A recent essay by Rasmus Fleischer in Cato Unbound does a great job of explaining the evolution — or better, the progressive convolution — of copyright, what’s become fundamentally different in our own time, and why any model based on our old conceptions of it are utterly doomed in anything less than a world police-state. It’s only fair to point out that Fleischer is part of the Swedish anti-copyright group Piratbyran, founders of the notorious file-sharing site Pirate Bay, so some could read this essay as simply justification for their own “questionable” activity. But Fleischer clearly lays out some real issues here, and there are many good examples of how the meaning of copying and sharing have transcended — and will only move farther from — the old models and enforcement. One of the most mind-boggling is this:

One early darknet [the term for the idea that people who have information and want to exchange it with each other will do just that, forming spontaneous networks which may be large or small, online or offline] has been termed the “sneakernet”: walking by foot to your friend carrying video cassettes or floppy discs. Nor is the sneakernet purely a technology of the past. The capacity of portable storage devices is increasing exponentially, much faster than Internet bandwidth, according to a principle known as “Kryder’s Law.”  The information in our pockets yesterday was measured in megabytes, today in gigabytes, tomorrow in terabytes and in a few years probably in petabytes (an incredible amount of data). Within 10-15 years a cheap pocket-size media player will probably be able to store all recorded music that has ever been released “” ready for direct copying to another person’s device.

In other words: The sneakernet will come back if needed. “I believe this is a “˜wild card’ that most people in the music industry are not seeing at all,” writes Swedish filesharing researcher Daniel Johansson. “When music fans can say, “˜I have all the music from 1950-2010, do you want a copy?’ “” what kind of business models will be viable in such a reality?”

I’d urge everyone to read the full essay, since this stuff will directly affect all our work, our entire career.

57 Responses to “Not Your Grandfather’s Copyright”
  1. J.C. Combs says:

    Jeff, I would agree re: competition in part, but you don’t mention anything about the free streaming process. These are visitors to your site? (perhaps you feel they need to DL to their system for repeated listens in order to gain interest which makes sense).

    As that article guestimates, 10 years or so until we can purchase all music (posted in one form or another) and carry it around in a cheap gadget. Shouldn’t the goal be to keep your music out of that loop as a composer of art music? It would seem that the music not available would become more intriguing down the line.

  2. J.C. Combs says:

    Note: I mean, obviously your music would become available once purchased, but just in the loop immediately free.

  3. I would hope that my music ends up archived in every possible way. Digital music is so much more fragile than analog music. It’s quite possible that the only surviving copy of one of my albums might be in some New Guinea teenager’s 10TB collection of Complete Everything 1950-2010.

    I’m very worried about preserving my art as I have no heirs. I want my pdf’s, my mp3′s, everything to be on as many computers as possible before I die.

  4. Steve Layton says:

    Jeff wrote: I’m very worried about preserving my art as I have no heirs. I want my pdf’s, my mp3’s, everything to be on as many computers as possible before I die.

    I’ll second that, Jeff.

  5. J.C. Combs says:

    The topic just expanded a bit, yet I still believe in maintaining integrity of the value of art. Regarding the rest, I’m more worried about humanity surviving than my music. I will keep a box of CDs of Jeff’s, Steve’s and my own works and bury them in my basement with a little tracking device, a beacon. When Philip K. Dick arrives on the scene escorted by ET, they not only will find our music, they will bring us back to life due to my quick thinking of adding hair samples with the CDs. And you guys thought I was crazy for asking for a lock of your hair.

  6. Jeff says:

    Haha… nice! Can’t wait!

  7. Getting back to publishing for a moment: two years ago I wrote a 75,000 word novel, a comic murder-mystery about orchestras called “The Baton Rouge.” It’s been read by some 50-plus folks, including three publishers, one of which held on to it for quite a while. (It turns out a junior editor was interested in it; the senior editor nixed it, saying “Novels about high culture don’t sell.” End of story.) But I sent the novel around to conductors when I sent my music –it centers on the murder a famous, vitriolic, sexist conductor– and the end result of one of the readings was that a) the conductor of a small orchestra asked to see my music after reading the novel (she said she read half of it while waiting at the DMV) and then commissioned my Flute Concerto; b) a violist asked for (and got) a piece for flute, 10 violas, and double-bass after reading the novel. So. Your fiction *may* be used as bait. Jeff, you might be interested in joining (in digest format) the Dorothy-L listserv — mainly about mystery writing; but there’s a lot of Preditors & Editors” with a list of who to *stay* away from.Best of luck, Robert Bonotto