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Parasites in Real or Digital Form Can Cause Real Damage

Parasites in Real or Digital Form Can Cause Real Damage

Some pundits reckon as much as one in 35 one pound coins is fake and 400,000 forged notes are in circulation. That’s depressing news for those who value a stable currency.

It is scant comfort to discover that forging has always been around. Sir Isaac Newton (he of the theory of gravity) is attributed with thinking of uniform weights and sizes for our coinage, over three centuries ago.

Yahoo! publishes a handy video on things to watch out for. These include scams and cons on the net and on the phone.

But there are far deeper issues than that at stake about money and values and the role of the internet. A strong feeling persists that the net devalues lots of things, particularly the business of culture and creativity.

The Digital Parasites

The next section comes from a Los Angeles Times Irene Lacher Interview with Robert Levine, (December 2011) who wrote Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.

Levine told Lacher that when Napster came out he thought it was wonderful. The net would ‘give artists a way to reach fans directly and do business with them, and labels would have to compete and offer better deals. You’d have an even playing field for big companies and artists alike.’

He gradually realised that wasn’t happening. And it wouldn’t with so much piracy around. So, he wrote his book, focussing not on who’s doing well in net business, but ‘how the value that one business creates is being transferred to other businesses. If you want news to be reported or music to be recorded or movies to be made, there has to be some money in it. There has to be an advantage to the one who makes it, as opposed to subsequent distributors of it.’

His line was that the internet took away distribution costs of books and CDs and so on, but that the actual creativity of the work was the value and now that has been subsumed into everybody’s computer. All our smartphones. The unique creative spark is now in the hands of almost everyone.

He said there was pressure to offer culture for free, but creative work is devalued because of a misunderstanding of the media business. ‘You were under the illusion that you were paying for a thing. You were never really paying for a thing — you were paying for a piece of culture.’

And now nobody has a monopoly over their creative work. Anyone can (and does) distribute or share it. Of course there are still laws to prevent people from distributing any copyright material they fancy. But they are just not being enforced.

Levine felt that ‘it’s very hard to enforce copyright without violating other kinds of rights, especially privacy. But I don’t think it’s impossible.’ Laws always have to play catch-up to what actually happens in crime or civil matters. And protection of individual rights, corporate laws and public opinion are not in step with each other.

He cited the YouTube example. ‘They said, everyone upload anything you want. Somewhere in small type it said don’t upload anything that’s copyrighted, and then hey, if you don’t like it, send us a notice.’ He gave them credit for taking things down and now for filtering better.

The conclusion was that we will see a lot less investment in creative works, less risk or both. The newspaper industry has already reached that point, he said, and the gap is being filled by bloggers. Film studios are already risk-averse.

Another Perspective

Also December 2011, John Arnold published a reasoned argument on PhotoWalkthrough about the Robert Levine viewpoint, and took the debate further.

Arnold said there is more work being produced for less money now. People are getting better at taking pictures, for instance, and producing them to ‘a better shine.’ He argued that ‘this is as a result of the rapid educational possibilities of the internet and technology advances that have put in the hands of the masses the same creative tools that were formerly available only to a few.’

Shock horror, it turns out that there are loads more talented people out there who previously wouldn’t have had the education and tools needed to produce competitive quality work. People have always had talent, it’s the freely and cheaply available tools that make the creative difference.

He wrote of how elitism creeps in, when those who have the wherewithal want to stop others entering and set up barriers. The market will destroy that, though, as newer, hungrier companies ‘steal their lunch.’

In conclusion, he cried: ‘The message for Adobe, Hollywood and the big content producers is simple. Make your product available to people where they want to buy it (online) and make it affordable. ‘Cos one thing is for sure – we masses aren’t going to go back to making crappy quality work. The competition is here to stay.’

Got a creative (or otherwise) opinion to share? Let us know.

Other stories to test for authenticity:

How the Web Makes Bloggers Experts in Absolutely Everything, 8 April 2013

Music Industry Changes the Record On Its Financial Future, 18 March 2013

Wanted: More British Inventors, Engineers and Designers As Everyone Can’t Be Web Entrepreneurs, 12 February 2013

Talent Borrows, Genius Steals, But It’s Still Plagiarism on the Net, 26 September 2012

Intellectual Property Rights Are Web’s Grey Area, 21 March 2012

Image: US Dept of Agriculture