Call#: Van Pelt Library HV6773 .H56 2006
Though this book is biased against internet file sharing, it provides a good background on some of the issues that arise when dealing with the topic. Hinduja provides a difference between file sharing and CD stealing that neither the detractors nor supporters of file sharing had thought to mention, perhaps because it is so obvious. Theft of digital property over the Internet is much easier and quicker than physical theft. He goes on to attempt to liken the two, claiming that the desire to innovate and develop creative works can be stifled if the rewards are less than anticipated, but there is a clear argument against this. That is, most artists struggle for years making absolutely no money before “making it,” and even then there is no guarantee of survival. These artists cannot anticipate that the returns will be high, because the likelihood of this to be the case is so low. It is in fact, these artists who struggle for years for no money who benefit from file sharing, as it enables them to share their work and develop a fan base without the stifling influence of a giant record label. Thus, for these artists, the same harmful peer-to-peer network that supposedly squelches the desire to innovate actually stimulates it. It provides the possibility that their work will be heard, which would otherwise be unlikely.
Though the author is against file sharing, he admits that digital intellectual property is characterized as a public good. Its utility is not decreased when the property is shared. It is also an “information good,” with a marginal cost of production of about zero. Though the author describes these factors as augmenting the attractiveness of the commodity, he informs the reader that because of the attractiveness, the music industry refused for years to embrace the format changes and introduce it into their business model. This seems at first to make little to no sense, until we consider the historical resistance to change in this industry.
Hinduja further describes the government’s general resistance to legislate on the matter of punishment for copyright infringement, suggesting that a reason for this is that most individuals lacked the capacity to violate the laws. This is no longer true, and perhaps the government should step in and make their position on the matter known. This potentially contradicts Lessig’s argument that the technology must develop before rules are made concerning its use.
This paper, from Communications of the ACM, studies the music industry’s response to piracy in terms of technological innovations with the potential for achieving a loyal, internet-based following. The article asks the following questions: “1) do record labels with greater exposure to piracy move faster to embrace technology?; 2) do these record labels invest in designing richer web sites and what features of web sites are viewed as more important? And 3) Which forms of music distribution are more prevalent?”
The study looked at 128 record labels, all of which appear in the Billboard magazine listings, between the summers of 1998 and 1999. The study first found that record labels exposed to piracy were quicker to create websites, an early embrace of technology. These websites also were more interactive than those of the late adopters. The authors of the paper suggest that labels exposed to high amounts of piracy did make concerted efforts in these early years to establish websites that would retain customers. As far as e-distribution of music went, many sights offered full-length low quality recordings of their songs in Real Audio format, a complementary form of music distribution that did not replace the need for MP3s or hard copies of CDs. While high-piracy labels favored this low fidelity e-distribution technique, it did little to diffuse the acceptance of the MP3 as a standard for consumers of the industry.
The paper ends with an optimistic paragraph: “If there is a silver lining in the battle between the music industry and MP3-based music piracy, it is that this particular open standard has pushed the key players to embrace technology…It remains to be seen if they can find a formula for adopting this new technology while maintaining their financial performance.” Three years later, it seems that iTunes and other legal download services have filled this niche, a fact that is promising both for the record companies and consumers.