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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Economics of Copyright Reform (in Next)

David Francis asks, quite reasonably, how information producers will be paid without the present copyright arrangements (Next, 1/6). I believe the answer will depend on the nature of the information product or service, rather than the present catch-all approach.

Firstly, time-critical information can still be traded: a producer of a valuable financial report would not give it away when others are willing to pay for it. Similarly, the first person to purchase it will also try and on-sell it (for a lower price). Only at the end of this chain, when the residual value is negligible, will it be given away. So there will still be a market for many quality publications.

Secondly, advertising will continue to fund much content. (This newspaper is largely funded by advertising, not subscriptions.) In an effort to stop people lifting the content and leaving the ads, we can expect the trend of paid comment, product placements and advertorials to increase.

Thirdly, people will still pay for experiences: live performances, screenings and events for musicians, actors and other artists. People will pay to physically access these venues to have the chance of participating in a group.

Fourthly, consumers will invest in expensive productions through pledged sponsorship funds. This already happens for some software. How many Harry Potter or Star Wars fans would pre-purchase their copy two years in advance? Enough to make it worth the while of Ms. Rawlings or Mr. Lucas, no doubt.

Lastly, there are no guarantees that everyone currently making a living out of producing information will continue to do so. Also, new unanticipated jobs will emerge. Like any economic shift there will be winners and losers. Take music for instance: without copyright and the studio system, we can expect less corporatised Britney Spears and more local pub bands and DJs.

I believe that on balance copyright reformation will strengthen our society and enrich our lives.


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