Re: Guest Post - Cyberlibertarians

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"Cyberlibertarian" is a really, really stupid term.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:50 AM
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The article's very stupid too, of course, judging by the third of the excerpt that I read, but I don't really have it in me. Halford = on the side of evil. Back to work!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:51 AM
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It's weird that the article goes on and on about how The Left Is Doing This, But The Left Should Do That. Who in "The Left" loves cyberlibertarians, exactly? Other than cyberlibertarians themselves who think they are The Left because they don't like homophobia or religion.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:54 AM
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Oh, okay, a couple more points: anybody who thinks that people who care about privacy and security on the internet are fans of Facebook of all things is presumptively an idiot. Second, Tor is funded by the fucking state department.

Third, "cyberlibertarian" is just an incredibly stupid, made up term.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:55 AM
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God, that article is fucking annoying. I expect it from Halford, because fundamentally he's an asshole about this stuff because it makes him feel better about the genuinely evil parts of his job, but I'm a little hurt that you'd post it, heebie.

(Yes, yes, I'm mostly kidding. But the attempted trivialization of real issues that really effect not only many people but our cultural legacy by a fucking corporate lawyer for the big-time entertainment industry is sort of shitty and no fun, so I'm going to leave and go work on Skynet some more.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:59 AM
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4, the idea is to point out that things like the anti-SOPA movement are big, big corporate anti-goverment campaigns. Not some sort of pro-little guy anti-big guy campaign.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:00 PM
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If digital communication technology promotes leftist values, why has its spread coincided with such a stark decline in the Left's political fortunes?

Two paragraphs in to the article it's already begging multiple questions.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:06 PM
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Nobody picked up the "manual insertion" low-hanging fruit? That's just wasteful, people.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:09 PM
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Oh, it's David Golumbia. There is more entertainment of a similar nature on the book's amazon page, in which Golumbia responds to these charges.


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:11 PM
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The more I encounter links to Jacobin, the more I'm starting to develop a visceral distaste for it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:11 PM
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6 is, I think, the basic message, or at least the one I endorse. 4 is a fair point but you do see these people around a lot. The broader point isn't that the "pro" SOPA side wasn't corporate (of course it was, and I also didn't agree with that legislation at the time) but that (a) much of what's at issue in these disputes is the dividing up of scraps between different corporate entities and that (b) a program based on absence of government control, private ordering, etc.will almost inevitably lead to the ability of the wealthy and powerful to get more powerful.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:24 PM
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The more I encounter links to Jacobin, the more I'm starting to develop a strong desire to Sokal-hoax them. Do it! You and Tweety could collaborate!


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:26 PM
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Actually 10 may be related to my increasing association of it with Corey Robin.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:27 PM
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Corey Robin's book is really really good. His online persona is weirdly annoying though, even though I don't actually often disagree with what he says.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:28 PM
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This book.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:29 PM
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12 sounds like fun.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:34 PM
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The bottom line is that the explosion of the tech sector has largely been a victory for right-wing interests; there's nothing special about computers that inherently made that happen, but an uncritical celebration of an unregulated cyber-space free of (ordinary) democratic or governmental control, and one that exists without concern as to the allocation of property in the real world, has basically helped horrible ends.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:50 PM
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I'll just say the excerpt is dumb. IP is in most important ways is diffrent from "real property" you can't give it the same protections, you can only generate by statue (which is what happened) new protections. Also I'm not sure what is right wing about stopping people from downloading iron man 3 or whatever, which is as far as I can tell the only thing that IP lawyers care about.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:56 PM
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You can only protect real property by statute, too (or, that is, you can only do so where the state has a monopoly on violence). That is actually the point of most statutes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:58 PM
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Somebody who knows what it means should use the word "exclusivity" or "non-excludable" or something here.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:01 PM
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I don't think "stopping people from downloading Iron Man 3" is particularly a left-wing value (except in the limited sense that it protects, to some extent, workers' and creators' right to be paid for their work, and to create some form of funding for the arts in the absence of state socialism). But thinking that you're helping a left movement by encouraging internet distributors of content to profit at the expense of creators of content is also very definitely not a left wing value.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:02 PM
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Habeas Excludicus?

But that may be the Harry Potter spell that keeps out Inferi.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:03 PM
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Yes, Robert, but you needed two different sets of statutes, because they are two different kinds of things. The word "new" wasn't ornamental, it implied that you couldn't expand the pre-existing common law dealing with personal-property to IP easily.


Posted by: asteele | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:04 PM
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18, the problem is not "downloading iron man 3" for free, the problem is having an expectation that you can get everything for free.

Another point in the article, amid all the rambling about the true leftish left and the leftism of its leftist aims, is that Chris Anderson's BS about The Long Tail is BS. What has actually happened in the world of Amazon and Spotify and Blogspot, when everyone is free to create content and be their own brand, is that people producing things in The Long Tail have gone from making a mediocre or OK living, to being unable to support themselves.

It's even more of a winner-take-all world. Increased inequality is a right-wing thing to want.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:05 PM
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Also I meant left-wing rather than right-wing, way back in 18, I blame beer.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:06 PM
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20 -- I have a whole series of arguments about why that distinction is massively overblown and basically econ 101 gobbeldygook, but we've gotten into that before.

Basically, the rivalrous/nonrivalrous distinction is real, but it reifies certain forms of property (which can be wildly unjust and exclusive, for example, property in land and especially in mineral rights, or certain kinds of corporate and financial rights) over others. All property is a legal fiction designed to allocate resources. Unsurprisingly, those most invested in emphasizing the rivalrous/nonrivalrous distinction seek to benefit by reducing the value of one kind of property at the expense of the other kind, which they hold more of (e.g., Google is happy to distribute content for free, as long as they have an absolute property right to control who advertises on their website and what they can charge for those advertisements).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:08 PM
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23 is largely true (though much of what we now think of as the "common law" of property also post-dates the statute of Anne and current IP laws), but the common law of property isn't some inherently just system imposed by divine order, and thinking that it is is part of the problem.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:12 PM
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Corey Robin's work seems extremely interesting and I've liked several of his blog posts a lot, but it's true that his self-presentation is often quite annoying. He does a lot of self-promotion, too, which is itself annoying.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:29 PM
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Shouldn't "intellectual property" be banned here as part of the analogy ban? For example, if I own a chair I'm allowed to copy it and make another matching chair. If I buy a piece of paper I'm allowed to modify it however I want and resell it. Either I own the chair or you do. "IP" doesn't work that way at all. You sell me a DVD and it's still "your property." I'm not allowed to do whatever I want with it. It's just a crappy analogy that doesn't clarify anything at all.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:40 PM
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Also the Common Domain is leftist, and the successful complete defeat of the Common Domain by big entertainment is a huge loss for the left.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:45 PM
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29 -- that's a limited understanding of what property is or how it works. Do you own a home? That's property, and it contains a set of use and exclusion rights with it (nb -- you can do a lot of things with it, but not "whatever you want"). Do you own shares of stock in a corporation? That's a form of property, and it also comes with certain rights, obligations, and entitlements. These are all means of structuring how goods, land, wealth, and work are owned. Some arrangements are better than others, but saying that the particular bundle of rights that obtain for a very limited set of tangible chattels is the only form of "property" is also very misleading about what property is or how it works.

30 -- an unlimited public domain (what I think you mean by "Public Common"), in which all content is free but nothing else is, is not at all a leftist project -- so long as all other forms of property rights that we have in our current system remain. You've just made all content free, which gives an opportunity for people who are powerful in other areas in a capitalist system to take that stuff for and use it without compensation, regulation, or control.

I agree that in our current system and copyright laws, a shortening of the length of time works are kept out of the public domain is a plausibly "leftist" project, but it's also one that's not ultimately that important. Ultimately, what matters is a generalized abrogation of property rights, in order to distribute wealth away from the powerful, not simply arranging the economy to favor certain rights-holders over others.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:05 PM
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Sorry, meant the public domain. That our cultural legacy and history is jointly shared rather than locked up forever by corporations is clearly a leftist project. But of course short copyright doesn't interfere with that, but the current regime has completely destroyed it.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:17 PM
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the problem is having an expectation that you can get everything for free

Actually, this is a great expectation to have an to inculcate, and a very left wing project indeed. One could well say that it was the defining project of the post-war European social democrats: the decommodification of progressively larger domains, from education to health-care to retirement security to child-care. Lots of things should be free, especially important things.

I don't really feel like mixing it up with Halford right now, but I just wanted to say that.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:18 PM
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The problem is who the "you" is there. Google taking everything it wants for free (and pretending to provide the public with goods for "free") is a very very different thing than a state-financed public park or health care. It's different because in the one case you have a distribution of wealth from the powerful to the less powerful and in the other another tool of corporate domination and enrichment of a few.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:22 PM
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massively overblown and basically econ 101 gobbeldygook, but we've gotten into that before.

it's not gobbledygook, it's totally commensenical and straightforward. I don't know if you have noticed this before, but in the age of the internet it is FREE FREE FREE to reproduce intellectual property. As many people as want to read a book, see a movie, or listen to some music, can do so at no extra charge to anyone! It's amazing, really. This makes IP *different* from other forms of property that the entire planet cannot feasibly share at zero cost. Not theoretically different, not econ 101 different, but actually different.

All property is a legal fiction designed to allocate resources.

I would say it's a legal tool designed to allocate resources in a socially beneficial manner. And that manner will vary depending on the underlying characteristics of the type of resources being allocated. With reproduction costs being one of those.

(e.g., Google is happy to distribute content for free, as long as they have an absolute property right to control who advertises on their website and what they can charge for those advertisements).

This example shows how far you stretch to erase the real distinctions between IP and others. Space on googles page is absolutely rivalrous in very real, tangible, and sensible ways. There are obvious physical limits on how widely it can be shared.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:23 PM
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I agree that space on Google's web page is a rivalrous form of property. That doesn't mean that the best property arrangement for society is to allow it to take content for free and control the distribution of that content, in order to maximize the value of the piece of rivalrous property it controls.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:29 PM
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the decommodification of progressively larger domains, from education to health-care to retirement security to child-care. Lots of things should be free, especially important things.

But those things aren't really free, it's just that a lot of societies have decided the best way to provide those things are for everyone to pay higher taxes and then pay people to provide those goods and services. A million people going to the coffee shop and downloading Von Wafer's latest book from piratebay or whatever isn't really the same thing at all.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:35 PM
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people producing things in The Long Tail have gone from making a mediocre or OK living, to being unable to support themselves.

Is this true? If it is, I think it's important, but I can think of examples on either side of that.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:44 PM
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And in fairness to trapnel maybe he really is picturing an expanded BBC type model for content but the people I tend to encounter on the "it should all be free" front typically are bitching about having to see ads on Hulu and it makes me want to kick them in the groin.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:46 PM
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I am happy to read that my opposition to SOPA and the like does not put me in league with the left. (duck)

To be serious for a moment, a fair amount of opposition to SOPA that I saw from left-leaners (which I shared, actually) had less to do with making Iron Man 3 free, but trying to limit what Disney can do - and use the legal system to do - to make sure that I did not download Iron Man 3 without paying for it.

Ultimately, I am not sure there was a pro-corporate or anti-corporate side to it but rather it was this-corporate or that-corporate. That said, the reason that SOPA looked likely to pass, and DMCA passed, is not because of broad ideological support for it, but because the "for" side is willing to put a lot more of its money into it than the "anti" side. Which, if one is worried about corporate power, seems kind of significant to me.


Posted by: Trumwill | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:51 PM
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Yeah, I mean, most of the artists I know and love are broke as fuck, and this is all pretty academic -- they do most of their stuff for free anyway, because it doesn't fit into marketable categories of the incarco-tainment industry. I've got brilliant friends who do amazing work, and who would like nothing better than to live in an anti-property society, because that would be the most fair for everyone. Who cares what Metallica thinks about file-sharing? Buncha rich assholes who haven't done an honest day's work in 20 years.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:51 PM
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Or, to put another way... as a non-lefty (duck), I have no inherent problem siding with corporate America when I think they have the right of it. I don't consider it a badge of honor to oppose them (or support them). But while this is not strictly a case of pro-corporate versus anti-corporate, it does seem to me that my views on this particular issue are more in-line with the anti-corporate, insofar as I seek to prevent the corporate from using the government against the rest of us in their (righteous, though not infinitely justified) pursuit of protecting their intellectual property rights.


Posted by: Trumwill | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:56 PM
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That ain't working, that's the way you do it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:56 PM
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there are a lot of links in the excerpt which I did not bother to manually insert.

Assuming that however you guys update Unfogged can handle raw html: in Firefox highlight the text, right-click, select "view selection source", copy and paste.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 3:59 PM
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the "for" side is willing to put a lot more of its money into it than the "anti" side

It's a very subsidiary point, but while this used to be true 15 years ago, it really isn't at all anymore. There's no question which industry is the more powerful and active, financially and politically.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:06 PM
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Incarco-tainment?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:16 PM
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This may be wrong or out of date:

"Entertainment organizations in Southern California and Silicon Valley elites have donated $2,508,573 to date. Only about a fifth of that amount has come from organizations that want to stop or drastically change SOPA. The rest come from supporters of the bill."

But I haven't seen the case made that it is.


Posted by: Trumwill | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:17 PM
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A lot of funding came in around the bill because the MPAA was pushing for it, over the objections of many within Hollywood. But if you talk to people actually knowledgeable about Washington the tech industry people are now almost infinitely more powerful than the MPAA or RIAA (as they should be, it's a vastly more important industry). Of course copyright stuff isn't the only issue for either industry, at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:20 PM
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A car you can watch DVDs in, maybe?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:34 PM
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What we need is for the entertainment and internet industries to gang up on the real enemies: cable companies.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:11 PM
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I mean it's not that people aren't willing to pay a lot for content, it's that most people are already paying $400 a month between phone, internet, and cable.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:11 PM
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I'm pretty sure the entertainment industry is a big part of the reason that cable TV is so expensive. This is why cable Internet is so expensive, more-or-less.


Posted by: Trumwill | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:20 PM
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There was a piece in (I think) Jacobin recently about classical music that made me think of Allan Bloom on music. But I didn't read it all the way through.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:40 PM
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52: Word. I haven't bought satellite or cable in years because of that. I'm totally willing to shell out for my high speed DSL, Hulu plus, and Netflix, and any company or channel not on board can fuck right off. Motherfuckers need to get paid, I get that. I'm totally down with ads or whatever. But everything should have been on the Hulu model like, immediately and it's ridiculous that it hasn't happened.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:40 AM
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Wow, Jacobin really is the Slate of the Left. We should write competing "Karl Marx would be pro-/anti-Miley Cyrus" articles. They could appear side-by-side in the same issue.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:57 AM
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52, 54: At this point it seems obvious to me that cable internet should be treated as a utility and regulated by state utility commissions, the way cable TV already is in some states. The exact same economic conditions apply, and the local providers are already monopolies, but without the regulatory requirements that usually come with natural monopolies.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:24 AM
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I don't work in the industry or anything but it's not apparent to me at all how the Hulu model isn't The Answer right now. It's got the capability for ads just like everyone's used to! For fuck's sake just get the content on there right now and charge ad space according to popularity just like it's been done since forever.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:39 AM
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This is totes a side point but basically information has been FREE FREE FREE to copy since idk like 1850? And realistically it's been super cheap since 1600. (Which is why copyright legislation starts to appear in the sixteenth and firms up in the seventeenth century.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:38 AM
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information has been FREE FREE FREE to copy since idk like 1850?

Steampunk RIAA hunts the purveyors of illicit pianolas from their fleet of war zeppelins.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:51 AM
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We should write competing "Karl Marx would be pro-/anti-Miley Cyrus" articles.

Marx would be anti, Engels would be pro. The existence of Miley Cyrus in 1875 would have radically changed the history of European socialism. Discuss.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:31 AM
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I've bern a fan of Miley since she referenced the Hegellian dialectic in the the title of her first series, "Best of Both worlds". She depicted a proletarian performer of pop music so destroyed by the false consciousnesse of capitalism that she denied the existence of her working self to her friends, who were non working decadent aristocrats.

With "Wrecking Ball" she's moving on to portray the violent revolution that is necessary to bring the communist utopia.


Posted by: Karl Marx | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:19 AM
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I agree with 6. The more I see of Jacobin/New Inquiry/N+1, the more I like the Labour Party.

Someone e-mailed me this, so I'll probably blog about it, but it's stupid in a whole variety of important ways. Tweety's already dealt with a couple, but there's plenty more - notably the argument from original sin, that ESR is a cunt (true) and therefore all open-source software is HITLUR, the effort to categorise everything as on the left or "corporate" like the Daily Mail does with "causes cancer"/"miracle cure", and most of all, the notion that because I dislike libertarians, more "regulation" is therefore necessarily good.

Personally, I can see why the current setup of ICANN might piss people off, but I have personal experience of ITU and GSMA and they can fuck right off, and there's a reason why most of the governments who would like to regulate it are horrible repressive tyrannies. I really want my blog regulating by the United Arab Emirates...wait.

On the other hand, a lot of people who argue against letting ITU have a role just do so out of pig ignorant bullshit yelling about the UN.

Also, if Facebook, the NSA, ESR, and the Occupy Tech Ops guys agree about Linux being awesome, this may be evidence that trying to think about it on a left-right scale is a category error.

Something else: apparently, putting the EDGAR SEC filings on the web was terrible because they're "mostly used by securities traders". WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK WANTS TO READ SEC FILINGS? Why would it be better if they were less accessible?

I think there's a really important point here, which is that a lot of American lefties have a sort of vulgar Pigouvian worldview. If "corporations" benefit from some public institution, they should damn well be billed! But the problem here is that this is basically a bomb to kill the whole notion of public infrastructure and public services.

If you set up a tollbooth around the SEC database, why should your local financial adviser, who also benefits, not pay as well? Why shouldn't a journalist who wants to investigate some company's affairs pay? They benefit, after all. Why shouldn't all the roads be toll roads? School is beneficial; children should pay at the door.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:25 AM
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This "polemic" is of the quality of Jonah Goldberg's contributions to our understanding of the fascistic tendencies inherent in modern left-liberalism. It has that sort of hack style that refuses to raise and think through any sort of inconvenient fact. Talking about the political valence of open source without, forex, dealing with Richard Stallman or the FSF wing is just intellectually dishonest.

And regarding this from the linked:

In The Cultural Logic of Computation, I argue that computational practices are intrinsically hierarchical and shaped by identification with power. To the extent that algorithmic forms of reason and social organization can be said to have an inherent politics, these have long been understood as compatible with political formations on the Right rather than the Left.

I yearn for the day when Leftist thought is no longer animated by this sort of bastardized Frankfurt School. It's the doppelgänger of Flynn's techno-hippie word salad in Tron: Legacy. The "extent to which alogrithmic forms of reason and social organization can be said to have an inherent politics" is not at all. Someone is going to have to program the cruise control on my jetpack when the Situationist utopia arrives, and flocking behavior is both algorithmic and inherently non-hierarchical.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:14 AM
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I really don't understand what 63 is getting at but I'm going to agree with it because I like the feel of it.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:30 AM
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I don't actually disagree with the specifics of 62 much (I have no problem with EDGAR filings being easily available) but I do think its unfair to the overall argument (especially the point that an absence if regulation isn't an unalloyed good). 63 strikes me as lame and whiny, but also seems to miss the broader point, which isn't to attack any particular policy argument (which may or may not be minorly meritorious) but rather to point out the problems with a whole style of discourse, as well as identify the (specific) corporate interests who have benefited from it, largely at the expense of (other) corporate interests. That may or may not be worth doing in any individual case, but overall it's not a particularly leftist project -- at least not without a specific attention given to redistribution.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:31 AM
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Also, 32 and 37 to 62 last. "Free" in the sense of a public good paid for by the state with taxes and provided to the citizenry for free is very different than "powerful companies or individuals can profit by exploiting this resource without paying for it."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:38 AM
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Like when Cher's former understudy sponsored a law that greatly extended the length of time that a copyright lasts at the behest of Disney.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:41 AM
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Also, I don't think he's just saying "libertarians are bad; therefore all forms of regulation are good." It's more like "the affinities between the rhetoric of an unregulated internet and straight up libertarianism are real and worth thinking about, and a project primarily directed to allowing unregulated economic freedom in a particular sphere, in the context of an overall capitalist society, is not necessarily a leftist or redistributionist project, at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:47 AM
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If you set up a tollbooth around the SEC database, why should your local financial adviser, who also benefits, not pay as well? Why shouldn't a journalist who wants to investigate some company's affairs pay? They benefit, after all. Why shouldn't all the roads be toll roads? School is beneficial; children should pay at the door.

This is, in practice, how the British government usually handles data. Everyone, from your Magic Circle law firm to your local village newspaper, is free to travel to the Rolls Building and spend £7 to look up a single court case, and then spend 10p a page or whatever it is requesting a copy of the documents, which you then have to fetch from the courts several days later. Much more equitable than the US system where everything is freely searchable online with an 8c per page charge. See also Companies House and similar databases, although at least those are properly online.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:49 AM
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67 -- I'm not saying that the CTEA wasn't also a corporate power grab (of course it was).

Just that the alternate model offered of an unregulated Internet is also well suited to allow the powerful to profit from property that they do hold (at the expense of holders other kinds of property), and unless you're actual talking about socializing property and regulating the powerful overall, you're not really advancing a meaningfully leftist project.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:54 AM
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62: I had to see it for myself, but the article really does come out against putting SEC EDGAR filings online, because it might help some banker somewhere. What a fucking embarrassing disgrace of an argument.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:57 AM
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70: I'll buy that when Google starts suing tens of thousands of kids for tens of thousands of dollars for what is, even using the definition of the companies filing the suit, petty theft.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 9:59 AM
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Google doesn't have to do that, because its property is too secure to have to engage in desperation moves or costly publicity stunts. Goldman Sachs doesn't spend a lot of time suing teenagers, either, but that's not a clue as to where actual power lies or what its consequences are.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:05 AM
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68 seems reasonable but I reserve the right to find Golumbia questionable.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:08 AM
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It's a good thing they tried desperate moves and costly publicity stunts instead of something stupid like a reasonably flexible means of owning and selling electronic media that split the benefits provided by new technology between both consumers and sellers. Because who know what kind of damage that could have done.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:09 AM
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71 -- I don't think actually comes out *against* putting EDGAR filings online. What he actually says is the "project to 'liberate' SEC Edgar filings has arguably served corporate interests -- investors and securities traders have been the primary users of the liberated SEC data -- much more clearly than it has served any comprehensible Left causes."

Put in those terms, that's almost certainly true, and he's right about it. The point (I think) he's making isn't that putting those filings online necessarily was or wasn't a good thing (in that case, I think it's probably a pretty good thing but also a relatively extremely unimportant one). Rather it's a point about the limitations of information sharing of this kind per se as a meaningful way of advancing leftist values.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:13 AM
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74 -- oh, me too. I hadn't ever heard of him or his book before, I just read the article. But I don't really care about him personally or even what his personal project is.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:14 AM
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I really don't understand what 63 is getting at but I'm going to agree with it because I like the feel of it.

The most obscure reference was probably to this, which I misremembered as a jetpack:

"Those who believe that the automobile is eternal are not thinking, even from a strictly technological standpoint, of other future forms of transportation. For example, certain models of one-man helicopters currently being tested by the US Army will probably have spread to the general public within twenty years. "

from "Situationist Theses on Traffic"


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:18 AM
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in the age of the internet it is FREE FREE FREE to reproduce intellectual property

I am not at all interested in weighing in on the issue of property rights, but I wonder if it's worth noting that one the great myths of the age, and one of the foundations of internet triumphalism, is that it's free to reproduce digital content. In fact, the internet is a gigantic resource-gobbling machine that cost gazillions of dollars to build and continues to cost gazillions of dollars to expand and sustain.

I still hope that one of these days I can convince a graduate student to write an environmental history of the internet, a study that would implicitly and explicitly draw on and debunk age-old notions of technologies that effortlessly annihilate space and time. Of course none of those technologies -- not roads, steamboats, canals, telegraph lines, railroads, automobiles, or airplanes -- were at all effortless. All required massive amounts of energy to construct and operate, cost huge amounts of money, and all led to extraordinary amounts of environmental degradation -- just like the internet.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:20 AM
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Comment 79 brought to you by the voices rattling around inside my head.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:21 AM
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63 The "extent to which alogrithmic forms of reason and social organization can be said to have an inherent politics" is not at all.

I was trying to figure out what an "algorithmic form of social organization" would even be. A computer assigns our friends and families?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:21 AM
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75 -- well, not to derail the argument completely, but one thing that annoys me now in these conversations is that people keep insisting like its 2001 and Napster has just been shut down and nothing whatsoever has happened since and it's impossible to obtain content online without illegally downloading it.

There's a gigantic, important, and perfectly legal set of mechanisms to obtain content online now, just as people were asking for 10-15 years ago. The negotiation that created those mechanisms has resulted almost entirely -- not completely, but almost entirely -- in a shift in benefit to companies that are able to distribute the content online, and to some extent (at least in the short term) to consumers, at the expense of content producers, though the content producers have also been desperately trying to shift to find ways to make money in the new reality. Whether or not any of this has had anything whatsoever to do (one way or another) with anything like a leftist project is another issue.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:25 AM
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write an environmental history of the internet

Do it!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:28 AM
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I've got my next project, thanks. But maybe I should change it. Hmm.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:33 AM
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There's a gigantic, important, and perfectly legal set of mechanisms to obtain content online now, just as people were asking for 10-15 years ago.

And my travel guide to the Soviet Union is coming out next month.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:36 AM
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76 is a point that Tom Slee has also made repeatedly—"opening" this or that, making all sorts of data freely available, tends largely to benefit big players (for predictable-ish rasons). I'm writing this comment in links or I'd find a link to something. & we all like Tom Slee, right?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:37 AM
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But maybe I should change it. Hmm.

Change it! Post a working bibliography here!


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 10:56 AM
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We'll be a great help. Remember when we wrote k-sky's speech for him?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 11:03 AM
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I was trying to figure out what an "algorithmic form of social organization" would even be. A computer assigns our friends and families?

Well, a computer decides which of your friends and family members pop up most often in your Facebook feed.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 11:06 AM
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I don't really object to having to watch ads on Hulu. But I'd probably be willing to pay more for Hulu on a Netflix adless model.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 11:38 AM
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Golumbia has written some things about the humanities that I thought were good. I guess I should read the whole thing.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 11:41 AM
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90: I would object much less to ads on Hulu if they had more distinct advertisers. There are products that I have vowed never to buy because I hated seeing their ads repeated so much. But this is not a fundamental problem, I'm just easily annoyed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 11:45 AM
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87: no kidding, I might do it. I'll let you know if I do.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:10 PM
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I use EDGAR (and SEDAR) all the time, though for work and not fun, and now that I think about it I doubt that any of my coworkers do their research there. But I also can't really claim I have a Lefty job or anything.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:11 PM
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people keep insisting like its 2001 and Napster has just been shut down and nothing whatsoever has happened since and it's impossible to obtain content online without illegally downloading it.

Seriously? Fuck this bullshit. I'm the perfect customer for content delivered online: I have plenty of disposable income and a strong preference for following rules, plus I want to see the producers of content get fairly compensated. Plus I'm one of the suckers who actually pays out the nose for cable. And it's *still* vastly easier and simpler for me to get content illicitly than it is any other way. I *want* to follow the rules but the fucking entertainment industry makes it almost impossible for me to actually get anything worthwhile that way.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:19 PM
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technologies that effortlessly annihilate space and time

Is that a Wolfgang Schivelbush shout-out? I loved The Railway Journey. I read it for an undergrad seminar in Boredom.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:21 PM
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And it's *still* vastly easier and simpler for me to get content illicitly than it is any other way. I *want* to follow the rules

You want to follow the rules, you have a strong preference for following rules, but you've put in enough time to figure out all the bit-torrent and pirate bay stuff?

It's not easier for me to get content illicitly. I don't know how to do it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:26 PM
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Is that a Wolfgang Schivelbush shout-out?

In part, yes. But Schivelbush was just drawing on the fact that transportation technology pioneers -- triumphalists all -- always promised that their steamanalroad would annihilate space and time. And once the things were built, boosters never shut up about how much space and time their patrons had annihilated and how easy everything had become as a result. My New Orleans book, which you should not even consider reading, has a chapter on steamboats, and it's sort-of-but-not-really focused on this issue.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:27 PM
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It's possible I'm a total noob but the easier illicitly thing I don't think is true for me either. Being able to access my Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime accounts from the Roku box is pretty convenient.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:30 PM
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BitTorrent and Pirate Bay are easy. For audio, Spotify premium has changed my life. I have not found a satisfactory similar solution for video content. We don't have cable at the moment based on a half-assed attempt to save money, and it pisses me off that I can't watch half my stupid TV shows (e.g. the Big Bang theory) despite having Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime streaming.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:31 PM
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It's not easier for me to get content illicitly. I don't know how to do it.

This is me. I'd like to break the law, but the barriers to entry to lawbreaking are such that my laziness keeps me lawful. It's very annoying.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:33 PM
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What I'm saying is that I need a piracy rabbi.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:33 PM
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You want to follow the rules, you have a strong preference for following rules, but you've put in enough time to figure out all the bit-torrent and pirate bay stuff?

I haven't, actually. But I know people who have and it's trivial to get stuff from them.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:35 PM
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Napster: easy. Kazaa: easy. Pirate Bay: not easy. Spoofing IP address: not easy. Figuring out which of the fifteen "DOWNLOAD HERE!" links on RapidShare and MegaUpload is the real one is about as much as I can handle.

Obviously nowadays the techno mavens in Silicon Valley still find it incredibly easy to download everything for free, and they presumably think that everyone else does so and that the content creators are still making big bucks so everything is great.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:35 PM
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I solve the problem by simply not watching things I want to watch, but I do find that with a Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime account, that if I think "I'd like to watch [something specific]" I'm in for an annoying twenty minutes figuring out that it's not available for any of them (even if it might have been available last week), and then checking iTunes and deciding if I want to pay specifically for it rather than watching some of the content I've already paid for. If I cared enough about old movies to ever figure out the Pirate Bay thing, or whatever, and if the selection there is more reliably broad, I'd probably be Josh.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:35 PM
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It's easy to legally get the content that the big companies push at you, like whatever Netflix has streaming licenses for at the moment, or whatever iTunes is selling. There are plenty of things you can't get legally without paying extortionate fees -- the one or two good HBO shows, for example. And tons of stuff that you really can't get legally online at all, the "long tail" stuff where it's not worth it to rights holders or distributors to make it available commercially, even online, but it's still of interest to people.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:36 PM
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102: Mel Brooks should have made a movie about Jewish pirates. They would say oyyyy instead of arrrrr. On second thought maybe it's just as well he didn't.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:39 PM
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For audio, Spotify premium has changed my life.

Hell yes. Even though music I've starred occasionally goes missing because some undetermined rightsholder or -holders has decided that it shouldn't be on the service anymore. (Or even better, has decided that song A should get released to Spotify on an EP and then pulled and reissued on an LP, meaning that I have to go track it down and re-star it if I want to listen to it again.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:40 PM
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Laziness and no sense of urgency about seeing the latest episodes of whatever is definitely part of why it's easier for me to do it legit. I'd really like Amazon Prime and everyone to get standard TV commercials going so I don't have to fuck around with whether or not I want to pay 1.99 for a current episode of something. And FFS, sports is the fucking worst. That they don't have NFL, NBA, ready to go on one of these providers is insanity.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:43 PM
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I'm a babysplitter. I think that I should be a grownup and pay for what I watch, so I have Hulu and Amazon and Netflix and a borrowed HBOGO pwd and I buy a few Season Passes on iTunes. But I file-share Showtime shows if I don't want to wait for them to come to iTunes. I got a warning from TWC while I was downloading Masters of Sex and now I have to figure out how seriously to take it.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:45 PM
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The only content I have trouble finding legally and affordably online is academic stuff that is under the control of Springer Verlag or jstor or someplace like that. But that is really enough to keep me pissed off. Their lock on information is a real problem. Its not that big a deal for me, since I officially gave up research when I started work at a cc. But it is a big problem for a lot of other people who could do well with better access.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:46 PM
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I got a warning from TWC while I was downloading Masters of Sex and now I have to figure out how seriously to take it.

That's on The Weather Channel? No wonder I've never seen it.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:50 PM
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Generally, I have total sympathy for the rights of creators insofar as they're about the creators getting paid (for a reasonable period). I start losing sympathy really fast when they're about it being unnecessarily difficult for me to actually access their product. The one is going to imply the other sometimes, but the hassle factor seems unnecessarily high.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:53 PM
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The massive availability of music through Spotify or Bittorrent has kind of ruined music for me. My high-watermark of music enjoyment was in the dialup Napster years. I think I've written about this here before. I would get a bunch of recommendations from the Amoeba Stuff We Like book or The War Against Silence and set them up to download all night. I'd get about three out of ten songs successfully downloaded, then buy the albums if I liked what I heard. Now it's too easy to find stuff and my A/V jack doesn't work on my phone and I got rid of my CDs and I'm old so I don't like music that much anyway.

I was a little jealous at Thanksgiving when the other baby Φ's age bopped her head along with Off The Wall. Φ doesn't visibly groove to music yet, although when she was a newborn she did once fall asleep in my arms to Black Sabbath.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:53 PM
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The massive availability of music through Spotify or Bittorrent has kind of ruined music for me

Part of you seems to realize that's not what happened. You just got old.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:57 PM
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The massive availability of music through Spotify or Bittorrent has kind of ruined music for me.

Whereas it's precisely the opposite for me. I'm listening to more (and more new) music than ever before.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:01 PM
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115: granted (explicitly), but there are other, social parts of it. I enjoyed introducing my friends to music I worked hard to find -- now there's so much access to people who work so much harder and know so much more that it feels goofy to try.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:21 PM
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My recent annoyance was that by far the cheapest way to get GoT season 2 was to buy a fucking DVD and have it physically mailed to our house. We pirate Girls but not much else. I paid for Mad Men and Top of the Lake (not knowing that the latter was going to come out on Netflix). It's frustrating that the price of a season of TV for download is so much higher than buying DVDs. Prices should have gone down, not up, with better distribution models.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:22 PM
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I'm listening to more (and more new) music than ever before.

Exponentially more, in my case, and I was starting from a pretty high bar already.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:30 PM
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You can get HBO Go as a standalone service for $50/month and access every HBO show ever. Actually that reminds me I should check and see if they have "First and Ten." If you have cable, you can easily stream absolutely everything you want to watch onto a computer. A combination of streaming movies from ITunes and Netflix/Hulu give you access to most movies. 100%? No. Is this free? No, but let's not confuse "I can't get this for free" with "I am being prevented from accessing this anywhere and therefore must turn to BitTorrent."

I use Spotify. I do listen to more new music (in terms of number of bands, not in how often I listen to music in total) in total than I did in 2002, mostly metal. On the other hand, the total amount that all these new artists get, combined, from that listening is probably less than a single artist got from a single purchase by me of a CD in 2001.

To helpy-chalk, one thing that commenting here has taught me is that the world of academic publishing is unusually fucked up, despite (or maybe because of) probably having less reason to exist than any other content industry.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:35 PM
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I guess it's not technically stand-alone HBO Plus; you can get a plan from Comcast (for $40/month, I overestimated) plus streaming to your computer of any current TV show (as in, say, Big Bang Theory). Still, you can certainly *get* HBO shows streaming over your computer if you want them.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:49 PM
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If you have cable, you can easily stream absolutely everything you want to watch onto a computer.

You and I have *vastly* different definitions of "easily". Is it better than it was 10 years ago? Sure. Is it easy? No fucking way.

(Not to mention the bullshit that is "renting" vs. "buying" in a downloading/streaming context. You're fucking sending the entire movie/TV show to my computer, there's no marginal cost to letting me keep it beyond the arbitrary time limit you've set on a "rental", fuck you for charging three times as much to "buy".)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:53 PM
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$50 a month for HBO GO? Good heavens.

The current system at academic publishers is based entirely on revenue from academic libraries. Everything else seems to be an afterthought. If they hired a few more people to actually curate their archives, people might actually buy things.

It's a joke that whenever you show up on a publisher's website it says "Buy this paper for $40!" Nobody is going to do that. I need to look at the paper to figure out if it's useful or not. You have already gotten all the revenue you ever expected to get from the 1951 issue of the Journal of Hygiene. How about a token fee, just to make it inconvenient for people to pull the "Download everything on earth and release it into the wild" trick.

This is one of the cases where if micro payments had been built into the structure of the web, it would all work.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 1:54 PM
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I'm fairly certain that private academic publishers are laughing at 123.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:01 PM
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Some things I'm going to watch once, some things I want to own and watch a bunch of times. Paying an extra ten bucks to own it doesn't seem like a big deal.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:01 PM
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125: The actual cost isn't the issue. I could easily afford to pay to own all the stuff I stream; what pisses me off is the fact that there's *no functional difference* between the two situations from the content provider's perspective. It's just straight-up gouging.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:07 PM
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Also that HBO Go is with a 2 year contract where the price goes up significantly after the first year. So it's actually even more crazy than it looks.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:08 PM
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It's a joke that whenever you show up on a publisher's website it says "Buy this paper for $40!" Nobody is going to do that

I do! Well... not with my own money.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:12 PM
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126 - It's only "straight up gouging" if you think that the idea that marginal cost should equal price is some sort of moral law (which is not something you should think). Otherwise it's just a way to leverage a little more revenue for artists/content owners/distributors, based on the fact that a lot of people commonly think as in 125 and are willing to pay more to own something than rent it (and conversely pay less for things they can only watch once, but buy more of those).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:13 PM
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I used to send a student to the library but now we don't have a student.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:14 PM
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On the other hand, the total amount that all these new artists get, combined, from that listening is probably less than a single artist got from a single purchase by me of a CD in 2001.

What was the median payout to a rights-holder on a $16 CD in 2001? 50%?

According to the figures Spotify just published, it means that, on the low-end of their currently reported per stream rate, you would have had to have listened no more than 1,333 songs ($8 / $ .006 per song) on the service for that to be true (or about 100 plays of full-length rock LPs).

On my end, I probably go through that much music on the service in 2 weeks, and, even as an avid music purchaser around 2001, I doubt I ever had a year in which I paid for 26 full-priced CDs.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:24 PM
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True story: Except as a gift, I have never purchased a music cd.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:25 PM
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and it pisses me off that I can't watch half my stupid TV shows (e.g. the Big Bang theory)

I swear when I had a working tv any time I turned it on that show was on.

I am looking for a show to get sucked into since I have nothing else to do, but I have exhausted a lot of stuff on Netflix. Currently auditioning White Collar but its main attraction seems to be Matt Bohmer and I doubt any of the plotlines involve him [omit here a reference to the unspeakable vice of the Greeks] so I'm not sure it's going to take.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:29 PM
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131: The writing online by David Lowery really changed my mind on that. It seems like for virtually any artist the earnings from streaming services are negligible, not even worth thinking about.

Interview here


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:30 PM
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Otherwise it's just a way to leverage a little more revenue for artists/content owners/distributors, based on the fact that a lot of people commonly think as in 125 and are willing to pay more to own something than rent it

What, in this context, is the distinction between renting a movie and owning it? Either way it's bits on a hard drive; the only real distinction is whether I maintain the right to delete it or not as I see fit, or whether I give a rightsholder enough control over a machine *that I fucking own* to delete it without any action on my part.

That said, I'm not really capable of framing a fully coherent argument at this point and should just stop trying.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:30 PM
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133.last: He might launch a disastrous invasion of Sicily.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:36 PM
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133. Swedish language Wallander.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:39 PM
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134: well, I was specifically reacting to Halford's claim.

I don't think indie artists can survive on streaming rates, though there are lots of dueling anecdotes. More importantly, though, to take the case of David Lowery: I don't think a world without streaming services could allow bands like Camper Van Beethoven, Guided By Voices, My Bloody Valentine, and Mission of Burma to continue touring in 2013 on the strength of old music. I've seen each of those bands in Austin in the last 2 years, and over half the audience at the shows is under 25.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 2:52 PM
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I don't think you can attribute the longevity of bands to streaming with any degree of robustness.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 3:11 PM
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It's not longevity per se: it's old bands with niche audiences being able to tour in 2013. They are not being played on commercial radio. The bands that I mentioned had mostly been defunct from the early 90s to the rise of social media (including streaming services) in the last 5 years. And I think a large part of that is the kind of dynamic in which Pitchfork can write an article about them and then people can go check out their music without having to pay for it first.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 3:18 PM
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131-- I don't know how to check on Spotify, but I strongly doubt that I stream more than 1,000 separate songs per month. Of course, those 1,000 songs are from a great many artists, and no individual artist receives much money from my streaming. And I listen to a fair amount of Spotify. I used to buy about a CD a month in the olden days, on average.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 3:56 PM
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And let's look at this in a bit more detail. If you read that "disclosure" on the Spotify website carefully what it actually says is "Recently, these variables have led to an average "per stream" payout to rights holders of between $0.006 and $0.0084. " Rights holders, not artists. An individual artist gets a fraction of that (Spotify says 30%). This person estimated an effective royalty rate of $.004 per stream for someone who has both a recording royalty interest and owns publishing. That seems about right.

Backing out the numbers and using a rate of $.004 to the artist (which is conservative, a higher percentage than Spotify's calculations of a 30% cut of a $.006 effective per-stream royalty):

In 2001, on a $16 CD, an established artist who owned publishing on an indie label might have received directly around $6 (with huge variation based on label, expected sales, etc.). For an individual to "pay" as much on Spotify for that same album, a person would have to stream one of that album's songs $6/(.0040)=1500 separate and individual times.

In other words, an artist needs to get about 1500 separate and individual streams of a songs on an album on Spotify to earn as much as the purchase the album that contained that song (again, as an estimate).

Now, obviously, for any given artist, even if I really like them, I am not likely to stream their songs from a single album 1500 times. Nor are most of their other fans. If I stream songs from that album 100 times (which means that I like that album a lot, almost certainly enough to have bought it in the old regime), the artist earns 40 cents. If there are 10,000 people like me, all of whom love the album and each of whom streams a song from it 100 separate times, the artist earns $4,000. By contrast, in the old regime, if each of those 10,000 people had bought the album, which seems pretty reasonable, the artist would have earned $60,000. Even if only 1/2 of those people had actually bought the album, the artist would have earned $30,000, or more than 7 times the amount earned from streaming.

In other words people can absolutely love your album. But, compared to a streaming service vs. album sales, the amount you earn from recording it goes from enough to sustain a living (with the potential of actually becoming rich) to an absoutely negligible amount. (Remember, these payouts are split between band members, before fees to agents, managers, etc, so "take home" pay on that $4000 for any given band member is probably more like $600).

And, while people do listen to more artists, they don't listen to enough additional artists enough additional times to make Spotify an even remotely financially competitive replacement for album sales -- nothing comes close to making up the gap.

Look, I don't hate Spotify or other streaming services. I use them, they're the future, some money gets paid, and if they expand enough they're the plausible future for revenue generated from recorded music. So they need to exist. But let's not pretend that this situation is in any way meaningfully *better* for most recording artists


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:10 PM
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Music's always going to be different from the other mediums in that the live performance is a huge part of the artist's revenue. There's at least some reasonable expectation that a bazillion people pirating a band's songs will pay off in them selling out a lot of shows and probably inflating what they can charge for tickets.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:11 PM
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As for increased touring revenue, you have to be careful. There's basically no way that the gap can be made up from the loss of album sales just due to an increase in touring revenue.

It's true that's where the money can be made now and that's where artists are going. But remember that promoting and touring also costs money -- a lot of money -- and that's money that used to be paid for by the label -- which is now earning vastly less money and has less incentive to promote. When people earn less money overall, there's less money for every aspect of the business -- and of course club owners know this and can pay less.

I strongly doubt that an increased exposure effect from Spotify or other streaming services actually creates, on net, increased touring revenue for many bands -- maybe (maybe) for a few older bands that no one would have identified in any other way. But even there I suspect that if there's an "internet effect" that brings kids out to shows it has to do with increased ability to learn about the band at all, not specifically the streaming service. And even if the streaming service does create new touring revenue, its' pretty unlikely (although possible) that it makes up for the loss in album sales.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:19 PM
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142: What explains the magnitude of the difference? A spotify subscription is ten bucks a month, right? So, within a factor of two of one CD a month. I never listened to much music, so I genuinely have no idea. But that doesn't seem way far off the rate at which the average person bought CDs. Am I wrong about that -- $120/year is much less than a typical music budget used to be, so artists are getting less because there's just less money in the system -- or is the streaming deal worse for artists for some other reason?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:24 PM
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Is Spotify more like radio than a cd? I ask because I have no idea.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:28 PM
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Has music ever supported a large number of professionals relative to the number of amateurs? It's just something that enough people want to do for free that it's never going to be a good career for very many people.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:33 PM
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Pandora is more like (although not much like) radio -- you give it a seed artist or song, and then it plays you stuff it thinks is like that. Spotify I don't use myself, but the kids do, and I understand it's more like owning the music: you set up playlists with songs you've chosen, and then play exactly what you wanted to listen to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:34 PM
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Music industry revenue was historically around $50 per person. So, spotify subscribers are pulling their weight.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:37 PM
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This person estimated an effective royalty rate of $.004 per stream for someone who has both a recording royalty interest and owns publishing. That seems about right.

If I stream songs from that album 100 times (which means that I like that album a lot, almost certainly enough to have bought it in the old regime), the artist earns 40 cents.

Wait. Is that per song, or per album? Streaming "songs from that album" 100 times, for an album with 12 songs on it, means listening to the album 8 times.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:41 PM
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Albums were bullshit anyway. Few had more than two songs anybody wanted to buy but you had to pay for the whole thing to get them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:46 PM
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Hey, David Lowery put just as much effort into the crappy songs as the ones that people like.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:48 PM
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Hey, David Lowery put just as much effort into the crappy songs as the ones that people like.

If I were Yglesias I would be excitedly putting together a comparison between this and Cable TV unbundling or something.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:49 PM
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145 -- the need for its VC funders to cash out a number of things.

Spotify works as follows: it gets a set amount of revenue, takes a cut (they say a 30% cut), then distributes the remainder of that revenue to rights holders. The amount each rights holder gets, they say, is based on the following formula: (artist's plays/total plays everywhere on Spotify)*total revenue received by Spotify. So the idea, which is how they sold the record companies on it, is that if the total revenue to Spotify grows, the effective per-stream royalty rate to any individual artist will also grow. And that's right (that's why they predict growth in payouts, and why they try to explain away the pitiful current effective per-download artist payments). Theoretically if Spotify produced incredible (total) revenue then it could be a somewhat viable model for sustainable money for music, while of course making its owners fantastically wealthy.

But note a couple of things. First, that 30% cut off the top that goes directly to Spotify is very steep. Second, most Spotify customers don't pay the $10/month, they use a free advertisement-based service, and there are real limits on how much that advertising revenue can possibly go up. Third, to get to a Spotify that could work in a decent way for most artists, you'd need Spotify's revenues to grow by a huge amount -- at least 10-20x their current levels -- just to get to something even close to the zone of what album sales used to be. And fourth, even that radically understates how harmful it is to artists, because there's no way you get to that 10-20x growth in revenue without decimating other forms of music buying, whether physical albums, or purchases on Itunes (which are much more artist-friendly).

So basically the only way for it Spotify to pay out OK money for artists and labels is for it to become a world-dominating force that eats up the other revenue that would accrue to these artists from recorded music, while making its founders rich. Nice work if you can get it, no?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:49 PM
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I thought Apple did that already.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:54 PM
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150 -- that's about right. I picked that number because it seems reasonable to think that if I listen to all of the songs from an album 8 times through on Spotify, I almost certainly like it a lot, or enough for it to be plausible to have bought it. But Moby's point is good, given the choice most people don't listen to whole albums but often would buy albums to get a few songs, so the number of song streams you'd need to make up for lost album sales is even worse. Even if I liked one song enough to have bought an album in the olden days, I may not want to stream that song 100 times.

155 -- they did!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:57 PM
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154: So, the problem is that Spotify's negotiated a deal with the rights-holders that's spectacular for it, but lousy for them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:57 PM
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What makes it even better is that it requires no effort to create a streaming music service. No technological innovation, no capital expenditures, no ability to scale. The technology fairies just come and make it all happen, and everyone involved can just lay back and wait for the money to roll in. I'm surprised the Obama administration didn't ask the technology fairies to set up healthcare.gov.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:57 PM
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It seems to me that the internet causes huge problems for the content industry completely independent of any piracy or pricing concerns. Namely, the internet has seriously decreased the value of advertising. It used to be that the only way you could interact with customers was by buying ads, but now customers can just search and find your website. Similarly, now that people have access to more options, advertisers can target more specifically. The upshot is that advertising just doesn't provide the same revenue that it used to. Newspapers were killed, not by people getting their content for free on the internet, but by craigslist. Similarly, TV is threatened not by "piracy" but by the unwillingness of advertisers to pay the same rates for ads on hulu that they pay on TV.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:59 PM
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156: That was sort of the opposite of my point. I was trying to argue that much of the price of albums was waste that record companies shouldn't expect to keep.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:59 PM
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158 -- that's right Walt. These people are the true innovators and deserve every cent they get.

160 -- maybe so (though they also had to expend capital and do promotion and all kinds of other Walt-like things), and also making price=marginal cost is not a moral law, but that's why I was comparing income received by artists (as to which the $.004/stream rate is probably high, but I was trying to be conservative) as opposed to record companies.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:05 PM
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157 -- yes, but of course the reason they were able to get that spectacular deal was the pre-Spotify economy of music on the internet.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:06 PM
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CEOs are by definition leeches who steal from their employees, but you seem to think that the employees at technology companies do routine paper-pushing, and viola working technology comes out. Somebody, probably many somebodies, at Spotify are innovators. Innovation is an actual creative activity, one that you seem to value at approximately zero.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:12 PM
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I'm just going to pretend that none of the above information exists and that everyone is just playing Arkanoid on their smartphones and people still buy albums at record stores.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:16 PM
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I stole Arkanoid from a 5-year old leukemia patient.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:18 PM
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I don't value it at zero. The point (which is actually the point of the OP, as well, in a broader sense) is that what you're talking about is allocation between different kinds of property rights. The guys who control the rights to the streaming service figured out what (may be, or maybe not, this isn't investment advice) a great way of funneling money to themselves, via a property which they control. I don't really begrudge them their wealth any more or less than the next sucker trying to make a buck -- and Spotify is a nice thing for a lot of people, including me -- but the reality is that these kind of streaming services produce a winner take all system in these areas where particular winners (who, in reality, are a few people, even if some of them are engineers) have figured out a way to transfer a shitload of money to themselves at the expense of artists (and record companies who were previous winners of the corporate game). That's actually what's going on; it doesn't make Spotify immoral (though it does make it part of a regime for recording artists specifically that's much worse than the past), but it does suggest a reason why the idea that somehow these kinds of "innovations" are in and of themselves a great leftist project without some kind of additional form of wealth redistribution or socialized ownership of things is pretty stupid.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:25 PM
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But it's IP law that makes it possible for Spotify to transfer a shitload of money to themselves. If copyright disappeared, it would suck for content creators, but it would suck even more for Spotify.

And of course the technological innovation of the Internet and the practical weakening of IP law has been a great wealth transfer away from copyright holders to ordinary people. Ordinary people can illegally but easily download almost any song, any movie, any recent book onto their home computer. That is a gigantic transfer of wealth. Almost anybody in the world who wants a copy of Iron Man 3 can have one. It's not the most virtuous of wealth redistributions, but it clearly is one. It's as socialistic of an outcome as anything the Soviet Union ever achieved.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:38 PM
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162 - Given the history of the record industry, it's impressive that people were able to invent novel structures that were even worse for musicians.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:47 PM
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That's true for Spotify specifically, in a limited sense, but if copyright disappeared completely parties that did still have enforceable property rights that were useful in obtaining that content would still benefit -- you still need distributors and aggregators, even if the content is free.

On the second point, again, I think, you're falling into the trap of confusing "free to take, so long as its in the service of some other privately owned entity" with "the government taxes people and either owns it or pays for something and makes it available for free." There's a huge difference. To some extent capitalism always redistributes wealth by making things cheaper and more available-- I can buy a shirt at Wal-Mart for about 1/10 of the price I could as a kid. Yay me! Yay capitalism! Wealth is being redistributed! And, of course, the guys at Wal-Mart innovated about 10,000x more than the guys at Spotify, so they deserve it!

But if that's in an overall context of a winner-take-all economy where you have private ownership of the distribution chain, and overall upward wealth redistribution towards favored property owners (e.g., the guys that own Wal-Mart, or own Spotify, or own Google) that's not a socialistic outcome. And in the specific context of music and the arts, its basically just another aspect of transfer of control and income away from the producers of a good and towards (a few) people who are able to successfully distrbute it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:53 PM
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169 to 167. 168 is true, of course; what you're really seeing, to some extent, is the displacement of one set of powerful distributors by another. But with the effect of dramatically screwing over the producers even more.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:54 PM
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To be honest, if Walmart were fucking over Disney, I don't think I'd complain about how much they paid their workers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:58 PM
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Well, that's one perspective. Disney is a union company, but certainly does have its share of assholes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 6:09 PM
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These music-biz threads are always depressing. I always questioned my own passion/commitment to being a career musician (as in, one who creates music for a living, without any additional major source of income). But I have friends who really should be career musicians, and of late several of them are aging into their 30s and talking about throwing in the towel because they're sick of being broke and just can't moonlight as bartenders/waitstaff anymore.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 6:15 PM
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What I'm saying is, not only did Halford kill Nelson Mandela, he also immiserated my friends.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 6:24 PM
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I know a guy who's a really fantastic trumpet player, a few years younger than me, and he's made a go of being a full-time musician but it's really hard. He plays as many live gigs as he can with various bands, also tries to get studio work. (This is in New York.) He says a few decades ago live dance bands were much more of a thing, but now even venues where you would have expected a live band, like salsa clubs, are using DJs instead. And some wedding/bar mitzvah bands are eliminating the horn section in favor of a keyboard player so they can play poppier stuff.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 6:34 PM
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The numbers that always shock me are the "what if your band becomes a success" numbers. Say you work for years and your indie band hits the 1/1000 lottery and becomes well known and very successful. Hey, you might make $100,000 a year for like three years from being a musician! And then almost nothing after that! You don't even get groupies or free cocaine anymore. Maybe free weed, and some free swag from companies who use your song in a commercial and sponsor your tour.

But there's still money there and a few folks who can get pretty rich. Miley Cyrus did well. Country stars still do pretty OK. Maybe Lorde will get paid.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 6:52 PM
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I'm a subscriber to Rhapsody but not to Spotify. I recommend the latter to people who don't want to pay. But if you're paying for it anyway, what's the advantage of Spotify over Rhapsody?


Posted by: Trumwill | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 7:32 PM
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Lorde's actually quite interesting because she's partly the product of a very conscious set of decisions made in the late 90's and early 2000's by the NZ government to throw money at NZ music and use various threats and levers to impose a de facto local content quota system on the NZ radio market.

In particular in NZ the government will pay you to make music, which has a bunch of follow on effects around ecosystems etc. Lorde was never NZOA backed, but her collaborator Joel Little was as a musician, and I assume a lot of his other business as a studio-owner/producer is NZOA bankrolled.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 8:05 PM
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Interesting! Viva music socialism.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 8:11 PM
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I finally read the linked article. It turns out that I had confused Golumbia with someone else when I said above that I liked something he wrote about the humanities and I shouldn't have bothered to read the linked article because it's not very good. I'll stick to reading Tom Slee for this kind of critique.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 8:42 PM
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169: No, I'm saying "free to take" is still "free to take", and the fact that some other private entity makes money because they sell me the tools to do it is not relevant.

If tomorrow the government passed a law banning me from cooking dinner at home, and requiring me to only eat in restaurants, that wouldn't be a transfer of wealth away from me?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 12:23 AM
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Analogies are banned for a reason, Walt.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 12:33 AM
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The amount and direction of redistribution resulting from the analogy ban are left as an exercise for the reader.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 12:35 AM
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The analogy ban is like Led Zeppelin. Who are worse than Hitler.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 12:37 AM
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What's like Bachman-Turner Overdrive?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 12:54 AM
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Presidential anonymity, and Stalin.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 1:03 AM
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For an OP submitted by Halford and titled "Cyberlibertarians" there was a lot less hating on libertarians by him here than there is in the average random Unfogged thread. I am disappoint.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 7:54 AM
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Musicians don't get paid much because there is a huge oversupply of music out there. The internet has enabled vastly more widespread publication of music, and consumption has expanded only marginally. which has driven the price down further.

These economics are completely different than they were when you had to pay $16 for an album down at Tower Records, and blaming Spotify - and by extension, consumers - because a higher proportion of musicians now need to have a day job, is pretty unreasonable.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 8-13 6:49 AM
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69: Exactly. Having been involved as an activist, I recall vividly just what a fuck-embuggerance it was getting the UK government to disgorge things like the list of bills before parliament, or God forbid, the lookup table of postcodes to locations!

188: This, this is true. I could listen to more music, but I'd have to literally wear headphones all the time; William Baumol may have pointed out that it still took as long to perform a symphony as it did in 1900, but as far as I know he didn't also point out that it takes exactly as long to appreciate one as it did in 1900, perhaps longer if you're going to discuss it on the Internet while you're at it. It's a cliche that anything that can be described as information is now in vast abundance, and the problem is filtering, but it's not a trivial point.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 3:08 AM
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The massive availability of music through Spotify or Bittorrent has kind of ruined music for me.

I mad a conscious decision some years ago [not coincidentally around the time a big UK based 'pirate bay' type site shut down] to stop downloading music illegally, and to go for more of a 'slow listening' approach to music, rather than just scatter gun consuming stuff without every really taking the time to enjoy it. For me, it definitely helped. I have Spotify Premium, which I use for checking out stuff, or for when I get on an obsessive spurt and decide I needed to listen to everything Curtis Mayfield did with the Impressions, or all Arty Shaw's 1940s stuff, or whatever.

But generally, I buy albums [about evenly split between paid for downloads, vinyl, and CDs] and listen to them, much like I did when I was 17. The Spotify Premium scratches all the itches that ordinary album buying doesn't, and that's it. I enjoy music massively more than I did when I was download huge amounts.

With TV, there's so much available, and our PVR is always so full of stuff we never have time to watch, that I rarely feel the need or desire to do anything other than record stuff, or grab stuff 'on demand' [from iPlayer].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 3:41 AM
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It's a shame this article is so bad, because there's always a need to call out a certain kind of Silicon Valley libertarian dickishness. But this is the kind of criticism that gives critics a bad name.

The bottom line here is that the internet really is an incredibly powerful new technology, and when such technologies come along you should rethink social possibilities in line with what the new technology could make possible. (While avoiding asinine utopianism that wishes away actual social problems in line with your startup's marketing line). From a progressive perspective, IP law should certainly be high priority for such rethinking. Not because actual creators shouldn't be rewarded, or price should always equal marginal cost, but because as marginal cost of reproduction goes down the costs of granting private rights holders monopoly pricing power goes up, and even before the internet that grant was questionable anyway. Monopoly pricing power for private rights holders only had a tenuous connection to rewards or incentives for actual creators in the first place.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 3:48 AM
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Monopoly pricing power for private rights holders only had a tenuous connection to rewards or incentives for actual creators in the first place.

What?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 4:01 AM
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192: because distributors, corporate sponsors, and other business middlemen were / are extremely good at getting the rights to the property from the actual creative people.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 4:51 AM
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Oh, right. I thought "in the first place" meant "when it was originally devised".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 4:55 AM
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Oh wow. I have stayed up past Teo hours into Ttam and ajay's lunch break.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 5:03 AM
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and mine!
though now it's teatime


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:28 AM
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Now I want a twentyfour hour clock marked with different commenters' active periods. Someone, get on making the graphic?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:33 AM
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We should get back. It'll be dark soon and ttaM mostly comments at night.
Mostly.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:36 AM
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It's pitch dark already for some of us.

197. Based on which time zone?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:45 AM
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For me, New York time would be ideal, but as an international blog I suppose Greenwich would do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 10:47 AM
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Hell, the pubs are open now. I mean, they would be if they ever closed.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12-10-13 11:42 AM
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