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Re: Stallman calls for an end to file sharing war

From: Tim Smith
Subject: Re: Stallman calls for an end to file sharing war
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 2010 16:02:36 -0000
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.5.3b2 (Intel Mac OS X)

In article <YJ3no.10862$wI.6371@newsfe11.iad>,
 voodoo <> wrote:
> >>According to IT News, Stallman claimed that artists and musicians were
> >>"not entitled to" compensation from listeners, but governments could
> >>introduce a tax to support their work.
> > 
> > They tried this one already and it failed.
> > 
> > The consumer DAT recorders and tape had a tax built into them to help
> > compensate artists whose work was going to obviously be copied digital
> > to digital.
> how much of that money made its way to the artists? any?
> canada has a setup like that. no reports of disbursements yet.

Not much, but largely because consumer DAT never took off, so there was 
very little money collected.

The nice thing is that in exchange for that tax consumers got 17 USC 

   No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of 
   copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of 
   a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, 
   an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based 
   on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium 
   for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.

Anyway, Stallman's right on this one. I'm only going to give a quick 
summary of the argument here. More detailed versions can be found 
online. Basically, it can be shown by mathematical economists that free 
markets for goods are optimal for economic allocation of resources, if 
those goods have certain properties. If the goods do not have those 
properties, free markets do not work.

Copies of musical recordings are goods that do not have the necessary 
properties. A free market in them leads to underproduction and 
underconsumption (that is, not as much music is produced as consumers 
wish to consume).

There are two ways in theory to fix this, if we want to try to make a 
free market work with these kind of goods.

The first is to artificially give the goods the missing properties. 
That's what current IP law does. Essentially, copyright law makes it so 
copies of music act like toasters or TVs or other physical goods. This 
greatly addresses the underproduction problem, but still leads to 
underconsumption. (You get underconsumption because the "right" price 
economically for copies is essentially zero. If consumers have to pay 
more than that, they won't consume as much as they "want" to).

The second approach is to essentially make the goods a public resource. 
The government pays for production, and consumers can consume for free. 
This addresses the underconsumption problem. However, you are now either 
not using the free market to decide what music gets funded, or you are 
adding a bureaucracy between the market and the funding, which is going 
to cause distortions.

Overall, the first approach (the current IP law approach) works pretty 
well--provided most people play by the rules. It seems pretty clear that 
most people only play by the rules when breaking the rules takes a lot 
of work. E.g., when copying an album as opposed to buying a copy 
yourself means borrowing an LP from a friend, buying a blank tape, 
copying in real time (and having to flip the record half way through), 
many people will just buy their own copy. Those who do pirate have a 
limited effect, because people who don't want their LPs trashed only 
will let people they trust borrow them to tape.

Digital music, computers, and the internet have changed that. First of 
all, copying is fast and easy. You can loan out your CDs with a lot less 
fear they will get trashed than there was with LPs. People use P2P to 
make things available to millions of people, instead of just to people 
they actually know. A lot of people (especially younger people) seem to 
feel they are entitled to have someone else pay to have music and movies 
available for them.

That leaves the second approach--have the government fund music, and 
make copying free and legal (but probably tracked, so they can determine 
how to allocate funds to artists). It's time to give it a try.

--Tim Smith

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