Techdirt vs. ASCAP's Bill of Rights

Over on Techdirt, Blaise Alleyne rips apart ASCAP’s “Bill Of Wrongs” for Songwriters and Composers, point by point, item by item.

1. We have the right to be compensated for the use of our creative works, and share in the revenues that they generate.

Why? In what other industries do creators maintain control over their creations after they reach consumers? Lenovo has no right to be compensated for the use of my laptop or to share in the revenue I generate through developing software. This is not a given.

It’s all debatable, of course, and that’s the point. These are not rights granted by the U.S. Constitution or current copyright law, as ASCAP implies. It’s just a wishlist, “just an assertion of the status quo by those who depend on copyright law to protect their obsolete business models.”

9 thoughts on “Techdirt vs. ASCAP's Bill of Rights”

  1. I love how every time someone describes it as theft, the response is “dude, you’re behind the times, it’s just a different business model.”

    You could hide all sorts of wrongs under the rubric of a ‘different business model’.

  2. That post is BS and uses disingenuous comparisons to make untenable points.

    The creation of a unique piece of art in any format that can then be reproduced requires some level of protection that the art continues to serve its intended purpose if its creator wishes. Even in the simple example given above, that Lenovo laptop is a machine that the user pays to use for their purposes in perpetuity up front, but there is intellectual property – drivers, codecs, etc. – on that laptop that the purchase price goes in part to their original creators that they might continue their work. This then allows the owner of the laptop to produce more/better work as that code is improved.

    Almost every rebuttal to those points is an apples-to-oranges comparison, easily dismantled when you take into account the myriad purposes that a piece of art can be used to serve and benefit someone other than its creator.

  3. You know the long standing rule, “the first person to call the other a Nazi automatically loses the argument”?

    Well, I think there needs to be a corollary that says the first person to use the word “untenable,” wins.

  4. Y’know, I agree with nearly every word of Joshua’s post, but if he puts it here in this itty bitty comment section it’s not really a smackdown…he should post it where Blaise Alleyn is likely to read it.

  5. Sorry for being late to the party. Took me a while to find this post, but I figure, better late than never in responding.

    I love how every time someone describes it as theft, the response is “dude, you’re behind the times, it’s just a different business model.”

    Copyright isn’t “not theft” because it hasn’t been adapted to the digital age. That’s a separate problem. It’s not theft, because it’s not theft. Please, find me the words “theft,” “larcency” or “stealing” in the Copyright Act. It is simply not theft legally, logically, ethically, conceptually… theft removes the good from the owners hand. Copying copies it.

    Is that difficult to understand?

    That doesn’t mean copyright infringement is right. But it’s not theft.

    That post is BS and uses disingenuous comparisons to make untenable points.

    Granted, it’s quite negative in tone. It’s asserting where ASCAP is wrong (mmm… pretty much everywhere). Not making suggestions for how to do things right. That’s all over Techdirt elsewhere.

    The creation of a unique piece of art in any format that can then be reproduced requires some level of protection that the art continues to serve its intended purpose if its creator wishes.

    … why? I mean, to suggest that a creator should be able to control his or her creation after it’s sold is a pretty extreme extension of property rights. That’s not a given. Why should a creator have that kind of control?

    Even in the simple example given above, that Lenovo laptop is a machine that the user pays to use for their purposes in perpetuity up front, but there is intellectual property – drivers, codecs, etc. – on that laptop that the purchase price goes in part to their original creators that they might continue their work. This then allows the owner of the laptop to produce more/better work as that code is improved.

    1. The example was about the hardware, not the software. And, even with the software, you don’t pay for it continuously. It’s a one time fee to acquire the good; you don’t pay to use it.
    2. I run GNU/Linux. The software on my laptop is much more free than I was suggesting music ought to be. 95% of the software on my Lenovo laptop is released under a royalty-free license, reversing the effects of copyright. Lenovo doesn’t make the software anyways.

    Almost every rebuttal to those points is an apples-to-oranges comparison, easily dismantled when you take into account the myriad purposes that a piece of art can be used to serve and benefit someone other than its creator.

    I don’t understand how the “purpose” of artwork changes the economics involved. If it feels like I’m comparing apples to oranges, let me suggest that it’s because we don’t treat intellectual “property” like property at all. There are all sorts of extreme “property” rights that we wouldn’t accept in other domains. Case-in-point: in what other domain would the creator’s purpose in make something after your rights of what you can do with it after you buy it from them?

    Let me try to frame this a bit more positively. ASCAP is fundamentally wrong because they on depending on the copyright crutch. They can’t imagine making money from music any other way.

    This is where the economics of abundance comes into play.

    The problem with the copyright crutch is that digital audio files are an infinite good. The price naturally tends toward zero because the supply is infinite. Musicians and music fans alike would be much better off leveraging the infinite value of digital music (i.e. spreading thread music as far and wide as possible), and capitalize on the scarcities associated with their music (e.g. physical goods like CDs, concert tickets, access to the musician, the ability to create new music, etc.).

    ASCAP is stuck trying to enforce artificial scarcity on music through draconian copyright measures. Good luck with that. Musicians would be better off not to get sucked into the sinking ship, but to leverage the economics of abundance to their advantage.

    Anyways… hopefully there’s still someone paying attention to the itty bitty comments section here.

  6. Defending piracy? Seriously?

    Recently, a friend managed to download the entire Miles Davis discography for free. My first thought was, ‘that’s a pretty sizeable collection; how long would it take for them to listen to and absorb the whole thing?’ The second thing that popped into our heads was, ‘Wow…a musician’s work is of no monetary value these days.’

    I’ve been theorizing how this scenario can be seen as the plot for Revenge of the (computer) Nerds. Except, that instead of the grateful thanks from the artists they seem to think they have liberated from the evil record company empire, the musicians’ response is more along the lines of ‘Thanks a lot, dorks: you just killed a valuable revenue stream.’

    Of course, immediately, the ‘Hey, I buy new music but download for free the music of artists who’ve already made their money’ argument makes its customary appearance. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to hear from anyone who has tried this line of logic with General Motors, Wal-Mart or A&P. Let me know, will ya?

    And what about songwriters? How do the people that don’t perform live make a living when their main revenue source is depleted? And without songwriters there is no new music.

    Thanks, guys. Go fuck with someone else’s livelihood next time.

  7. Hi Kiko,

    Where did I “defend piracy?”

    I just said that copyright infringement isn’t theft. That doesn’t mean it’s not wrong or illegal or unethical or whatever. (I said, “That doesn’t mean copyright infringement is right. But it’s not theft.”)

    But to call it theft is intellectually dishonest, and prevents us from having any sort of useful discussion about what copyright should look like on the Internet.

    (If you believe any copying is like stealing, you wouldn’t want to allow any copying like we wouldn’t want to allow any stealing. But that’s clearly not how copyright law works, if you take a look at the concept of fair use, for example.)

    By the way, I’m a musician and a songwriter too. And did you take a look at all the posts on Techdirt about how musicians are making new business models work?

  8. In an effort to avoid some future misunderstandings, let me try to summarize concisely what I’m trying to say:

    ASCAP is creating a “bill of rights” to protect a business model. Not only is that ridiculous (you don’t have a right to a business model) and doomed to fail (no “bill of rights” is going to stop unauthorized downloads), but it’s a disservice to musicians to engage in this futile and moralistic attempt to protect failing business models instead of focusing on developing new ones.

    ASCAP is blinded by its own bias (it exists for licensing) and musicians would do well to consider its position critically.

Leave a Reply