I just have to do this every once in a while.
This post is brought to you by killing time with William Patry‘s blog. Patry is better known as a leading copyright (and I guess also copyleft) guru working as Google’s chief copyright attorney, and he keeps a pretty fat blog. And as you may expect, I’m going for somewhat Longcat here too. TL;DR warning! And most of it won’t have much to do with anime, so feel free to skip towards the bottom.
There are three items and two points.
Item #1: Some paper written by Prof. Neil Netanel, UCLA School of Law. You can read it for free, but it’s 33 pages and, well, is sort of your typical “lol copyright is evil” nonsense. Or sense. If you already read this kind of stuff, note that this paper tackles, for us internet forum warrior-types, the neoclassic economics and Lockean strongholds, and dissects why copyright law is the mess that it is today from a historical perspective. I thought the good o’ Digital Copyright book did a good job, but this is a little more meaty. But it is written like an academic journal article, so Netanel is a harder read.
Item #2: Ok, more like 4 items. Japan looks at copyright term extension. Also LOL internet police. Not so worried about obscene and adult material, but some of the fringe copyright protection schemes it outlined are outright killing-goose-for-the-egg. If Bill Clinton was smart enough to avoid it, Japan is really just a bunch of paranoid corporate interests puppets holding their seats in office. And poor France. Considering how prevalent copyright infringement is on the internet, that would probably wipe out most people who even care about broadband connection in France, if it was ever enforced to perfection. Then again, the French was always a little weird about copyright, among other things. They can take a tip from Canada.
Item #3: And speaking of Canada, LOL Canadian study about Canadians that download mp3 P2P leads about increased music CD purchases.
Just to get #3 out of the way, I’ll start by quoting why it’s worth reading. The TL;DR answer is “this one has actual, directly-correlating data”:
This research paper adds to the discussion on the extent and effects of music downloading and P2P file-sharing by using microeconomic survey data and by extending the analysis to account for a wider range of relevant variables/factors underlying music purchasing.
Most previous studies on P2P file-sharing have tended to analyze aggregated (e.g. macroeconomic) data. Thus, the analyses using those data are merely indirectly measuring the statistical relationships on which micro-assumptions and conclusions are based.
The analysis in this paper is based on direct answers (or micro-data) provided by 2,100 Canadian respondents. For example, respondents were asked about how many CDs and paid electronically-delivered tracks they purchased and the average prices paid. There are advantages from using measures of the respondents’ recalled purchases and experienced average prices. A key issue here is that markets can take many forms (on-line, brick and mortar shop, second-hand, etc.) so no official music industry recorded price will capture the true demand and the true price which consumers are facing.
Moreover, our analysis is wider than previous studies, which tend to focus on P2P downloads only, as it considers a comprehensive range of ways in which music can be acquired. These are: purchasing CDs, ripping CDs and copying them onto computers, buying music tracks from online pay-sites like iTunes or Archambault, downloading free music from P2P file-sharing networks, like Kazaa, LimeWire, eDonkey, BearShare or Gnutella, downloading free music from promotional websites, downloading music from peoples’ private Internet websites and copying MP3s from friends.
The demographic information in the survey, too, is very detailed, including information on gender, age, income, region in which they live, degree of music interest, Internet skills, occupation and educational level.
But the real juicy detail I learned from reading it is that (and I guess it’s not all new stuff):
- It’s all about the interplay between substitution and penetration: Substitution is what makes people think downloading is stealing; penetration is what makes people think fansubbing works as marketing. Both are very significant factors in determining the effect of illegal media trading, but there are extrinsic attributes which favor one over the other (such as popularity of the said media).
- And the world is changing. A report back in 2001 is not helpful 6 years later substantively, even if it sheds light in terms of understanding the economics behind the observed mechanism. The Canadian study was published a couple months ago, but it used data from 2005. Perhaps there is actually a point in studying cross-market elasticity between pay-to-download versus buying-a-CD models of business today, but I’m not sure if it was helpful then, especially in Canada. Still, the point here about change. These kinds of studies may be very helpful even if successive studies tend to provide conflicting results, but it’s something we have to take in contingent with current conditions and trends. We were and are trying to count the number of angels dancing on a pin tip in the first instance; now we need to realize the pin doubles as a popular bed & breakfast.
Well, you should’ve gotten that much too, just from the abstract page. It’s good to analyze the hypothesis tested in that study as well and see if you agree with them (and the results). But if micro-econ is not your bag, don’t sweat it much.
Anyways. To the two points.
Point 1: politics matters. Fact is a democratic system counts votes, and votes determine who goes into office. Who goes into office determines what laws come out. What determines your elected rep does vary from person to person; God, Grand Theft Auto and everything in between can and did drive bills through various legislatures. But during this 2008 election year, you Americans better read up and vote to represent! Or even donate money. This is a good start IMO.
As much as I tend to swing right politically when it comes to economics (ie. biased), tightening the screw on copyright protection via legislation tend to be bad for the economy in the long run, just like most other kinds of government regulation on businesses and the economy. Plus I just don’t believe the US government knows what it is doing with copyright, or knows the best way to legislate for the future. (Of course, few if anyone knows that.) What happened to good o’ conservative economics? Silly Republicans. The best case scenario here would just be the status quo for another 4 years rather than any kind of addition to an already mired mess.
Point 2: knowledge is power. As a rule of thumb, people do not understand copyright. Heck, if you can actually explain what copyright means, what it’s suppose to do, and why we have all these problems, then you do better than your average House rep. So what? It lets the established industries get away with whatever laws they want to pass–people get away with labeling media sharing as stealing because no one is out there challenging and correcting what people perceive as copyright infringement. No one is educating the heritage of unregulated use before the mass media era.
But maybe it is no big deal. It just kind of bother me when you read people’s heated debate about fansubbing and knowing most of them don’t know a thing what they’re talking about, in the perspective they take and the kind of arguments they try to make. To be fair, we’re dealing a very unique situation in terms of the economics behind it, as businesses trying to survive in a tough media economy as well as an industry that’s tangled with traces of “old” with plenty of spunk with the players testing the “new.” We’re dealing in a very unique situation, too, on the legal front (which contributes to the intricate industry situation too). We are also dealing with a very unique situation even in the cultural front. Maybe this is why fansubbing debates are so heated; it’s mystically attractive because you just can’t find this anywhere else (case in point, even anime and manga themselves deal with these issues). So. All the more that we need to equip ourselves, at least from my perspective–a fan–to kick ass and chew gum.
Fight? Yes. On that note I’ll wrap it up, even if it is a 6-year-old note. Contrary to marketing studies, it is still just as relevant today as it was in 2002–the Lessig keynote flash presentation about free culture. Are you ready to fight for your right to watch fansubs? Do something.