Andrew Dubber just recently pitched a topic to Popkomm [link broken, 2016-03-10] – “Music As Culture”. If you read the outline of this hopefully upcoming speech at New Music Strategies, you might recognise a bit of Lawrence Lessig‘s “Free Culture”.
Dubber is absolutely right in labeling it “important” and “urgent”.
We’ve seen the USA extending copyright terms, and European countries suggesting to do so. Just yesterday, the European parliament in a first reading voted in favour of a prolongation by extending the copyright term from 50 to 70 years. I mentioned it before – this definitely does harm to culture. Strict legislation and overly harsh fines result in a “permission culture”, as Lessig puts it.
Internet Means Creativity
Point is, we must embrace the very fact that culture lives within the internet. The web advances culture. These are the new tools. As often, lobbyism for the old paradigm tries to build shrines for technologies while understanding and sensibly implementing the new would yield better results and stimulate the market. Actually, the market, which means culture, right now is strangled. And it’s not The Pirate Bay [link broken, 2016-03-10] that does. It is the collective understanding of today’s society of terms as “intellectual property”, “piracy”, and “lost sales”.
If you restrain others from more easily building upon your works, you will not earn more but less. Most of all, remember how you learned to play and gained first insights in music business. Did you pay royalties when playing others’ songs at school parties? For those in Germany, do you remember when in 2007 copyright stopped a school from staging Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” [access protected, 2016-03-10] – after work of nearly a whole year?
How did you learn about how music is structured, how tracks go along with moods, and how many time did you spend on recording tapes (or even 4/8-tracks)? It was fun. And I’ll bet you learned quite a lot about design, how to write and understand English (or whatever language you listened to) when you compiled tapes for others. It always has been a cultural thing like the traditional culture of packaging in Japan. Today, thanks to the internet, online tools for audio, video and graphic editing, as well as communicating with people all over the world give an exponential boost to yesterday’s opportunities. Then there’s people like Prince – don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of his music – who demand to put down pictures of his and low resolution videos from fan sites. Finally earlier this year, many nerve wrecking discussions and Cease & Desist letters one of the two main fan bases, Housequake.com, went down due to the burden imposed on them by Prince. Member count: More than 30.000 people.
… and Tales
“Piracy” and “lost sales”, again, are terms now widely acknowledged by today’s society – thanks to lobbyism. I don’t want to go into detail here, but there’s much more to differentiate. Please read p.68-69, Lessig: “Free Culture”, Penguin paperback, 2004. This might serve as something to start with. Yes, there is commercial copying which has to be illegal. But there is a wide range of scopes where no one would ever consider buying anything when the so called “pirated” copy won’t be available. This indeed would be a loss. It’s a listener lost, and therefore a loss in culture shared.
Andrew Dubber is right, the perspective on music as a culture might save the music industry. And the more and the longer culture is constrained, the more potential is lost. Now, this means real lost sales – not so called “lost sales” from wishful thinking. And it means even bigger opportunities that will be lost.