $74.25
2017 $0.33 1,330,000 127 $41.94
2018 $0.18 1,365,000 130 $23.67
2019 $0.10 1,400,000 134 $13.35
2020 $0.06 1,435,000 137 $7.53

So, if you’re hoping to fill that hard disk you’d probably better get started today.

Assuming a conservative 20Mbps share rate (given an efficient file-sharing system and no network contention) that works out at around 75TiB per year. In other words, all music ever released could be shared via the successor to BitTorrent within two years at such time as it became economic for everyone to store a duplicate set.

Within a decade, those who don’t share published music will be seen as a burden upon everyone else, akin to the way leechers are already perceived today.

Some guy said 5307 days ago :

Hi Crosbie. I too have anticipated the possibility of storing every song ever produced on disk. I have been slowly amassing music in preparation for it. The fastest way of sharing music these days is by swapping hard disks, and that’s mainly how I have come to own a very large collection of music. The thought that this practice could be merged with new sharing technologies had occurred to me. Perhaps devices connected to one another via a wireless mesh, constantly uploading and downloading to one another. The technology to do this is already possible. I imagine it is only a matter of time before somebody does.

Crosbie Fitch said 5307 days ago :

Yup, it’s just a matter of time.

I had expected FreeNet to fill this gap, but if they don’t no doubt someone else will. Perhaps even Google? Wave perhaps?

A spindle of ‘BluRay Super+’ HD-DVDs will no doubt suffice for those too impatient to download.

Some guy said 5304 days ago :

If the data in your table holds up to be true, and providing some people have 2.4gb/s connection speeds (optimistic, I know), then it would take little over a day to download 120tb of music in 2015. A lot of ifs. But enough to make you think.

Crosbie Fitch said 5304 days ago :

The data is cobbled together from very quick web searches and 'back of the envelope' calculations. It is intended only as food for thought. I am confident others can provide more accurate data, and I’d look forward to reading it (and their derivatives of my article).

Jassmonsteret said 5211 days ago :

Well, still, what’s the point of having access to that much music? Think of all the electricity power needed to do such a thing….

How Much is All Music Worth? · Monday June 01, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

I recently did a rough ‘back of the envelope’ calculation that gives 2015 as the year in which all the music ever released on CD can fit on a $100 hard disk drive – The Total Music Vortex as I put it.

Now let’s imagine that in 2015, in some part of the world (where copyright isn’t as respected as some might wish it were) there’s a company that has obtained a copy of all music ever released and is selling copies of it on 120TB hard disk drives (that sell bare at $100).

What I want to know is how much you’d offer for such a drive for your sole personal use? Let’s pretend it has no resale value beyond the $100 of the drive.

Is your price $101? $150? $200? $400? or even $1,000?

Would you get anywhere near the $12,600,100 mark that it would cost were you to pay say $10 per CD?

Let’s say you calculated that over the next 20 years you might buy 20 CDs that had been released in the previous 35 years (and would thus be included on that hard drive) – you’d probably buy ten times as many new releases (but they won’t be on that hard drive). That would make your price $300 ($100+20x$10). Let’s say if the CDs had been priced more cheaply you might have bought twice as many. That makes your price $400 ($100+40x$7.50).

So, being relatively generous about it by a factor of 2, if the average person would value a hard drive with all music ever released at $700, that puts the average value of a CD at $0.000476 ($600/1.26m), or less than a twentieth of a cent.

Note that the CDs you do buy, you do value at around $10 (you may value some at even more than the retail price), but there are over a million that you wouldn’t pay even a penny for.

Now if the average CD is valued at a twentieth of a cent, I suggest the record labels could make 2,000% markups if they started auctioning off their back catalogue at a minimum bid of 1 cent per CD. They’ve only got half a dozen years in which to do this, because after that it’s too late, people will have shared it all for next to nothing already.

How would such a digital art auction work? Well, a label would create a website where for every CD ever published they invite punters to bid how much they’d pay to have a copy of that CD with a copyleft license (their cultural liberty to it restored). Let’s say 1,000,000 people bid at least 5 cents for the copyleft release of the CD album recording of Imagine by John Lennon. The label could make $50,000 if they sold it at 5 cents. It’s possible 60,000 people might bid at least $1, in which case it would be better sold at $1 for $60,000. 4,000 of those might even have bid at least $10, but $40,000 isn’t so good. This form of auction enables the determination of the effective market price of a digital work as if it were sold as equally priced copies. The auction of each CD continues indefinitely until the label decides its market price has been reached (as it soon will as the market price descends to zero).

There are 1.5 billion punters online (not all of whom can afford CDs at $10 a pop). Anyway, the theoretical maximum realisable value of a CD is about $700,000 (on average). Being realistic about it, I’d say a label selling a CD for $60,000 (once and for all) is pretty good going (if it can be sustained as an average). But, more critically, if they don’t start selling their back catalogue now, they’ll never sell it.

So, there’s a swansong business model for record labels (artists will have a different model as they’ll be selling the production of their music to their audiences, not copies of monopoly protected published works). Even if the average album only fetches $10,000 this means the labels can make $120 billion over the next 6 years, i.e. $21 billion per annum ($14 per online user per annum). After that, they’ve sold their assets and can focus on selling the value they can still add (if any). The alternative is to sit on back catalogue and watch its sale value decrease to a few hundred dollars, given everyone else will soon also have a copy of it anyway.

You might think this is an example of the difference I often try to explain between selling music and selling copies. It isn’t, it’s selling the public’s liberty back to it, inviting the public to pay for its own manumission concerning a copyright protected work. Selling music is what musicians do, and in the future they’ll sell it to their audiences instead of to record labels as they have done in the past.

So, ethically, the labels’ back catalogue already belongs to the public and the labels shouldn’t get a penny for it (given they’ve been unethically granted the suspension of the public’s liberty to share and build upon it). So, realising its asset value (while it still has one) would be prudent from an unscrupulous and mercenary perspective (a perspective one infers the industry is familiar with).

The final question is though, can the labels dare to acknowledge even tacitly that their monopoly on the distribution of copies may not last forever (let alone 6 years)? As some of us know only too well, it has already ended, but it’s going to take a few years before everyone else realises it. That’s just enough time for the labels to have a closing down sale – unless of course, they’re hoping for a GM style government bailout in 6 years time – assuming the taxpayer’s credit rating hasn’t already been used up by other bailouts by then.

The Employee's Conditions of Employment · Tuesday June 02, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

As a condition of my employment, I retain the copyright arising in my works whether produced in the course of my employment or through my use of employer provided facilities. Any such works that I deliver to my employer, will be provided under one or more non-exclusive licenses of their choice from FSF, OSI or CC. Cases of joint authorship may be negotiated separately, however, I will not be excluded from my intellectual work nor be alienated from my liberty to utilise or communicate it.

That’s not so much safeguarding the liberty of the public so much as that of the employee (though it still doesn’t address its derogation by patent). One could arrive at conditions that would restore the public’s liberty to the employee’s work (the public includes the employee), but that probably reduces the employment prospects somewhat. For such employees able to assert their principles I daresay conditions of employment will be negotiated individually, probably stipulating the use of GPLv3 or CC-SA. But then they’d probably only work for an employer that upheld similar principles already.



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