Looking across Techdirt this week, two trends make themselves apparent time and time again. As artists utilize new ways to succeed, gatekeepers such as book publishers and record labels are becoming increasingly obsolete. The more obsolete these gatekeepers become, the crazier their tactics in trying to deny and prevent it.
It is futile to operate a tollgate when the fence it was attached to isn’t there any more. Or, to paraphrase Patton Oswalt, there are no gates left to keep when “In my hand right now I’m holding more filmmaking technology than Orson Welles had when he filmed Citizen Kane.” Of course, this paradigm shift in moving production and distribution into the hands of creators has been obvious for a long time, but several of this week’s stories provide delicious examples of the trend.
Firstly, Blogger Penelope Trunk’s conversations with her book publisher’s PR team read like satire — when asked how they might be promoting her book, their leading suggestion was to use newsgroups. I first had internet access at the turn of the millennium, and even then newsgroups were old hat. The fact that the professional PR wing of an esteemed publisher is still touting this kind of thing is astonishing. In fact, I’d wager that the Techdirt article about Trunk’s situation will lead to more sales than any newsgroup promotion would.
At the same time, e-book author Stephen Leather was met with hostility at a literary festival for suggesting that anything except the traditional bookselling model was viable — despite clear evidence to the contrary. The fact that Leather and others are successfully selling their e-books for such a low price is not devaluing literature. When production costs of publishing move towards zero, then it’s inevitable that the sales point will move in that direction too. To deny such a trend with cries of not fair is not going to change the situation. Simple Darwinism is at work here. The ones who survive are the ones most adaptable to change. Although there is plenty that industry behemoths can do to close the gap, it will always be the lean, independent upstarts with nothing to lose who are the most nimble. And so it should be.
Rather than closing the gap though, it looks as if the industry old guard would prefer to carry on its war on the inevitable rather than focusing on how to meet consumer demands. The IFPI has announced that none of the money recovered from The Pirate Bay will be paid to the artists from whom it’s been allegedly “stolen.” Instead, it will be used to attempt to recover further moneys in the same manner. Dare we ask when that cycle will end. If recovering funds from infringement is funded by recovering funds from infringement, then stamping it out altogether would put a stop to the IFPI’s new source of income. My friend spent eight years learning to drive, and I couldn’t help wondering if her instructor was just milking her for as long as he could get away with it. Could a similar phenomenon be happening here?
Just for laughs, I was highly amused to see that a French company is attempting to
copyright trademark the logo of notorious hacktivist group Anonymous. Surely someone, somewhere down the line must have suggested that this move might present more drawbacks than benefits. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.
It was also entertaining to learn that due to a technicality in UK law, the simple act of visiting a website results in copyright infringement. If you’re in the UK and have visited a website lately, I’d suggest uninstalling your browser and wiping your hard drive right now. You know, just in case those pesky gatekeepers discover the exciting new revenue stream of recovering money from everyone who has ever visited their websites. I’m just kidding – that’s about as likely as someone selling I Am Not A Virgin t-shirts being challenged by Richard Branson.