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I Think Your App Should Be Free (earbits.com)
334 points by earbitscom on Oct 4, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 231 comments

This is nothing more than a thinly-disguised allegory about piracy in the music industry. There are several big differences between the music and the software industry which I won't go into, except to say that: even taking this story at face value, for the developers to then start suing everyone downloading the fake copies of the app would still be a huge dick move.

From a business/industry perspective (ignoring for now the ethics of piracy or the wisdom of combating it with mass lawsuits), the biggest difference between digital software and digital music is that lots of software providers are still providing value from distribution.

Especially with database-driven apps and SaaS products, distribution (hosting) is still most of what you're paying for. If someone leaked the back end source code for Github or Dropbox, of course there would be people who would host them for themselves and avoid paying, but I can't imagine it would cut into their revenues at all.

But with music, as soon as it's released in a digital format, anyone with an internet connection has near-frictionless access—the music creators are no longer offering any value from distribution other than the convenience of online stores like iTunes or the artwork and collectibility of a physical CD. The music industry and smaller musical groups/labels are certainly figuring this out, and experimenting with ways of offering something of value. Removing DRM was a big win because DRM did nothing except ruin the supposed convenience of online purchases. Cloud and subscription services (both pay and ad-supported) offer convenience and even better immediate availability than piracy.

Nine Inch Nails seem to be one of the few bands who are able to look into the future. They offer most(all?) of their music for free to download and make their money touring and selling other merchandise.

In a future with rampant piracy, what I see is a whole lot less music and software. We won't even notice. It's not like we'll wake up and suddenly apps will be gone. We probably won't even be able to measure a decrease year-over-year in app production. What we'll never notice is that twice as many apps or ten times as many apps would have been created, or would have had much better quality, if the creators had been properly incentivized.

In a future with draconian copyright enforcement, what I see is a whole lot less music and software. We won't even notice. It's not like we'll wake up and suddenly apps will be gone. We probably won't even be able to measure a decrease year-over-year in app production. What we'll never notice is that twice as many apps or ten times as many apps would have been created, or would have had much better quality, if we had a more reasonable legal framework and creators weren't terrified of being sued because their creation was "too similar" to something else or transformed or remixed previous work or used/re-implemented an API without permission or ...

What a lot of people seem to lose sight of is that IP is supposed to be a compromise - somewhere between producers and consumers. It gives producers temporary property rights on something that is not naturally rivalrous or excludable in order to give them an incentive to produce said goods.

These days, that compromise is, in some ways, probably tilted too far towards producers (or some categories of producers at least), but with no intellectual property at all, that would tilt things too far the other way.

I think you are absolutely wrong about this. You might be correct when it comes to mid- to low level professional music/software. But the threshold to producing and releasing music and software is getting lower all the time. These days, kids can go online and find tons and tons of instructional material and peer support for learning to play musical instruments or make software. They can noodle around at home with amazingly cheap equipment, record using the best recording software in the world at levels of fidelity only dreamt of a few years ago, and release it to the public without paying a single dime.

I think we'll see amateur music and free/open software quickly fill the gap left by professional musicians. And people will keep finding ways of financing their love (playing music). In fact, I don't know many of my favorite musicians today who make a living from their music. They all work day jobs. Music is their passion. If anything, they lose money from releasing albums.

And people will keep finding ways of financing their love (playing music). In fact, I don't know many of my favorite musicians today who make a living from their music. They all work day jobs.

I think this new cultural line of thought of "in this day and age with the tools we have why would you need a full day job support for ..." (replace ... with making music, running a blog, developing games, etc) is pure arrogant bullshit. Yes, you can have hobbies, and side projects, and some might excel at doing them for a while. But doing your craft as an actual full time job is the only way to reach, and maintain, your full potential.

I don't see where I said that I endorsed this state of affairs. I would love it if people who make music could make a living off it with less of a struggle. I'm just pointing out the fact that they don't, today. Somehow, there's still music being made.

I just don't see a realistic turn of events where suddenly everyone is paying for CDs again. I also don't think creativity will stop because the money does.

Also, I think you are the one spouting pure arrogant bullshit when you completely dismiss amateur production. Just because you can't squeeze in hours of practice time outside your work schedule doesn't mean other people aren't doing it, right now. In fact there are tons of hugely talented musicians out there who aren't making a living off their music.

edit: Oh, I think I misread your intent with the "pure arrogant bullshit" thing, sorry for turning harsh. We don't really disagree, I completely agree that having to work a day job to support a music "career" is crap. On the other hand, I don't really see how it's ever been much different, except for a few lucky people who made it huge the golden eras of vinyl and CDs.

I don't see where I said that I endorsed this state of affairs.

I don't care so much if you in specific endorse it. i do care about how it's a line of thought that we hear more and more often.

Also, I think you are the one spouting pure arrogant bullshit when you completely dismiss amateur production.

I dismissed amateur production? are you sure you hit reply in the right comment?

In fact there are tons of hugely talented musicians out there who aren't making a living off their music.

no kidding! you just blew my mind. now think of what they could do if they made/played their music as a full time job.

> I just don't see a realistic turn of events where suddenly everyone is paying for CDs again.

Lots of people pay for Spotify.[1] CDs are dead, but because of the medium, not the concept of paying for something.

[1] http://www.arcticstartup.com/2011/02/09/spotify-second-large...

>In fact, I don't know many of my favorite musicians today who make a living from their music. They all work day jobs.

What a nightmare. You mean I have to do this job I hate for the rest of my life because I should want to do the thing I actually like for free? Is there really no value in it at all?

People are still "making it", whatever that means. But, yeah. Welcome to the reality of 90% of all musicians, actors, artists, entrepreneurs out there.

90% of musicians make music nobody wants that bad. We're talking about people who make music that people do want, and those people not paying for it for no other reason than they don't have to.

People who make products we want badly enough to need one of our own should be compensated for their efforts. They should not have to go out and play it in clubs, or sell you a t-shirt. If you want a copy of their song, you should compensate them. There are always going to be 90% of artists whose art is not popular enough to earn them a living. The problem we're discussing is that of the people whose music is very popular, but is being taken illegally without their permission.

90% of musicians make music nobody even heard of.

Face it, we're not born with a burning desire to buy Metallica albums. You grow up listening to radio or watching tv, getting exposed to certain types of music (typically between 2 and 6 minutes, most on 4/4, with accompanying lyrics sung by one or two artists) and that's the music you'll end up wanting "that bad" -- pure coincidence?

Artists who succeed following traditional models (who, incidentally, are the most supportive of draconian copyright laws) are the ones who marketed themselves more heavily and got more access to traditional media: they went on TV, did interviews and concerts, paid for airplay... -- without any of that, they wouldn't be "popular". To do this, they had to borrow a lot of money from their label, and often will see very little financial reward.

So why they should not have to go out and sell you a t-shirt, instead of borrowing from a label to buy (increasingly more irrelevant) airplay? What's the big deal ?

I really don't understand what you're getting at.

The argument is essentially that piracy is okay because 90% of artists are never going to earn their living from music. 90% of artists do not create a product that appeals to enough people for them to earn a living selling that product. 10% create something popular enough that they might be able to earn a living at it.

How those products came to be popular socially is completely irrelevant. You're saying, let's not compensate them for being great musicians who created a recording I want a copy of. Let's instead require them to be in the business of selling clothes because I respect the value of a t-shirt more than the art they created that made me give a shit about a shirt with their name on it.

No, what I'm saying is that we're not compensating them for being great musicians, we're compensating their corporate sponsors for being great producers and marketeers.

So I'd rather compensate them for being great t-shirt sellers, it doesn't really make any difference and it will probably guarantee them more cash.

You know, if their corporate sponsors don't make any money off the deal, they are going to stop signing recording artists.

So be it, new deals will be struck and new forms of sponsorship will emerge.

> Artists who succeed following traditional models (who, incidentally, are the most supportive of draconian copyright laws) are the ones who marketed themselves more heavily and got more access to traditional media: they went on TV, did interviews and concerts, paid for airplay... -- without any of that, they wouldn't be "popular".

Sometimes (maybe mostly). Other times it's because the artist is actually good and people buy their stuff just by word of mouth (Metallica is actually more an example of this). I think it's easier to tell in hindsight which is which. Milli Vanilli vs. Led Zeppelin, for instance.

The traditional role of the record company wasn't to manufacture music and shove it down our throats, but to be the filter--find the good musicians and sign them up. While I agree that there is a lot of manufactured crap out there, I do think that you can't dismiss all pop music because there are actually artists out there that are good and popular.

Incidentally, I think the real revolutionary thing that napster did was stop the record companies from being the filter, at least in our minds. Being able to try out any weird music I liked was liberating and when I found some bands I liked I could look at that user's whole library and use it as a primitive recommendation engine. I was able to find way more indie stuff and it effectively gave some of the filtering controls over to me.

If you only reward amateurs then amateur content is all you will get. Some skills take decades to master. The world you describe will never produce a Mozart.

This is quite ironic, considering that Mozart made most of his (relatively little) money by touring and composing for wealthy patrons. Somebody else made much more money out of him: sheet printers, who also ended up being the real force behind original legislation on copyright. Plus ça change...

It's not ironic. He made his living (little as it might have been) by doing what he wanted to do. He wasn't cleaning toilets on the side to supplement his hobby of composing. Other people making more money off his work doesn't change anything. His passion supported him financially.

He wasn't relying on copyright laws, which is what the parent poster was implicitly talking up with his statement; i.e. a world without copyright laws did in fact produce a Mozart, and it will keep producing it regardless of legislation.

Exactly: gigs, concerts. This is how musicians make the bulk of their money when they are locked into shitty record deals. And it provides an experience people are more than happy to pay for. Free music drives concert ticket sales (ie. radio singles promote new touring bands).

The point is that it was possible for him to make enough money at his trade to move beyond the amateur stage. It's not clear that many people will be able to do this now, at least not those that can't cultivate a healthy live following for whatever reason.

Interestingly, Mozart got paid to write music for his patrons. Today, I don't see any bands being willing to write music for payment. Could I get Elton John to write a ballad for my S.O., for instance?

Mozart didn't have copyright on his works.

I'm not describing the world that I want. I'm describing what I think is what is happening.

At the same time, I don't think you can say that we'll only get Rebecca Black in the future, you can't know that. Mozart had a lot of factors playing into his level of success (timing, the right parents, innate skill, etc). At the same time, Mozart lived before albums or musical copyright, and worked under the patronage system. It's possible we'll see a return of that as well, if the current model completely breaks down.

14-year old Mozart would be at home with todays file sharers and sheet transcribers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miserere_(Allegri)

Who here has seen the webcomic world? Quite a few webcomic artists make enough money to support themselves through donations and the selling of merchandise.

Many people seem to be attacking your statement for being counter-intuitive. I will attack it for going against the observed reality of the past 10-15 years. In that time, piracy has grown significantly. Yet in that time, I guarantee you the rate of software development has increased dramatically by any metric you want to look at. I can't say the same thing for music, because I don't know how you would measure how much music is bring released, but anecdotally I will say that I have discovered a lot of music with a very small fan base through the Internet and small regional labels.

Also, with software we can empirically look at the history of IP law and see that a huge amount of software that is fundamental even today was created before any sort of software patents were awarded (and presumably, before those people ever even considered monetizing software through government-protected monopoly on distribution).

I think it requires a naive and backwards view of human psychology to assume that money is the sole or primary incentive to create quality music or software. In fact, I surmise that anyone capable of producing top notch content would discover a way to do so without current IP protection laws.

>I think it requires a naive and backwards view of human psychology to assume that money is the sole or primary incentive to create quality music or software.

When will you make it? In the evening when you're off from work? What about my marriage? My kids? They all have to suffer because people think they have a right to my effort for free?

> I will say that I have discovered a lot of music with a very small fan base through the Internet and small regional labels.

Meaning that they probably have day jobs and don't produce as much music as they could if they were able to work at it full time. This may or may not have anything to do with piracy, but I think the point of fewer digital goods being produced is one to consider.

But these particular musicians making as much or more music is only part of the puzzle.

The same digital technology that makes piracy easier is what made it possible for baddox to find them in the first place. It is hard to imagine solutions to the problem of music piracy that wouldn't also make it harder to find these musicians. After all, music piracy has become easy because music is easy to copy and distribute... which is also why it has become easier to find the niche musicians you like.

Suppose you're right (though I don't think you are) and we successfully clamp down on music piracy so that these musicians can more easily monetize their small fan bases and spend more time making music. Does baddox care about this music if, in this alternate world, he never discovers them?

There's nothing that says that various technologies act in some sort coordinated, "equal and opposite" ways.

Not true. Most of them go on regional or national tours several times a year, so if they have a job on the side it must be very lenient.

That is pure myth. Do we not already have 'rampant piracy', as the music/tv/film/etc industry would say -- indeed, we have had it for 10 years. And what is the result? Well, it pretty much looks like we have more of everything than we ever had before! Has there been a great 'dying off of culture'? Do you have less good stuff to enjoy -- music, film, tv, software -- than in 1995 or before? Is anyone going to say that?! It seems ridiculous.

And this is more true of software than anything else, and there is a good reason. The most important ingredient of software production is not 'incentivization', not money. It is other software, other information. That is because it is leveraged unlimitedly by being copyable: a single sum of money can support a single piece of development effort, but a single piece of information can support any number of development projects.

The more completely you have and enforce copyright, the more you destroy that leverage.

I agree with your assertion of a decrease in apps and music in time, but for complete different reasons. There are numerous songs and apps out there which aren't even worth the cost of listing them.

Hopefully in time we'll see a lot less fart apps for $5 and the umpteenth song about a weekday from people who see it as a quick way to make cash and not something they have a passion for.

If both of these industries were about passion and not money then piracy wouldn't be such an issue.

Why can't we let people have passion for software or music and also make money at it? Should I need to pursue software development in my 2 free hours at night after coming home from flipping burgers because only jobs that involve production of physical goods that can't yet be copied still pay the bills? How can anyone afford the time to become a professional in this kind of future? Even if someone had the "passion" to give up everything else in their life, I don't think they should have to. Just thinking about it is depressing. The parasites will walk around happily listening to their free music in their makerbot printed mp3 player (from pirated plans) and collect their social security checks from the government, while software developers and musicians slave away in $200 basement apartments 10 hours per day, and are looked down upon by everybody around them for not being successful by doing something profitable. That's where I see this going.

I think you misunderstood what I was arguing. I am not against someone making _good_ software for money. One only needs to take a look at Humble Bundle that prominently show people will pay for software. 148,194 people have paid a total of $690,575 for a package that is delivered in the way a user wants: No DRM, download straight from the website, heck even integrate with Steam.

There is nothing stopping those 148,194 people from going and pirating those games, but they haven't because people will pay for a product.

Positive some of those people won't even play the games but donated just to support the idea. (I am one of those).

> Should I need to pursue software development in my 2 free hours at night after coming home from flipping burgers because only jobs that involve production of physical goods that can't yet be copied still pay the bills?

And yet there are many people that actually do this already, otherwise how would you be booting your linux box? I know I program in my spare time...

> Just thinking about it is depressing. The parasites will walk around happily listening to their free music in their makerbot printed mp3 player (from pirated plans)

I don't know, that sounds kind of cool--everything would be different, that's for sure. I think there will always room for really good programmers. Also, never bet against people trying to find a market somewhere--there's always one somewhere, it just might not look like the ones we have now. Don't fight the future, embrace it (or starve).

> The parasites will walk around happily listening to their free music in their makerbot printed mp3 player (from pirated plans) and collect their social security checks from the government, while software developers and musicians slave away in $200 basement apartments 10 hours per day

Piracy stopped them from collecting the social security check and live the wealthy life of the unemployed pirate.


I buy lots of electronic music where I would neither bother to see a live show, nor wear their merchandise. What are those bands supposed to do? Be more controversial to make t-shirts attractive? Change their business model by becoming rock bands?

It's like saying that authors can still make money through public readings when pirated ebooks are everywhere, <cue famous example here>. Or that games can just have unpiratable multiplayer. That's all true, but it kills off whole genres.

Would you bother to donate? Or are you only willing to give money to musicians in the form of buying music?

I have donated to software projects before, but it's so annoying to keep track of it. I honestly couldn't tell you if I have donated to Adium, Colloquy, or both. I don't think donations can ever achieve the fairness and efficiency of buying songs.

To clarify on the fairness, buying software and music almost feels like a donation already. And I have been surrounded by anecdotal evidence in my youth who happily cracked "silly" casual shareware games, which just felt awkward to pay for, then played them for months. Yet when their favorite brand's AAA game was released, they bought it, played it for three days, then proudly put the box on top of their shelf and claimed that they do buy software -- but only when it's worth it. I can easily see the same thing happening for higher-profile vs lower-profile bands.

Honest question, do you buy via physical mediums or online distribution?

I stopped buying physical media since I've started traveling, but I am still putting them on my wish lists for when I'm home and people want to spend money. So practically both.

They also were famous without and long before the whole Internet MP3 craze. They already had a fanbase.

I really enjoy the ease at which I can buy things on an app store (The music industry has/had problems because they try/tried to control the sales process).

The development community has a great solution: app stores. But these only work if the people who run the app stores are willing to help protect the products of those who sell in that store. I think this is what the post is mostly about (and has little to do with the music industry).

To pirate work on the net... Whatever.

To pirate work by placing it in the same app store that your product is sold. That is just messed up.

Further, what is the message of the allegory supposed to be?

The analogy between music and tech suggests that the two hits-based industries selling digital goods are not so different after all. But why would our morality in one case be so different from the other case?

If anything, this allegory seems to suggest to me that the recording industry has committed one of the biggest public relations bungles of our lifetimes. People who wouldn't think to pirate a mobile app would pirate music without a second thought thanks to widespread lawsuits, pay-for-play, price fixing, and of course, ease.

what is the message of the allegory supposed to be?

It sounded to me like the message was supposed to be "it doesn't sound so awesome when you see it from the other side of the looking glass, now does it". (It felt like it was targeted at people who can identify with developing mobile apps)

The author said in the comments:

"The point of the article is that making that choice for someone else is wrong."

It's my feeling that in this article at least, the author does not really care about the rights and wrong of copying, piracy, intellectual property, etc. He is scared by relatively few people on the internet being both lawmaker, judge, party and executioner when it comes to the monetization of a digital product, and the reason why he is scared is that these few people are not even potential customers.

Actually, I'm scared that we live in a world where people think they're entitled to anything they can take without consequence. The fact that they aren't taking the original means nothing. They have broken a social contract with the creator of content that, ironically, they really enjoy and would like to see more of in the future.

The problem of someone taking copyrighted content and making it available for others is a small one. The big problem is the many millions of people who take advantage of it. If everyone recognized that they're not entitled to anything except their basic human rights, none of which have anything to do with access to MP3s, then others posting that content online wouldn't matter.

The hope with this article was a little empathy from a community that often leans toward not caring about copyright law as it pertains to music. While many chose to go the route of poking tiny holes in parts of the analogy, plenty didn't realize it was an allegory and talked about how messed up it was. Many of them the same people who fight music copyright tooth and nail.

It's just sad to think that everybody enjoys music, just like they enjoy software, and so many other things that can be easily taken, and yet don't care if the people who create it see enough benefit to keep making it for them. It's short sighted and will result in fewer people having the time to become experts in these crafts, which is a loss for everyone. Sure, quantity is at an all time high, but in art that hardly matters.

Stay assured that people do care, by and large, for the creators, the inventors, the artists, those who truly provide for them with commodities and overall a better life, but the harsh truth is that there just isn't enough money for everyone, and when 99% of the money they pay for a product goes into the pocket of someone that has apparently nothing to do with that exact moment of enjoyment they just experienced, people just don't want to pay a dollar for a cent. There just isn't enough time for everyone either, so they won't spend thirty minutes figuring out how to pay the artist after listening to a 3 minutes song, or figuring out which is which between the legit app and the pirate clone so they can put their money in the right wallet.

We need to figure out fair solutions to these time & money issues in order to void the piracy problem and make devs and artists feel better. In the mean time, well... there are concerts, donations, advertisement, register-only services, drm... crappy stuff(1) compared to the real deal if you want my opinion (that of an independent android app dev), but eh, tough times.

(1)except concerts. Live music is awesome. Horribly expensive and probably really hard to setup, but extremely enjoyable.

> The problem of someone taking copyrighted content and making it available for others is a small one. The big problem is the many millions of people who take advantage of it.

Precisely. Many millions of people take advantage of it, and the overall good is greater than if they didn't. If the cost of distributing some good falls down to zero, you can't make a living by distributing these. Find another way; for instance provide a web service through your app, that unregistered copies can't access.

> It's just sad to think that everybody enjoys music, just like they enjoy software, and so many other things that can be easily taken, and yet don't care if the people who create it see enough benefit to keep making it for them.

For the tremendous majority of professional musicians recorded music never represented a significant source of revenue at all, if ever. Most musicians get paid for playing, and nothing else. That people swap mp3 around have absolutely no influence on their life -- except when it helps them getting known.

The overall good? The overall good of what? Your right to listen to music for free? That's not good overall for the artists who created that music. Why should they have to make 2nd and 3rd products that you "approve of" in order to be compensated?

People already use lack of easy access as their excuse for piracy. Now you want them to make some hard to crack app just for people to be able to listen to it? How about people just stop taking what's not theirs and treat artists with respect?

And in regard to your last statement, it's not your right to determine whether exposure alone should be the reward of their hard work.

> The overall good? The overall good of what?

If you swallow a cost of 10, but that 11 people gets 1 from your contribution, the society as a whole wins.

> How about people just stop taking what's not theirs and treat artists with respect?

When something that used to be hard becomes totally simple, obvious and costless, there is absolutely no sense trying to stick to the previous state of the matter. When Gutenberg invented the printing press, what used to be a complex, tough and expensive endeavour (copying books by hand) instantly became worthless. Too bad, but the net gain for the society as a whole was immense.

Similarly, the net gain we could enjoy from being able to copy, transfer, duplicate, mix, rehash, transform existing digital goods is world-changing. Some will lose at some point, but they'll have to get over it. Nowadays large parts of the copyright laws are only manacles impending progress, defending soon to be dead practices and business models.

> And in regard to your last statement, it's not your right to determine whether exposure alone should be the reward of their hard work.

Did you read me? As a musician composer and arranger, I've earned a living by teaching and live performance, but a net loss on recordings; and it was back in the 90s, when CD-R was unheard of.

The hard true fact : only artists aired on radio and TV make money on recorded music. They are a minuscule minority of musicians. Same goes for actors, painters, etc.

If you swallow a cost of 10, but that 11 people gets 1 from your contribution, the society as a whole wins.

It sounds to me like you're saying "so long as society sees a net gain, it's ok to exploit other people"

Yes, that's the justification for taxes, for instance.

Everybody pays taxes that are invested in products and services for all to share, not one person.

A large proportion of taxes are for the purpose of wealth redistribution. We do it because giving $900 to a poor person (arguably) results in more of a benefit than the harm caused by taxing a rich person $1000 and spending $100 in overhead.

"Artists" would get a lot more respect from society if they didn't display such (deliberate?) ignorance of the basic conventions that make society function in the first place.

Those wanting the crash-course could start with the very real difference between actual human rights and artificial privileges. They could continue their educations by developing some appreciation for the (very substantial differences) between tangible and intangible goods. And they could demonstrate their commitment to civil society by NOT supporting the development of law in ways that would - inevitably - lead to an astonishingly omniscient police state.

And that's not something that any artist worth the name would be okay with.

Also, people can support an musician by buying concert tickets and merchandise. Software doesn't let people "morally offset" piracy in other ways.

The whole idea of moral offsetting is nonsense. That's like saying that I'm going to steal Oreos from the grocery store but make up for it by buying milk.

Do you live in a country where there are restrictions on products you would like to purchase? (as in -- anywhere that's not the continental US). Perhaps an ebook that's not available in your country.

If the only way to consume a good is to obtain it illegally (and there is no loss of the orginal owner - I'm talking about digital copies) then moral offsetting is the only slightly moral way to consume/acquire the item.

...or not consume it in the first place. I don't understand where this 'right to be able to get everything I want' has come from in recent years. Sometimes it sucks to not get all you want, but - you know - that's life.

To be fair, it's more like saying you'd wait for Oreos to come to town, pay an outrageous sum of money to view them and then buy milk at four times what you'd normally pay for it.

It's not that I think music piracy is justified, but let's not understate the reality of merchandising and touring prices in the music industry.

When people feel they're being ripped off, they're probably going to be more likely to not feel so bad when they return the favor.

I didn't say it was ethical, but you can't deny that it definitely makes it easier for people to justify piracy in their minds.

I feel the same way. I don't understand the point of this allegory other than to insight discussion and get ranked highly on HN.

Maybe I'm used to reading "easy" articles that provide a problem and possible solution to it. I haven't read the allegory of the cave since college so I'm not used to thinking this hard... (laziness on my part I guess)

It's still theft however you slice it.

It is still a highly synthetic violation from a particular and recent legal theory however you slice it.

From the tone, it seems that this is sarcasm and the author's point is against music piracy. Despite the seething tone of a few sentences, the points he make sarcastically are actually decent points. From sentence to sentence, I go from being convinced that he's trying to be against music piracy to being convinced of the opposite. When he says

> They tell you your business model is broken. You should make money some other way. Maybe you should sell t-shirts with your company’s name on them, or put on events of some kind and charge for tickets. That’s where the real money is. Paid apps are a thing of the past, they say.

I can't help but think, Yeah, I actually do think that. Like it or not, distribution of quality media was a big part of the value provided by the music industry before the digital age and the internet. I'm not making an argument for or against the ethics of the piracy itself, but I think music producers (both big studios and "little guys") are unwise to rely on legislation and lawsuits to protect their business.

The only argument for getting paid in this article is that sweat deserves a return.

That was Marx's labor theory of value. Marx was wrong.

You deserve a return only when you efficiently meet someone else's needs. The secret to economic success is not sweat, but creative sloth.

We measure value against the cost of substitutes, and other people already entertain me for free (without piracy).

Maybe entertainment just isn't a hard problem. Maybe the bottom 99% of entertainers are basically tagging cat pictures. Maybe we shouldn't encourage them.

I guess if you're an app dev, and want to learn one thing from the music industry, I'd find a way to connect with fans and give them a reason to buy: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/12695

Then look for ways to be creatively lazy, and make sure your app can't be replaced by going for a walk on a spring day.

I really don't care if teenagers with no money run a free copy of my stuff. They weren't going to buy it anyway - and now they're out there increasing its penetration. From a business perspective, it's often a win if you stop fallaciously calculating every illegitimate copy as a loss of the sticker price. From a strictly personal standpoint, I take it as a compliment that they like it enough to go to the trouble.

"it's often a win if you stop fallaciously calculating every illegitimate copy as a loss of the sticker price."

This really depends on how you define loss.

In a standard legitimate sale of a product, there is a bidirectional exchange of value -- the customer submits currency whose total value is equivalent to the value requested for the product being purchased. Simultaneously, for submitting the currency of that value, the customer receives a product of that value. (We'll assume the price is totally fair and equivalent to value at this point, but even if it's not the price presumably still includes the true value of the product, if not more)

In an illegitimate transaction -- literal theft, in this case -- the criminal customer forcibly receives the product, exchanging nothing of value in return to the merchant or the producer of the product. In this case, there is no question of loss; the customer has received something with inherent value and given no value.

In the illegitimate transaction of piracy, the end result is the same as theft with the sole exception that the original product has not been "lost" in the traditional sense of the word -- however, the criminal customer has still received a product of value and exchanged nothing at all, much less the value of the product.

Now, regardless of which of these three transactions has taken place for your product, I am presuming that your product had a significant cost to develop -- unless, of course, all of your tools were free, you had no expenses at all and you regard your time as totally worthless, in which case all income from the product is profit. I submit to you, then, that if your costs in developing your product surpass the value you received for it, yet the value you received for it is, itself, surpassed by the value of the product "in the wild" -- e.g. you have sold $450 worth of software, yet there are $750 worth of copies of it total being enjoyed by people (purchased & pirated combined) (100% arbitrary numbers), and the cost to develop the product was around $1500 -- then you have certainly incurred a loss on the sole basis that you have not received enough value to cover your costs.

The standard rebuttal to this is the tried-and-true "but they would not have purchased my product anyway." Perhaps this is true -- however, I would consider this irrelevant. Under normal, legitimate economic circumstances, the purchase of a product is the only way to attain it; therefore, if they would not have purchased the product anyway, they wouldn't have the product. In this case, they have not purchased the product, but they do have it and enjoy its use, and you have received no value in return for it despite having put value into it.

However, assuming the value received for the product exceeds the costs of producing it, but the value of the product "in the wild" as mentioned above still exceeds the value received... perhaps "loss" is less correct in this instance, but you are still lacking the total value that under normal circumstances you should have received. What would you call that?

In any case, I am not sure how it is fallacious to call a product of value obtained illegitimately (one way or another) for free a loss to the product's producer.

Most people define loss as the difference in assumed outcomes between scenario #1 and the illegal scenario #2 - a business has never been entitled to the full value of a person's enjoyment of a product. That's why most people scoff at the amounts cited by the record labels.

"a business has never been entitled to the full value of a person's enjoyment of a product"

..and a user has never been entitled to the full enjoyment of a business's product. But it doesn't seem to stop articles like this from being written or large amounts of users to just steal it anyway.

> and you regard your time as totally worthless

I could hardly love this whole comment, but particularly that, any more. Rock on.

What is the moral of this story? "I'm an App Developer, therefore I shouldn't pirate music"?

Ultimately, piracy breaks down to "people want your stuff, but you've priced it too highly". In the case of apps, that's all it is. In the case of music, it's a little different. Music is cheap, but it's rare that you can get it in a good format: everything is lossy, and for people with good audio kit and good hearing, that makes the music unusable. Therefore, people that both Want It Now and want full quality are going to download the FLAC torrent rather than buy lossy MP3s. (They won't buy the CD because it takes too long for the mailman to deliver it.)

The same goes for movies and TV. Nobody will sell you those things without DRM, so if you use Linux exclusively, you have no option but to pirate the content. Make every TV show a standard non-DRM'd HTTP download for a buck, and piracy (among people with money) evaporates instantly. But the content producers want a bogeyman to blame for all their problems, so they intentionally keep piracy alive.

(If there were no such thing as the ability to pirate movies, people still wouldn't have bought the 88th redo of Star Wars. We liked it the first time. But it's easier for Lucas to blame the evil greedy pirates than his evil greedy self.)

I would be willing to be 100 downloads of my app that price isn't really the issue on music piracy. If you charged $0.10 per song, it wouldn't result in a massive sales increase. The barrier to paid downloads is that people have to use a credit/debit card, usually register somehow and other things that form a barrier to entry. I think $0.99 isn't much to pay for a song or an app, but there are people (a fairly sizable number) who just want to download without going through the presumed hassle of the payment process. I bet if you were giving away CDs outside of the mall and charged $0.25, people wouldn't think twice about tossing a quarter into the can. Take that same song and put it online and the same people happy to toss you the quarter would rather steal the song than process a payment of 25 cents.

The problem isn't price -- it's the barrier of payment.

Now that is probably the most sensible thing that's been written in this entire thread.

Figure out a way to make the transaction as seamless & low-risk as "tossing a quarter into the can" and you've gone a long way to solving the piracy problem.

How you do this, I have no idea. I would look at iTunes & Steam as examples of services that have been successful at smoothing the friction & establishing trust. People spook easily when asked for CC info…

Who determines what is priced 'too highly'? Also, do people have a right to content/things created and sold by others? Whatever happened to going without? If we were talking about clean water, I can get behind saying every person has a right to it.. but with rights comes duties.. though when it comes to the latest TV shows and other things I must admit I'm a little indifferent. An example is here in Australia for the longest time for seemingly arbitrary reasons we've always been very 'behind' America when it comes to showing new episodes of TV shows so many people say that's the reason why they 'pirate' TV shows. Why can't they just wait? Once again, if it was water there is a certain amount of possible time they could wait but when it's the latest episode of House..

Ultimately I would say piracy usually breaks down to people wanting things for free. If we stop looking in our inside circles (Enthusiasts, developers, etc—the 'enlightened') and then look outside at the mythical average man, or, the masses.

Recently someone in my Facebook feed made a comment about loving BitTorrent (Hey, at least he and others are moving on from Limewire) because he could get movies for free. This comment had a few 'lol awsome' words in it. Also, think of how people latch onto "GET RICH QUICK" schemes, late-night ads promising amazing abs at minimal work, etc.

Hell, consider myself too. Back in high school I would pirate a lot of games and finish them. Why? Because I wanted them and didn't always have the money. Note: Throughout my life I've also purchased a ton of games starting back with Hocus Pocus, Raptor and Warcraft. ;) I've long since stopped and now if I want to play a videogame I will either buy it or go without. Take Portal 2 for example, I've been more carefully budgeting my money and am yet to buy it. I haven't died, yet!

Who determines what is priced 'too highly'?

The market.

Also, do people have a right to content/things created and sold by others?

Nope! But they steal it anyway. ("Bean counters said I couldn't fire a man just for being in a wheelchair. Did it anyway! Ramps are expensive!")

Ultimately, I'd gladly pay for Netflix. But it doesn't work on any of my computers, so I just get better-quality stuff from Illegal Places instead. Honey badger don't care, and neither do I.

"The market."

It does, but when you rely on a subset of the market that will never pay for your stuff anyway, the value is more than just a little skewed.

"Honey badger don't care, and neither do I."

Good. I don't like paying taxes because they are just too expensive..so I don't.

It's funny because when businesses do the same thing with workers (the american programmer is too expensive, so we just decided to hire from India), people get all upset.

>It does, but when you rely on a subset of the market that will never pay for your stuff anyway, the value is more than just a little skewed.

No, it means you have no market. Find a new one.

>Good. I don't like paying taxes because they are just too expensive..so I don't.

You - as a supplier - are not the government, and you don't have any inherent right to be in the particular business you are in.

>It's funny because when businesses do the same thing with workers (the american programmer is too expensive, so we just decided to hire from India), people get all upset.

Some people do, yes. Usually it is the same group that fail to understand the idea that the consumer - not the supplier - that defines the worth of a product. The American programmer is too expensive - in some definitions. That is why first world programmers add a hell of a lot of value over spec following developing world labour these days.

This is basic economics.

I don't get upset when businesses outsource to India. If anything, hiring me the first time would result in less work for me. If I was hired for a few months to solve problem foo, then I'd be finished and gone and not getting paid. But because there is so much damage caused by bad programmers, I have to stay employed indefinitely just to keep the damage from being too bad. Multiply this by the number of good programmers in the world, and we're wasting a lot of money on outsourcing.

So yes, please outsource your programming some more.

The market is true.. as long as someone follows. For example, the market average for an app that is a dictionary is $1.99, if some developer makes their own dictionary app and charges $29.99, the only person who dictates the price is the creator.

My point being, no one can tell an author how much to sell his content for. They can quote market average, scream and do whatever but they cannot make that developer sell it for a price they choose which comes back to "people want your stuff, but you've priced it too highly" and the idea that people have a right to content/software which therefore backs the bizarre act of stealing/illegally acquiring. People might feel like it's priced too high but that doesn't make it a 'fact' that it is.

I'd gladly pay for Netflix too but it's not available in my country. So, I'll go without or I'll rent movies from a video store for $1 on Tuesday. Netflix not being in my country doesn't give me a right to pirate content.

I think audiophiles who can't stand mp3s are a pretty minuscule part of the pirating population and not much to hang your argument on. The vast majority of people who are pirating music and movies just don't want to pay for it.

Yup, and they wouldn't have bought it anyway. Someone not buying your shit and someone stealing your shit both get you $0.

(I mostly buy CDs these days because of the lossless issue. But if I'd have to import the disc from another country, I just torrent it, because fuck paying $30 for a CD.

And yes, I know that 44kHz is not "lossless". So that's fine, let me buy 24-bit 192kHz files instead!)

> Ultimately, piracy breaks down to "people want your stuff, but you've priced it too highly".

I'd say it's rather:

> Ultimately, piracy breaks down to "people want your stuff, but you've priced it".

$0 is a price. Compare how much Google charges you to watch videos or search the Internet, and then look at the value of the company.

Yeah. Turns out that charging $20 for a CD is not a winning business model.

If you look at the history of smartphone development, you'll find a better analogy.

You see, back in the '00s, it used to be common knowledge that "nobody pays for third-party smartphone apps". It was scientifically proved over and over again, on platforms like Symbian and Palm, by research after research. You see, back then getting hold of a mobile app was relatively hard; you had to go hunting for it online, find it in some sort of online directory, pay tens or hundreds to the directory (which was also trying to sell you some other crap like proprietary downloaders etc or spamming you or generally treating you -- and developers! --- like shit). The market was tiny and tech-savvy, and resented having to pay so much for small add-ons, often of dubious quality.

Then came the Apple AppStore, and lo, all of a sudden people were paying for apps! Why? Because the ease of purchase and lower prices dramatically enlarged the market to people who simply couldn't be bothered to jailbreak and pirate just to save a few quid, or wanted to support authors. The pirate market didn't disappear, but mobile developers flourished nonetheless.

Now replace apps for music, and good streaming services for the AppStore, and I think you can see where things are going: consumers wants a simple and immediate buying experience where they don't feel like they're being ripped off by third parties (even though he still is, by Apple) and with low prices. Give them that, and they're quite happy to pay; try to force them into digital slavery, and they'll resort to the black market.

Now, guess what the music industry tried to do for the last 15 years.

"Digital Slavery"? We're talking about owning, or not owning an MP3. Going without it is hardly slavery.

It is really very simple. If someone feels the price an artists asks for their songs is too much, or feels that obtaining a copy legally is too much "work", then they don't need to have a copy. They're not entitled to it for any reason whatsoever.

Look around you. Entertainment cartels are pushing draconian legislation across the world, making copyright infringement a criminal felony, with harsher penalties than manslaughter; they are threatening to disconnect people from the internet, which in many cases would compromise their livelihood; they are pushing DRM into software and hardware, so that you don't own your device, they do; they support Chinese-style firewalls to blacklist "pirate" websites. All this regardless of whether I actually want to buy their crappy products.

If that's not digital slavery...

They don't care if you want to buy their products. They simply care that, if you do not, you do not also take those products without paying for them. If people were not taking for free things that cost significant money to produce, and did not keep ignoring the light-handed laws that already exist, there would be no need for more draconian measures. But most importantly, what does any of this have to do with whether or not you are entitled to a free copy of the new Bieber album? Don't take things that don't belong to you, and you don't need to worry about having your internet taken away. It's pretty much the same as drunk driving and everything else.

I don't "take" anything from anyone; I copy my Bieber, and you still have it. People who care about Bieber are still supporting him financially; people who don't, they wouldn't have bothered anyway. Since production and distribution costs have basically disappeared, supply is now virtually unlimited; economic theory tells us that the market price is now zero. Harsh reality, but that's the truth. Any law implemented to alter this state of things is simply trying to make the water flow upwards.

(besides, you cannot "steal" digital content, it's just a bunch of bits; I flip mine to look like yours, and I have a copy. Which is why SaaS is so popular, of course: what is sold is now the actual service, rather than a bunch of bits.)

Economic theory ought to have taught you that there is more to bringing a product to market than how much is costs to duplicate that product after it's been invented.

The scarcity of good music is real, and it’s not found in its distribution model. You’re neglecting to acknowledge the complexity of the process that goes into the creation of that product in the first place. Sure, you can duplicate an MP3 with next to no cost. But duplicating a digital file that nobody enjoys is not the point. We’re talking about duplicating something that hundreds of thousands or millions of people want.

To even have that file to duplicate, we have to go back to the 5 year old kid who first picked up the guitar. Let’s account for the thousands of hours they practiced their craft until they were good enough to even begin to be capable of making something people will enjoy. The number of people who will enjoy a recording of just one guitar playing is very few, so they work with group after group of other musicians, failing to create a product that a lot of people like.

One day, at around 25 years old, this person stumbles into a room with 3 other people who have spent thousands of hours practicing their own instruments, and, for the first time ever, they start creating music that will have mass appeal. They spend months writing music together. Sometimes those people don’t get along, but they fight through it because the product they’re making is that difficult to create with other people. After months writing, and more months practicing, they finally have the blueprints for a product that people will enjoy and want their own copy of. But it’s just in their heads.

Now, these people either invest their own money, or they go through painstaking lengths to attract an investor by way of a record label. That record label, in exchange for an investment in them and for lending them connections and years of expertise, takes a significant percentage of the returns from their sales. Or, they go it alone, keeping the lion’s share of their sales, but having to invest all of their own money and their own time managing the business side of what they bring to market.

After weeks or months in the studio, working with a producer, several professionally trained production engineers, a mixing engineer, a mastering engineer, and other highly specialized experts in their field, they finally have a high quality recording.

Now, they take that recording, the sum total of 4 peoples’ years of practice, their creativity, talent, dedication and hard work, and they make a CD of it. They pay for duplication of CDs and make digital downloads available online. All the while this was happening, they were building up fans by touring, engaing in social marketing, fliering clubs, and doing anything else they can think of or get their friends to help with to spread the word about their upcoming album. When the album is ready, they hit the road, touring endlessly, stuck in a van with people who they may or may not even like that much, living on pennies as they try to make people aware of their music.

This, my friend, is the “assembly line”. It is not the duplication that happens in the computer. The product is assembled over 15-20 years of intense work, combined with a dozen strokes of luck culminating in the right people meeting, creating that product, and getting the necessary financing to roll it out to the public.

Now, you think it’s not worth $0.99 because it doesn’t cost anything to make extra copies? Even if that were remotely true, if you want this magical process to happen again, you might want to make sure these people can eat.

> The scarcity of good music is real, and it’s not found in its distribution model.

If you can see this then why can you not see that absolute adherence to copyright is baseless?

Production -- effort, resources -- is scarce. Copies are not scarce. That means we should be paying for production, not copies. The ideal structure is: we pay producers the funds they need, and then let all copies of the product be freely available to all. Everyone producing is paid appropriately, and everyone can maximise the benefit. Is that entirely acheivable? Maybe not, but the point is it sets the upper bound on what we should be looking for.

Copyright only makes sense if there is no suitable alternative, and if it is not too onerous, wasteful, or counterproductive itself. The problem is that it is onerous, wasteful, and counterproductive now. The solution is not to keep hammering away at a dead old way of doing things, but to come up with good alternatives.

And how exactly is this different from any other trade out there?

Plumbers are not born as such, they invest money and time to become skilled professionals; but when they fix your boiler, they don't ask for royalties every time you turn the boiler on, do they? They perform a service, you pay for the service, and everyone's happy. For example, there is no reason why the entire process shouldn't be monetized. A lot of people would pay good money to see those recording sessions, turning a risky long-term investment into immediate profit; the musician would sell a service, like any tradesman.

But no, an "artist" should be able to struggle a couple of years, then watch the money flow in for the rest of his life (plus 70, exactly like a plumber's son... not). Why, it sounds a lot like rent-seeking, that most laudable of economic forces; should we really promote it with such draconian laws?

Btw, to go back about your point about good music being scarce: music that fits the mainstream canon developed by a certain industry in the last 50 years is indeed scarce, probably because it was developed around a model based on scarce distribution resources -- so you over-design one item and make it as marketable as possible to a wide demographic, because your distribution costs are high so you want to make them as repeatable as possible (i.e. you want to make one album and sell a million copies, not ten albums selling a hundred thousand, because you have to modify the physical production line for each album and re-do the whole marketing push through centrally-broadcasted mass-media).

In a world where such limitations are gone, music tastes will develop in different ways. The over-produced album has already been done with -- people buy single items now. Over-production of those single items will probably change as well, as people want faster and faster "updates". Changes in broadcasting are fragmenting tastes, making it very difficult to appeal to everyone, so the "waterfall model" of music production is producing increasingly diminishing returns. The industry will have to move to different models, like quick iterations (you write a song while you tour, and modify it depending on public reaction).

What's so "wrong", so unbearable about all that ? The fact that the Rolling Stones might get a reduced pension? Yeah, they really should be rewarded for ransacking the blues tradition...

There is nothing different about the plumber and the artist. The plumber comes to your house and leaves you with a working toilet. The artist goes to the studio and leaves you with a copy of a song. In both cases, you now have something of value created by another person. Both would like to be paid for their work. Last I checked, no artists are selling MP3s to consumers on a per stream royalty basis. They're asking for the same one time payment you pay your plumber, based on you having something of value that they took time to create. You want multiple songs from them? You pay for each, just like you pay your plumber to fix a sink when he's done with the toilet.

There is a perfectly good reason why "the entire process shouldn't be monetized". It's a super big fucking distraction to have people at your recording studio when you're trying to do something that is already extremely difficult. The entire process IS monetized, because you're supposed to pay for the copy of the work you take when it's over.

And for the record, many artists do take songs on the road, try them out, and change them based on public reaction. Then, they come home, spend money and record it. You want a copy? Pay for it.

The difference is that the plumber fixes hundreds of sinks, the artist fixes one and then extracts rent from users.

"Last I checked, no artists are selling MP3s to consumers on a per stream royalty basis. "

Still, every time the record is aired in public (bars etc), royalties are paid. And even when selling to consumers, they'll sell a vinyl disk, then a cassette, then a cd, then an .mp3, then a .wtf... and every time, it's the same damn recording, and if you try doing the format shifting yourself, they'd like nothing more than throwing you in jail.

And let's be honest: most record companies and artists ALREADY make more money from merchandise than they make on recordings, the same way comic book publishers make more money from toys than from actual comic books. This myth of the starving artist being robbed of revenue by downloaders is just that, a myth.

Now, where's that cassette that killed music back in the 80s...

What if said plumber, instead of fixing each problem individually, develops a robot that will fix the problems on his behalf. Let's say, for argument's sake, that it costs $0.05 to operate the robot during the repair.

Should the plumber charge $0.05 + a small profit or should the plumber charge $0.05 + a large profit to offset the cost of developing the robot? Once the robot is available, it costs the plumber basically nothing to fix your problem, but it took the plumber a sizeable investment to create the robot in the first place.

Without replying to what should happen, what will happen is that I'll be able to get my sink fixed for under $1. It's gonna happen. And it sounds awesome!

And I've already wrapped my head around the fact that I'm going to have to be agile to keep figuring out new ways to earn my own paycheque, so that I can afford that $1 repair.

> There is nothing different about the plumber and the artist. > Both would like to be paid for their work.

No. A plumber wants to be paid for work, your musician wants to be paid a rent. A plumber wants to be paid once, your musician wants to be paid for every copy.

If your musician comes to me and offers to make a song, and I agree to pay to fund it, then fine: we make an exchange just like a plumber and customer. But a plumber does not then impose restrictions that I cannot copy their pipes and stuff, or cannot allow anyone else to use them.

A plumber is not given special monopoly privileges -- that is the difference. Now, such privileges might be pragmatically justifiable as a market mechanism (as is the contention of copyright), but there is clearly a difference between having them and not.

This whole analogy is kind of weak. Hiring a plumber to come in and do a job on your sink is similar to hiring a session musician to come in and lay down a bass track on your recording, and not very similar to buying an album.

Buying an album from a musician is similar to buying a book about plumbing that a plumber wrote, and I imagine that most such plumber-writers would indeed have interest in protecting their copyright on their books.

These are entirely different business models, and we software engineers should understand them immediately. It's the difference between running a consulting business and running a product business.

No, you are twisting the analogy, but that's irrelevant.

The problem here is that a "product business" in the online world is hardly sustainable, because enforcing artificial scarcity of your product is basically impossible. Which is why the entire software industry is quickly shifting to SaaS models and consulting as fast as they can. The music business should do the same and stop whining.

Don't take things that don't belong to you, and you don't need to worry about having your internet taken away.

The AAs want to cripple my computing devices and eliminate my fair use and first sale rights, regardless of whether I "take" any of their IP. A world without copyright would probably not be ideal, but I'd choose it in a heartbeat over the Right to Read world that they're demanding.

Does the (monetary) value of an MP3 reduce as more copies are sold?

Since you're speaking in terms of entitlements, let's make this clear: the natural state of any idea (including large numbers such as the sequence of bits that make up an mp3) is to be free. Every human is naturally entitled through his consciousness to be able to copy and reproduce any idea he comes across.

Any restrictions imposed on them through legal or technical means are artificial and have to be justified when weighed against the costs of imposing them. For instance, protection against plagiarism has a very large benefit for not much cost so it's easily justified. For music it definitely isn't as clear-cut.

Conflating the digital representation of items with their value to society isn't any sort of logical argument. It's merely restating the problem in reductionistic terms in an attempt to sidestep the messy, moral consequences of our actions in society.

I'm not reducing anything to anything. I'm saying that the default, natural, rational position is for ideas to be free, and that any deviation from that position should be sufficiently justified.

I can't buy most music digitally (except via places like Bandcamp) where I live. I could buy or import CDs, but I don't like waiting and my computer doesn't have an optical drive. Pardon my French, but if you think I shouldn't listen to music at all because of that, you can fuck right off.

It's not as if I'm not willing to spend either. I buy plenty of games from Steam and other places. I buy them because they actually sell stuff in my country and offer me convenience at prices I'm willing to pay. If the music business did the same I'd start buying music instantly.

Let's stop guilt-tripping people into buying music through thinly-veiled and largely inaccurate allegories and start treating piracy as an economic problem.

"I could buy or import CDs, but I don't like waiting"

So, anyone spoiled enough to "not like waiting" can come and steal the fruits of someone else's labour, right?

Yep. The cost of waiting (up to a month for imports) and buying an optical drive especially for this is prohibitively high. I will not pay that high a price.

I also take moral issue to calling piracy stealing.

You take moral issue to "calling piracy stealing" but not to pirating. Riiiight.

Do you actively believe that morality is "mix and match what suits you" or is that just an implicit practice?

Of course I don't believe that morality is whatever suits you. Morality includes property rights, but I do not think the moral rights of the creator of some intellectual property, once his creation is released to the world, extend as far as to be able to impose arbitrary conditions on it. A creator is free to keep his creations private, but once he releases his creation to the market (presumably with the goal of gaining fame and/or profit), the market has a say too.

But your previous posts say that you don't buy it because it's too difficult to do so. Which one is it?

I don't see how my posts contradict each other. I do not think "buy an optical drive, pay through the nose and wait a month for an imported CD to arrive" is a reasonable condition when the trivial alternative of pirating it exists. It's up to content creators to set saner conditions.

They should have done some research before creating the app and changed their business model accordingly (yes I know it is supposed to be a parody).

I think the way to approach the issue is to think what does the population want, because the population elects the government which then makes the law.

Since people are copying music, obviously they want free music. But they also want music. The question is, if copying was legal, would music go away (or decline)? I think for a lot of art forms it is obviously not so. People will create art no matter what, as has been shown over the centuries. Even today, getting rich probably should not be your first motivation when forming a band.

It becomes a problem with art that is very expensive to produce, like movies and computer games. I think part of the solution will be to move those things into Kickstarter mode, that is, make people pay in advance for their creation. In the same vein of course it should be easy to pay people after the creation. Already a lot of people seem to be willing to do so.

This I think also has some precedence in history, when artists typically had some sponsor.

Also of course technology will make those things cheaper to produce too - in the future it will be possible to simply add actors to your movie with a mouse click. Computers could simulate Tom Hanks, Marylin Monroe or whomever you desire them to simulate. Already today it is probably quite cheap to create the scenery in movies.

I didn't recognize it as an allegory until halfway through, because jailbroken iPhones already have a very comprehensive free-cracked-app store, and I can only assume Android users have way more options.

Is this one of the reasons games are all going free+in-app downloads? What's the actual state of mobile app piracy today? It seems like many mobile developers are already moving to alternative models not involving direct sales, whether that's a subscription, virtual goods, or pay-for-addons/upgrades.

I'd have thought that it wouldn't be significantly different to crack the in-app content and provide that for free as well, or even repackaged into the original app.

About the only thing that I can think that will defend against this is a streaming/always online service that actively requires cooperation from a server as part of its implementation. Any offline licensing system can and most likely will be cracked eventually, until you end up with the equivalent of CD-keys and server-side detection of duplicates or invalid ones. Even then, if you're only using the remote end for license validation, that code can just be removed - the most viable models are either streaming content (in a way that can't be batched and rehosted/provided locally), or offering compelling multi-player / shared online features that require a valid auth token.

It's harder to crack in-app content because authentication of the purchase happens server-side, and because the task of cracking in-app content is different for each app.

I must be missing something really obvious here. I haven't used Earbits, but as a streaming service, why not enforce things like this server-side, rather than trying to suppress pirates from distributing the cracked client app?

(No victim-blaming or other moral subtext intended. Just curious.)

You're missing the fact that it's about music piracy.

I don't see how it has to be about music piracy. Software piracy is just as real.

The ideas inherent in selling any form of IP are not sustainable. Our economics are traditionally based on finite resources - and economics involving sale of intellectual property allows an infinite number of transactions.

In my opinion, we can not expect to make money from the straightforward sale of any form of IP for much longer. New models are being developed and services industries are adapting to offer the value that's traditionally been disseminated through IP sale .. this is where the future is heading.

The bleating, repetitive carrion-call of the old guard is becoming increasingly annoying. While their incentive seems obvious; the fact that these organisations are unable to innovate is even more blatant.

"Our economics are traditionally based on finite resources"

The finite resources aren't the final product, but the work that goes into it. Create Adobe Photoshop for me (not copy, but build from scratch).

"this is where the future is heading"

I no longer write applications. Everything I release is a service. In the past, there would have only been a one-time fee for my work, but now everyone needs to pay a monthly fee for it.

This is the result of piracy: monthly fees for everything.

I completely agree.

Ultimately the most precious resource we have available is time - so I think that our economy should develop to a point where time is seen as the most valued currency.


"I no longer write applications. Everything I release is a service. In the past, there would have only been a one-time fee for my work, but now everyone needs to pay a monthly fee for it.

This is the result of piracy: monthly fees for everything."

I think that a service based model is fair - because there are ongoing costs associated with keeping software available. Maybe the only time this model falls down is when a service stagnates and isn't developed past it's initial release.

It has nothing to do with not being able to innovate. Coming up with new music that people want is itself innovation, and people should be compensated if you would like them to keep innovating in that way. You can argue otherwise, but all it leads to is people not being able to afford to create those works anymore, or only being able to do them outside of their normal job, and therefore never achieving their full potential, despite creating something that has mass appeal. If you think defending a world where great creative minds are compensated enough to bring more, great art to the masses is increasingly annoying, I suspect you'll get what you deserve in the form of more Rebecca Blacks.

You sound like a moron. There I said it.

"It has nothing to do with not being able to innovate. Coming up with new music that people want is itself innovation, and people should be compensated if you would like them to keep innovating in that way."

I'm talking about the old-guard. I.e. the recording industry - not people who make music. People who make music have been doing so for tens of centuries or more. They do not need to be dependent on the music industry.

Sorry I was a bit blunt at the beginning of this reply, but I really am sick of listening to the same old shite repeated ad nauseum. The tide has turned .. it's impossible to push it back.

People who make music are not dependent on the music industry - they are the music industry. Moronic is the person who thinks that nothing can be done to foster a society where the creation of art is respected. Throwing your hands up and saying it's too late is just pathetic. Thankfully there are enough people out there who respect the value of recorded music that it's still a $9 Billion industry, and in fact, the "tide" has risen over 3% this year.

"People who make music are not dependent on the music industry - they are the music industry."

Be realistic - a lot of people in the music industry do not make music.


The problem is; people need to be compensated, but the way they've traditionally been compensated in the past is no longer tenable. This is where innovative ideas are required. Conceptually, copying an MP3 is no more theft than quoting someone without permission to a friend is theft.

Charge people for the service - not for the goods; because the goods have no finite value.

When someone asks Harlan Ellison where he gets his ideas, he tells them he uses a service in Schenectady. He gives them $30/month and they send him a six pack of ideas every week.

Ideas are easy and cheap. So cheap that they are functionally free. Turning those ideas into something concrete is neither cheap nor easy. Creating a song, a story, a painting, a sculpture, or an app takes a tremendous amount of effort. When a songwriter has an idea, it doesn't just magically appear on the page. The songwriter has to work to put it there. When I get an idea for an app, it takes a lot of effort to turn it into something that can be released.

The value in an mp3 is not in the bits themselves. Bits are cheap. The value is in the novel arrangement of those bits into something that is desired. When you copy an MP3 without paying for it (where applicable), you are conceptually walking into an art gallery and walking off with a lithograph without paying for it. It doesn't matter how many lithographs are available, you still walked off without paying for it against the wishes of the creator of that lithograph (after all, there would be no lithograph to steal if someone didn't come up with the source material.)

You are missing the point.

An executed idea in the form of an MP3 may be valuable, but it is not worth an unlimited amount of money.

When IP is sold in the same way as physical goods, it can be sold forever - this is problematic because notions of theft depend on the victim being unable to use the item that has been stolen.

The way you are refering to theft is far closer to what a legal professional might refer to as potential lost revenue. Even so, this is still questionable as many of these MP3 thieves wouldn't have paid in any case.


"When you copy an MP3 without paying for it (where applicable), you are conceptually walking into an art gallery and walking off with a lithograph without paying for it. It doesn't matter how many lithographs are available, you still walked off without paying for it against the wishes of the creator of that lithograph (after all, there would be no lithograph to steal if someone didn't come up with the source material.)"

No. No. No.

How on earth can this be a fair comparison? A lithograth is printed on paper or vellum. Stealing the lithograph would be similar to stealing a CD.

If you want an analogy that is fair .. perhaps the visitor to the art gallery walked out with a photograph on their camera or a JPEG file. Neither of which should constitute a crime in my opinion.

If music is simply an idea that someone can whisper to you once and then it's yours, you wouldn't need an MP3 to remember it. The day you can "quote" John Lennon and sound exactly like him, your argument has merit.

I pirated some music today[0]. I went to my usual shops to try to buy it, and for some reason the label had explicitly decided not to offer downloads of any sort. Just vinyl and CD. I wanted it now, and I couldn't really be arsed with those choices, so I stole it.

What would an honest Android-app allegory for this be? Perhaps a consumer is faced with these options:

1. An official shop, which accepts money (yay!), gives only some (boo!) of it to the artist, and offers:

a. The source code to build the app (i.e. a plastic disc that you have to rip yourself)

b. maybe, sometimes, a version of the app compiled for a 320x480 screen (acceptable lossy compressed files)

c. maybe, even fewer times, a version of the app compiled to use any screen size (lossless files, or high-quality lossy or whatever you like)

2. A dodgy (boo!) pirate site, which doesn't accept money (boo!), and offers all of the compiled versions.

Of course this is not even close to reality. No Android apps are compiled by normal end users. All paid Android apps offer 1c. Music piracy does not exist because of religious "information must be free" nuts like this article is talking about -- it exists because people's moral feeling about getting some money to the artist is not strong enough to overcome the inconvenience of 1a (or even 1b). Maybe we should conclude that the analogy has broken down.

Society does not "accept" this sort of piracy like it's a binary switch. The "morals" curve slides down, the "inconvenience" curve slides up, and at some point they pass each other. I see no reason why they can't trade places again -- if we actually try to do something about it instead of spinning clever allegories.

I suspect we need to look elsewhere to understand the motivations of app pirates (yes, I know this was not the point, but if you're going to be facetious...). The real thing is right there, for a few dollars. I've already given Google Checkout my credit card information. I cannot fathom what would make someone deal with sketchy sites (sketchy sites whose entire purpose is to install executable code on your device) to get the same thing they can just pay for. Maybe they are in fact just religious nuts.

[0] Honestly, I can't even be bothered to pirate most things these days. I'm culturally behind because filling in the gaps in what I can actually buy in FLAC would be a part-time job. If a record shop so much as rejects spaces in my credit card number I get bored and go listen to something I've already bought. This is a problem that could use some, as they say, disruptive innovation.

You didn't steal anything (nobody no longer has it because of you), you pirated it.

When the guy that wrote the thesis theme for Wordpress was being demonized for violating the GNU license, people used the word "steal" and "theft", even though no code was actually stolen.

It's interesting to me because when something involves free software being used in un-intended ways, many here in the HN community have no problem describing it as theft. However, when it involves copyright violation, there are huge arguments about word usage.

This is just a tactic to make theft more acceptable. When you use nice words like "copyright infringement", people don't associate negativity with it and over time, people don't have a problem with it.

Over the course of the last 10 years, it seems to have worked. It's sad that many from the open source community have to be so hypocritical.


Identity theft is still called theft, even though your identity is not actually stolen.

"Identity theft is still called theft"

Identities are supposed to be unique, its part of the whole idea of identity. If someone else is using your identity, you are being deprived that. So in that case, yes, it is analogous to someone actually taking something physical to you. You cannot fully use your identity once someone else starts using it.

You cannot fully use your identity once someone else starts using it.

Of course you can.

Operative word: 'fully'. Down-voted for replying without reading.

Oh, I most certainly read it. Your identity is still fully at your own disposal, even if someone has abused some parts of it.

That's spoken like somebody who has never had his credit ruined on account of another's actions.

I think nearly everyone here is aware of the distinction. Speaking only for myself, I will continue to say "steal" since both words describe the same action (assuming you're not a prescriptive linguist), and steal better connotes what I believe to be the economic impact.

The phone company steals from me every time my DSL fails and I spend an hour on the phone with a tech or by another replacement modem.

HTC steals from me every time the USB cable doesn't dock securely in the port.

Microsoft steals from me every time Windows crashes.

Would you also call taxes theft? Having to stand in line at some DMV versions?

All of those steal time or money from a person who hasn't agreed to it.

He stole it. However, I think it's perfectly moral although illegal to download the materials and then buy the hard copy.

Really? What a clever and original distinction. It makes all the difference to the guy that wanted people to PAY HIM to use his work, but instead they just use it and don't give him a dime.

You're being sarcastic, but it's not really a clever or original distinction. It's an obvious distinction that should always be kept in mind when comparing physical and non-physical goods. Your moral outrage falls flat.

Should be "always kept in mind" why exactly? It's BS.

It's not about stealing a physical object or not.

It's about doing something with someone's work (his program) without respecting his wishes (to be paid before you use it).

When you plagiarize a poem as your own the original still exists. But it's still stealing.

For all the potential parallels with the music industry, I think there are quite a few significant differences.

Firstly, what are the current equivalents of a mobile App Store for (pirated) music? There are definitely a bunch of places you can find it if you look, but few of them are as "one-stop-shop" as current app stores.

Secondly, does pirated music often outrank the artists/album name/track titles in general internet searches? Most of the time you'll get the artist, maybe some unofficial fan sites, and some dodgy-SEO lyrics/"free if you pay for our questionable rapidshare style hosting" that probably doesn't even have the content.

If you consider piracy-specific search engines, like TPB or whatever napster/gnutella mutated into, then you're more likely to find real content, but that requires knowing where to look in the first place.

If you consider 'your VC' as an artists music label, then they've probably already got some kind of enforcement system going on. You probably won't have to do all the 'policing' yourself - it's their loss just as much as yours (if not more, due to some of the interesting accounting) if copies aren't getting paid for.

All in all, it seems like a fairly weak metaphor, although I can see how it could become more of a problem in the future.

Edit: I forgot to mention "They’re doing the best they can, they say. Most of all, they’re complying with the law, they say." - I can't imagine many people who download pirated music do so without realising that it's illegal and/or immoral. Legitimate looking services like streaming sites are harder to judge - they might have a license for the content, or they might not. Compare this to an official platform App Store, where consumers can reasonably expect some level of dilligence in ensuring ownership. And if it becomes necessary, there's some sort of accountability back to the person who uploaded the pirated content.

I imagine the author here chose android because it has a less tightly controlled app store, and it may be possible to create anonymous accounts if you're only dealing with free apps (compared to iOS where you need to have bought a dev license to get any signing keys, even for free apps, as I understand it).

what are the current equivalents of a mobile App Store for (pirated) music? There are definitely a bunch of places you can find it if you look, but few of them are as "one-stop-shop" as current app stores.

Large torrent sites, like The Pirate Bay or Demonoid, are one-stop-shops for music & film downloads.

does pirated music often outrank the artists/album name/track titles in general internet searches?

No, not for the band/track/album name, but for "$ALBUMNAME torrent" or "$ALBUMNAME download" pirate sites are high up.

>I forgot to mention "They’re doing the best they can, they say. Most of all, they’re complying with the law, they say." - I can't imagine many people who download pirated music do so without realising that it's illegal and/or immoral. Legitimate looking services like streaming sites are harder to judge - they might have a license for the content, or they might not.

The reference there is to the filesharing sites, not to pirates.

Ooops, that's a good point. I suspect that the whole DMCA safe harbour "we honour all correctly submitted takedown requests" is a bit of a get-out for a lot of these sites. Especially the ones that are pretty much basing their entire business model on access to pirated content.

At the same time, there are legitimate indexing & hosting services who probably are genuinely displeased with the abuse of their systems. The same problem as the homebrew console hackers often enabling subsequent game piracy.

The tricky part is how to tell them apart, and what the legitimate concerns can do to prevent abuse, and the content rights-holders can do to deal with the bad-faith lot.

Providing the value/product that consumers are looking for as well is another big deal - from what little I know of mobile app-stores, the low-friction discovery/payment/install process, along with low-cost high volume business models is reducing piracy to some extent. Contrast with music, where DRM, onerous formats, and unavailability of a lot of content is encouraging or even forcing people to go the illegitimate route.

Firstly, what are the current equivalents of a mobile App Store for (pirated) music?


Music or software, it's an interesting point. SaaS is one fix.

Bill Gates had problems with copying way back in 1976. It seems to have worked out OK for him. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

> Many felt the software should be bundled with the machine and the current distribution method was Gates' problem. Others questioned the cost of developing software.

So the rebuttals were "it's hard to get" and "it shouldn't cost that much." Man, I heard that somewhere recently...

From day one my gut has always told me that Android users are pretty much like Amiga users were back in the day -- the idea of paying for software (any software!) seems like a bad idea. That may be good news if you're Google or a carrier, but it's bad news if you're a developer.

To me fair if Android is part of the "Google way" and maybe the solution is to have advertising bring in revenue (which goes back to AdSense). On the other hand iOS reminds of the Mac back in the day: The users seem to be willing to pay for software -- however that software better be damn good.

So perhaps the solution is to really think of both platforms as being a very different play from each other. Most developers think of their program as something to port between platforms, but maybe that's not what this ecosystem is about? In the same way the games that you would build for Nintendo DS wouldn't even be aimed at the same audience as the Xbox.

Exactly. Android is similar to the traditional PC market, so for non-critical software SaaS or advertising are more profitable than shrinkwrap -- unless you stumble on the Android equivalent of MS Office (i.e. something so critical that people will just consider it a natural cost of doing business).

What are the latest iOS/android developer revenue numbers?

Reading this, I sympathise completely with the developers (being a developer myself). And I also see the uncomfortable parallel with arguments I've seen/made about the music industry.


Hint for everyone who has commented so far: this post is not really about apps.

If musicians had nearly as much stake in their distributed product, from a percent standpoint, as a startup founder has in his/her business, or if the music industry were remotely as equitable, all things considered, as the software industry, then the essay's apparent allegory might ring a little more true to me. But the practical reality is musicians don't have a similar stake, or a similar chance at making a sustainable living, as software founders.

If I were to reverse The essay's tactic, by way of, for instance, rewriting a paragraph of another certain famous essay about the music industry (which is admittedly dated but still mostly relevant even in the age of iTunes), you could see the contrast pretty quickly. I doubt that anybody would agree that the software industry is this bad. Let's call this hypothetical essay "The Problem with Software" and see if you agree (with apologies to Steve Albini):

"Whenever I talk founders who are about to sign with a major startup incubator, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless Angel Investor at demo day holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed."

Let's say my hypothetical essay goes on to itemize point-by-point in a detailed and authoritative way how startup incubators and VCs virtually always end up screwing over founders and developers every time...well it couldn't because there are no such numbers, no similar data, because in general software startups don't operate that way. The dynamics in the two industries are entirely different and the analogy doesn't work, for various reasons not the least of which is that the average founder has a far higher chance of making money, according to the known risks, than the average musician relying on sales and downloads. VCs, in general are far more equitable (big assumption there but I'll stand by it anecdotely) than the average label, which operates on long-standing numbers-manipulation that rarely if ever compensate artists fairly or transparently. This doesn't make piracy right, it just makes attacking it relatively inconsequential to the artist.

The essay is right, albeit ironically so, about one thing. The music industry has indeed moved on. The future is much more than live events, though, it's innovative business models (like, say, for instance Earbits', which I'm intrigued by and really hope works) and creative manipulation of new media, as bands like Pomplamoose and OK Go have done. The music industry is a dinosaur, and piracy is only a small part of the problem. The main issue is that the music buying public is jaded, fragmented and far less easily manipulated into buying than in the past. The available music is vast in number and the average music fan can listen and partake in countless genres and acts, only a few of which might be shared by friends.

The essay's principles are in the right place -- defending the incomes of musicians, but the allegory ignores a chasm of differences between the two industries, the massive inequity of the music industry towards artists, and the simple truth that there's nothing anyone can do about it, certainly not through the old RIAA/ASCAP/etc. model.

The simple fact is that most startup founders not only create the products that define their success, but drive that success almost entirely on their own, with modest help from their investors. As much as everyone likes to hate on record labels, the good ones do almost everything involved in the business of making your music successful. The artist is the product, but very rarely does the artist drive the business. Most are terrible business people. The amount of money a record label puts into a deal might look like a small VC deal. But the amount of work they put in is something else entirely. That is why they take a larger share, and as long as they're fair and do a good job, they deserve a significant amount of the returns.

Their behavior for the past 20 years can be cited as a reason not to want to contribute to them as businesses, but the reality is that, while most artists who have a label make very little, most who don't never make it at all.

I'd say this is only partially true. These days labels are not, and I would argue should not be the artists' primary target for income. Touring and new media are things artists have control over to a much larger extent and that's where artists should be focused.

If a good independent label wants to pick you up, like say Bella Union or Merge or Sub Pop (still) or the like then go for it, it might help. Or it might not. For some it's a big deal, but mostly in terms of promotion and profile, better tours. The good labels, like Bella Union, get very involved in that side of it, others not so much. Even then those lucky acts that are on good labels are still primarily touring bands, and downloads and sales and royalties are a small percentage of their income, unless something really breaks on radio, and that my friend is whole other ballgame and extremely rare from the average artists' perspective. Better to hope to get on a TV show or film, raise your profile some and get better tours.

Also, most of the time those higher-profile independent labels came along and were interested because those acts already had something going, some sales, regional numbers or whatnot that made the label relationship more like a partnership.

It helps to go into it from a position of strength, where you know you can walk away. And if you can walk away, you might not even need the Independent label. Mostly you need good management and good promotion to get better tour numbers going, build into a position of strength and really think about what means of income are available to you in an age where access to distribution channels (the primary former attraction of labels) are now available to virtually everyone.

That's the same as startup getting investment because they have "traction", and most won't if they don't. And the benefit of having a label is that, while you don't need one to tour and focus on new media, it sure as hell helps to have professional help from people who have done this countless times. There are thousands of independent labels. Some will do nothing for you. Those that do their job can do things that a fraction of 1% of artists can do on their own. Nobody should sit around waiting for a label, but nobody who knows what a good label can do would say they're not extremely valuable and worth signing over some of your "equity" to.

This is all true, and it's important to distinguish between "The Industry" and the good indie labels. Bella Union is one I have first-hand knowledge of and they are incredibly fair, and involved in the artists' tours and PR to a large degree.

If you know that's the kind of label you're looking at signing with, great! But the idea that labels are gatekeepers to distribution and royalties is a thing of the past.

Labels work best now when they act more like YC and less like RCA.

You make a great point, that artists usually are terrible business people, and in a label relationship are usually passive and unaware. I think that, as much as any other aspect of the music industry, is what artists need to change.

The average artist could learn the world from the average startup founder. Most don't have the temperament for it, and that's unfortunate. But those that do can take control over their income and business model in ways artists 20 years ago could never dream of. Earbits, Spotify and Pandora (which will pick up interesting unsigned artists, I hear them all the time) are great examples. iTunes and YouTube are still and will remain for a long time, viable and important ways to raise your profile.

This is the just the world we live in, and many artists I think are slowly realizing this as well. You can't passively rely on a distribution machine that operates in near total numeric obscurity to treat you equitably. Artists have no choice but to become business-minded, social networking and new media-savvy, and aggressively creative in that area.

I just suspect that you don't want to live in a world where the only music that surfaces to the top or provides a living for its creator is one where all good musicians must also be astute business people. You miss out on a lot of good art that way.

Very true, I really don't and I'm pretty burned out on trying to convince a lot of the very talented songwriters and artists I know and sometimes play with that they can't passively wait on some label system to put them on a treadmill to success.

What we need is YC for artists?

I am way ahead of you. Just need to make a few hundred million, and no doubt, you will get your YC for music. ;)

Ha! I love it. You're the guy to do it, Joey.

I myself have a hazy dream of a promotion/tech/PR/consulting company that can hand-roll technologies, web, mobile and such, tailored to the creative ambitions of musicians, to find new creative tools and ways of manifesting their visions that go beyond the album-tour-album cycle, which I also think is more and more a thing of the past.

I just want to translate YC into music. Interview people and make sure they're all insanely talented, super dedicated, and not assholes. Make sure they can afford rent and food for a few months. Put them in a room together and let them find their best co-founders (or bring co-founders with them), and finance the creation of a low-cost demo product. 3 months later, put each group on stage in front of the world's best independent label heads, and help them get fair deals from good people. One day, Radiohead will come along and say they love what we're doing so much that they want to give every band $150k with no cap and no discount. You almost don't need to do anything differently. ;)

One shining example of a band that "gets it" is Pomplamoose. They may not be getting rich, but dammit they're making good music on their own terms and it looks like they're having a lot of fun doing it:


And indeed the market has spoken, and most android developers have listened: Apps Should Be Free(mium). That's the difference between startups and Big Music. Startups figure out how to make money out of free apps.

>Startups figure out how to make money out of free apps.

I don't know if most of them do. If I look around in the android market there are some great apps, that very likely do not make any money although they offer actual value to the customer.

I don't get it, why should apps be released for free?

Especially on Android I am surprised as to how many free(mium) apps are available, which could and should be paid apps, since they offer value to the user. Many apps however useful may not generate enough revenue by offering an ad-supported version of their app.

It's sad to see that the developer community is shooting itself in the foot by releasing so many apps for free/ad-supported. I am pretty sure that most ad-supported apps will not create a great revenue stream for the developer. Buyers simply get accustomed to this trend. See the divergence of revenue models between Android and iOS. I don't know if it's the market that speaks here, or maybe just a trend in developers not trusting in the value of their own product. All in all it seems that this trend of releasing apps for free does nobody any good, since it will stall innovation at some point.

On a side note, I would really like to see a comparison of how some similar apps perform which are either paid, freemium or donate. Maybe there is some threshold for when it makes sense to publish an app either freemium or paid.

> All in all it seems that this trend of releasing apps for free does nobody any good, since it will stall innovation at some point.

It does nobody any good? How about the users? I don't buy the "it will stall innovation" argument. Having Linux be free didn't stall innovation, quite the opposite. I'd even say without it being free, we wouldn't be where we are now in regards to innovation. Large companies would still be in control. I know many companies depending on Linux, Firefox, MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Perl, PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, Flash, Apache, BIND, OpenOffice, irssi, Postfix; and the many innovations these free products provided and facilitated. If I think about the projects that weren't out to make money, but to do something good, the value of free software becomes even greater.

But at the base of it all: For some of us technology is still more about solutions and making life better, rather than just money. I have a job, I'm happy, why should I take money for software I would've written anyway?

...because taking money for that software lets you continue to eat while writing more, better software?

Ain't a hard concept.

I'm already making money writing software for customers. Doesn't mean I need to take money for the software I write for myself.

That logic only applies if you think of an app as an end-in-itself, as the final product to generate revenue. While that may be a viable business model in some cases, I think it misses the true opportunities for making money with a mobile app.

In my experience, apps work best as a gateway to another revenue stream or as an add-on product to an existing service. I only use free apps but I have subscribed (and paid) for web sites associated with those apps for expanded services.

A good example is an exercise tracking app which records your exercise routines, maps routes, etc. If this app is free but uploads your data to a web site which provides expanded functionality, online communities, and other services, I'd gladly pay for an account on the site.

The idea that a customer should pay you to install your app is naive and out-dated. You will simply be beaten by competition who allow customers to install the app for no cost (i.e. everyone else). But beyond that, if your only way to exchange value with your customer (i.e. they give you money in exchange for something), is at installation, then you are missing out on most of your revenue.

There are tons of articles about this online. There are regularly articles about it on HN. Noel Llopis is one of many app developers who blogs about his real-world experiences. Here is one such article: http://gamesfromwithin.com/one-price-does-not-fit-all

thx, actually quite an interesting read.

thx, actually quite an interesting read. I wouldn't say that the concept of selling an app is naive and outdated. But yes, competitors will probably release a similar app for free, which indeed is a dilemma.

Also, not all apps have potential to generate an alternative revenue stream, if so, great, otherwise I believe it can be quite problematic to monetize on many app concepts.

Great idea. Let's start inserting commercials into our songs. Now you're onto something.

Sorry, but have you listened to a rap song lately? How many models of car, alcohol and fashion are listed in the average 3 minutes?

Songwriters figured out how to write jingles long ago.

or even better, have some type of in song currency that is used to purchase the new songs, that can be acquired either through sending the old songs to your friends, playing the old songs well, or just outright buying the in game currency.

I think the new bjork album started going in this direction, but could have done it a bit more.

Hmm.. gamify it by adding some badges and you might be on to something there!

You may well be right and perhaps there is no future in paid apps. However that should be the choice of the creator/publisher, not somebody who cracks the app and re-publishes it. If their app is worth 99 cents or whatever then people will vote with their wallets.

Who are these people that go to 132 different android app markets to find a free version of the software they see on google's market for $0.99? Are they really the kind of demographic you need to worry about?

Is there not a way of giving your app away for free, and then encouraging users to setup some sort of subscription or purchase from within the app if they like it? People regularly provide voluntary financial support (tips, street performers)when it's easy and they see benefit.

Unless the ev1l pirat0rs actually compiled a different version of your app in order to give it away for free without those messages (which seems unlikely given there's absolutely no incentive for them to do so) you'd make a pretty penny through the sheer volume of users.

Imagin busking to an audience of 1 million people, all equidistant from your guitar case with one dollar in their hand?

The scale at which digital distribution allows piracy is the same thing that will make you money: you have free distribution to millions of people, just figure out a way for them to voluntarily give you money and you'll be sorted.

That's a perfectly fine choice for an artist to make.

If they do not want to do that, and instead would like each person who takes a copy of their work to pay for it, is that not also a choice they should have? Your choice as a consumer should then be to either pay that person for a copy, or not take a copy and move on.

Nobody is arguing that giving away music isn't a viable model for success - simply that it's not ethical to make that choice on behalf of content creators.

I think this point of the argument has been unfortunately lost in the kerfuffle over whether charging for apps (or app installs, to split hairs) is a viable business model.

It should be fine for a developer (or musician, or other creator of content) to charge for their wares. If the app being available really is valueless or if the prospective customer doesn't believe it's worth what's being asked, they are free to move along and select a different product or to develop their own. I'm not sure why this concept is so looked down upon.

I find that to be sort of like saying I'm a shop owner. My life would be shitloads easier if I didn't have to actually be there, and people could just put the money on the counter and make their own change (like clerks :)

You're being an idealist - be more pragmatic and you'll live a life less angry.

I may only be speaking for myself here, but I honestly think the law will take a century to catch up here. We're on the frontier - with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with it (one advantage being, for example, the lack of any sort of regulation or licensing getting in the way of being a developer).

You're comparing a shop owner who doesn't want to protect their investment because they're lazy to an artist who cannot prevent their product from being taken without being paid for, unless they want to make it unavailable in the format that all of their customers want it in.

It's just sad that asking people to pay for things they take is being an idealist. I'm not angry. I just prefer to speak out against it than act like there's nothing wrong with it.

It's not so much that wanting people to pay is being an idealist, but that wanting things to be some way other than way they clearly are is being an idealist.

In another, less sophisticated time, you would have found a reality not far removed from the shop owner I described - and they would not have been considered lazy.

But a shop owner who railed against the shifting sands of humanity, pining for simpler times lost as he was pilfered blind, would clearly be sorrowful idealist.

I'm good with this, if you and everyone else who believe this also agrees that if I use your source code in my proprietary app (no matter the license), it's just the "shifting sands of humanity".

All content producers face the same problem: if their product gains traction, it will be pirated; if it does not gain traction, there will be no revenue.

We just finished a no budget feature film and knew we had to come up with a disruptive distribution strategy to get traction and avoid piracy. Our solution:

everyone who registers to download the movie will get to display a picture, logo or text of their choosing on a billboard in New York's Times Square.

Prices start from only $10 upwards. So for as little as $10 you can get any message / image / logo (as long as it's not obscene and you own the rights) up on a Times Square billboard.

Our strategy seems to be working.

I know this has been mentioned before but filmmakers, programmers, musicians, artists etc all need to think about how to engage an audience as a hook to the content. So by buying the content from the actual producers, they get much more value than just pirating it.

More info on our strategy: http://bit.ly/pgyGaR and on the movie http://bit.ly/n4XQG0 and http://on.fb.me/qcoACw

I must have missed the back story. Are people really able to just launch cracked versions of apps back to the Google App Store?

Read the article again. If you still don't get it, take a look outside the article at the rest of the page :)

And in case anyone still doesn't get it, replace "app" with "music", or "song" ;-)

I think there should be a new way of control in the app, like only letting people registered on a database use the app, and in that database there should be only users that had paid for that service, but this is more trouble for the user, and users hate this, also piracy sometimes is fault of the user and sometimes is fault of the developer, i had to get some free apps because getting the app is really hard because of the restrictions on my country, but piracy is a problem every developer has so instead of complaining after the app is done, we have to make a contingency plan so we can be ready for all.

I know this is only thinly related but I thought I'd post something that I heard from an investor that I met with a few months ago that we decided not to pursue a career with regarding app development for enterprise blackberry stuff... Disclaimer: I'm just posting his point of view and don't necessarily agree with it despite seeing his side of the argument.

My partner (at the time) and I met with him regarding an application we developed during our last year of University that had seen a lot of industry interest during our formal presentation. He wanted to meet with us and discuss helping us market the app because he was close friends with my friend's family and helped students like us previously.

His only real question to us regarding the app was our marketing plan. "Sell it" is not a very good pitch despite us not knowing what-so-ever what we wanted to do with it (or what we were capable of doing without shooing investors away). He brought up the point that whether we want to or not we should not be giving it away for free. Why?

His argument was that if we were to put a few months of effort into development of an app to give away for free we were essentially robbing ourselves. I myself am a strong avocate for OSS and had a hard time agreeing with him, I gave him a perplexing glace in favor of a "wtf". He continued by saying that if we were to dedicate that much time only to give it away we were robbing ourselves of those hours of labour we invested as well as preventing any other student/developer/whatever from being able to make a living from the product line. By us giving away something for free that had a real-world value we robbed others from entering the market to make a dollar.

His argument was that we must charge something for our work and if we don't want to make any money to give the proceeds away to charity. By doing that we could allow others to enter the market and make a dollar to fuel future efforts and development.

Its sort of a funny way to think of things and sometimes I find myself agreeing with him but I'm never certain... I felt the idea of "free software" preventing the developers from making their share of the effort is a good example of how his side of things can be right in many cases.

Again, not saying this is my viewpoint so don't get all "up in my grill" :)

I think what's getting lost here is that it's your app. You can do whatever you like with it. Sell it, give it away, flush it down the toilet, smash it with a hammer and burn all your notes. As the people who arranged some bits into a novel configuration, it's your right to choose how you want to distribute it. Obviously, without some way to make a return on investment, it would be difficult to find people to give you money to pay your bills while working on the next thing. But it's your decision to make and no one else's.

When I write an app, it's my right to choose how it is distributed in the world. If I want to sell it for 0.99, then it's my choice and I have to live with the risk of it not selling.

It is just as wrong for someone to take my work without paying for it as it is for me to take your work and sell it. In both cases, our right to choose for ourselves is being taken away.

The main problem here is that in the situation described you would indeed pretty much be an idiot not to make your app free and get revenue from ads or other avenues.

Not as a capitulation to piracy, but because you'd make more money.

Possibly, but it strikes me as unfortunate that someone would have to force ads on their users just to be compensated for their work developing an application.

It strikes me as unfortunate that someone would have to force payment on their users just to be compensated for their work developing an application.

The reality is that you do pay for stolen music, it just happens over a much longer period of time. The cost is the money you could have made in a society that supports paying for digital content or software.

I think Search engine services showed us the way, how one could provide an essential service as free and make money using more subtle ways .. Apps (developers) would have to go down that way eventually ..

If you have a right to my app, then I have a right to your paycheck.

Since you obviously don't value the effort that I put into creating my thing, then you must not value the effort that you put into doing your thing.

At least two differences between software and music:

- no malware

- possible online updates or other interactions

As long as these differences persist, your distribution method can easily add more value than the pirate copy.

Music can also provide "online updates or other interactions": think fanclubs, exclusive gigs etc. Say that, when you buy a M.I.A. song, you also get access to an exclusive website/forum for a month, where M.I.A. is going to blog or discuss with fans -- there you go, SaaS. The artist is not forced to do more than she used to, she's just reallocating time from "dealing with the increasingly irrelevant mainstream press" to "dealing with online fans".

The malware point is about quality. You might get the same quality from pirates, but then again you might get malware or simply a crappy rip. If you "buy legit", you are guaranteed good quality: high bitrate / lossless formats, no clicks etc.

The more I think about it, the more I see the two markets are fundamentally identical... which makes the music industry look even more stupid: with all their might and cash, they seem unable to be as profitable as some kid in California with a couple of computers.

Before commenting about Android, read the article twice, look around the page, and if you still want to talk about Android, read one of the related posts.

If musicians spent half as much time paying attention in economics class as they did strumming their guitars, they might understand the situation a little better.

"Piracy" exists for one reason and one reason alone: the price is too high for the consumer. There will always be a subset of the economy that will steal a particular good (i.e. for whom the price is always too high), from CD's to clothing to Ferrari's. This criminal element is simply a cost of doing business, really. In a healthy market, their costs are easily absorbed by a much larger subset that is prepared to pay the set price of the good. Match demand for the product reasonably well with supply and everyone is happy.

When a product is priced at a level that is greater than the market values, problems emerge. In open/free markets, you tend to get competition and innovation, and individual business losses. In closed/highly regulated markets, you tend to get black markets, bootlegging and all sorts of evasion if demand is high enough to warrant. This is as true for music and software as it is for gasoline, alcohol and copper wire. Music piracy is simply a black market that is only sustained because enough of the market thinks the price is too high.

The labels that have tightly controlled the market for music (commoditizing something that 50% of the population can supply) have done so by closing all distribution channels and limiting any real supply in order to exaggerate demand. Consumers didn't really know that they were being ripped off, since the supply chain was so tightly controlled. That changed with Napster.

Once the entire industry was exposed, and music began to revert back to a more natural value that one would expect for such a large supply, the market's opinion of the product began to change as well. (To be honest the shift probably went too far to the other side, but it started to regulate as things like itunes emerged)

What's evident is that there is clearly a value above zero that the market will place on music. If this wasn't the case, iTunes wouldn't be around. The problem that most labels - and sadly artists - fail realize is that the particular dollar point could be a lot lower than they would like it to be. Probably more like $.50 a song rather than the current $.99 cent price point.

The market will determine that price though, not the suppliers. Until then, major piracy will continue. Find that price point though, and piracy will go back to meaning peg legs and eye patches.

No other industry deals with people being able to copy their product flawlessly and eliminate any scarcity of the final package like music does, which you don't need an education in economics to understand the impact of. There is almost no reason to assume that $0.50 will convert better among people who pirate music now, since those peoples' current price is free. And if you don't think a song is worth $0.99, maybe you should pay more attention to what goes into creating one than just what goes into copying one when it's finished. The scarcity is not in the distribution, it's in the 20+ year process that goes into creating the original mold in the first place. The supply is unlimited because people make it so illegally and without regard for the rights' of content owners or the hard work they put into making products that millions of people enjoy. It's not a practice that should be defended on any level, let alone justified in a debate about free markets. Piracy is lazy and cheap, and that is all.

> No other industry deals with people being able to copy their product flawlessly and eliminate any scarcity of the final package like music does

That's just plain not true. Film, TV, videogames, books, comics and news all fall under this. And I'm sure there's more industries I haven't thought of.

Not saying none of them deals with it, just none of them deals with it in the magnitude or frequency that music does. Most of those things lose some of their original qualities, are harder to find, or take too long to download for the average person to steal them. MP3s get it the worst.

> After ranting endlessly on Hacker News and the like, finally the person who keeps stealing your app posts a reply.

In the entire time I've visited HN, I don't think this has ever happened. This is the equivalent to a politician visiting poor neighbourhoods dressed like 50 cent, hoping to "level" with the community. So contrived.

Maybe app developers should now form a group like MPAA?

They already did, it's called the BSA‡

And they solicit informants to report piracy (with lucrative rewards).


interesting read, though it wont change anyones mind on piracy one way or the other

Can't wait for the sequel: "I Think My Patents Should Never Expire"

> They tell you your business model is broken

And they have a point.

Well I think you should work for free as well then.

People like Mr. Flores are a hazard. Seriously, they have no problem defining piracy as wrong, but make no mention of what would actually be required in terms of surveillance and policing for that moral convention to be reliably maintained.

Beyond his insensitivity to reality, Mr. Flores appears to have no understanding that copyrights are not rights at all. There's noting inalienable about them. To the contrary, they are - very explicitly - privileges. They are given to very limited numbers of people for (theoretically) limited times. For a sovereign society to continue giving out these privileges, it's going to expect something in return. If that includes an obscenely invasive and overbearing police apparatus that has the power and freedom to monitor every bit of data every person exchanges it's an easy deal to reject.

In spite of all his rage (or perhaps because of it) Mr. Flores has never stopped to consider that the crime of theft pertains chiefly to physical property and tangible goods. This has been true for thousands of years, meaning that there is now a very well established body of law relating to misappropriation of physical goods - one that extends, in various forms, worldwide. And there is no popular pressure to change this convention. Nor is there any sense that the policing required to maintain this convention constitutes a serious threat to human rights. Indeed, the creation of property rights, and their attachment to tangible goods seems to be a fundamental feature of societies that advance human rights, and a culture of autonomy.

Extending the concept of property rights and theft to intangible goods is a different matter entirely. A relatively recent idea, it was an experiment that worked reasonably well as long as intangible goods remained wedded to some physical wrapper which could be safely governed by uncontroversial property laws. Now that the wrappers have become obsolete, the ability to allow the safe and ethical extension of property rights into the sphere of the intangible has collapsed. Only reckless, short-sighted, or truly sinister players (the Maximalists) continue to press in this direction.

Smarter - and yes, more ethical - people properly dismiss copyright as an appropriate mechanism for governing the conduct of private individuals. That means they don't get involved in business that can only work if the Maximalists get their way. While copyright certainly retains substantial value as a tool for regulating the conduct of incorporated entities (which are, themselves, intangible entities), it is 100% incompatible with a culture of individual autonomy in the present day.

The world probably doesn't need (yet another) shitty app. What it does need are people who can imagine and build businesses that limit reliance on copyright to engagements with incorporated entities, while treating individual humans with healthy respect for their political freedom, privacy, and autonomy. Indeed, entrepreneurs should focus on products and services that INCREASE these qualities, not misguided attempts to undermine them for the sake of a fast buck with no concern given to the consequences.

Why does someone need to propose an effective solution to policing immorality in order to state that he believes something to be immoral? Simply conveying a story intended to create empathy for hard working individuals making a contribution to society is hazardous? Get off your high horse.

Saying that you believe people have rights that should not be infringed does not mean you haphazardly support the enforcement of those rights in ways that cause more harm than good. I did not recommend that anyone be sued, that anyone be monitored, that anyone be spied upon or any other counter measure. Speaking out against injustice does not always require that you have a well-articulated plan for the foolproof solution to that injustice. The fact that you believe these people have no rights and that defending them is harmful is hazardous.

The simple fact is, for as long as there have been civilizations and law, most have said it is illegal to take something of value from someone else. You say it pertains only to physical goods, a cop out designed to suit your self serving needs.

There are two important facts to remember. The first is that, while taking a copy of something from someone is not theft according to Merriam Webster, if their product is valued and people will pay for it, but you take a copy under false pretenses and make it available for nothing at all, you dilute the value of their property and have stolen value from them. Imagine your investors diluting you down to nothing. They haven't technically taken your shares, but I suspect you don't like too much the results.

Further, while the flow of information and ideas should be free, nobody is infringing on your right to remember a song, take thoughts of it with you, tell other people about it, or even hum that song while you troll the forums. But when you require a physical copy of that song, bits stored on a device, in order to actually remember that "idea", your whole concept of the "flow of information" goes out the window.

You want to spread the idea of a song? Tell someone what it's about. You want a copy of a song for yourself, pay for it. It's as simple as that. I don't need to be a policy maker to voice that this is a principle I value among those people who have the integrity to honor it.

Kudos for identifying dilution as a way to take value from another while leaving their actual holdings untouched. It's a subtle point that most anti-copyright types miss.

And you're absolutely correct to observe that hard drives are material, and that the atoms they contain constitute the 'fixed medium' that provides the bright and shining line between ungovernable ideas, and the restricted world of copyright protection. But you're mistaken if you think you have any inviolable rights in your work. Copyright is a right in name only. In absolutely every other regard it's a privilege.

If you lived in France, things would be different. French jurisprudence includes "le droit d'auteur". That is to say, they recognize a moral right of the author to control the dissemination and development of his work by others. When the French say "I have a right" they're entirely correct.

Things are different in America, where lawmakers rejected that concept flatly. Regardless of the way you feel about it, Le droit d'auteur has never been recognized in this country, and at this point, it's safe to say it never will be.

So it's not that I 'believe' you have no rights. I KNOW you have no rights. Because you don't. What you have is a privilege that 's increasingly archaic, based - as it is - on a rapidly fading ability to produce more development than it retards in the "Useful Arts & Sciences". In case you didn't know, that's the Constitutional language giving Congress the power to issue the limited monopolies known as patents and copyrights in the first place.

In contrast with France, America (like England, which is the source of much American civil law) views copyright not as an exalted moral right, but as a necessary evil tolerable only to the extent that it clearly benefits society as a whole.

That's a big difference.

Wrap your head around the idea that you're defending a privilege - not a right - and I suspect that the whole tenor of your argument will change dramatically.

Unfortunately, your argument falls apart immediately.

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" -- United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.

While you can make the argument that it may be a lesser right than the more primal human rights, it's factually incorrect to say that it's not a right. Says so in the Constitution, the document that defines our rights.

But wait, there's more.

Your argument falls apart even more because you are incorrectly placing the value of a work on the physical representation of the work. Using your interpretation, the primary value in the book Huckleberry Finn is in the pages of that book, not the words and ideas printed in the book. Alternatively, if I take Huckleberry Finn, run it through a jumbler and create a document that has all the words rearranged randomly, that it is just as valuable as the original work.

Also, you're factually incorrect about the concept of property rights being limited to physical property. If that were the case, plagiarism would be a legitimate practice. If theft is limited to the physical representation of a thing, then it should be legitimate for me to sit down and right a copy a work word for word and pass it off as my own. After all, there is little to no value in the words, so I'm not doing anyone any harm.

Smarter - and yes, more ethical - people properly respect the wishes of creators when it comes to how they express their right to distribute the fruits of their labor. They certainly don't spend six bloviating paragraphs to say "If there is something I want, I should be able to take it."

Brevity is the soul of wit, after all.

You've missed the point completely.

This was never about "I want stuff for free". It was about the avoidance of a hyper-invasive police state.

For what it's worth, I actually work as a producer. I'm on the sell side, not the take side. And moreover, I don't pirate. Between Pandora, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes, (not to mention the general firehose that is the internet) I have such an astonishing array of free and very reasonably priced stuff, that I have no need to pirate. I mean, I don't even have the time for the stuff I've actually bought.

When working, I pay strict attention to rights and clearances. Not just because I'm a nice guy, but because I have to. I mean, compliance is so deeply engrained in the system that it's unavoidable. It's just the way things work. Moreover, I support this system. In spite of the complexity, it makes a lot of sense. In terms of a system for governing interactions between industry players, copyright is as good as anything else I can imagine.

But I'm not just a producer. I'm also a human being. I recognize that what works in a small, professional circle cannot scale to the point where it can govern everybody with a laptop and an internet connection. That's like expecting people to get formal authorization from the SEC every time they want to transfer $100 from checking into savings.

More to the point, I recognize that attempts to scale the existing system mean the creation of auditing and enforcement mechanisms that are absolutely terrifying in terms of raw power, and susceptibility to abuse.

It's the difference between a nuclear reactor quietly purring on the outskirts of town, and a nuclear bomb detonating in the heart of the financial district. Saying "hey, they're essentially the same thing" is true on one level, but it ignores context to an extent that is batshit crazy.

So unlike the jerkswho say "I have my rights, all I care about is my money, so fuck you pay me" I actually have a social conscience. I recognize that the way I made a living was dependent on historical conditions that no longer exist, and that like society itself, I need to adapt. If that means avoiding a nightmarish police state by radically redefining the limits of property rights in the sphere on the intangible, so be it.

The point is that those of us who make a living from intellectual property need to understand that we'd be toast in a country without strong democratic freedoms (i.e. the First Amendment). And we need to recognize that the extension of existing copyright law into every nook-and-cranny of digital life entails the development of a surveillance apparatus that will destroy American democracy. No app, novel, song, or movie is more important than that. And the real artists understand this better than anyone. After all, they're the first to get murdered when things really go bad.

Fortunately, our privileges (or, as you call them lesser rights) are limited. They take a back seat to the much greater rights of humans to live in freedom from the kind of surveillance and policing that copyright law - carried to its logical extreme - entails.

Personally, I think we should limit the application of copyright law to incorporated entities only. That is to say, individuals should be free to do what they want with whatever they find. In essence, it's about taking the concept of Fair Use, and expanding it to comply with the realities of the present day. While I don't think that authors should give up all control, I think that control should be limited to what incorporated entities do with a work.

Obviously, this doesn't mesh with today's business models. But so what? Today's models are leftovers from a bygone era. It's a new foundation for new models which creative people can adapt to. What it allows for is tremendous freedom for people to develop the culture using the works within it. That's a benefit for artists and audiences alike. Any business that becomes successful enough to merit incorporating steps up to the role of box office. Unlike individuals, these businesses would be subject to copyright rules, and would have to work with artists and producers to the mutual satisfaction of all involved.


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