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Intellectual property does exist

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greenbabe posted on Tue, Oct 2 2012 11:20 PM

The only reason you guys say IP doesn't exist is because you don't want to pay for music and movies. You just want to pirate it. 

If you buy a movie, let's say a Blu-ray or DVD, you can't just copy it and make money off your own copies. How is that right? How can musicians make money if everyone just pirates their music? I feel bad for the small bands and music artists that can't make it because people just pirate. 

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Aristophanes:
The way IP exists today people can get sued for using the same chord progressions...there are only so many notes!!

This is not entirely true. One may be sued for using the same chord progressions just as one may be sued for literally anything. The question is: will the charge hold up in court? Currently, chord progressions are not copyrightable, and for good reason (like there is ever a good reason for copyright). Reason being, literally every chord progression possible has been used and not just in music under public domain, but current copyright protected music. If chord progressions could be copyrighted, then IP law would cease to serve its vary purpose: to encourage innovation in the "useful arts", whatever that means. It would be impossible for any new song to be released without even more draconian lawsuits. Music would cease to exist, at least if the law had its way.

The only elements of a song or score that may be copyrighted are the lyric and melody. I will not claim that there has never been someone who sued over a chord progression and won; just that if they did, this would not be in accordance with current copyright law. But, then there is the question: is there such thing as a rule of law? I think not. However, other than this slightly sensical rule, IP law is totally arbitrary, like all law written by the state.

 

@OP: Artists wouldn't be able to make money? I think you are worried about the wrong people. What about all of the people who Disney sues (and wins) against individuals as well as small daycares who paint little mickey mouse's face on their walls without permission. IP law is Draconian law at best. It claims to maintain rights over the things in your head. Not even the strictest dictators of old ever really claimed to have control over your mind, except maybe the CIA (see Project MK Ultra).

I am both a musician and a producer, and not only that: I do it for a living, and have worked with probably a few artists you have heard of and love. That's right! I am one of the artists that you claim to have so much pity for. Let me fill you in on an interesting personal anecdote. I used to register my songs with the federal copyright office, and I also aided the artists I worked with in doing so as well. I claimed that if you downloaded my music, you owed me money, and felt that record sales were to be my primary revenue source. BULLSHIT! I don't do that anymore. I make them part of the Intellectual Commons (hardly totally free market, but our hand is forced). Ever since I changed to this method, my revenue has increased by about 45% per year. Why? 3 reasons.

First, the practical reason. I realized that making money off of record sales is a thing of the past. With music "piracy" running rampant (a good thing and I will explain why in a second), expecting anybody to buy your record is pretty foolish. The market has spoken, and it has said "Most of us do not value music enough to buy it in a recorded form. If you want to give it to us for free, we will take it."

Second, do you think most people make music for money? MOST do not. Most do so for casual enjoyment. The internet and its "priacy" has only made it possible for these people to get their music out there, circumventing the highly protectionist circle that the labels possessed power over. Thanks to the internet, you can now discover these otherwise no-name artists, and give them a slightly better shot at making their primary passion into a career. In my humble opinion, the internet has made commercial music better, because now you can just buy (or "pirate") the single. There is greater emphasis on producing a more consistently great product, instead of just one good tune that is only heard on the radio, leading you to believe the entire record is good and blowing $20 bucks on a piece of shit. Competition for listeners is now of utmost importance, and the little guy, as you progressives love to claim to champion, now has a fighting chance at such competition. The "piracy" craze has also forced musicians to become better at serving the public's wants. My prediction is that, despite all of the IP law out there fighting against the whims of demand, the market will still win. Labels and artists will give up trying to sell their recordings in the next ten years, and we will see ever increasing rises in ticket prices (because you cant "pirate" a live show, at least not to its full extent) as we have seen as of the past 10 years or so, already. Which brings me to one last point. Recorded music is not the only revenue source artists have. They have merchandise, concerts, vip clubs, etc. Music will become merely an advertisement, given for free in hopes to garner a following who will come to the shows, buy the merch, and join the clubs. Thinking of recorded music as the best and only revenue stream is not only uncreative (something artists are supposed to be) but also historically and empirically false. Think gigging is hard? It was when you were a nobody and couldn't get signed. Now, if you are any good, the festival circuit is a great way to get a full, paid tour under your belt and without a road manager. You also don't need to worry about getting shelved by a label.

By the way, shelving is a music industry term where a label signs a band that MIGHT have potential and do so purely with the intention not to release their songs. Why would they do this, you ask? Because when the label signs a band, they usually get full copyright over any existing and future songs written by the act signed (this is especially true if you are a band with little negotiating power - only these get shelved). The idea is that the label doesn't believe in you enough to take on the risk that your record might flop, but does believe in you enough that you might not flop and another label will have signed you. Because they have copyrights over the band's current and future material, artistic handcuffs are placed on the artist for the duration of the contract.   

Now, you may agree that the market has spoken, but that doesn't necesarilly make it right. You are right that the market is amoral and this practical reasoning alone is not enough to make the market's "piracy" moral. So here is the third reason I neither believe in nor pratice copyrighting my songs. I, as creator of the music, have no right to force someone to pay for a song if it can be got for free while at the same time costing me nothing. Back when all music was physical, if you walked into a store and put a cd in your pocket without paying for it, this was stealing. What were you stealing, exactly? You were stealing a plastic disc that someone owned, not some series of musical notes that don't really exist except in our heads. Now, we can reproduce music literally for the cost of the hard drive space to store the file and the electricity used to power the computer that copied it. Music is no longer scarce, and that which is not scarce cannot be stolen because owning a non-scarce good means nothing. In a world without scarcity, property rights are not only meaningless but nonexistent. 

Let me put it to you another way. When I breathe, the guy who planted a tree next door cannot sue me for breathing hsi air can he? Air is not scarce, at least not in any practical sense. But I would assert he has more right to sue for my free-riding than the artist has for my "piracy". Here is why.

Think of it this way: we can see that (clean drinking) water is scarce. This is evidenced by the masses of people around the world who are dying of thirst. Why are they dying of thirst? For the simple fact that there is a lack of clean drinking water; clean drinking water is scarce. However, let's say I invented a device that could produce clean drinking water (these exist). What this device can also do, however, is create additional units of clean drinking water at no additional cost to me (these don't exist - even Brita filters must have the filter replaced from time to time, which costs me money). So, I go to my faucet and put in a gallon of clean drinking water into my machine. I pay for this one gallon from the company that produced it, and thus I pay for this one gallon. Now, using this machine, I can insert this one gallon, and wether I decide to produce 50 gallons or 1 million gallons, the cost to me is the same (barring the cost to store and transport the different amounts of water to the thirsty masses). By using this machine, I could eliminate world thirst and save millions of lives. Does the water provider who I got the first gallon from have a right to sue me for this? No! And why would you want him to be able to. 

Now, equivocate that first gallon of water with the initial copy of a song, the additional gallons I produce with the copies I make of that song digitally, and my invention with the internet/cd burner. Of course, this hypothetical is impossible. You cannot simply create water out of thin air, and certainly at no additional marginal cost. In the physical world, there will probably (really certainly) always be scarcity, but the presence of scarcity is really no longer applicable in a digital world. For instance, what I am typing right now will be copied from my head onto my screen and then on your screen as well as everyone else's that displays it, and all at no marginal cost (at least not to anyone but the consumer/reader of the text.) In other words, no matter how many people read this post and display it on their computer screens, it will not cost me, the writer of this message (the equivalent of the artist) any more time or money than it already has. This is why you cannot call it theft. What have you stolen? An idea? Not even the Federal IP office claims that an idea can be stolen, because you cannot copyright an idea.

You may say, "Ok, but what about patenting your invention?" Well, you would really only need one, right? But even if you bought my machine, reverse engineered it, and created an exact replica, which you were able to sell on the market. Should I have the right to sue you for makign these machines more plentiful, thus further decreasing the amount of thirsty people in the world? No!

Now you see why IP is totally counterproductive. Or, are you willing to admit that the only reason people innovate and invent is for money? Didn't think so...        

 

"If men are not angels, then who shall run the state?" 

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How can musicians make money if everyone just pirates their music?

See here. Chapter 5, precisely.

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greenbabe:
The only reason you guys say IP doesn't exist is because you don't want to pay for music and movies. You just want to pirate it.

And this proves that IP exists how...?

greenbabe:
If you buy a movie, let's say a Blu-ray or DVD, you can't just copy it and make money off your own copies. How is that right?

Certainly people may be physically able to copy a movie and make money off of their own copies. So you must be referring to something other than physical ability with the word "can't". What are you referring to, then?

Anyways, how isn't it right?

greenbabe:
How can musicians make money if everyone just pirates their music?

Like Clayton said, ask Lady Gaga. Or even better, the Grateful Dead.

greenbabe:
I feel bad for the small bands and music artists that can't make it because people just pirate.

That seems to imply that they're entitled to "make it", and thus they're being robbed if they don't "make it". What do you think entitles them to "make it"?

The keyboard is mightier than the gun.

Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.

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The only reason you guys say IP doesn't exist is because you don't want to pay for music and movies. You just want to pirate it. 

Our cover is blown, boys! Evacuate!

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This is not entirely true. One may be sued for using the same chord progressions just as one may be sued for literally anything. The question is: will the charge hold up in court? Currently, chord progressions are not copyrightable

Umm.. tl;dr.

But, this.

So, what I said isn't untrue it is just not universal.

"The Fed does not make predictions. It makes forecasts..." - Mustang19
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Aristophanes:

This is not entirely true. One may be sued for using the same chord progressions just as one may be sued for literally anything. The question is: will the charge hold up in court? Currently, chord progressions are not copyrightable

Umm..

But, this.

So, what I said isn't untrue it is just not universal.

 

 

 

Well, Aristophanes, if you would read into these cases closely (or just read the wikipedia page you provided), you will discover that there is no mention in a single one of these cases where the defendant lost on the basis of using another writer's (I hesitate to even use the possessive in this case) chord progression. 

So if the plaintiffs in these cases did not win on the basis of a copied chord progression, how did they win? They won based on an IP concept called "striking similarity". My bet is that in nearly all of the cases (many of which I am quite familiar with), the court felt that either the melody or the lyric (or both) met the criterion of the "striking similarity" tests.  

I want to make it clear that I am not defending the SS test. It is a rule that is both vague and arbitrary at the same time, designed to keep new artistic competition from ever entering the field without receiving multiple court summons's. My only point is that what you said is untrue and legally universal. But, I will disclaimer that statement by saying that I am sure if one dug deep enough, one might be able to find a case where the chord progression charge held up in court at one point or another, however it would be a distinct exception, not the rule. While I don't want to make an argument from authority, I do work in this business, and I studied it (including rigorous IP law classes) both in and out of the university classroom, and I have never heard of such a charge ever winning a case on it's own, and I have had clients who have tried.

"If men are not angels, then who shall run the state?" 

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pfft.  One paragraph you say they didn't win, then next you say they did.  I don't care about distinctions as you attempt to split hairs over.  People get sued over it and they lose.

"The Fed does not make predictions. It makes forecasts..." - Mustang19
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I can no longer definitively tell whether people are trolling or if they're just genuinely stupid these days. In this case I'm leaning towards the latter.

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