Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Bruce Sterling loses his touch I tried to like Bruce Sterling back in the late 80s, but his books (The Difference Engine, Artificial Kid, Heavy Weather) were all so terrible I couldn't. It seems he's tried to refashion himself as a cyber-visionary-writer, a la Neal Stephenson, but unfortunately, he does not understand technology, has no vision, and is a poorer writer in every sense of the term.

I came upon a transcript of his closing speech at CFP conference which sorts of sums things up. He has some interesting enough things to say about the Bush administration, and some stupid and boring arguments about how unauthorized sharing hurts artists, bringing up Bollywood actress, Kajol Devgan's tapes in the US.

Most arguments about "artists deserving to get paid for their work" are about redistribution -- they think artists should keep more of the money than record companies. But copyright law says *nothing* about redistribution, and idiotic laws like "moral rights" in Europe only impoverish artists more since distributors are less willing to pay for material with encumbrances.

Artists are poor because 1) they're common as muck and 2) no one pays much for content. Labels are rich because 1) their distribution channels are scarce and 2) promotion is costly. While web radio and the Internet reduce label's ability to make money, artists are as fungible as they ever were and no law can overcome these basic economics.


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