[Air-L] DVD software sharing by purchasers

Robert Withers withersr at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 29 07:17:19 PDT 2007

Thanks to Hugh Brown for an impassioned and elaborate discussion of free distribution of music on internet. The argument was economically rather than ethically based.

I'm interested in a related subject that I can find little discussion of through searches. This is the sharing of copyrighted software by computer-sophisticated individuals. Everything from MS office to Adobe Creative Suite to Final Cut Pro seems to be passed along from user to user, often loaded on used machines that are sold to other users. The documentation and keys aren't sold, but these programs that retail for thousands of dollars are passed along as a matter of course. 

The typical explanations:
No one can afford these programs.
The corporations are greedy.
The corporations actually want their stuff bootlegged so the hackers who work in
the other corporations will get their corporations to buy it.

Does anyone know of any discussion or writing anywhere on this topic?

On another related subject, I found a pdf of a photocopy of a UK library edition of On Grammatology available for free download while Columbia U Press is selling a copyrighted version on Amazon. I wonder who are Derrida's heirs and whether they care if they're getting royalties or not.

Robert Withers
Independent Media Artist
New York City

Moderator: I am trying to send this as plain text--I don't know if earthlink webmail does something different, but this is a brief section of a large digest.

>Message: 14
>Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2007 11:38:54 +1000
>From: "Hugemusic" <hmusic at ozemail.com.au>
>Subject: [Air-L] Digital music economics
>To: <air-l at listserv.aoir.org>
>Message-ID: <005601c81770$f9247070$0901010a at Office2>
>Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="us-ascii"
>Hi all.
>I've been writing the theory compnent of my thesis, so I've been out
of the
>loop for a while, but I got irritated by a series of blog posts in various
>places, the last one of which triggered the following.  I'm interested in
>what other peple think.  It will appear on my blog shortly:
>Music files may be abundant, but listener value and attention are still
>By Hugh Brown
>For some time, the independent music industry has been crowded with people
>discussing the benefits of giving music recordings away and the consensus,
>much to my disgust, seems to be that it's a great idea - nay, a necessity
>for any indie. Just put the stuff out there and good things will come your
>way because that's what the new "economics of abundance" dictates.
>argument is embodied in <a
>article</a>, in which Mike discusses the economics of abundance and
>therefore the virtues for an artist/band of making music available for free.
>This is an example of slightly muddled and mistaken thinking but before I
>show why, I want to get a couple of things straight.
>1) Yes, there can be benefits to giving away recordings. But, as Mike puts
>it rather succinctly: "Giving stuff away for free needs to be part of a
>complete business model that recognizes the economic realities." Don't
>assume that giving recordings away will necessarily get you anywhere.
>2) The belief that music should be free and that if it's not people are
>perfectly justified in ripping it off is a blight on society and must be
>stamped out (not that it ever will be). I'm all for the cyberpunk ideal 
>breaking down barriers to progress, but I believe in those things because I
>think they make for a more reasonable set of conditions for mutual benefit
>and development. Stealing music, just like stealing bread, cars or life
>savings, is not being more reasonable. It is being completely one-sided and
>depriving the other party of the opportunity to renegotiate. If you don't
>like the price, send a signal by not buying - it has the same effect on the
>seller but retains your moral <a
>Having set that straight, there are a couple of points I take issue with in
>Mike's article. The first is his quote from Jefferson regarding ideas: "Its
>peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every
>other possesses the whole of it". This refers to what economists call a
>s</a>" good. One person having or using it does not prevent another
>having or using it. The best example of a non-rivalrous good is air - anyone
>can breathe it without preventing another from breathing it. However, anyone
>who's lived in a polluted city like, say <a
>LA or Beijing will know that not even air is perfectly non-rivalrous. One
>person's "use" of the air can make that air unbreathable to other
>Similar limits apply to roads, trains, mail, etc. In any real case there are
>limits to non-rivalry.
>Where this causes problems with respect to ideas, however, is in assuming
>that each use of an idea is identical - or at least equivalent. Jefferson,
>like Newton and Einstein, was subsequently proved slightly wrong. One of the
>problems with ideas, modern psychology tells us, is that no two people have
>the same ones and, as any teacher will tell you, transferring an idea from
>one head to another is an imprecise and frustrating process (sometimes
>that's a good thing). This is largely because everyone has a previously
>collected set of idea into which they must fit the new idea - and sometimes
>it doesn't fit at all. As the saying goes "a little knowledge is dangerous".
>The more complex the idea, the more difficult is its transferal from one to
>When it comes to something as complex as artistic expression, as opposed to
>the sequence of ones and zeros that make up a digital file, the transfer is
>almost never perfect. While digital files  may be perfectly reproducible
>(see my next point about that), music is not. The greatest art is ambiguous,
>and this is why it survives: it makes us question, debate and reconsider our
>lives and our place in the world. It does not supply answers, it asks
>questions, allowing us to find our own answers. This point lies at the core
>of why many of the arguments from those who talk up the virtues of "<a
>_wate.html">music like water</a>" and treating music as a
utility or paying
>for it <a
>isp-tax/">via flat taxes</a> or <a
>gin">fees attached to digital player sales</a> are just plain 
wrong: they
>assume that the value each consumer holds for each song, as with each
>digital file, is identical. It is not. In terms of their value to listeners,
>digital files are not songs, or games, or movies. They are merely the
>electronic embodiment of one version of them. To use the two interchangeably
>is to miss the entire point of human experience.
>So when Mike says to "Redefine the market: the benefit is musical enjoyment"
>he is quite correct. But he is wrong in the next line - "the music itself"
>is NOT infinite. The value of the music, as opposed to the vehicle for the
>recording's distribution, lies in the experience of the listener - whether
>at a live show, or on the radio driving to work, at the time of a first
>kiss, watching a poignant moment on a favourite movie, or the birth of a
>child ... whatever. Even if you send me a copy of your favourite new song
>discovery, I may not attach the same value to it that you do, simply because
>of our mindsets at the time of discovery. And its value in an exchange
>between artist and fan lies in the relationship between those two, which
>does not necessarily lie in any particular song (or digital file). <a
>href="http://www.inrainbows.com/">Radiohead understood this</a>,
>although many people (myself included) downloaded the album for free on a
>"try before you buy" basis, many others paid them handsomely. I have
>doubt that they have more than recouped the costs of production.
>The next point I want to object to is the use of the word "<a
when talking
>about the economics of "<a
>. Abundant and infinite are NOT the same thing. "Non-scarce" is closer
>"abundant" than "infinite". And in any case, infinite does
not exist, it can
>only ever be approached. Many web servers have crashed because of excess
>demand while attempting to distribute "infinite" digital goods - rendering
>them instantly finite as far as consumers are concerned. There are limits to
>bandwidth and many other factors involved in supply of digital goods. It is
>simply incorrect to refer to the goods as infinite.
>Finally, releasing the "infinite good" does NOT necessarily increase
>marketsize. This is a well-documented furphy. The best it can hope to do is
>increase the <em>potential</em> marketsize, and many other activities
>achieve the same thing. This is because in an abundant digital economy,
>marketsize is limited by attention scarcity. This is NOT a new condition for
>indies. <a
and Radiohead used this
>to great effect; their stunts garnered them huge amounts of attention. But
>it was not the giving away of the music they benefited from, it was the
>attention raised because of the novelty of that approach. Had Radiohead
>posted their new album as free streams for people to listen to before
>deciding to buy, they would have provided me with the same service and
>access - but would not have solved the attention scarcity problem because
>that's been done plenty of times before. Now that that novelty has been
>realised, it will not work so well again for them or for anyone else.
>Incidentally, Prince did not give his CD away - he sold it in bulk to a
>newspaper for more than he probably would have made at retail. He's a smart
>lad. On the other hand, the poster child for online music business, <a
>href="http://www.jonathancoulton.com/primer/get">Jonathan Coulton</a>,
>NOT give his digital files away for free (though he's probably not about
>sue file-swappers for copying them). Every posting of music on his site
>links to a pay-for download (one of them is the "pay what you like"
>SongSlide), and you can listen to the streams for free.
>The real problem is that if you don't find some way to tell people that 
>music is available, and find some way to make it relate favourably to their
>lives, you will gain nothing. This has been the experience of many artists -
>myself included - whose music has been available for free for months and
>whose marketsize remains negligible and unsustainable. Similarly, making the
>music is available will make no difference if it is bad. In fact, it may
>deter people from coming to shows and buying merchandise - such is the
>double-edged sword of attention.
>The upshot of all of this is that what indies need to be discussing is the
>best means for overcoming attention scarcity, not devaluing music recordings
>by implying that giving them away is necessarily beneficial. As <a
>Leftsetz points out</a>, finding ways to overcome attention scarcity is
>of the great assets that the major labels and big players retain. Giving
>away recordings without addressing the attention scarcity problem is playing
>back into the hands of "those who refuse to give up their old business
>models". The only way for indies to compete is to optimise their revenue
>streams, not compromise one in the hope of catching up with another.
>The Genre Benders:  "I am leaving! I am leaving!"
>    - out now at www.genrebenders.com
>                        www.cdbaby.com/genrebenders

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