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February 1, 2012 6:42 AM   Subscribe

"The more people 'pirate' a book, the better." [Guardian.co.uk] Multimillion-selling author, Paulo Coelho links with Pirate Bay.
posted by Fizz (67 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Finally, somebody GETS it!
posted by Renoroc at 6:45 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's easy to say after the check has cleared.
posted by gjc at 6:46 AM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Coelho has long been a supporter of illegal downloads of his writing...

Something is very wrong when the temporary monopolist of an asset wants people to download it and the download is still called "illegal".
posted by DU at 6:47 AM on February 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


At least one person knows where the right side of history is.
posted by Phire at 6:47 AM on February 1, 2012


Finally, somebody GETS it!

* ahem * Neil Gaiman on Copyright Piracy.
posted by Fizz at 6:48 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Neil Young was recently quoted: “Piracy is the new radio, that’s how music gets around.”
posted by octothorpe at 6:51 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


At least one person knows where the right side of history is.

It's easy to be on the right side of history when the trend of history is putting money into your pocket.

I think what he's doing is laudable, but he as much as admits that it is self-interested.

And that's great. I wish more people in the arts would have this same realization, and I'm glad he's lending publicity to it.
posted by gauche at 6:52 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's easy to say after the check has cleared.

No, actually, lots of million-selling writers and musicians have a lot of difficulty admitting that piracy is not going to kill their dogs.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:52 AM on February 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


The Sky is Rising

  • Entertainment spending as a function of income went up by 15% from 2000 to 2008

  • Employment in the entertainment sector grew by 20% -- with indie artists seeing 43% growth.

  • The overall entertainment industry grew 66% from 1998 to 2010.

  • The amount of content being produced in music, movies, books and video games is growing at an incredible pace.

  • posted by empath at 6:57 AM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


    It's easy to be on the right side of history when the trend of history is putting money into your pocket.

    And it's easy to blame piracy when nobody wants to buy your work.
    posted by empath at 6:59 AM on February 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


    Neil Young was recently quoted: “Piracy is the new radio, that’s how music gets around.”

    This is a fantastic quote, and explains a great deal about why media companies are so opposed to piracy.
    posted by gauche at 7:00 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    CNN Money/Fortune/whatever:
    In 1999, best-selling author Paulo Coelho, who wrote "The Alchemist," was failing in Russia. That year he sold only about 1,000 books, and his Russian publisher dropped him. But after he found another, Coelho took a radical step. On his own Web site, launched in 1996, he posted a digital Russian copy of "The Alchemist."

    With no additional promotion, print sales picked up immediately. Within a year he sold 10,000 copies; the next year around 100,000. By 2002 he was selling a total of a million copies of multiple titles. Today, Coelho's sales in Russian are over 10 million and growing. "I'm convinced it was putting it up for free on the Internet that made the difference," he said in an interview at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.
    It looks like he had nothing to lose in the Russian market, and he had plenty of money coming in elsewhere, so he just gave the book away, but then he saw his sales go up a lot, so he decided that giving it away caused his sales to go up a lot. Maybe yes, maybe no, but I can see why he (as opposed perhaps to some other writers) is into putting free copies on the net.
    posted by pracowity at 7:12 AM on February 1, 2012


    Another example.

    Gave away his book for free for a week on Amazon, and it pushed him into the top 100 paid best sellers, almost over night. And you can still get it for free from their "Lending Library" program.
    posted by empath at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2012


    He offered his books in Portuguese for free download on his website since ages.

    One thing I must say: I have never met a Brazilian who liked his writings.
    posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:28 AM on February 1, 2012


    Yeah, but Paulo Coelho?

    Shoot, Cory Doctorow has been doing this since forever.

    *ducks*
    posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 7:30 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    It worked for Cervantes.
    posted by Glomar response at 8:06 AM on February 1, 2012


    The Alchemist has the dubious distinction of being the only book I have never finished. You couldn't pay me to pirate that drek.
    posted by romakimmy at 8:15 AM on February 1, 2012


    The Alchemist has the dubious distinction of being the only book I have never finished.

    Sadly, for me that's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but if I could turn back time I would totally have saved myself the extra few hours and done so with The Alchemist. You missed nothing. Ten years later, that book still makes me angry.
    posted by psoas at 8:19 AM on February 1, 2012


    That's how Scalzi got me hooked.
    posted by whuppy at 8:30 AM on February 1, 2012


    "The more often we hear a song on the radio, the keener we are to buy the CD. It's the same with literature." Hm, how apt is this comparison?
    posted by estlin at 8:37 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Hm, how apt is this comparison?

    There may be something in it: I bought Mark Twain's biography after hearing it read on the radio. Which is going to be really handy if I am ever attacked by bears and need something heavy to defend myself with.
    posted by titus-g at 8:46 AM on February 1, 2012


    “Piracy is the new radio, that’s how music gets around.”

    The old radio gave the copyright owner (even people like Neil Young) a bit of money every time the song was played.

    Piracy - not so much.
    posted by IndigoJones at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    No, in the old radio publishers paid DJs directly and told them what to play. Now they just have to go through promotion managers and the owners.
    posted by cyphill at 8:59 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I hope it remains the author's choice--free and give it away, fine. Restrict free distribution, fine. Respect the boundaries and the author's wishes We will see how it works out over the years.
    posted by rmhsinc at 9:07 AM on February 1, 2012


    I hope it remains the author's choice--free and give it away, fine. Restrict free distribution, fine. Respect the boundaries and the author's wishes

    I'm all for people respecting the author's wishes, if they want. It's completely unenforceable without creating a total police and surveillance state, though.
    posted by empath at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2012


    Paywalls don't turn non-paying readers into paying readers. Paywalls turn non-paying readers into readers that ask "burnfirewalls who?" Nothing a traditional publisher can do with statistics can change that fact.
    posted by burnfirewalls at 9:11 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I dunno, when you guys have a small record label, pay for studio time, printing, shipping, promotion, ads in magazines, tours and distribution in general, you can tell me how happy you feel when the stuff you haven't even released yet shows up at pirate bay because you sent around some CDs to magazines for review only.
    posted by Tarumba at 9:19 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


    "It's completely unenforceable without creating a total police and surveillance state, though". If that is the choice consumer's continue to make you may well be right, or you might be wrong--perhaps we will have nanoenforcers embedded in the original digital creation. Seriously, it is somewhat disappointing that the alternative to respect and preference is a police state but you may be right. Fortunately this is not yet completely true for brick and mortar products--at least where I live.
    posted by rmhsinc at 9:29 AM on February 1, 2012


    If you're running a small record label without taking file-sharing into account -- indeed, making it part of your business plan-- you're not doing a very good job, IMO. You should start with the assumption that lots of people are going to get your music without paying for it and figure out how (and if) you can still make money anyway.

    You should never be surprised that it happens, and you should be as much in control of it as you can, by giving people as many ways as possible to listen to the music conveniently and for free.
    posted by empath at 9:29 AM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


    Fortunately this is not yet completely true for brick and mortar products--at least where I live.

    We aren't talking about brick and mortar products, we're talking about bits of information.
    posted by empath at 9:30 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    "We aren't talking about brick and mortar products, we're talking about bits of information" : and does that have something to do with respect, preferences and choices. Just because I can do something does not mean i must do it. Just as here are very few people where I live who choose to cross brick and mortar boundaries there are many of us who choose not to cross digital boundaries.
    posted by rmhsinc at 9:38 AM on February 1, 2012


    I never said I was surprised, just not happy.

    Also, how on earth do you make piracy a part of your business plan? Our music is available for free, in a million places. Still, sharing the files without our consent when they are available for listening is wrong.

    You should start with the assumption that lots of people are going to get your music without paying for it and figure out how (and if) you can still make money anyway.

    And that is exactly the issue. How many small, non mainstream bands can afford to devote enough time to produce good quality music when actually making a living out of it is not an option? Forgive me, but I fail to see how this doesn't hurt small record labels more than it hurts corporations (who can afford to make piracy a part of their business plan).
    posted by Tarumba at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2012


    Just as here are very few people where I live who choose to cross brick and mortar boundaries there are many of us who choose not to cross digital boundaries.

    Right and the difference is about who is harmed. If you steal a CD from a store, you're physically removing an object that the store owner paid for, preventing him from selling it to anybody else. The equivalent for piracy would be if I actually sold an mp3 to someone else, because you're intercepting money that would have been destined for the actual artist, and very few people do that. Giving somebody a copy of something that they never would have paid for anyway doesn't harm anybody, except in the most abstract, theoretical way, and it perhaps helps the artist.
    posted by empath at 9:41 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    If I pay to produce a song, and you choose to download it rather than buy it, it is also a very material loss. The physical value of the CD is minimum compared to the expense of recording, etc.
    posted by Tarumba at 9:43 AM on February 1, 2012


    How many small, non mainstream bands can afford to devote enough time to produce good quality music when actually making a living out of it is not an option? Forgive me, but I fail to see how this doesn't hurt small record labels more than it hurts corporations (who can afford to make piracy a part of their business plan).

    If you can't make money from fans even though they're actively sharing your music online, then you shouldn't be in the music business. Either because you aren't making music that connects with people, or you aren't connecting with your fans, and neither one of those problems has anything to do with piracy. I posted a link above to a report showing that spending is up and there are more independent artists and more music being made than ever before. Clearly piracy isn't hurting most artists. Although there are always a lot of marginal artists who like to blame piracy.
    posted by empath at 9:44 AM on February 1, 2012


    If I pay to produce a song, and you choose to download it rather than buy it, it is also a very material loss

    But that's not the case for most people that download music. Their choice is between downloading it and not downloading it. Buying it was never on the table.
    posted by empath at 9:46 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


    So, unless you can't afford to be pirated, or unless more than a set amount of people like your music, which you can't afford to promote because people are downloading it without paying rather than buying it, you shouldn't be releasing music, and this is OK, because actually paying for it was never an option.
    posted by Tarumba at 9:48 AM on February 1, 2012


    Just because I can do something does not mean i must do it. Just as here are very few people where I live who choose to cross brick and mortar boundaries there are many of us who choose not to cross digital boundaries.

    I think a good bit of the problem is that those physical boundaries have been thought about since we as a species had brains to think with. With non-physical "property" we haven't had thousands of years of threshing it out. And the physical models we're accustomed to may not always come up with great answers when they're extended. Would I steal that Lexus? Hell, no. That societal norm is older than Babylon. Would I download a perfect copy that left you with yours intact? Well, that's a different question, and we do not really have a societal norm yet: just opposing sides in an argument, neither inclined to compromise.


    And that is exactly the issue. How many small, non mainstream bands can afford to devote enough time to produce good quality music when actually making a living out of it is not an option? Forgive me, but I fail to see how this doesn't hurt small record labels more than it hurts corporations (who can afford to make piracy a part of their business plan).

    I agree that it sucks that you face a difficulty as a small band that your counterparts from 20 years ago would not. Consider that you have advantages they lacked as well. You have recording, mixing and distribution capabilities that would have been well beyond their reach. Your environment is different. If your band can't succeed in the current environment, I'm sorry, but we have no time machines. Nor can we simply force things to be better for you by harming things for society at large.
    posted by tyllwin at 9:51 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


    which you can't afford to promote because people are downloading it without paying rather than buying it

    You understand that this is better promotion than any magazine review, yes?
    posted by empath at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


    It's not promotion if it's not producing sales.

    What I don't understand is this idealistic view that everybody who downloads our music will buy our t shirts of buy a CD or go to a show. In our case, our bands are pretty small. They have a decent following around VA, and they have gone out of state a couple of times, that's it. Local people are pretty supportive, and they buy the CDs, t shirts and go to the shows. Our music is available in torrent sites in Russia. I fail to feel reassured that those people will help me brake even.
    posted by Tarumba at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2012


    I agree that it sucks that you face a difficulty as a small band that your counterparts from 20 years ago would not. Consider that you have advantages they lacked as well. You have recording, mixing and distribution capabilities that would have been well beyond their reach. Your environment is different. If your band can't succeed in the current environment, I'm sorry, but we have no time machines. Nor can we simply force things to be better for you by harming things for society at large.

    I actually hadn't thought of it this way. In the end, we have enough income from other sources and will continue to work on the label, because we love it. Thing is, people who support piracy aren't as anti corporation as they like to think. Corporations can deal with piracy. They have enough income, lawyers and power to do so. And the argument of "if it doesn't succeed in these circumstances then it's not good enough" is flawed, because

    1. We do extreme metal. By definition, we are not mainstream.
    2. big record labels can and do release complete crap all the time. They can afford to make it popular and big because they have capital, so in a world were files are shared freely, there would be bad music, and possibly less experimental or extreme works would be available.
    posted by Tarumba at 10:08 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Our music is available in torrent sites in Russia. I fail to feel reassured that those people will help me brake even.

    Seriously, how many sales to Russians were in your business plan? It costs you nothing, it gains you nothing, except if you're lucky a few new fans.

    What I don't understand is this idealistic view that everybody who downloads our music will buy our t shirts of buy a CD or go to a show. In our case, our bands are pretty small.

    Let's say that one percent of the people who download your music become connected enough to it to become 'fans', subscribe to your email list, buy merch, etc. Wouldn't you want to have as many people in that pool as possible to start with? And shouldn't you be spending your time trying to engage with as many of them as possible, since they've already shown interest in your product?
    posted by empath at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    @empath "Right and the difference is about who is harmed". BTW, thanks for the civil comments and responses. So, if I am at a party and the host mentions that he/she just finished making 4 copies of a CD for friends would I then be justified in taking one without permission/knowledge because it caused no direct harm (even if I left 50 cent to cover time/material) or taking one, copying it, and returning it without permission. At best tacky and thoughtless at most petty theft. I just do not get it--because something can not be stopped, or is difficult to stop, it is OK and the alleged victim is blamed because they are not sufficiently creative/industrious or out of date.
    posted by rmhsinc at 10:19 AM on February 1, 2012


    So, if I am at a party and the host mentions that he/she just finished making 4 copies of a CD for friends would I then be justified in taking one without permission/knowledge because it caused no direct harm (even if I left 50 cent to cover time/material) or taking one, copying it, and returning it without permission.

    Physical metaphors don't work, because if you take something physical from someone, you are depriving them of their use of it.
    posted by empath at 10:23 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


    I like to read. I often borrow books from friends, and lend books to friends. I often then go on to become a fan of the author I just read, and my friends often then go on to become fans of the author I just lent them. And then I, and they, spend money on that writer's books.

    I get that this isn't the same as electronic copies, because those are potentially infinite. I do get that. But as a writer, and as a publisher, my problem is not people who are enthusiastic about my work or my writers' work who try to share it. My problem is getting noticed at all. For me, and for poets in general, I suspect piracy helps more than it hurts, but that's only a suspicion.

    In the absence of hard data, it's impossible to do a cost-benefit analysis of piracy. Do the people who download for free one of the ebooks I'd like them to buy and then go on to buy that book, or future books, outnumber the people who would have bought a book if it hadn't been free but don't bother since it's free - and do all these downloaders compare to the apparently completely invisible (from statistics) group who borrow physical books? I have no idea. And neither do you. Everybody talking about this issue is speaking from a position of ignorance.
    posted by joannemerriam at 10:34 AM on February 1, 2012


    Re; physical metaphor. Is there a real and substantial between depriving "them of their use of it" and depriving them of their intended use of it? If I create something with the intention of selling it and it is taken is that any less a deprivation of use of it? In reality aren't digital bits just a a smaller physical manifestation of larger objects. It is not as if those particular bits are naturally occurring in nature and have not been systematically organized and structured--they can be saved, transported, played modified, etc.
    posted by rmhsinc at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2012


    Thing is, people who support piracy aren't as anti corporation as they like to think.


    I'll confess to my share of that. I may well sometimes think, "Oh, this hurts $MEGACORP? Good. Fuck'em. I wish I could hurt them some more." By the same token, however, I also think "Ug. This hurts people like Tarumba? That's not good." I'll even go so far as to say "Well, I know this helps $MEGACORP, but it's necessary to help people like Tarumba, so we have to put up with it."

    But the the thing is, I don't see how it's possible to eliminate this problem for you except by destroying the Internet, or by destroying general-purpose computing, or both. I don't want to see that even if the resulting environment is one which in which small/non-mainstream bands can't make a living at it. I'd love to make everyone safe from West Nile virus by killing all the mosquitoes, but not at the cost of soaking half the state in DDT.

    if you take something physical from someone, you are depriving them of their use of it

    It's interesting to me that, as old as this notion is, people have internalized this differently -- some people have trained themselves to see the taking as the wrong, and others to see the deprivation as the wrong, and perhaps never the twain shall meet.
    posted by tyllwin at 10:38 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Our music is available in torrent sites in Russia. I fail to feel reassured that those people will help me brake even.

    Are you saying that you have a cult following in Russia, but you only sell products locally? This sounds like a missed business opportunity. I'd say you need to start selling stuff to Russians. Heck, if the files are already out there you might as well upload your own torrent (no need to say who you are) and include a link to your new merch shop (preferrably in Russian). You've got nothing to lose so work with it.
    posted by Winnemac at 10:47 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Re; physical metaphor. Is there a real and substantial between depriving "them of their use of it" and depriving them of their intended use of it? If I create something with the intention of selling it and it is taken is that any less a deprivation of use of it?

    But you still have the thing. Nothing has been taken from you.
    posted by empath at 11:05 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    The chart suggests that music income is growing the most in live and licensing, and that publishing is becoming less relevant, if I am reading it right. It specifies artists' shares but I would imagine that it would be similar for labels. Anyone know where to get more of that kind of data?
    posted by thetruthisjustalie at 11:05 AM on February 1, 2012


    If you want a physical analogy, think of sharing the flame on candles at a candlelight vigil.
    posted by fragmede at 12:52 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


    That's easy to say after the check has cleared.

    No, actually, lots of million-selling writers and musicians have a lot of difficulty admitting that piracy is not going to kill their dogs.

    Yeah, actually I think it's the other way around. It's easy to say if you're not dependent on the financial performance of your creations.

    Neil Young was recently quoted: “Piracy is the new radio, that’s how music gets around.”

    This is a fantastic quote, and explains a great deal about why media companies are so opposed to piracy.


    Exactly. Remember when you to had to buy (often a $20 bootleg of indeterminate quality) an album to listen to the music? How passe!

    Finally, somebody GETS it!

    * ahem * Neil Gaiman on Copyright Piracy.


    John Vanderslice also came to the same piracy = radio discussion 5 years ago. I've often linked to his interview with Merlin Mann where he ridicules the utter insanity of paying money to advertise in Rolling Stone or CMJ and describes his very rational opinion of "piracy."
    posted by mrgrimm at 1:23 PM on February 1, 2012


    Wholeheartedly support this. He gets it (as do a growing number of creative people).

    Personal anecdote: I have given my music away for free on the internet since I started making it. Lately, I'm selling four albums on Bandcamp on a "pay what you want, or download for free" basis, and I'm making arguably a living wage. I put the money back into the studio by buying gear and software I couldn't otherwise afford.

    You would be shocked (or maybe not) how many people throw $20 at me for an album they could get for free, with no strings attached, if they'd typed $0 into the box. Other people send me email saying "my parents won't let me use their credit card online... but since you're cool enough to let me have it for free, I'm gonna do what I can to return the favor, by pimping your stuff to all my friends."

    I get that it might seem naive or downright insane to think you can survive on what are essentially donations, but if you're making stuff that people actually want, and you make it clear that you're trusting them to help you out in turn, it can work out pretty well.

    I love discussing this with other musicians and seeing whether they look at me like an idiot, or say "dude that's awesome, I'm gonna try that." Kind of revealing.
    posted by jake at 2:08 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


    I'm not at all surprised that people give money if you make it easy for them. You don't need everyone to. You just need enough to. Selling music online is like busking on a street corner the size of the planet.
    posted by empath at 2:15 PM on February 1, 2012


    It's not promotion if it's not producing sales.

    That's a provincial attitude. There's pure ROI and there's brand recognition. This sort of promotion clearly applies to the latter.

    You would be shocked (or maybe not) how many people throw $20 at me for an album they could get for free, with no strings attached, if they'd typed $0 into the box.

    I posted this Bandcamp link in the (first) megaupload thread:

    Cheaper Than Free

    "A few months ago, we began tracking the starting point of every sale that happens on Bandcamp. In the course of looking at the data (which we'e using to help us plan out what to do next), we've noticed something awesome: every day, fans are buying music that they specifically set out to get for free."

    "For example, just this morning someone paid $10 for an album after Googling 'lelia broussard torrent.' A bit later, a fan plunked down $17 after searching for 'murder by death, skeletons in the closet, mediafire.' Then a $15 sale came in from the search 'maimouna youssef the blooming hulkshare.' Then a fan made a $12 purchase after clicking a link on music torrent tracker What.CD. Then someone spent $10 after following a link on The Pirate Bay, next to the plea 'They sell their album as a download on their website. You can even choose your format (mp3, ogg, flac, etc). Cmon, support this awesome band!:'"


    The "online tip jar" is going to support a LOT of shit in the future. (Just ask Walter White!)
    posted by mrgrimm at 2:19 PM on February 1, 2012


    Selling music online is like busking on a street corner the size of the planet.

    Difference being that the audience has no choice but to hear on the street corner, so, perhaps, less of a moral obligation.

    Pay-what-you-like on-line for a private aesthetic experience is a matter of people demonstrating whether they are the guy who always shows up to Pot Luck night empty handed and never picks up the next round.
    posted by IndigoJones at 2:35 PM on February 1, 2012


    This conversation started about writing, not music, so let's return to a writing. Am I to understand that it is some of your position(s) that if a novelist publishes a new work (electronic and/or digital) and clearly states he/she wants to be paid "x" amount for each copy the person who pays, and the person who pirates (downloads for free), have the same moral and ethical status. i am not asking which is a smarter business person, what is legally correct or what is provincial, technically indefensible or outdated. Just whether you view each as having the same moral and or ethical status.
    posted by rmhsinc at 3:51 PM on February 1, 2012


    I'll counter that with another question. Do you think that the author that demands money for his work and the author that gives it away for free to anyone who asks have the same moral and ethical status? Bearing in mind that it costs him nothing to provide as many copies as he wants to anyone.

    Do you think it's fair and just that people are kept from experiencing art and having access to information that it would cost almost nothing to provide them for free, simple because they don't have the money to pay a toll?
    posted by empath at 4:08 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


    First question--yes I think they have the same moral and ethical status--either is free to do what they choose. I have absolutely no ethical problem with the artists/authors who chooses to give their work away nor with the one who hopes to exploit a talent for personal financial gain.
    Second question--I do not assume that an unequal distribution of wealth is intrinsically immoral or unethical but I do not think it is particularly fair. I personally feel a strong personal obligation to make creative works available through public domains, ( libraries, museums,public radio, grants to the arts, personal philanthropy, social policy, taxes etc). Since we are talking about writing I am hard pressed to believe that most people, poor or wealthy, do not have access to most written works whether they be novels, non-fiction, magazines etc. All may not have equal opportunity for ownership but most have equal access to use. Now, your answer please.
    posted by rmhsinc at 4:37 PM on February 1, 2012


    I think there's not ethical problem with piracy, at all, unless you're taking money that was intended to go to the author (that is you're selling pirated DVDs)
    posted by empath at 6:48 PM on February 1, 2012


    IndigoJones: "The old radio gave the copyright owner (even people like Neil Young) a bit of money every time the song was played."

    Radio stations paid royalties to the publishing company who owned the composition (songwriting) copyright. They paid nothing to the recording artists. (To the best of my knowledge, that's still true today for over-the-air broadcasts, but it has changed, I believe, for streaming.)

    Even though the recording artists got no payment at all for their music being played on the radio, they were typically happy to get airplay. How were they going to get people to buy their records - which did earn them some money - if no one knew what they sounded like?

    I ran a small independent record label for over a decade, just before the Internet really took off. (I closed Racer Records in 2004.) I used to send out free samplers to anyone who asked for one. That was really expensive. But how else were people going to hear my artists? In later years, I went more traditional routes, sending discs to college radio, but that wasn't nearly as effective. I definitely got more sales when I was giving music away.

    I still own copyrights I bought for the record company. I own a lot of copyrights in songs I've written. As an artist, entrepreneur, and music fan, I really don't believe copyright enforcement should apply to sharing among individuals. (I have a vivid memory that an earlier copyright law - from 1974-ish? - explicitly said it was not intended to prevent individuals from sharing recordings, such as things they'd taped off the radio.)

    I know from my own experience that an unauthorized copy is rarely a lost sale. If someone (like an elderly relative, sigh) gives me a copy of some horrible schmaltzy easy listening album they think I'd like - that's not a lost sale; I'd never buy that. If a friend gives me a copy of some band's album that they think I'll like, there's an excellent chance I'll buy it. It's pretty easy to get unauthorized music these days - and yet I buy as about as much music and video as I ever have, because I like owning stuff by my favorite artists and I like supporting them.

    Further, as a heavy user of my local library, I am amazed at the implied notion that I should personally pay to own every book, CD, and DVD I read, listen to, or watch. Most authors I'm familiar with love libraries, even though a single copy of a library book may be read by dozens of people. Lending copyrighted objects for others to enjoy is a centuries-old tradition ... but one which the major copyright-holding corporations have repeatedly tried to limit, for example with their attempt to shut down CD rental stores when CDs were new.

    My favorite take on this has long been the copyright notice on Ani DiFranco's CDs: "Unauthorized duplication, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as the real thing."
    posted by kristi at 9:05 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


    From Guardian comments....

    "Perhaps Coelho should be reminded that he took quite a different stance several years ago, even going out of his way (all the way to Iran) to get copyright to protect against piracy of his works.

    In 2005, when releasing his book Zahir he decided to first publish it in Iran, just a few days before it was released in Brazil and internationally. This was specifically done so he could first secure copyright protection in Iran and protect the work against piracy, since under Iran's legal regime publishing in any other country first he would have lost such rights.
    (See Iran's Copyright Law, Article 22: "The financial rights of the author will be protected by this law, provided that his work is printed, distributed or performed for the first time in Iran, and has not previously been printed, distributed or performed in any other country.").

    As stated by his editor during that time:

    "Iran is the place of the world where there are the most pirated copies of Paulo Coelho. The only way to reduce piracy is to launch first the book here in Tehran, so it is considered a national work and receives receive protection under local copyright laws, " (Veja Magazine, p. 115, March 23, 2005).
    posted by taro sato at 11:26 PM on February 1, 2012


    Radio stations paid royalties to the publishing company who owned the composition (songwriting) copyright. They paid nothing to the recording artists.

    I didn't mean to suggest they did. But as a holder of copyrights yourself, surely you appreciate checks from ASCAPs and the BMIs, no?

    as a heavy user of my local library, I am amazed at the implied notion that I should personally pay to own every book, CD, and DVD I read, listen to, or watch.

    But as an artist and holder of copyrights, would you not be gratified by a small kickback for each read, listen, and watch from the library system? Seems to me that could be built into the system to spread the cost a little more fairly. Such things are done outside the US. It shows a little more respect to the authors.

    But back to free distribution. I came across this charming anecdote this morning and wondered if it was original to the poster.

    Apparently not.

    If I'd been the original author (whoever that may be), I'd be kind of narked. No money and no recognition - worst of both worlds.
    posted by IndigoJones at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2012


    This sounds like a missed business opportunity. I'd say you need to start selling stuff to Russians.

    Torrent sites might be hosted in Russia but it doesn;t mean only Russians are using them. An old housemate of mine bought scads of albums off of all-of-mp3, and I've turned up links to Cyrillic torrent sites when I Googled to see if a magazine I read was available digitally.
    posted by mippy at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2012


    That's how Scalzi got me hooked.

    Ditto. I downloaded Old Man's War for free, and then bought it (and every other one of his books).
    posted by antifuse at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Do you think it's fair and just that people are kept from experiencing art and having access to information that it would cost almost nothing to provide them for free, simple because they don't have the money to pay a toll?

    I know I bring it up a lot, but I wish this issue were discussed more by people with real expertise in the area. Has anyone done a large-scale analysis of class and file-sharing?
    posted by mrgrimm at 9:43 AM on February 3, 2012


    If I'd been the original author (whoever that may be), I'd be kind of narked. No money and no recognition - worst of both worlds.

    Yeah, that was why i put it in block quote tags. The original author is 'unknown', and as far as i know it's public domain. That was also why I didn't link to any particular website that had it posted, since as far as I could tell, they were all just copy-pasting it from elsewhere. I've looked for an original source before and couldn't find it. I didn't actually realize it got so many favorites until just now.
    posted by empath at 10:00 AM on February 3, 2012


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