Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The middle of the music business

Arnold Kling argues that most content companies make their money by acting as agents for quality, not by "owning content", and so is skeptical that the Creative Commons will have much effect, one way or the other.

Clay Shirky notes that the digital age has changed the production and distribution ends of the music spectrum, but has yet to alter the quality selection portion in the middle, which is where the recording industry sits. He anticipates this changing in the future, and while noting that the "editor" pool can be quite small, wisely refrains from predicting exactly how this will end up happening.

If the widget that people use to "moderate" music looks for open licenses (because people want music unencumbered by DRM), then the machine readable Creative Commons system will neatly shunt closed content to one side, separating the two markets. Fundamentally, as long as Congress does not outlaw the general purpose operating system, and ability to download a raw mp3 file over TCP/IP, people will listen to music for marginal cost even if the RIAA creates unbreakable DRM and removes its entire library for the Internet. I predict that Clay's "moderation system" will start catching on as soon as unauthorized mp3s are taken off the Net. It's just not needed presently because the Napster clones let people have their cake and eat it too. Mmmmm...cake.

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