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.
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.