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August 23, 2006

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» The University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog: The Content Wars from John Thomson
The University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog: The Content Wars Chicago Law faculty member Randy Picker writes about how the content battle over freely-found-and-downloaded vs paid vs ad-supported media will alter our media landscape.... [Read More]

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greglas

Hey Randy, what is this? It sounds a bit like a long abstract but also a little like a manifesto. I guess it's just a blog post but the style is kind of interesting.

While I agree with much of what you say about the shifting trend in some copyright arenas toward ad-supported content (which has always dominated radio and tv content distribution models) I'd like to comment on two points here.

First, the dichotomy of "content" and "advertising" you rely on might be overdrawn. I understand that those terms have an accepted common meaning, but my hunch is that if we're talking about DRM and copyright generally, we should be careful about explaining how advertising can BE content (think Superbowl commercials) and content can BE advertising (think of most children's cartoons). There's quite a lot to question in our typical ideas about "advertising" and "content." Arguably, the advertising/content division is best defined in terms of general payment practices, not in terms of empirically defensible categories that justify legal interventions in the market.

You might take a look at Ellen Goodman's piece on Stealth Marketing, which kicks up some dust in this area:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=896239

Second, I think you've tending to get just a bit apocalyptic about the social & market implications of P2P: "So if sold once, free everywhere means that no one will pay for content, we will need to add advertising to that content."

No one will pay for content? A price of zero is a powerful thing, but you seem to imply above that when equivalent goods are priced zero and non-zero, that the non-zero market is doomed. That's not always true, right? Bottled water is making a killing these days. Relatedly, there are plenty of people who might choose Napster 2.0 over a "free" P2P service due to interface appeal, quality issues, reliability, concern over spyware, ethical qualms (social norms), etc.

So while I agree with you that the trend in copyright is toward a culture with greater advertising push and less price payment, I don't see this as an either/or proposition at all.

Finally, just because a producer doesn't get cash for producing a work, that doesn't mean that the producer wouldn't encourage others to distribute the work for "free." Despite that Samuel Johnson quote, many artists are motivated by the prospect of realizing non-monetary returns. See, e.g., free software and Creative Commons.

Just a few thoughts. I deal with a lot of these issues in my recent "Digital Attribution" draft on SSRN, btw, which you might find of interest:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=917396

Phil Throckmorton

Speaking of copies and copying, I frequently wish the articles in this forum were formatted for easier printing.

Doug Lay

This reads like the intro to something. Are more posts going to be forthcoming?

FWIW, you completely ignore the argument that technical controls over how content is used by consumers - a.k.a. DRM - simply don't work. This view is very widespread - close to universally held - in the computer security community.

Bob

Unless we are going to outlaw public libraries, I don't see what the fuss is all about. I rip mp3's from CD's I get from the library all the time. I have over 8,000 songs on my PC. I've been doing this for years. I never downloaded one song from napster or any other download service because the quality was not consistent. I even copy DVD's and VHS stuff from the library. My collection is huge. It is all also perfectly legal. So, tell me, will we let the MPAA and others outlaw libraries?

Digital media is just another media. Why should it cause anyone to change their copyright laws? Due to ease of use? Due to ease of copying? Or due to lower profit margins?

I'm starting to question the whole concept of copyright law. Once a product is sold to the public, it would seem to me to be in the public domain. I would enforce the "no copying to resell," but trying to enforce "no copying for personal use" is rediculous. It can't be done.

If you think about it, copyright law gives someone a monopoly on a product or idea for a given timeframe. Maybe it would be best to reduce this timeframe to something reasonable, like 2 years. That way, one can still make his profit upon release. Besides, most music and technology becomes obsolete within 1-2 years anyway. Same goes for patent law; reduce it to 2 years. Anything longer than that is just plain excessive greed (and no, greed is not necessarily a bad thing...it motivates people to be creative).

Regardless of what they decide, I will continue making trips to my public library to copy whatever the hell I choose. Everything in the public library IS PUBLIC DOMAIN. I don't care what copyright law says. Think about it. How can a DVD be in the public library and no be considered public domain? Or are libraries some kind of special twilight zone where copyright law doesn't exist? Kind of like "no free speech" zones near Bush when he wants to deliver a speech (assuming he can babble his way through it).

Doug Lay

My comment yesterday was made too quickly, and was not entirely correct.

DRM can "work" to a greater or lesser degree at preventing what is generally termed "schoolyard copying" - where posessors of a legitimately purchased copy make further copies and pass them along to acquaintances.

Where DRM is useless - according to the vast majority of security professionals - is in preventing "darknet" copying, where copies that have already had the DRM stripped off are passed around the Internet via p2p networks.

Next problem: Your comment that "But many fear that when content producers can reach into your house and control how many times you play a song or whether you can fast-forward over commercials, we will have shifted control over content in a dramatic way" is an extreme oversimplification of the objections to DRM and (especially) DRM-protective laws like the DMCA. It's not just control over content that's at stake - it's control over the technological infrastructure that carries content.

DRM+DMCA is incompatible with open source software, and, more broadly, with what Ed Felten calls the "freedom to tinker". It's also incompatible with "remix culture", which Lessig has taken to calling "read/write" culture of late. Even in an introductory section, simply summing up objections to DRM+DMCA as "fear" of "shifted control over content" really misses the boat.

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