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The following is a guest submission by Kieran Conrad, a student of Middlebury College.

The movie and music industries’ heavy lobbying, seen through the recently failed Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), demonstrates their outmoded value in today’s market. With the advent of the Internet, musicians, artists, writers, and filmmakers are now freer than ever to disperse their work directly to their fan base, allowing for cheaper albums, art, books, and movies, as well as higher profits for their creators. Meanwhile, the consumer gets the most for his dollar, since the purchases do not include middlemen such as industry executives and agents that inflate the product’s cost. This is what a free market looks like.

Take, for instance, the movie industry. With websites like Amazon and Netflix offering the feature to stream movies directly to consumers’ living rooms, traditional notions of cinema seems somewhat irrelevant in the digital age. The fact that people pirate movies and prefer to watch them in the comfort of their home should signal to the movie industry that it needs to adapt to the new market or suffer the consequences. If movie distribution evolved from production to cinema to production to digitizing for streaming capability, consumers would have their desires fulfilled.

The movie and music industries ought to look at the book publishing industry to learn about adaptability. Consider the number of bookstores that closed and notice how, despite the supposed dearth of places to buy tangible books, publishing and reading is booming now more than ever thanks to digital technology like e-publishing and e-readers. Authors now have the opportunity to utilize epub and djvu formats by distributing their work to e-readerships at a lessened cost, allowing for maximum profit. The Internet, with websites such as Reddit, allows people to distribute their written works freely to gain a readership. This strategy works well in the age of viral marketing, given the possibilities of fan pages on Facebook or channels on YouTube, creating an atmosphere of individualized markets of which any person with some common sense and drive can take advantage.

The biggest criticism from the movie and music industries regarding this new era of marketing is the absurd notion that piracy steals from the creator. The only criminal activity and instance of injustice revolves around those who pirate and sell intellectual property for profit. Otherwise, piracy merely serves as promotion and advertising in an era when promoters and advertisers are becoming unnecessary. It is not to say that these people are useless, no more than horse-and-buggy drivers were after the advent and proliferation of affordable automobiles; it simply says that the profession is unneeded, so laid-off middlemen merely need to find a new market in which they can serve or new talents that prove useful.

To see the benefits, take the musician, as an example, whose music is pirated and distributed through peer-to-peer networks. The artist has a Facebook fan page and a YouTube channel in which they are able to communicate with fans. With these tools, the musician is far more capable to write, produce, and share music, without having to share profits with agents, executives, and advertisers as much as in the past. Furthermore, a musician has the ability to analyze feedback and ratings to see which songs should be placed on an album, allowing the creation of more perfectly crafted art. One of the finest features in the digital music age is allowing the consumer to pick and choose which tracks they want to buy, instead of having to buy and album and be disappointed with most of it. It acts as an incentive for the artist to create their best work and the consumer to better reward the artists who serve them.

The publishing industry has adapted to the Internet age, so why won't the film and music industries follow suit?

Two examples of this mutual reciprocation in the age of piracy are the artist Skrillex and the comedian Louis C.K., each of whom addressed his fans regarding the use of piracy. A few fine examples of this mutual reciprocation in the age of piracy are the artist Skrillex and the comedian Louis C.K., each of who addressed their fans regarding the use of piracy. Skrillex, for instance, simply tells his fan base on Facebook that he knows people can pirate his work and even encourages them to do so, but he also asks that they donate some money to him for his work, an arrangement that has worked out to his advantage. The comedian C.K. Louis did the same thing with astounding results. Creators are able to self-advertise, self-generate, and self-capitalize in a self-reliant free market.

These are just two examples of how in a free market, with the removal of agents, executives, advertising, distribution, and legal costs, the consumer and the creator benefit and are rewarded the most, while industries that refuse to adapt fail. But, outmoded industries should not succeed on their own volition through turning to Congress to deny the free market at the expense of the consumer and creator, which is precisely what has been happening in Washington lately. Instead, they should embrace change and start innovating to make better products for the consumer and thereby more profit.

Would you like to see your work on SFL website?  If you are a libertarian student interested in writing a guest submission, please email Blog Content Manager Casey Given at cgiven@studentsforliberty.org.

Students For Liberty is pleased to announce that the Cato Institute will be hosting 6 breakout sessions during this year’s International Students For Liberty Conference.

The Cato Institute’s breakout session topics will include:

  • Restoring Constitutional Liberty
  • Privacy Under Attack
  • Liberty and Foreign Policy
  • Global Warming: How State-sponsored Science Threatens Liberty
  • Government Schooling for a Free Society? It Sounds Wrong Because it is Wrong
  • Free Markets: The Best Healthcare You’ve Never Had

Be sure to check out the full line up of breakout sessions, and register for the conference by Friday, February 3!

This year’s International Students For Liberty Conference is shaping up to be the largest gathering of libertarian students ever. Last year, over 500 students from all over the world attended the fourth annual International Students For Liberty Conference, and this year we are on pace to easily break that attendance record.

This year’s conference will feature such guests as John Stossel, Peter Thiel, and GoRemy, as well as breakout sessions hosted by the Cato InstituteGOProud, the National Rifle Association, and many other fantastic pro-liberty organizations.

If your publication is interested in covering the year’s premier event for libertarian students, we want to make the process as simple as possible. Media outlets will be given a media pass, which includes:

  • Free registration
  • Priority seating in general sessions
  • Exclusive access to speakers and students for interviews
  • Complimentary internet access at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

If your newspaper, magazine, student publication, news website, Youtube channel, blog, or other form of media outlet is interested in covering the conference, simply fill out this form and SFL will be in touch with you shortly.

If you have any further questions relating to media or communications, please contact SFL Communications Manager Megan Roberts at mroberts@studentsforliberty.org.

We are proud to announce that European Students For Liberty’s Executive Board member, Wolf von Laer, has earned 2nd place in the European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation‘s prestigious International Vernon Smith Prize.

The Vernon Smith Prize is highly competitive. This year alone the ECAEF received papers exploring the topic, “The Rule of Law in Decline,” from 21 different countries. The three winners, decided upon by an international jury, are granted thousands of euros and invited to present their papers at a special event in Vaduz, the Principality of Liechtenstein on January 30th. You can download Wolf’s paper, “The Decline of the Rule of Law and the Emergence of Regime Uncertainty,” here.

Wolf von Laer is currently working towards his Master’s degree in Austrian Economics under Dr. Jesus Huerta de Soto at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid. He learned about the Vernon Smith Prize through the Institute for Humane Studies‘ Graduate Student Newsletter, which provides information on many great opportunities open to graduate students. Do you want to stay in the loop? Subscribe to the Graduate Student Newsletter and learn more about the great resources that the IHS provides for both undergraduates and graduate students. And remember that you can get updates about additional contests and opportunities by joining SFL’s network and following us on Facebook!

This article was co-written by Campus Coordinator Moriah Costa of Arizona State University in collaboration with Luca Gattoni-Celli of the College of Charleston

When women in the United States won the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, it was a significant victory in a long struggle for equality. Women have come very far since the days of being considered their fathers’ or husbands’ property. In recent years, they have attained new opportunities for success in the work place and elsewhere. Instead of being told that, “the female’s whole life is wrapped up in her vital role as a wife and mother” to quote a 1948 book about female sexuality, women are now told that they can have a career and a family. Yet, they are still not considered equals by many men in both social and professional settings. Women continue to face widespread discrimination and disrespect. As libertarians, we should find this alarming. There are certainly biological differences between men and women, but gender inequality is a separate issue. When applying for a job, an individual should be evaluated on the basis of accomplishment, not her gender or his ethnicity. Men and women alike should be evaluated on individual merit.

Do "Toddlers in Tiaras" give girls a healthy image of femininity?

The importance of individual merit is embraced by most libertarians. However, we find that some libertarians do not take feminism seriously, or even consider gender inequality an issue. If we are intellectually honest about the world around us, it is clear that the world is still misogynist even as society enters a fourth wave of feminism. Advertising and mass media portrayals of women are frequently shallow and superficial, focused only on the physical aspect of the individual. For example, the TLC reality program Toddlers in Tiaras features young girls competing in beauty pageants. Although they are judged on their talents and personalities as well as their beauty, these young girls are dressed in an overtly sexualized manner. Outside of their sexual role, women face difficulty being taken seriously. Meryl Streep, a great dramatist, struggles to have the innate validity of her work and characters recognized. In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, she remarked, “No one has ever asked an actor, ‘You’re playing a strong-minded man.’ We assume that men are strong-minded, or have opinions. But a strong-minded woman is a different animal.” A strong-willed woman contrasts sharply with the passive, reactive feminine stereotype almost ubiquitous in Western cultures. A tough woman is considered an overbearing diva while a tough man is thought to be acting appropriately. Women are often encouraged to seek more “feminine” roles, even in the work place. Only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, despite strong evidence that corporations with women in top positions achieve higher financial performance. A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Female Directors: Why So Few?” states: “Major companies with three or more female directors achieved significantly better financial results than those with none between 2004 and 2008, according to a 2011 study by Catalyst, a nonprofit research group.” To be sure, causality could flow either way, and most executives began their professional lives in far more sexist settings than today’s work environment. Nevertheless, the absence of women in top management and executive positions is striking.

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher

The trend also exists in politics. Margaret Thatcher (whose portrayal by Meryl Streep was the subject of the interview cited above) earned the nickname “Iron Lady” with her tenacity and resolve in the face of incredible public and political pressure. She outwitted and outworked her male counterparts, rising to become Prime Minister of Great Britain in the late 1970s and 1980s. Throughout her political career, she was dogged by snide comments and criticism from observers who, in so many words, were uncomfortable with a woman holding so much power. The encouragement of “proper” gender roles starts at an early age. Even marketing of toys to boys and girls reflects this culture, and as this viral video illustrates, some children understand that they are being subverted.

Despite the evidence, libertarians are arguably more inclined than other ideological groups to brush off claims of sexism. We view the individual as captain of his or her own destiny and hold a strong conviction that he or she can triumph over enormous adversity with sufficient force of will. Many libertarians have never faced significant socioeconomic constraints such as racial discrimination, so they have difficulty empathizing with individuals who do. Another libertarian critique is that many feminists assume their grievances are best resolved by the force of government (as do members of other contemporary cultural and social movements). While many basic objectives of self-described feminists such as wage equality have essentially been met, a toxic culture continues to surround gender in our society. Given trends including the greater enrollment and success of women than men in American colleges, there has actually been a push back against efforts to advance the interest women have in recognition as individuals. However, this reaction is misguided. The social hostility women face is subtle yet pervasive. It should be taken seriously, and classical liberals are in a unique position to appreciate and understand the need for a paradigmatic shift in the culture and even the basic social construction of gender.

As individualists, we hold something of great potential value to those who seek gender equality. We can offer an ethical framework of dignity and innate human value. We can offer an economic framework that selects against arbitrary discrimination and empowers the vulnerable to become as wealthy as the richest members of their parents’ generation. We can offer them an ethos of respect and self-reliance. We can offer them a pathos that emphasizes an exchange of values and ideas within a supportive community. Both ideologies seek a world in which the dignity of all individuals is universally recognized. They seek a world in which merit determines professional outcomes, where civility and respect triumph over bigotry and violence. Whether as a libertarian you are on the right or the left, thick or thin, you are already a feminist. At its core, feminism is not about women getting special privileges. It is about men and women being respected equally. As we strive together along the path of human progress, let us remember the small steps we can and must take in our own lives to become a part of the solution instead of a problematic status quo.