A bunch of intellectual property articles

by cloudier

So, back to our original example of the average musician only earning $23.40 for every $1,000 sold. That money has to go back towards “recouping” the advance, even though the label is still straight up cashing 63% of every sale, which does not go towards making up the advance. The math here gets ridiculous pretty quickly when you start to think about it. These record label deals are basically out and out scams. In a traditional loan, you invest the money and pay back out of your proceeds. But a record label deal is nothing like that at all. They make you a “loan” and then take the first 63% of any dollar you make, get to automatically increase the size of the “loan” by simply adding in all sorts of crazy expenses (did the exec bring in pizza at the recording session? that gets added on), and then tries to get the loan repaid out of what meager pittance they’ve left for you.

Oh, and after all of that, the record label still owns the copyrights. That’s one of the most lopsided business deals ever.

So think of that the next time the RIAA or some major record label exec (or politician) suggests that protecting the record labels is somehow in the musicians’ best interests. And then, take a look at the models that some musicians have adopted by going around the major label system. They may not gross as much without the major record label marketing push behind them, but they’re netting a whole lot more, and as any business person will tell you (except if that business person is a major label A&R guy trying to sign you to a deal), the net amount is all that matters.

RIAA Accounting: Why Even Major Label Musicians Rarely Make Money From Album Sales

Weather data—it might not be sexy, but it sure is valuable. In the US, much of this data is gathered by the federal government and made available to home users and corporations free of charge. In the UK, though, government weather data is controlled by the Met Office, which charges for access. Which model generates more social and economic benefits? According to an official EU report (PDF), it’s the American model. The US government spends only twice as much as the EU on gathering public sector information like weather and mapping data, but generates 10 times the economic value that Europe does by simply giving it away.

The essay was written to address what Pollock calls a “form of monomania in which monopoly rights, in the form of intellectual property, displace all else from our thinking on the subject. [The current paradigm] binds us to a narrow, and erroneous, viewpoint in which innovation is central but access is peripheral.” But access is important, he argues, because open access can often produce broader social benefits than secrecy. And not just for consumers—businesses can profit, too.

The classic examples are the Internet and the Web, two technologies created by government-funded research programs (DARPA and CERN, respectively). By making technology such as TCP/IP and HTML freely available, these research projects blossomed into the system we’ve inherited today—a system that has generated billions upon billions of dollars from advertising and direct commerce. In addition, the Web has unleashed a flood of human creativity and now provides access to an astonishing array of knowledge (along with a good deal of misinformation).

The value of the public domain

Google, the provider of the planet’s most popular online search engine, is perhaps the best known internet company in the world. With a market valuation in the tens of billions of dollars it is also one of the most successful. It is therefore the largest and most commercially successful open content company in the world even though it does not, at least at present, own any content at all. For Google derives the vast bulk of its present revenue from advertising. The ‘attention’ that sells the advertising is itself generated from Google’s role as a web search engine, the gatekeeper and organiser of the immense store of information that is the web. Without the web, Google, and the business model that supports it simply would not exist. Thus Google has only been possible because the information on the web is almost all open and anyone may freely access (and copy for their own purposes) the information posted on websites. Imagine if right from the start the web had been ‘closed’, and each website had required payment as well as an agreement not to copy its contents. Search engines, at least in their present form, would not exist and we would have seen neither the benefits of the services they provide nor the revenues they generate.

The value of the public domain [pdf] – The above article was a kind of summary of this layman-level paper.

It’s easy enough to find out how long copyrights last, but much harder to decide how long they should last—but that didn’t stop Cambridge University PhD candidate Rufus Pollock from using economics formulas to answer the question. In a newly-released paper, Pollock pegs the “optimal level for copyright” at only 14 years.

Researcher: Optimal copyright term is 14 years

Note that there are assumptions made in this paper, although it’s too technical for me to bother with right now.

Copyright exceptions: Fair Use

Fair use is one of the exceptions in copyright which allows use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission as long as the use can be considered fair. There is a four-factor analysis which must be applied to each use to determine whether the use is fair. Each factor is given equal weight. The goal is to achieve a balance between the rights of the copyright holder with the rights of the public. Fair use is also technologically neutral so the same analysis may be applied to any medium.

It is important that the four factors be understood and applied diligently. Should someone claim that their copyright has been infringed, the court can reduce the amount of money damages if the alleged infringer can show that they understood the fair use analysis and made a good faith determination that their use was fair.

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