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September 15, 2003


Chirag Kasbekar


I liked your last post and found it somewhat persuasive.

But my sleep-deprived brain insists that I ask some questions. And they may be really silly: a) because I'm sleep deprived, b) because I've sadly not read half as much as I should have on these issues.

I'm restricting questions to two:

1. Can we be so sure the artist/s will receive the money you totted up. Have we adequately taken into account income lost through free downloads? Technology might make it even easier/convenient than it is today. Won't it be possible for anybody who can burn CDs to make copies of the artist's music and sell it? (I'm asking.) Why will all sales proceeds go to the artist? What is this great central gate you're talking about?

2. What is stopping this Brave New World from coming into fruition today? If it's in the artists' interests, why don't they just produce independently? (Again, I'm asking. There probably is a very simple answer to this.)

Probably silly questions, as I said, but I've got to ask.


The answer is that I really don't know what I'm talking about and it's sort of funny that my post has attracted so much attention. I'm not making a prediction of what will happen. I imagine that if the music industry died someone would finally manage to build the online jukebox that everyone was talking about 5 years ago. Maybe there would be a lot of them, but they would be convenient because it's in the interest of everyone that it be convenient.

As to 2, there still are no super-convenient 'pay a penny for this click' services, though they would obviously be feasible if the need were there - say, if the music industry died. I guess there isn't a clear prospect of artists making MORE money under my plan, so they don't have a huge incentive to jump before being pushed. It's in their interest to do what I say if the old way doesn't work any more. But it's working still, though it's a bit woozy on it's feet.

I guess it's also the case that not all artists are marketing visionaries. You do what everyone else does and trust it makes some sense. Consumers do the same. You don't automatically look for music in what seems like a weird place. You go to the music store. But if things started to shift, culturally, they might shift pretty fast.

The bottom line is: I'm just making this stuff up. I am no sort of authority. Don't invest your personal fortune in online jackalope downloads because you read this post. I am so far from an expert I can't even see the 'E' in expert from where I'm standing.

Chirag Kasbekar

Fair enough, John.

I sympathise with the idea that we shouldn't be afraid of a Brave New Music World. I'm uncomfortable with the current system. The new system may be different, but we could try it out. If nothing else works out, I guess we could at some point go back to something like a (hopefully) better version of the current system.

But I'm not convinced that we can expect a more productive music world. Mainly because I'm not convinced the artists will get a better deal if there is no copyright and anybody can sell your music.

You say:
"I guess it's also the case that not all artists are marketing visionaries. You do what everyone else does and trust it makes some sense. Consumers do the same. You don't automatically look for music in what seems like a weird place. You go to the music store. But if things started to shift, culturally, they might shift pretty fast."

It's a very good point, but not totally convincing. After all, a lot of these musicians have pretty strong views against the current system. And there are other groups with views strong enough to want to convince up and coming artists to do things differently.

Why can't the new system simply grow in parallel to the old? This is something I haven't read enough to know. And haven't thought about much either.


I probably wasn't clear enough. I'm not in favor of abolishing copyright. If anyone can legally sell or trade your stuff the second it's out there, the system obviously won't work. You've got to be able to get those pennies. Your exclusive right to them, for a period of time, must be maintained. I think it's probably possible to get the pennies so long as piracy is inconvenient. You make piracy less convenient than paying pennies. Then people whose time is worth more to them than pennies pay the pennies. I'm not sure what the best way to make piracy inconvenient is, but I'm sure it exists. And I guess there really isn't any reason the system couldn't start tomorrow. Let me reiterate the point about me not being any expert.

Chirag Kasbekar

OK, I did misunderstand.

I suppose I should have been clearer myself. I was trying to get you to clarify that.

Otherwise your analysis, such as it was, didn't make much sense.

As for the new system emerging organically, now that WOULD be Hayekian. But I think even Hayek would accept that underlying rules sometimes have to consciously be changed for the system to change. If it is necessary. (He didn't like the idea of IPR, if I recall correctly.)

I'm curious, though, if not copyright, what would you change?

All this is just in the air, as you say. I know nothing as well. But non-experts can talk, no?


I guess the change I'm imagining is just that music industries find themselves going bankrupt and then someone buys the poor dead thing and desperate investors who want a few cents back on their lost dollars agree to let a new model be tried. The 100 billion dollar question is: how bad is the piracy problem. Is the industry winning or are the pirates winning? It is mostly because I don't see the music industry actually dying that I am skeptical change will take place.

Hayek was opposed to intellectual property rights? Interesting. Didn't know that.

Oh, and in my most recent post I rather slander futurist speculation as an activity. I didn't actually mean to impugn, say, your comments by implication. We are talking quite sensibly here, as far as I can tell. I just feel sort of weird seeing the hits roll in and waiting for someone to stand up and say 'this Holbo is a fraud. He doesn't know anything about the music industry.' Which is true. I don't. The only thing I feel qualified to talk about even remotely are the broad contours of the ethico-legal dilemma: when should lawmakers step in to help the music industry. This seems to me like an issue that can be settled by reasoning at some distance from the actual facts ... which I don't know.

Nice chatting with you. (Just thought I should mention it.)


It's not as inefficient as it looks, it just has to pay a lot of rent for space in record stores. Now if poeple only bought music on the interweb, things might get better.

The orchard argument also ignores what people would do with the money saved on apples and once the trees are planted why do we need tree planters any more? Of course innovation in plums might be a bit slower.

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