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26 November 2007

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Jonathan Feinstein

Stephen,

Just read your blog. I share your sentiments and agree with your assessment that there are payment systems that work. However, I read Jaron's comments differently. I believe he was saying that the attitude in the valley was that paying creators was not important; that the benefits of fulfilling the technological manifest destiny were sufficiently glorious to justify ignoring impediments such as creator's rights. Furthermore, that this attitude relegated the problem of compensation to such a minor role in the shared valley vision that it was deprived it of the full benefit of the valley's innovative energies. Jaron's point is, I believe, that this failure, let alone the amount of effort expended on creating means to avoid payment, is shameful not righteous. This is not a new idea, but it gains new credibility from its source. Jaron's call for technologists to recognize and remedy this omission is promising. We should all hope that it resonates well.

J/

BTW, copyright is not, strictly speaking, the source of your licensing complaints. It would be more accurate to describe the problem as one of split copyright administration. The European societies license for many different uses with a standard fee structure without the need for government action. Here in the US we are disadvantaged by the fact that many of the different forms are licensed by different organizations or no organizations at all. Some of this is due to the historical efforts of groups such as the radio conglomerates that lobby the government and use the antitrust laws to limit the effectiveness of existing licensing organizations. The statutory licensing of musical works, that began with player piano rolls and transmogrified into rent control for record labels, also finds its origins in antitrust concerns. Over the years the licensing organizations have themselves grown comfortable with their 'turf' and form another bulwark. It is a complex state, but certainly not Gordian. It is ironic that past legislative attempts to prevent potential anticompetitive behavior have established market biasing entitlements instead. We will all be far better off without further introducing the hungry, short-sighted, circus bear of government into an industry that needs to speedily develop a modern marketplace. As I wrote and have often said, we need only look to the financial markets and the worldwide phone billing systems to see that a scaleable, fluid market for digital works is possible and likely inevitable. Given a unit of measure that spans all forms of delivery, such as one person perceiving a work one time, the problem becomes one of accounting rather than negotiation. If the valley had taken this problem seriously we would be closer to that day now.

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