Here is a list of some of what I have gleaned from this course; it is by no means comprehensive. Here are some of the issues about which I feel strongly:
People have a right to make money most any way they like; and while ours is not a system of hyper-capitalism that much is, and should be, allowed. Exit compulsory licensing and music socialism, neither of which could work anyway. If you taxed products like blank CDs, etc, a compulsory licensing type system might work; but such a system would be ideologically flawed. You would have legitimate users paying for illegally file sharing, at least in part. Uses may no longer be “illegal”, but only because the system was changed to make them permissible. To do so would essentially allow illegality as long as someone paid for it; to do so would violate fundamental principles of personal accountability implicit in our system.
As far as encouraging artists to create:
To assume that people may still play music despite the lack of IP protection is probably fair. To assume that the breadth of music available to us would still be available if artists could not get rich selling their music is to live in fairly land. And not only the breadth, but the “quality” for lack of a better word, would not be near so extensive. Musicians would lack access to fancy recording studios, and the accompanying fancy sound devices. The inability to make money selling music might mean that experienced music producers would become an endangered species, and the pool of people who can effectively edit, mix, or even recognize quality would be limited to the freakishly talented. Sure some people may make a living promoting and organizing live shows, but the skill set for such a career seems to emphasize crowd control and promotion, not editing and recognizing sound quality. Resources necessary for creating a quality product would only be available to musicians who made their fortune by means other than the sale of music…so we could all listen to “The Strokes”, but the list would not extend much farther.
Regarding Copyright Terms:
I believe that IP rights afford too much protection as firmly as I believe that IP rights should prevent things like illegal downloading. IP should be limited not in the scope of rights it provides its holders, but instead in the scope of people to whom the rights are available, and the duration of the rights so extended. I do not mean to imply that everyone is not entitled to copyright protection; I only mean that people who decide, or otherwise fail to renew such protection should not remain protected: maybe somebody else can do “it” better, let’s give them a chance.
Clearly copyright terms are overextended. IP rights should cease at some point BEFORE what might as well be referred to as “hell freezing over”. While shortening them would help, and may be necessary, the length of the term may not be so much of a problem if the renewal of copyright was not compulsory. The law could allow the first renewal whenever requested and as many thereafter if the copyright remained profitable as determined in reference to some percentage of the investment or $X, whichever is higher. This way, even if there is no definite copyright term, the Constitution is not violated; terms are still “limited”, even if duration may in theory be capable of extending indefinitely (I am pretty sure this could never actually happen). Charging some nominal fee for subsequent renewals is not a bad idea; the funds could be used to maintain online registries or copyright offices (as noted in a previous Copyfutures discussion).
People could renew, if their copyright remained profitable, and could thus continue to make a living off of their one moment of inspiration. Big studios might not renew; the pipeline of new and better will siphon off the need for the old and hardly profitable…and we will all be reminded that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. The swelling of the public domain will provide people the inspiration of protected works and prevent a sort of IP “theft” that is as significant as robbing people of their ability to make a living selling music.
“What technology taketh away, technology giveth back”. New wireless devices will make the need to own a hard copy of songs obsolete and in so doing usher in the rise of the subscription service. Sure, in the short term, personal servers seem like an answer that would allow people to access all that they could want; but in the long term people are going to want access to more, and more diverse, information. There will be no need to store a copy of every bit of information, when nominal subscription fees can grant you the same access. Eventually, personal servers will only contain the confidential.
Legislation and Legal Remedies:
While technology will eventually get the music/movie industry to stop complaining, I believe that those industries should be able to enforce their rights now, through litigation.
I also believe that it is reprehensible to ruin the life of a 12 year old kid for the sake of “educating” the public-at-large (even if the ruin is created by a settlement). The RIAA/MPAA is not endearing itself to anyone. Anybody that knows about the lawsuits filed also knows that pirating music is wrong; bringing suit against culpable but generally decent people only fosters resentment and a desire to do the industry ill. The suits probably encourage more pirating then they prevent. If the RIAA/MPAA is going to prosecute, as is their right, they should make sure that the people they sue not only know that they are doing wrong, but make a living or profit (and NOT the saving-of-$50-worth-of-songs kind of profit) off of the material they plunder. Public outcry should not be the only impediment to unabridged prosecution; parties using legal remedies need to exercise some sense of decency as should the lobbyists. Money is to legislators what Snausages are to dogs; we all know they can not help themselves, but deep down we all also know that legislator focus should be squarely on things like unemployment, etc, etc; issues exponentially more pressing than whether, or how, we should punish some college kid for “inducing” his buddies to copy a track of “Crush” from his Dave Matthews collection. The fact that the proposed legislation largely failed to pass does not change the fact that legislators should have not had their attention diverted in the first place.