"File-sharing has weakened copyright and helped society."

this should end well

According to the US Constitution, copyright is about promoting “the Progress of Science and useful Arts”; it’s not about enriching authors, except as a means of promoting said “Progress.”

Here comes the Science:

“Data on the supply of new works are consistent with our argument that file sharing did not discourage authors and publishers,” they write in their paper, “File-sharing and Copyright" (PDF).

"The publication of new books rose by 66 percent over the 2002-2007 period. Since 2000, the annual release of new music albums has more than doubled, and worldwide feature film production is up by more than 30 percent since 2003… In our reading of the evidence there is little to suggest that the new technology has discouraged artistic production. Weaker copyright protection, it seems, has benefited society.”

Indeed, they round up a host of studies from the past few years suggesting that, on average, one-fifth of declining music sales might be chalked up to piracy. (The rise of new entertainment options like video game has also hurt the business, and consumers finally stopped “re-buying” old albums on CD by the mid-2000s.)

Looked at more broadly, the music industry “has grown considerably” in the last few years. When concert revenue is added to recorded music revenue, the authors note that the overall industry grew more than 5 percent between 1997 and 2007.

That’s in large part because consumers’ willingness to pay for “complements” like concerts and merchandise goes up as the price of music and movies falls, and because consumers are exposed to many more artists when prices are low or nonexistent.

The IFPI isn’t buying it, naturally, and make a good counterpoint:

“Live performance earnings are generally more to the benefit of veteran, established acts, while it is the younger developing acts, without lucrative live careers, who do not have the chance to develop their reputation through recorded music sales.” Thus, recorded music sales remain important.

And IFPI’s 2010 “Digital Music Report” (PDF) makes the case that artists are producing less in states with high piracy rates. “In France, there has been a striking fall in the number of local repertoire albums released in recent years,” says the report.

The interesting thing to me is the “Weaker copyright protection has benefitted society” angle. And there’s some new data points here on the same old conversation.

If there’s one thing we all (well, most of us) agree on in the endless stupid copyright argument threads, it’s that we’d all be better off with weaker copyright protection.

Thanks for the info, but I’m not sure why you find the argument surprising. These same broad points (and even more) have been brought up in this board’s own piracy threads.

Posting in epic thread.

No, but seriously, it’s silly to say that book and music sales increased because of the weakening of copyright law. It might be a factor, but I believe stuff like Amazon and the ever-increasing availability of technology to write, produce and promote books and music is much more significant.

How often do you think about copyright law outside of rabid internet threads?

You dont think the availability of technology to reproduce that content in virtually infinite amounts and spread it around the world through millions of channels for next to nothing is significant?

No, I meant the technology that actually allows the creators of books, music, etc. to create. Filesharing isn’t really an innovative use of the internet - and in my view, the internet was making the new literature and music possible before filesharing really got off the ground.

Has there been some breakthrough technology I’m unaware of that allows better writing, producing and promotion of books and music? Perhaps you refer to word processors or synthesizers or something?

I happen to think digital media that requires no physical copies to change hand is a tremendous step forward for society if we can capture the corresponding price and cost efficiences of ditching books and CDs. So far we haven’t really as publishers cling to increasingly obsolete revenue models.

Wait, this horse isn’t dead yet? Impressive longevity considering the amount of abuse it’s taken.

Bring on the strained metaphors!

It’s one thing, though, for some schmuck on an internet thread to make the point; it’s another thing to have some actual (presumably) peer-reviewed research data behind it.

Constantly. Both in my line of work (software) and in my avocations (music and writing), it’s a central issue.

Well, there’s some new information here. But I don’t see this issue dying any time soon; we’ve got a technology as disruptive as the printing press here, and it’s going to take some time before we achieve some kind of equilibrium or compromise on it.

Not better, cheaper. I probably have higher-quality recording equipment in my bedroom right now than the Beatles did when they were recording, and none of it was particularly expensive. It’s cheaper, easier, and faster to write and edit books with a word processor than with pen.

Not better writing. He’s just saying that it’s easier to get your stuff out there. You used to have to submit to one of the big publishers, but now there are so many outlets, and you can self-publish and there are e-publications, etc. Plus, with itunes and facebook and myspace et al you can get your music out there easier. There’s fewer barriers to publishing than there used to be, which seems like a better explanation for the increase in published works than weaker copyright. And you can self-produce almost anything. I just finished recording a song a couple of days ago using my PC. I couldn’t have done that 10 years ago (well, it would have been more expensive, at least). I could now publish it if I really wanted.

Ooh, link to the paper itself, with pretty pictures to look at at the end

True but irrelevant. The quoted article is referring to an explosion of content in the study period which was 2002-2007. I’m not aware of any huge leaps in word processor technology between those two points. Was there any revolutionary on the music technology side?

Yeah, this. The real “digital revolution” in audio is that if you have the skills and a few grand, you have all that you need to produce what would cost hundreds of thousands in capital expenses in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s.

Increasing adoption. Computers got a lot cheaper. Laptops became both ubiquitous and capable of running fairly high-end audio software. The internet got faster. The internet got social, which could spur creative interaction.

Yes – especially in distribution. iTunes, Amazon MP3, CD Baby, etc.

But also in terms of cost. The music production PC that cost me $2k to build in 2002 is now throwaway trash, and that same $2k now runs much better hardware and software with more software effects and better quality.

But the improvement in distribution channels is the biggest thing. Anyone could share files for free before; now, anyone can sell.

Yes, exactly.

No. But you got a generation that had been growing up with this technology starting to mature into a growing, spending, and creating cycle of their lives. Don’t be silly enough to think that I said the jump between Microsoft Word '97 and Word 2000 is what did it.

That seems like a very weak argument. You are essentially arguing that the technologies of the past have more impact on the trends of the present than the technologies of the present.

Yes, a generation that grew up considering documents and songs as digital files is now in their 20s and early 30s and part of the workforce. These are however the same people who used the hell out of Napster/LimeWire/etc in college.

I can buy that there are lower barriers to publishing more recently, but I don’t think some technical revolution or generation shift is at all an adequate explanation. I also don’t think copyright weakening is a full explanation either, so I’d be more inclined to suspect a cultural change in the business practices of publishers.

It is the avatar of the godhead of Copyrightam, the dominant religion of non-human entities. This, it is claimed, is how it can arise from its grave to haunt internet forums every so often.