Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Days Like This That Make Me Excited about My Future.

8:30 am - end of breakfast.  felt like I had walked into a lion's den.  breakfast chatter for a few minutes brought out Lessig-bashing.  I sat holding my Creative Commons laptop case on my lap (Lessig founded Creative Commons), trying not to get boiling mad and only correcting the lady when it would be uncontroversial. 

The day soon improved.  Keynote speaker from Universal Music Group filled me with hope for the future.  (They aren't as dumb and ostrich-like as I thought - see Wed. IP blog post for more.)  The session on Digital Copyright was an amusing blood-bath like escapade with high tempers and enemies sitting next to each other.  One guy who is the CEO for a music publishing association (i.e. helps song-writers get paid) said Apple is making money off of selling iPods and people use their iPods to put music on them, so song writers and musicians should get part of Apple's iPods profits.  Right, and I say I buy socks and use them to wear shoes, so the sock companies should get part of the proceeds from the shoe sales.  After all, what good are socks without shoes?  Or vice versa.  What good's a music file (or cd/record/tape) with nothing to play it on? 

Sadly, the industry logic is often like this.

There was also some nice cat fighting over whether there's too much or too little copyright protection.  Ironically, the panelists turned it into America vs. America.  Free Markets vs. The Constitution.  If you care, I'll explain more, otherwise I'd wind up spending a page explaining the foundations of copyright law.  There was also much disagreement over whether users have a right to content once it's been released (legal access, not right to just take) or whether creators should always have a right to say "no."  (Ironically, that's a bit more moral rights, which is something Europe has, but not the US.)

All fighting, scratching, nitpicking aside, the best part of the conference (to me) was those speakers from yesterday speaking again.  Sadly, only about 6 people went to their panel, and of the ones that were there, few people understood.  I think part of it was that American music industry folks are too worried about their "crisis" to care about anything having to do with Africa.  And the other part, they just don't get Africa.  Sometimes I hate those save the children ads for the impression they perpetuate.  Problem is, those kids do need help.  But Africa is so much much more than that!  If I had one wish, I think I'd wish that everyone in the world could see the true beauty that's in Africa, and all the exciting, wonderful things it has to offer, instead of just the disease and destruction.

Anyway, I like these guys' work a lot and don't worry, as soon as they send me the reader-friendly version (as opposed to the law journal version) many of you will be getting an email.  (And there's a new post about their work on Afro-IP.)  It was just so neat to talk to them again.  I hope it wasn't the last time. ;)


Jeannie said...

Using their 'logic' of iPods, then the same would hold true for record players, tape players, cd players, dvd players, etc....somehow that just really does not make any sense! Can you see Sony or Crosley or magnavox or any of the makers of electronic equipment having to pay royalties to the song writers and musicians because someone might play their music on thier equipment? People who have iPods are still paying for the music, unless they are offered, and take advantage of, a free download. I think I would have been all over that argument....glad you 've had such exciting days.

goldenrail said...

Actually, there is a provision in our copyright law that requires companies like Sony, Crosley or Magnavox to pay royalties to the music industry. However, some lucky lobbying confined the payment only to DATS (digital audio tapes) which had a very short life here. The reasoning behind the law was that the tapes would be used to create pirated copies of things.
In many countries there are surcharges on blank cds. In Canada, there is a very high iPod tax. (Making the the Wal-Mart in Detroit the biggest iPod selling place in the world.)
My issue with taxing the iPods (like Canada does) is that you can easily fill an iPod w/o illegally obtaining any music or using p2p. (In the words of the Sony Betamax case from the 1980s, iPdos have a "substantial non-infringing use."
And, the reasoning given by the guy at the conference wasn't even that the iPod helps infringe, it was that Apple's getting rich by selling these and the iPods wouldn't work w/o music.