Music Business

Swedish Pirate Party Founder Says “Kill Copyright”

Copyright-brandedOP Ed by Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, from TorrentFreak.

People sometimes ask how the artists will get paid if – no, when – the copyright monopoly is abolished. This question is not based on facts.

Every time somebody questions the copyright monopoly, and in particular, whether it’s reasonable to dismantle freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of information, and the privacy of correspondence just to maintain a distribution monopoly for an entertainment industry, the same question pops up out of nowhere:

“How will the artists get paid?”.

The copyright industry has been absolutely phenomenal in misleading the public in this very simple matter, suggesting that artists’ income somehow depend on a distribution monopoly of publishers. If the facts were out, this debate would have been over 20 years ago and the distribution monopoly already abolished quite unceremoniously.

There are three facts that need to be established and hammered in whenever somebody asks this question.

First: Less than one percent of artists’ income comes from the copyright monopoly. Read that sentence again. The overwhelming majority of artists get their income today from student loans, day jobs, unemployment benefits, and so on and so forth. One of the most recent studies (“Copyright as Incentive”, in Swedish as “Upphovsrätten som incitament”, 2006) quotes a number of 0.9 per cent as the average income share of artists that can be directly attributed to the existence of the copyright monopoly. The report calls the direct share of artists’ income “negligible”, “insignificant”. However, close to one hundred per cent of publishers’ income – the income of unnecessary, parasitic middlemen – is directly attributable to the copyright monopoly today. Guess who’s adamant about defending it? Hint: not artists.

Second: 99.99% of artists never see a cent in copyright monopoly royalties. Apart from the copyright industry’s creative accounting and bookkeeping – arguably the only reason they ever had to call themselves the “creative industry” – which usually robs artists blind, only one in ten thousand artists ever see a cent in copyright-monopoly-related royalties. Yes, this is a real number: 99% of artists are never signed with a label, and of those who are, 99% of those never see royalties. It comes across as patently absurd to defend a monopolistic, parasitic system where only one in ten thousand artists make any money with the argument “how will the artists make money any other way?”.

Third: Artists’ income has more than doubled because of culture-sharing. Since the advent of hobby-scale unlicensed manufacturing – which is what culture-sharing is legally, since it breaks a manufacturing monopoly on copies – the average income for musicians has risen 114%, according to a Norwegian study. Numbers from Sweden and the UK show the same thing. This shift in income has a direct correlation to hobby-based unlicensed manufacturing, as the sales of copies is down the drain – which is the best news imaginable for artists, since households are spending as much money on culture before (or more, according to some studies), but are buying in sales channels where artists get a much larger piece of the pie. Hobby-based unlicensed manufacturing has meant the greatest wealth transfer from parasitic middlemen to artists in the history of recorded music.

As a final note, it should be told that even if artists went bankrupt because of sustained civil liberties, that would still be the way to go. Any artist that goes from plinking their guitar in the kitchen to wanting to sell an offering is no longer an artist, but an entrepreneur; the same rules apply to them as to every other entrepreneur on the planet. Specifically, they do not get to dismantle civil liberties because such liberties are bad for business. But as we see, we don’t even need to take that into consideration, for the entire initial premise is false.

Kill copyright, already. Get rid of it. It hurts innovation, creativity, our next-generation industries, and our hard-won civil liberties. It’s not even economically defensible.


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  1. This is just stupid.
    Copyright doesn’t simply protect what this person puts forward as a traditional artist, it also happens to protect every citizen online. EVERY CITIZEN…something your party professes to care about.
    What people on the anti-copyright side want you to believe is that copyright is incompatible with todays society and technology. It is an outdated idea.
    However it is actually more important than ever before. In the past, average citizens wrote things that were never published or seen, we took photos that were never published or see, etc, so copyright rarely had any value or affect on us. Today we share everything. Everyone today is a rights owner and we are entitled to the right to protect the things we create. Without that right…with copyright destroyed or “killed,” tech companies will have no barriers at all or any interest in protecting anything you value because they won’t have to. In Rick Falkvinge’s vision of the future we gladly hand over all of our rights to privacy and ownership of our ideas, our photos, in fact everything we create. Without copyright any tech platform in the future will be able to include Terms of Use strategies whereby they own everything you post, not via copyright, but by an agreement.
    “Kill copyright, already. Get rid of it. It hurts innovation, creativity, our next-generation industries, and our hard-won civil liberties. It’s not even economically defensible.”
    The problem with copyright and innovation is that instead of finding a solution to the problems and barriers copyright seems to have with today’s technology, we have seen companies ignore it and “innovate” without any consideration around the idea of how their entire industries are build on the intellectual property of others. Pull all the copyright materials from all of the social media platforms out there and what do you have? Nothing.
    As for civil liberties…really? Civil liberties include ideas like freedom of speech, but also include the right to own property and the right to defend yourself. Copyright absolutely grants someone the right to not only own property but defend that property.
    If you plan on saying to people that every written word, every photo taken, etc has no ownership and none of us have any right to these things, you basically set a precedent for the complete dismantling of our privacy, which is a mainstay of your party’s position. You stand for increased privacy of individuals, but if I have no ownership of my words, my thoughts, my images, my videos…how will you enforce privacy, since nothing belongs to me?

  2. Agreed. This displays an amazing ignorance about how the business works. To wit: “the overwhelming majority of artists get their income today from student loans, day jobs, unemployment benefits, and so on and so forth”.
    Really? Including Lennon/McCartney? Jagger/Richards? I’m sure Bruce Springsteen would be surprised to hear this. This might be true given the sheer volume of people calling themselves “artists” these days, but if you’re talking widely recognize established artists, this is nonsense.
    The author offers no proof of his claims, which leads one to believe he’s only guessing, based on a limited knowledge of how the business works.

  3. Oh my… There is an ungodly amount misinformation in this article.
    That “overwhelming majority of artists get their income today from student loans, day jobs, unemployment benefits, and so on and so forth” line really got me too. Even speaking about lower level artists like myself that’s not true. Or how about the artists that make their money from licensing and such. With no copyright that all goes away.
    I think there’s definitely room for improvement in the flexibility of intellectual property in general. But just killing the whole idea isn’t the solution.
    Oh, and if I’m considered an entrepreneur rather than an artist, so be it. That only furthers the argument for intellectual property protection, like every other business gets.
    By the way, we really should be posting these comments on the original post at Torrent Freak.

  4. pretty immature post all around, and completely impractical for anyone who doesn’t want to get ripped off.
    “Any artist that goes from plinking their guitar in the kitchen to wanting to sell an offering is no longer an artist, but an entrepreneur…”
    oh, grow up. god forbid someone gets to make a living doing what they love. if you do you’re “selling out.” i remember having discussions like that in junior high and thinking how deep i was because of it. this is no better.

  5. Let me tell you who would win in a chaotic world that didn’t protect people’s ideas….Big business. It won’t be a new age of freedom for anyone but them as they steal and take thousands of ideas from the “small guy”, no longer needing to employ or collaborate with him and use their finance to push it for themselves, cutting the “small guy” out completely. Like all pro-piracy nonsense there are certain things that would only work if nobody got paid for their jobs, money was no longer needed, capitalism was phased out. As much of an ideal that this might be to some this is currently not the world we live in. Protect those who create and accept that talent, art, ingenuity is not shared out to people equally.

  6. I earned about $32,000 last year (not a lot, but I’m a full time musician & music teacher with no other income, including none from the government, although my wife does receive some family based payments. I primarily write and perform music for children) about a 1/3 of my income was from copyright based sources. Not less than 1% close to 33% I am not signed and the bulk if that copyright income comes from agency distribution from income from licensing fees paid by venues, radio and other music users. The agency takes less than 2% as a collectors fee. So, the writer of this article needs to cite some sources because his info doesn’t come close to matching my reality.

  7. Copyright monopoly stands in direct opposition to both actual property rights (see N. Stephan Kinsella) and privacy (effective enforcement of the foolish monopoly on copying requires all communication and digital information processors to be impossibly tightly monitored and controlled, it’s the nature of freely infinitely replicable digital data. If you think copyright helps privacy you’re seriously confused).
    You can have copyright or civil liberty, not both. Pathetic to see some “artists” cosying up to the worst kind of wannabe fascists. At best you’re useful idiots for people who want a global police state.

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