2024-05-20 13:04:39
The problem is cultural and the consequences are economic theory

I am preparing for a meeting with Howard Rheingold, and on his site I have found this article. It is relaitvely old (hahaha: it was written in 2004), but it is new in the sense that it frames the question of piracy not as a legal or economic problem but a cultural one.

Ian Condry:Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan

I am buffled not by the simplicity of such an idea, but the lack of it in current discourse. Condry compares US and Japanese attitudes towards copying and notes:

“What is striking is that the contrast is less one of ‘Japanese culture’ being different

from ‘American culture’ but that American and Japanese fans share many

attitudes, while the responses of the Japanese business community differs

markedly from those in the US.”

“Taruishi and others in the music business place at least some of blame for
consumer copying on the recording industry for styles of promotion that
encourage thinking of music primarily as a commercial item. In 1990s Japan, he
explained, record companies relied heavily on promoting songs through tie-ups
with television commercials and prime time dramas. They focused on hit songs,
rather than developing fan relationships with artists and groups. Taruishi argues
that such practices taught fans that music is simply a commodity, not a piece of
the soul of an artist or group, and so fans had little compunction against simply
copying music CDs, whether from friends or rental shops.
In situations where the connection between artists and fans is viewed as
more direct, people will buy.”

“So Japan offers several lessons. Eliminate p2p and you still won’t
eliminate unauthorized copying. Marketing practices may be partly to blame for
fans’ willingness to copy music. Hits can be generated many ways, even without
major label promotion. Businesses have other options besides fierce copyright
enforcement. Manga and anime have flourished in the context of lax legal
responses. Japan, with its rental CD shops, karaoke boxes, and a soon-to-bebooming
market in ‘ring tunes’ (CD quality songs for ringing cell phones), shows
that possible futures for media businesses are various. US record companies
may be fighting the wrong battles.”

“In the fall 2003, I started asking students a new question: Is there some music you would always
pay for? Most students said yes. They mentioned indie artists, or artists from
their hometown, whom they know ‘need the money.’ Some students identified
major groups ‘with a solid track record of good albums.’ Other students
mentioned entire genres of music, notably, jazz and classical music, because ‘they
stand the test of time,’ and because they are not adequately supported by major
record companies.”

See my writing on the substitutability of cultural goods for similar arguments. 

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