I have some strong opinions regarding Intellectual Property. A great radio show called “”Free Talk Live”" that I listen to via Podcast had a lively discussion of this topic recently. One of the hosts named Manwich was defending copyright law and a few callers were trying to change his mind.
Well, nobody was getting him to budge, so I thought I would take a stab at it. Since it was a podcast, the discussion had happened the previous night. They were going to be on air until much later and I wasn’t going to be able to call in, so I jotted all of my thoughts in an e-mail and sent it on to them.
To my surprise, and joy, they read the entire e-mail on the air. It felt really good hearing it the next day via the podcast. Overall I was very satisfied (they didn’t rip it apart or anything) and Manwich seemed to have moved a little bit on his opinion regarding peer-to-peer file sharing. He clearly didn’t move all the way against Intellectual Property, but “”baby steps, Bob”"…
I thought I’d post the e-mail, and it’s quicky follow-up here on Oxfoot. Also, attached is the audio snippet of the show where they read my letter.Here’s the show in mp3 format: FTL040105A-Wendell.mp3
And here is the full e-mail:
I just finished listening to the podcast from last night and wanted to take a stab at intellectual property with Manwich.. Unfortunately, I can’t call into the show tonight, but I wanted to get this out while it was fresh in my mind.
I believe that ideas are intangible and actually GAIN value the more widely they are distributed. Art, science, and philosophy enrich all humans and gain in power as more people are exposed to them. Ideas are so much more meaningful and helpful when people converse about them, add to, and refine them. They should not be artificially restricted by laws. I completely agree that musicians should make money for their work. As should actors, authors, programmers, and other people that currently make their living from IP. The questions are: what is fair and where does it end?
Is it fair that somebody should create something and get paid forever for it? When I write a kick ass report at work, I just get my hourly wage – I don’t get a bonus every time somebody reads the report. Certainly my children and grandchildren won’t get “”royalties”" when somebody reads that report after I’m dead and gone. In movies; why don’t the gaffer, best boy, production assistant, extras, MOST actors and the WRITERS/CREATORS of the story – the IDEAS – get residuals? Aren’t the IDEAs the intellectual part of the property? They all get a one time check for the work performed but producers, directors (and actors with good agents) get paid in perpetuity.
So in the case of photography – Bruce Graham was the architect of the Sears Tower. If I take a picture of that building it is now MY intellectual property and I can sell that picture and I never owe Mr. Graham or his descendents a dime.
If somebody takes a picture of me in the street and sells it, do I get a cut of the profit? Nope..
There have been a few different solutions proposed. One that was tested is a tip jar by Stephen King. Stephen King recently released a book one chapter at a time for free on his website. He posted the first completely free and then put out the “”electric tip jar”" and basically said “”put in whatever you want and once the jar gets to $5,000 I’ll release the next chapter and make it free”". It was very successful. Sure, he’s an established author, but it’s still a proof of concept.
Free market, baby — good musicians will always make enough money to do what they love, and make more of the stuff we love. The only thing that’s going to die is the record label’s distribution arm. Sure, the A&R departments will change and some musicians may make less money, but they won’t go away – somebody has to tell the masses what to like.
Also, a lot of crappy artists will never make the national radar and will have to get a “”normal”" job because not enough people like their music – which is just fine with me. Most of the music that’s in the mainstream sucks rocks. Except Britney Spears, of course – she’s the bomb!
Love the show! I’ve got some gripes about the Free State project I’ll have to call in some time )
PS. Regarding online copying – did you know that blank CD and tapes have a hidden tax that everybody pays just IN CASE they MIGHT be used to pirate copyrighted material? Shouldn’t that mean that we’ve already paid for the right to duplicate copyrighted works?Here is my follow-up after the letter was read
Thanks, Ian! I just listened to the new podcast and was very happy that the entire email got aired as I was afraid it was too long. Copyright and patents have just been so perverted from their original intentions (like most acts of government frequently do) they just need to go away.
I didn’t even get into the new DMCA and IP related to computers/technology. I’m an IT professional and that’s a WHOLE other can of worms!
I wanted to get a quick link to you, Manwich, and the gang about the hidden tax on blank media. The “”Audio Home Recording Act”" (17 U.S.C.