Give the wookie what he wants!
"I have watched my 19 year-old daughter and her friends sample countless
bands on Napster and Kazaa and, enthusiastic for their music, go out to
purchase CDs. My daughter now owns more CDs than I have collected in a
lifetime of less exploratory listening. What's more, she has introduced me
to her favorite music, and I too have bought CDs as a result.
"And no, she isn't downloading Britney Spears, but forgotten bands from
the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, as well as their musical forebears in other
genres. This is music that is difficult to find - except online - but, once
found, leads to a focused search for CDs, records, and other artifacts."
Stirring words, and a round condemnation of those who want to stifle p2p
or better yet, buy up the most viable p2p apps so they can try to reduce
them to pitiful commercial packages.
They're the thoughts of Tim O'Reilly, founder and president of computer book
publishers O'Reilly & Associates and one of the best-known activists for
internet standards and for Open Source software.
And, as he says in his seven-point, end-of-the-year editorial Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the
Evolution of Online Distribution, "eBay is doing a nice business
with much of this material, even if the RIAA fails to see the opportunity."
After discussing how sites such as Amazon Sites have created virtual
storefronts, "for all the books in print cast a ray of light into the gloom
of those warehouses, and so books that would otherwise have no outlet at all
can be discovered and bought," Tim goes on to say:
"For all of these creative artists, most laboring in obscurity, being
well-enough known to be pirated would be a crowning achievement. Piracy is a
kind of progressive taxation, which may shave a few percentage points off
the sales of well-known artists (and I say 'may' because even that point is
not proven), in exchange for massive benefits to the far greater number for
whom exposure may lead to increased revenues."
He says 'piracy' is a loaded word which used to be reserved for wholesale
copying and resale of illegitimate product and, "The music and film industry
usage, applying it to peer-to-peer file sharing, is a disservice to honest
"Online file sharing is the work of enthusiasts who are trading their
music because there is no legitimate alternative. Piracy is an illegal
commercial activity that is typically a substantial problem only in
countries without strong enforcement of existing copyright law.
"At O'Reilly, we publish many of our books in online form. There are
people who take advantage of that fact to redistribute unpaid copies. (The
biggest problem, incidentally, is not on file sharing networks, but from
copies of our CD Bookshelf product line being put up on public Web servers,
or copied wholesale and offered for sale on eBay.) While these pirated
copies are annoying, they hardly destroy our business. We've found little or
no abatement of sales of printed books that are also available for sale
And on eBay, under Shoplifting is a bigger threat than piracy, Tim
says while few of the people putting books on public web servers try to
profit from the activity, "those who are putting up CDs for sale on eBay
containing PDF or HTML copies of dozens of books are in fact practicing
piracy - organized copying of content for resale. But even so, we see no
need for stronger copyright laws, or strong Digital Rights Management
software, because existing law allows us to prosecute the few deliberate
Actually, we don't have a substantial piracy problem in the US and
Europe, Tim states, emphasising that the fact that Microsoft's software
products have been available for years on warez sites (and now on file
trading networks) hasn't kept it from becoming one of the world's largest
and most successful companies.
"Estimates of 'lost' revenue assume that illicit copies would have been
paid for; meanwhile, there is no credit on the other side of the ledger for
copies that are sold because of 'upgrades' from familiarity bred by illicit
copies," he points out.
Other points covered in Tim's 'Thoughts for Today' ; ) include, File
sharing networks don't threaten book, music, or film publishing. They
threaten existing publishers; 'Free' is eventually replaced by a
higher-quality paid service; and, There's more than one way to do
it in which he sums things up with the ultimate lesson: " 'Give the
wookie what he wants!' as Han Solo said so memorably in the first Star Wars
movie. 'Give it to him in as many ways as you can find, at a fair price, and
let him choose which works best for him'."
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