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Clay Shirky uses 'Sharing' as a euphemism for Internet Piracy.

Sharing an item you bought - like a book or a disc with a real friend is legitimate. Sharing my copyright content with millions of internet users is piracy, the long term effect of which will be the disincentive to produce creative content. I am speaking as an independent producer of copyright content who has been the victim of online piracy.

  • Jan 20 2012: Sharing is not piracy. John is merely following the propaganda that a person who creates a fungible work has total control over it. While it's nice to think that a series of laws could be passed to make it illegal for people to copy your work, in reality this line of reasoning is doomed to failure. This is why copyright law has historically policed the PROFITING from other people's work. Historically, it was illegal to reproduce another's copyrighted work and profit from it without proper licensing. Simply copying for personal use where zero profit is made was not considered infringement (as long as credit was given to the creator). Up until the 90's, this distinction didn't really matter because the act of copying was difficult and, as Clay says in his talk, the large media companies enjoyed market control. With the advent of the internet, a fungible work became truly that: infinite copies of media can be made at zero cost. Under the old scheme, this is not an issue because it is easy to police those (like Napster, Megavideo, etc.) who profit from the copying. The main difference, however, is that this drastically changes the market value for copyrighted work. If something can be reproduced infinitely, it is worth nothing. Clearly this is not the case in reality: to manage a library of millions of works is difficult and requires money. The real market value of digital media is basically the marginal value it contributes towards covering the costs of hosting and maintenance. John is upset (like big media) because he thinks he can charge $15-$20 for a cd containing a few songs. The reality is that in the 90's a given song's marginal value was probably $1-$2. Now that value is closer to 1-2 cents. What the internet has done is increase competition. As Clay says, previously big media could get away with producing mediocre content; however, today with nearly perfect competition, mediocre content is insufficient. Only high quality content is profitable.
    • Jan 20 2012: This reply employs confused reasoning. How can a creative work be "fungible' -"being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind."? Creative work is unique, and irreplaceable. There is not another Mona Lisa, there is not a copy of the Sydney Opera House floating around off Oslo, and there is not another Twin Towers in New York. Creative work has value because it carries enlightenment or gives well-being to others. Creative work has value because it is the product of research and invested time and talent. If it is possible to reproduce it, to make copies of the creative work, this does not reduce its value, only enables more people to share its benefits. The reverse of your claim is the reality. Never have we been more exposed to mediocre content than in the digital age. The lowest common denominator is the only form of content that remains profitable. High quality content was wiped out by the large media companies years ago, and the hope that the internet held for niche markets for quality content has been wiped out by piracy.
  • Jan 20 2012: Hi John, this is my fault for not being clear. When I meant fungible, I meant the digital representation of a work is indistinguishable from its copy. I agree with you that all creative works are unique. But the fact remains that any creation which can be represented in binary format can then be copied perfectly. Unlike painting another Mona Lisa (a case where one can distinguish a copy from the original), it is physically impossible to distinguish a digital copy from the original. Even further, the cost of copying the bits which represent the digital version of a creation is essentially zero. This technical revolution (zero cost of copying digital data) is what Clay speaks about. Sure there is a plethora of mediocre work out there, pretty much anything can be found on the internet because creation and sharing are so easy. The point I was previously trying to make (unsuccessfully it would seem) is that this technical revolution has fundamentally changed the market. Because it is essentially free to replicate non-enormous amounts of data, the market value for a copy of a digital work is near zero. Thus the only way to make money off of digital works is to:

    1. Employ licensing or copy protection algorithms.
    2. Create something that has such appeal that people are willing to spend disproportionately more on it.
    3. Create something that has such mass appeal that the volume of paid consumption is enormous.
    4. Some combination of the above (hopefully 2 & 3 :-P)
    5. Buy off Congress (costs money, undermines fundamental civil liberties, distorts the market, suppresses competition)
    • Jan 21 2012: The idea that because something may be copied digitally it is essentially worthless is specious. Why would you want a copy of something that is essentially worthless? The fact that you or someone else is making a copy means that it has value. If something is represented as a series of digits, 0s or 1s, then what has value is the specific ordering of those digits. If someone gets in and changes the order of just one of those digits, then your product is essentially worthless, because it will not be a faithful representation of the original. What has actually happened as a result of the technological revolution is that there is no longer a market. What we have is a free-for-all jungle, in which everyone feels they have the right to take what they like. The final result will be that the 'goods' that this market makes available (according to your suggestions 2-3 above) will actually be worthless. Works of art and music will find other outlets that realistically reflect true value.
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    Jan 20 2012: in short, you are protecting your own interest. dismissed.
    • Jan 20 2012: The idea of copyright is to protect the interests of the creative individual.
      I am but small fry, but post my case just to show that the huge mechanism that is called the internet, has basically made possible large scale theft in the name of "freedom of information". I know what the issues are.Perhaps the legislation is bad, but it is immoral to justify continued PIRACY in the name of freedom. I am looking forward to a copyright test case.
      The short of it is that creative individuals: those that create software, music, written word, film scripts will just stop distributing their content via the internet. You can all die of boredom.
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        Jan 20 2012: and the idea of robbery is the to serve the robber. the idea of killing is to take a life.

        you can not automatically assume that because something is good for you, it is just. we need to use moral principles and thorough philosophical thinking to find out what is just. and then we need to apply these fundamentals, no matter how bad it is for you, or for anybody.

        ah, one more thing. writing PIRACY in all caps won't make it any more appropriate.
        • Jan 20 2012: Sorry I cannot follow what you are trying to say. Please capitalize the beginning of sentences.I don't know what a TED Translator is, but it seems to me you should get some English skills before you go on line, especially for an institution with a name renowned for intellectual content such as TED. In general this discussion is just another example of the reduction of intellectual debate and content over the internet. (I only used caps for TED.)
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        Jan 20 2012: Or you can be replaced by people who understand the business model and no one will even notice you missing.

        I say that as a content creator.

        People are willing to pay for content online. Sure, not everyone, but they're the same people who are copying CDs or buying bootlegs anyway, You may as well deal with the fact that things have changed and figure out how to work with the new reality.
        • Jan 20 2012: Yes I have heard this said. I do not have a business model. Making music is not a business, it is a lifestyle and a lifestyle choice. It gives value to my life. The internet has given me more publicity than I could ever imagine. No-one out there knows who I am, but anyone can Google me. That is all very wonderful but it does not pay the mortgage.
          I am for a new business model that will allow me to receive remuneration for my creative content. I really do not care how it will work, but the present model does not work. By the way the word 'are' is missing from your first sentence.
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    Jan 21 2012: I honestly do not quite understand. You are complaining about people sharing your music. Other users are explaining to you why this is happening and methods that you could be using--and many seem like they may be interested in helping you update your business model (which would take maybe an afternoon)--but you would much rather shut down the conversation prematurely with "OH I HAVE A LIFE BTW". This whole thread does not reflect well on you. If you wish to simply complain and find people supporting you without further discussion this seems like a poor place to do so.
    • Jan 21 2012: This thread may well not reflect well on me because I have dared to stick my neck out and say that I refuse to conform to the 'new business model' that has been forced on me. I only do this because as a little guy, an independent, I have nothing to lose. I represent, however, the thoughts and feelings of many thousands of others who have done the same as me. Without attributing the names of the authors, let me reflect to you what other musicians are saying:
      "Surprise surprise people who like music enough to steal it are more likely to pay for it too . That's a pretty lame argument against trying to stop people from stealing it . "Now that music is free I have discovered so much great new music " . If restaurants where free I guess you would discover some "cool new ones" too . A record company that convinces an artist to enter into a bad deal is more corrupt than a website like youtube that makes a living out of people giving away other peoples music for free ? I think there is a big difference and its plainly obvious which is worse yet musicians are on the side of youtube . The greatest irony of our time ."
      ".i remember being somewhat disheartened to find that 4 weeks after i released my vocal album of sco tunes it was on a torrent site...so for an incredibly niche project- i was never in a thousand years going to be able to pay that album back if the tiny % of people on the planet who may have been curious to hear it could get it for free"
      "you know that feeling i am sure -" why should i bother making music and going into debt to record it if people aren't going to support me as an independent artist to make it-?"...it's like they metaphorically walk into your house and take the cd out of the box isn't it......hmm- perhaps this is indeed why i feel like giving up"
      "Now that you can get what ever you want whenever you want it, everything gradually converges to a point of complete worthlessness. This is what happens when the market dominates every living moment."
  • Jan 21 2012: Hello John,

    I agree with you - sharing is a euphemism for piracy - and I do feel sympathy for the little guy, starting his first production business of whatever, who loses out and I feel no sympathy for the big guys, who it seems aren't doing too badly despite piracy, if you take the average wage of a draw card actor or actress into consideration.

    I think whatever it is, internet piracy is becoming mainstream and the accepted norm - just like inter-racial marraiges, women wearing pants, children having phones. Regardless of whether it's piracy or sharing, the traditional modes of sharing entertainment and content are becoming obsolete. The relevant industries should be less concerned with influencing laws reagrding sharing/piracyon the internet and more concerned with what happens when 'the internet' is considered a relic technology. When something much more turbulent replaces it.
    • Jan 21 2012: Thank you for your understanding. I think what is happening through the internet is happening because of the anonymity that the internet affords its users. Everyone wants something for nothing, and it is only a fool who will buy something that is made available in another place for free. If we could visualize this free-for-all in reality rather than in virtual reality, it would look something like the looting and pillaging that occurred on the streets of London during the rioting last year. The looters forgot about the CCTV cameras that documented the whole event. Not an edifying site. We also learned that not only the poorer classes were running away with huge plasma screens and DVDs, but well dressed people who thought they could get away with it.
      That is what we are seeing on the internet. Everyone thinks that they can get away with looting and pillaging intellectual property with impunity. Not only that - they are saying that it is their free and democratic right to loot and pillage. There are two possibilities: either someone at last will use existing laws to enforce copyright ownership of intellectual property (and that someone will have to be large corporations that have the muscle, and not the little guy who has no money or reserves of funding), or else new 'draconian' laws will have to be introduced. Either this or the intellectual entrepreneur will just have to take his entrepreneurship elsewhere.
  • Jan 20 2012: @JOHN:
    It all comes back to economy.

    The idea that people won't create or consume content any longer, when not motivated by money, has been debunked already.

    We live in a competitive world society which is (in my opinion) on the tipping point of becoming a cooperative world society. With ever increasing knowledge, technical ability and actually the need for change in many areas, the concept of property/ownership is going right out of the window. It will probably change in to some sort of sharing/public-use system.

    The idea of ownership is weird any way. What gives someone the right to "own" any part of reality? Specially when we are in fact part of it ourselves...
    • Jan 20 2012: I am in favour of a cooperative world society. When I don't have to pay my Internet Service Provider, or for my mobile phone, or for electricity or for food, then I will happily give away the fruit of years of intellectual endeavour, and physical hard labour practicing my skills as a creative worker. In the meantime I own these skills, and they have value. So does my time. Why should I invest large amounts of it to give you pleasure for nothing in return?
      • Jan 21 2012: Right now you can but earn money by whatever means possible. Like everybody does. And if this work or lifestyle (lucky?) does not make you money any longer, you find something else. Unfortunately that's the other side of the competition coin at work. It works both ways.

        Fortunately (sort of) competition does not work in the long run, as it is extremely inefficient. And it will motivate us in to a different direction.
  • Jan 20 2012: @JOHN - I think you really might benefit by reading what you music host bandcamp.com had to say about not providing excessive protections for music hosted on their site. I think their discussion of how music is a unique creative product that most people only consider buying after they have listened to it, and decided they like it, is spot on. In short, the people who will most often buy your music are, oddly enough, the people who have already acquired a copy. This inverts the usual process of buying most people go through where they first purchase something, and only then decide if they like it - and want to keep it.

    So while I sympathize with what you're saying (being a musician myself), I can also understand a listener's reluctance to buy the proverbial "pig in a poke."

    I think it's just the reality of how music sales work. Best learn to live with it.
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    Jan 20 2012: So, John. How much effort do you expect the rest of the world to go through to protect your intellectual property?
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    Jan 20 2012: And if you want to be a court musician you'll have to get in your time machine and go back to when that was an option.

    People are willing to pay for digital content (clearly some are not, but large numbers are).

    Last month Louis CK managed to sell over 200,000 "copies" of his DRM-free concert at $5 a shot - without paying a middleman. Look how many Louis CK clips are "illegally" on Youtube and how many views they have.

    There's a market, you just have to adapt to it.
  • Jan 20 2012: I completely agree with you but the point that Clay is making - which is fundamental to this whole debate - is that creators need income and if all their output was pirated they would have none. So they need protection. But if that protection is so draconian that any website that is sharing any content legitimately stops doing it for fear of prosecution then that is a step too far and will lead to the loss of all the benefits of the internet. And of course those benefits include a creator reaching a worldwide market by sharing a taster of his work.
    In the example of the cake maker mentioned the baker should be able to obtain a cheap and easy one click license to pay a small sum (50c?) for every cake he bakes with an image on. He doesn't have time to check whether an image infringes copyright. But at the same time creators have to turn the switches on to allow their images to be used on cake baking. THEY can't police that use in reality so monetise it. And the public have to accept that there should be a small charge for that use. They wouldn't even know it was being charged - it would be included in the $5 fee used for including the picture on the cake. The baker pays all the 50cents they collects in one year to an agency who distribute it. It's not rocket science. The creators and the content industries need to talk to the tech people and find a solution instead of thinking the law can solve this issue - it won't
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    Jan 20 2012: If you are so concerned about having your "protected" intellectual ideologies "pirated" by others, why post them on-line? Clearly the logical course of action would be not to do so. This act does oversteps its bounds on drawing a line against on-line piracy. Downloading music online in ordder to avoid paying for the Cd iitself is piracy, attempting to improve upon the ideals of others is not.
    • Jan 20 2012: Who said I posted on-line.
      My physical CD has been ripped and posted on-line without my consent, because I am an independent without the muscle of the bug companies.
      Someone uploaded one of my improvisations to YouTube, also without my consent, but hey, its a digital world.
      • Jan 20 2012: John, with all due respect -- who are you? What is your content? Where can I see/touch/feel your CD? Where can I be exposed to your creative content? I live in the middle of nowhere. I love new content. I will not get it at my local truck stop, and I don't live at the nearest WalMart 50 miles away.

        Without the sharing capabilities of the internet, I will never hear your name, or your creativity, unless Time Warner or Universal or Disney think YOU can make them big bucks -- big enough bucks to matter to them. Even George Lucas (ever heard of him?) can't get HIS content distributed by anyone if it's not within their narrow business model. So you? You don't stand a chance.

        If you are the John Bostock on Yahoo!Music, I tried to listen via the Rhapsody player and neither of the two 30 second clips would play for me. As a consumer, you lost my interest in trying again, because I do not have a reason to keep trying. I found another John Bostock on YouTube, but which one? The piano soloist? The karaoke background? The cover artist?

        And yet, if I hear a single song, by you, as background for a video I'm interested in, it's like scrolling through the radio stations in my car -- well, now, I like that, who is this?

        Hint: I spend ten times longer on the internet than I do in my car. Think about it.
        • Jan 20 2012: You can find me through Google. My physical CD's are available from CDBaby. My music is streamed by LastFM and Spotify, at the wonderful rate of 0.0045 cents per listen. My music is also available for streaming and download via BandCamp. There is even a clip on You Tube not uploaded by me. My point is this: as an independent I know that i have no muscle. The web should work for me. The legitimate parts of it do. The pirate parts have totally stalled my initiative. I am surprised that I have almost 400 listeners on Last FM - think about it - I have no promotion at all. Apparently the content quality is what sells.
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        Jan 20 2012: Use it to your benefit.

        Really, you should have uploaded a copy yourself at a lesser-quality compression, and use the channel as a way to communicate with fans and sell better versions.

        The person who uploaded it may be trying to introduce your music to their friends and networks - you know, RECOMMENDING YOU. If you had had your own stuff online, they could have referred people to your page where you can control the message, point people to your other work, etc.

        This is a lot like the time when I was stuck working out of a client site and I had to poke holes in their firewall to accomplish my work because their moronic I/T team wouldn't let me do it legitimately. Really, I didn't want to poke holes in their security, unfortunately they made it the ONLY WAY to get my work done.

        If people are going to do this shit, you need to figure out how to make it work for you.
        • Jan 20 2012: Thank you, your advice is spot on. I will get around to it sometime in my life. At present I am too busy trying to live in the real world. That is right, musicians have to live and if they don't get paid for making music then they go and do other things. No time to make or promote creative content. Get it?
      • Jan 21 2012: You could always file a DMCA takedown notice. That would get your video off YouTube even though it would lessen your exposure up on the web. It's that two-edged sword again.
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        Jan 21 2012: "No time to make or promote creative content. Get it?"

        Uh, that is PART of marketing/promoting the content.