Thursday, June 28, 2012

More Music Lessons

In Music Lessons, we made some parallels between the piracy-induced decline of the music industry with Pinterest, and predicted a similar decline in the availability and quality of image content on the internet. The article in refence, David Lowery's Letter to Emily White has gone "viral" and the phenomenon has given rise to numerous rebuttals along with the praise.

The comments to the rather toothless rebuttal article A WSJ Intern Replies To An NPR Intern’s Viral Post on Music Piracy are more revealing than the article itself. While one commenter bemoans, statistics in hand that
"[...] recorded music has gone from a $12B business in 2001 to a $6B business in 2011. About 35% of that 19% is 7900 Petabytes which was 11 billion movies consumed that people didn’t pay for. That is why Home Video has gone from a $26B business to an $18B business. Pirate Bay is the 81st most popular web site, more popular than Netflix and way more popular than Spotify. ISPs made $50B in 2011 selling a service that comes with free music, free movies, free software, free games and free books. the solution is for ISPs to obey the law and terminate repeat infringers."
another commenter adds, taking a completely different angle:
It’s not because we’re poor, we’re just living in a high speed world where we want access to EVERYTHING… EVERYWHERE and it’s services like iTunes, Spotify and Pirate Bay (listed in descending order of benefit to musicians) that are providing us with that.[...]This will cause a total lull in musical creativity, inspiration, originality and general interest in music until the industry devolves into being a totally non profitable market for anyone because no one will care to consume it anymore. It’s bleak, man.
Interestingly, a more robust rebuttal of David Lowery's piece on Boing Boing has elicited some angry backlash... against the rebuttal itself:
"The issue, for me, isn't whether millions of hobbyists can squeeze out $100 a year while technology companies skim millions from the transactions, but whether a professional class of musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, etc. can still exist in this country."
"Morrison posted an opinion that "we shared music when it was casettes". And then didn't bother to inquire whether the amount of sharing in any way equated to digital sharing."
From the camp of "Love The Art, Hate The Artist":
"Do you know any musicians who make music only for money? I don't. They make music because they can't stop themselves from making music. And they have day jobs."
"Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock."
"If you want to sing, sing. But, for God's sake, stop complaining about how you're being oppressed because the rest of us don't want to support you while you do it."
"It's been coming for awhile. Musicians have officially become boring."
"The free content crowd doesn't value artists. And they're nasty about it too. Nicely done."
Until Pinterest came along, graphical content was largely untouched by piracy. Ben Silbermann has found a way to tap into this poor cousin of "sharable content" with a platform geared towards the hoarding of third-party digital images by its users, adding a further leaching of creator's copyright with an embed feature that is little more than a gateway to a hotlinking free-for-all of this infringed content.

What is the adaptive path for visual artist with respect to their partnership with the internet?

REDUCE CONTENT. Reduce definition. Reduce size. Reduce availability. Institute a pay-per-view. Charge for website access. Educate the masses.

We may be fighting Pinterest now; tomorrow, we'll be fighting hundreds of Pinterest clones.

1 comment:

Cindy Schnackel said...

There was definitely a lot of infringing going on before Pinterest, but we were less able to find infringements (on any sites) before there were good image searches and reverse image search tools. Even before the internet, people were photographing art in galleries and making prints to sell at art fairs. If anything the net has made it easier to catch infringers.

But, I do sign my work, and take other measures as prevention, or at least identification. And I set aside some time for DMCA takedowns, too. The net has allowed me to become better known and to sell, more than I could have without the net. So I'm not about to leave it because of Pinterest. They are an irritation, and need to bring their model and TOS into line with copyright laws, but very few artists who haven't already established themselves could get by now without being online.

A few points:

Even though not legally required in the USA, put a copyright notice on your work and on your sites.

Sign your work legibly where it'll show.

If work is not for a print, add your name and/or copyright notice faintly, but right smack in the middle of the image.

A big threat to artists is knock-offs of their work, and many are made and sold in China. Other countries, too, have little or no recourse for original creators, and can pay artists pennies to make knock offs. Though they may get only a small low res watermarked version online, that will not stop them making big knock of paintings, probably of crappy quality, and selling them.

You also might never discover how many people sell your work off the internet, because if they never upload it, your only hope of finding it is pure chance at some art fair or shop.

So Pinterest has certainly been a thorn in many artists' sides. The biggest threat though, is a bad court decision about sites like them, that could be devastating to intellectual properly rights in general. And, we have an ever more business friendly Supreme Court. So if they are ever sued I hope that years from now we don't see a bad decision. By then, who knows where technology will be though? I am surprised that no art site has yet come up with a really effective prevention for image theft. I suspect they could but until one does, the rest won't follow.