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January 13, 2007 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Permission to Innovate? How the Record Industry Is Like 17th-Century French Buttonmakers A corporate consultant blog makes a weird but compelling argument that the RIAA and MPAA are forcibly imposing a draconian 17th-century business model on the 21st century.
posted by jonp72 (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
great comparison
posted by Substrata at 1:33 PM on January 13, 2007


I agree. And I harbor few illusions that the US Congress is any less beholden to special interests nowadays for other businesses, but this comparison seems amusingly spot on.
posted by Busithoth at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2007


Quote a short link, does anyone else have any related links to fatten this up?

My immediate reaction is "outside of the digital entertainment industry, economics is about to see a whole lot more scarity". But I'm a peak oil believer.
posted by anthill at 1:45 PM on January 13, 2007


I thought this was going to be an interesting well-researched exposition but instead this post is a link to a blog post with an excerpt of a book which may or may not have the proper citations. Meh. This is basically a weak op-ed post.

Anyone have any pointers to actual details on the 17th century French button industry?
posted by vacapinta at 1:56 PM on January 13, 2007


really thin gruel for a fpp.
posted by empath at 1:57 PM on January 13, 2007


there's some good links about economics in a post-scarcity world at the bottom of the page...
posted by localhuman at 2:10 PM on January 13, 2007


I predict that scarcity of FPPs will decrease exponentially.
posted by delmoi at 2:10 PM on January 13, 2007


Techdirt is the new slashdot, just a way better site in general with very excellent commentary. Be sure to read the whole series of articles linked at the bottom of this particular post.
posted by Mach5 at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2007


That is a completely bullshit comparison, and I will tell you why: pirates of copyrighted intellectual property are not producing a product, unlike the cloth button makers. What happens to movies and music is not competition, but demonetization.

The MPAA and RIAA have not yet - yet - intervened to stop people from creating and distributing their own content, whether for free or for pay. I do think it will come to that - an extremely annoying attempt to put the genie of abundance back in the bottle, impose tolls for content creators (and metaphor mixers) - but it hasn't, yet.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:38 PM on January 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


The links at the bottom where they try to link the buttonmakers story into the MPAA and RIAA are shamelessly tenuous. The title of the first one is a reference to a Techdirt op-ed, for god sake.
posted by cillit bang at 2:42 PM on January 13, 2007


Something I thought the linked post was going to address was how the recording industry is being affected by the incredible decline in CD sales in the last year. I'm curious as to what 2007 is going to do to the business model of large and medium size labels that currently rely on large CD sales to keep themselves in business.
posted by drezdn at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2007


fleetmouse: the comparison isn't with pirates, but with people who want to sell DRM free devices, or build software or hardware that works with DRM'd content without the DRM itself, like DeCSS.

Just because you don't understand what's being compared does not make the comparison "bullshit", it only makes you uninformed.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2007


Not weird, but not compelling. And - in the best liberal tradtion - it is more political rhetoric than economic analysis.
As David Garroich observed in his book The Making of Revolutionary Paris:

“In the second half of the 1700s the trades corporations came under increasing attack from enlightened thinkers, particularly from economists like Quesnay and Turgot who saw them as impediments to trade. They were accused of being cozy monopolies that prevented competition, wasting their energies in petty demarcation disputes, hindering innovation. There was an element of truth in all this, but the accusations came from a particular ideological viewpoint and should be seen for the political rhetoric they were. Only recently have historians begun to recognize this bias.”
posted by three blind mice at 2:51 PM on January 13, 2007


while cd sales have declined in recent years, sales of singles have skyrocketed. the recording industry hates singles with a passion because they want you to buy the whole album. however, with these sales of singles, the recording industry's profits have not suffered due to the decline in whole album sales.
posted by localhuman at 2:55 PM on January 13, 2007


That is a completely bullshit comparison, and I will tell you why: pirates of copyrighted intellectual property are not producing a product

The MPAA/RIAA are?
posted by mek at 3:00 PM on January 13, 2007


That is a completely bullshit comparison, and I will tell you why: pirates of copyrighted intellectual property are not producing a product, unlike the cloth button makers. What happens to movies and music is not competition, but demonetization.

Tell it to Western Asia. There are an awful lot of pirates who are producing a product, complete with custom packaging and professional CD & DVD replication.

This, more than anything, is what scares the hell out of the major studios. Not the idea that people will get their stuff for free -- enough people have a hang-up about it to keep individual piracy out of the mainstream for a good while longer, and the studios win as long as the mainstream is still buying. No, the idea that really scares them is that competition might appear that they can't use the American Congress to suppress or control, thus forcing the studios to stop selling their products at extortionate prices. The same goes for book and software publishers (and, indeed, all publishers of copyrighted works): they can no longer control the means of duplication, so they're left with fighting a losing legal/corporate battle to prevent open competition in the marketplace.
posted by vorfeed at 3:07 PM on January 13, 2007


the comparison isn't with pirates, but with people who want to sell DRM free devices, or build software or hardware that works with DRM'd content without the DRM itself, like DeCSS.

They're perfectly within their rights to protect their format and their content if the law allows them to do so. Has anyone ever been hassled for distributing their own content in an open format? Where are the lawsuits against Magnatune and Emusic? Where are the lawsuits against Winamp and Foobar2000?
posted by fleetmouse at 3:09 PM on January 13, 2007


Tell it to Western Asia. There are an awful lot of pirates who are producing a product, complete with custom packaging and professional CD & DVD replication.

I have no problem with people who do that getting an all day reaming from the legal system. Forfucksake, make your own bloody content.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:13 PM on January 13, 2007


does anyone else have any related links to fatten this up?

I thought this was going to be an interesting well-researched exposition

really thin gruel for a fpp


Nothing personal, but anyone who thinks a single-link post that doesn't include an encyclopedic examination of some subject is a bad post can go shit in a hat. A good post includes a link to something interesting on the web which most people hadn't seen before. This is that. If you think more links will add to the discussion, add them; don't snark at the post.
posted by languagehat at 3:29 PM on January 13, 2007 [6 favorites]


I don't know much about the seventeenth-century button industry, but I'll tell you this: not many people in the seventeenth century got rich making buttons. 'Draconian 17th-century business model' my foot. Button-making wasn't a big business, it was a small handicraft -- and in early modern England at least (I don't know about France) your typical button-maker was a woman or child working part-time from home. To compare this with the modern record industry is just ridiculous -- a completely spurious historical analogy.
posted by verstegan at 4:07 PM on January 13, 2007


The copyleft is as to the media establishment as, say, ANSWER was to George Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war: critics so committed to bad principles that they actually drown out the critics who have something worthwhile to say.
posted by MattD at 4:13 PM on January 13, 2007


this has been my subject of interest as of late. anyone interested should read this book (download the pdf) by lawrence lessig. an interesting part from that book:

-the maximum liability of a doctor who amputates the wrong leg is $250,000.
-the maximum liability of a person who illegally downloads one song is $150.000

thus, it would cost you more to download two songs than to amputate the wrong leg. i'm not advocating piracy, but that's absurd. under the law that stipulates these conditions, it is estimated that 43 million americans are considered felons by the RIAA for their p2p activity.

we've probably got a couple felons among our ranks...
posted by localhuman at 4:20 PM on January 13, 2007


Only if you count all those people I've skinned, killed, and eaten (that's my preferred order anyway...)

But downloading copyrighted material? Only a monster would sink to those levels.
posted by quin at 4:28 PM on January 13, 2007


the comparison isn't with pirates, but with people who want to sell DRM free devices, or build software or hardware that works with DRM'd content without the DRM itself, like DeCSS

So- like selling lock picks?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:05 PM on January 13, 2007


A good post includes a link to something interesting on the web which most people hadn't seen before. This is that.

Well, the history of French button making is not something I am knowledgeable about and I lack the appropriate books on my bookshelf so I cannot comment on the validity of the comparison.

Given, however, that this post is not about French button makers guilds but about the hot-button (sorry) issue of RIAA activities I suspect that this is merely a thinly-supported slant -An editorial rather than a history lesson. That is why I said above that its an op-ed, nothing more, dressed up nicely with an authoritative sounding quote.

Sorry languagehat I'm just expressing healthy skepticism. Also dismay that I didn't click through into a New Yorker length article which would have educated me on the relevant facts. So, no I don't find this meaty enough to be "interesting" and I'll move on now.
posted by vacapinta at 5:06 PM on January 13, 2007


all yur drm are belong to us
posted by localhuman at 5:58 PM on January 13, 2007


They're perfectly within their rights to protect their format and their content if the law allows them to do so.

What does the law have to do with it? The button makers were fallowing the law too, thus the comparison.

Whether or not you think it's OK for companies to seek bans on certain classes of products is irrelevant to whether or not the comparison is bullshit.

Also, keep in mind the legislation that RIAA/MPAA sought which would actually have made devices without DRM illegal. Making it impossible for people to release content in "open formats".

"What the law allows" is an irrelevant metric when you're discussing changing the laws.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 PM on January 13, 2007


The copyleft is as to the media establishment as, say, ANSWER was to George Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war: critics so committed to bad principles that they actually drown out the critics who have something worthwhile to say.

Yes yes, the responsibility for the Iraq war lays with it's initial opponents. If only they had been more persuasive! We could have avoided the whole thing!
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on January 13, 2007


Ick, delmoi, I didn't know they had officially proposed something that insane in government. No surprise that it came from Senator Disney, though.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:53 PM on January 13, 2007


languagehat: my complaint is that the link itself is poor. I post one link fpp's all the time. I think this one is just kind of meh. Yes, the RIAA sucks. We know.

Isn't this just the 'buggy whip' argument?
posted by empath at 9:19 PM on January 13, 2007


The MPAA and RIAA have not yet - yet - intervened to stop people from creating and distributing their own content, whether for free or for pay. I do think it will come to that - an extremely annoying attempt to put the genie of abundance back in the bottle, impose tolls for content creators (and metaphor mixers) - but it hasn't, yet.

This is true, but media corporations like Sony had already stepped in to do this by, for example, charging a higher price for unprotected, unrestricted audio hardware. They are always happy to sell unrestricted tools to anyone with the money.

That said, the day doesn't seem far off when the RIAA and MPAA will coerce the government into writing laws that outlaw the purchase and use of any art creation tools without copyright oversight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 PM on January 13, 2007


The MPAA and RIAA have not yet - yet - intervened to stop people from creating and distributing their own content,

No, it depends where you draw the line. They've done plenty towards this goal already (and as you note, plenty more is in the pipeline). There are many consumer devices that have had cripples built in at the behest of these organisations, ostensibly to limit piracy, but which equally limit your ability to work with your own content.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:56 PM on January 13, 2007


in order for the comparison to hold up, the cloth button folks would have to be making bit for bit duplicates of original buttons and then giving them away. Its not like these content pirates are making their own music and movies and selling them in competition with the RIAA/MPAA music/movies.

so this boils down to - the RIAA is expecting the government to enforce its property rights. Who should they go to? The mafia? The clergy? Mercenaries?

Those dirty robber barons are going to the government to protect their property!

Sometimes, its only the really intelligent people who can be this fucking stupid.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:22 AM on January 14, 2007


trypt:
The comparison is not with pirates, it's with manufacturers of innovative products who are being denied the right to make/sell those products because they conflict with the business interests of an influential group.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:28 AM on January 14, 2007


well then its even more crap. For the comparison to hold up, they have to be offering similiar products in competition.

the motive of the old school button makers in seeking legislation was to keep people buying their old buttons. The RIAA is trying to remove products which use stolen buttons - thereby increasing the incentive to steal their buttons. Its not like the RIAA is lazy and is refusing to change their method of making buttons - people are stealing their buttons.

A better analogy would be cable providers asking the government to stop people from manufacturing pirate cable boxes.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:39 AM on January 14, 2007


Perhaps if we more clearly define who represents what...

The RIAA is the "settled industry" of (presumably, bone or shell) button makers in the second comparison. The pirates are the cloth button makers and the people being searched and fined are the people being searched and sued by the RIAA.

The RIAA sells the distribution of music (bone buttons). The pirates have found a cheaper and more efficient method of distribution (cloth buttons). Rather than embrace this new technology, the RIAA decides it is entitled to make the same amount of profit regardless and demands protection from reality.
posted by Auz at 3:55 AM on January 14, 2007


in order for the comparison to hold up, the cloth button folks would have to be making bit for bit duplicates of original buttons and then giving them away.
...
well then its even more crap. For the comparison to hold up, they have to be offering similiar products in competition.


What's the deal with people showing up in threads, and making the same arguments that people have already made and debunked. Did you read this link I posted? The media companies have been trying to ban any device without DRM.

The RIAA is trying to remove products which use stolen buttons - thereby increasing the incentive to steal their buttons.

Yes, also this happened in the 21st century, and the other thing happened in the 17th. And that happened in France, while this happened in the US! Completely different set of circumstances.

The similarity is that both are trying to ban the creation of new products, which upset their business model.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2007




delmoi - you didn't debunk the argument. The comparison remains crap. They are not banning products which are cheaper versions of their products (old buttons vs cloth buttons). They are trying to ban products which facilitate the theft of their products.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2007


They are trying to ban products which facilitate the theft of their products.

Wow, it's such a good thing that the government banned Xerox machines, carbon paper, and Silly Putty on behalf of the newspaper industry. I'm sure this upcoming ban on non-DRM hardware will be just as great. I can't wait to live in this brave new world of 100% Big Media Approved entertainment content!

To be more serious, I'll be buying a new computer in a couple of weeks, and this DRM bullshit was a major factor in my decision to buy exactly what I want, right now, rather than getting the basics and upgrading later. Thanks to corporate control of the US Government, we may be living in the last few years of free and open computing.
posted by vorfeed at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2007


vorfeed - you forgot cassette recorders and vcrs. Im not arguing in favor of the ban. Maybe you missed that. Im just saying the comparison is crap.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2007


They are not banning products which are cheaper versions of their products (old buttons vs cloth buttons). They are trying to ban products which facilitate the theft of their products.

I'm not saying that there are not differences, if there were no differences it would not even be a comparison. The point of a comparison is to compare two different things.
posted by delmoi at 3:18 PM on January 14, 2007


differences are not necessary for comparison. you're thinking a contrast.

not to be pedantic, but the point is to arrive at a deeper understanding by evaluating the similarities.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 5:14 PM on January 14, 2007


so this boils down to - the RIAA is expecting the government to enforce its property rights. Who should they go to? The mafia? The clergy? Mercenaries?

If the remote control was invented today there would be a lobbying effort to ban it. After all the remote control makes it easy for people to switch channels during a commercial, robbing the poor tv studios from valuable ad revenue!
posted by aspo at 10:36 PM on January 14, 2007


If the remote control was invented today there would be a lobbying effort to ban it. After all the remote control makes it easy for people to switch channels during a commercial, robbing the poor tv studios from valuable ad revenue!

By extension, so does the dial we were once enjoined not to touch.

But we did anyway. Kept our leg muscles toned.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:04 PM on January 23, 2007


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