Copyright, theft and ministry II: welcome to the new renaissance!
Between Claude's post: "You Shall Not Steal Thy Brother’s Song
", my comments, and then my post below: "Copyright, theft and ministry
" there has been some discussion recently of Christian music, copyright and money.
- The issue is not going away any time soon.
- Problems financing online biblical content are similar.
- Although illegal copying of music is widespread it is publicly discussed seldom in Christian circles.
I'll give it another go!
As background, here is how I
understand our situation:
- Christian ministry needs to be paid for
- although amateur efforts are great professionals are needed too
- few churches can really employ musical originators
- Copying of recorded music is:
- endemic - can YOU be certain you have no "pirated" material on your MP3 player. or family computer
- technically easy - despite record companies flirting with dubious protection technologies (think Sony and "rootkits") in fact all they do is restrain the less determined or technically literate users from "pirating"
- culturally almost accepted1 (see 1 above, opinions are still quite split, but informal evidence suggests an inverse correlation of age and knowledge of, and respect for, copyright laws)
- No one has yet found a way to turn downloads into cash (dreams of advertising revenues may change this, but have yet to be proven viable for material other than blogs and other text-based sites dedicated to such a business model)
- The morality (and cultural desirability) of the notion of intellectual "property" is debatable2 .
Keith comments on my post below
It is expensive to produce music and tour. How do you propose Christian musicians do this in a world that is used to paying for the products it consumes?
I wish I knew! That is my point. I do not see a future where renewed private morality ensures that we all dutifully avoid "consuming" pirate music, videos etc.. DRM schemes will
fail (they represent at best an ineffective sea wall against a storm tide). Advertising may
succeed though as I wrote below
iTunes sales are beginning to flatline, and Peter Gabriel (the musician and Internet angel) and other less famous investors are setting up an ad-supported (un-DRMed) MP3 download service. Whether this will work, whether we like the idea of adverts everywhere, or not, this reinforces the deep roots of free culture in the electronic world.
I think Keith's claim that we live in a "world that is used to paying for the products it consumes" is not true any longer for "intellectual products", at least when they are distributable online. And in such a world I begin to wonder if a return to some form of patronage (see "Subscription, advertising and appeals online
") is the only answer. To some extent this is already our situation, churches support preachers and increasingly musicians, educational institutions support certain forms of publication (at least through research time, but increasingly through direct payment towards publication), companies sponsor sports teams and symphony orchestras...
...welcome to the new renaissance!
NB. Claude has posted again
in "Christians and the Copyright Laws
" on the specific issues of Christian music, I have not commented on that post here as this post is already too broad and I wanted to ficus on the financing of publishing (of music, and other intellectual "products") today.
Peter Kirk also has an interesting and careful discussion "Is breach of copyright theft
?" which is well worth adding to your reading on this topic! In a comment on his own post Peter refers to "Copyrights and Copying: Why the Laws Should Be Changed
" by Vern Poythress concluding:
Poythress says he can only speculate on
what might happen if the restrictions on copying were loosened.
Not quite, he can look at what happens in the many countries in the world (mostly towards the East) where such restrictions, even if existing in theory, are in practice not enforced and ignored by almost everyone. I used to live in such a country. But his speculations seem reasonably accurate about what things were like there: life went on, but intellectual work tended to depend on sponsorship.
I am still in the middle of the first semester marking crisis, and so reading Poythress and further comment will have to wait!
1. How culturally acceptable it is may be debated, "pirating" intellectual property is evidently illegal in most countries, but the ubquity and scale of copying (here I offer the increase in plagiarism in student essays as hard evidence) suggests that culture and law are at odds here. [return
2. The notion of "intellectual property is modern, it was introduced to protect "authors" from publishers. It is now used mainly to protect publishers from the public. It is culturally vital that ideas (including artistic "ideas") get remixed. The concept of property relates to physical objects, "intellectual property is immaterial. Yet "authors" need to derive a living from their work, unless all creativity is to be a spare time activity. [return