Both sides of the IP war gird for battle.

graphic: Editor at Large
But who will win the war?


he conflict over SOPA and PIPA is heating up. This is a symptom of the sea change that’s underway. I sympathize with both sides of the argument.

At one time, the reproduction of content (or “IP” – intellectual property) was very labor-intensive. Before Guttenberg’s invention of moveable type, to publish just one book required months of skilled labor. Apparently the aristocracy liked it that way.

As recently as the 1970s, to reproduce an audio recording was expensive and the result was imperfect. The Beatles took advantage of this fact when they decided to stop performing for live audiences c 1966. A couple generations of musicians have made fortunes by following that model. It’s not bad work, if you can find it: produce a single song once and collect royalties for the rest of your life.

The growth of cheap computing power and of the Internet has changed that. Now perfect digital copies of everything are fast, cheap, and easy to produce and distribute. This fact isn’t going to go away, regardless of the wishes of artists and their publishers.

I think that, in the long run, this will prove to be a good thing. But it is a sea change. After the invention of movable type and the production of affordable printed books, I’m sure that scribes and manuscript illustrators weren’t happy. Today, a similar obsolescence of irrelevant functions seems inevitable.

On the other hand, if cheap copies of movies will proliferate, who will invest in their production?

Maybe we’ll abandon recorded movies and music and revert to live theater productions.

What’s your opinion?

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

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