What Did Black Out Protesting SOPA Just Achieve?

image from www.google.com

COMMENTARY: With everyone and their mother decrying the passing of the SOPA bill, the White House eventually made its presence heard and also spoke out against it.

In an age of quickly accessible information sharing, the Wikipedias and Googles of the world were quick to denounce any moves to restrict the freedom of this information. The fact that original bill supporters are now jumping ship shows the power and influence that these organizations have. It was also a huge PR plus for the “opposers” in light of recent Occupy movements. In taking a stand, Google has aligned themselves with the hip kids, and pit themselves against the mighty machine, even though they themselves are part of that mighty machine. 

Let us not forget that however misguided and ulterior motived the actual SOPA bill was, its full title was the STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT. The danger of such wide damnation of this concept, is that those who are the intellectual copyright owners of the material trying to be protected, are being pushed away in favor of the amateur majority who post on sites like Youtube using copyrighted material.

The shift has been towards protecting the part timers who casually integrate other peoples copyrighted work, simultaneously disregarding those who own the material as being elitist or nescient if they don’t comply.

The situation has become discombobulated because the old school elite had it so good in their day, that they are now seen as the enemy to some extent. Meanwhile, the old school, seeing their once booming income being depleted, see progress as the enemy.

The simple fact is the value of content is being so drastically reduced, and the major players response is to cave to this inevitability. Dutifully accepting the fact that music is worth the miniscule amounts that Spotify and other streaming services value it at. The Majors are of course being paid off the top, so the full impact of such a move may not become fully obvious until these streaming companies are not able to balance the books and keep everyone happy.

If this does become the case, has the music industry shot itself in the foot and ruined a perfectly good business model that was under our noses the whole time? iTunes was a hub for legal sales, good returns for the artists, and a widespread and easily accessible user interface. It will surely be hit hard if Spotify takes a big percentage of the market share. Those without high level Spotify deals, the independent artists, will also be heavily affected in this scenario.

Meanwhile people have further been led to believe that music holds no worth, and can be shared or streamed at little or no price. Piracy will remain as prevalent as ever having seen the legal alternative settle so low, and the artists, content owners, and creators suffer even further as they try to cope with ever diminishing returns.

Is it not Google’s and co’s duty to use their same power in vetoing such a bill, to find an answer to the problem. Enabling a system for the copyright owners to earn the money to continue to create the content everybody craves?

Yes we all want to move forward, we all want to embrace new material and new forms of distribution. But if what we make is seen to be worthless and that becomes legally acceptable, what impact will that have to the future of content ownership and copyright control. 

Robin Davey is an Independent Musician, Writer and Award Winning Filmmaker. Follow him on Twitter @mr_robin_davey

Image via BuyBackWorld


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  1. The far-reaching consequences of this bill are just horrid, though — it removed presumption of innocence and replaced it with presumption of guilt, allowing far too many people of questionable authority to start shutting things down by way of methods destructive to the rest of the internet, and they wouldn’t have even needed proof. SOPA/PIPA completely discards Fair Use and Safe Harbor. The hackers already have ways around what SOPA/PIPA would do, but that would leave the rest of us at their mercy. Essentially any site that allows user-contributed content would be at risk, and that completely destroys the utility of the internet.
    [On a different note, copyright law in general needs to quit being manipulated by the media companies, specifically Disney and Warner, because they are stretching copyright out to unreasonable boundaries. Copyright does not exist for your children to live comfortably off your work. It exists for you to exact royalties for a finite period of time. At least that was the original intent.]
    Hear me here: I believe in paying the artists for their work. In fact, in spite of my rage against the machine, as it were, I do not pirate tunes off the net. For one thing, the quality is inferior. I do not look forward to the day where download-only is the medium, because, frankly, unless they make it available via lossless compression (a la FLAC), it’s not worth the price I pay. MP3 files suck rocks through a rope.
    However, when the distributors and promoters and their corporations are receiving 99% of the price charged for an album and an artist is getting SCREWED, that makes me very angry to think of that. If you’re going to complain about paying the artist, you need to address that at ALL levels, and not just at the consumers, because the suits are making money off YOU, the artist, just for “making it available”. The corporations take REAL money from the consumer and trickle it down to the artist. The perceived “loss” due to piracy — UNLESS IT IS SOLD AT THE OTHER END — is PLAY money, money that has not materialized in the pockets of the corporations, the ones who think they are somehow owed a living by leeching off the artists who make it possible for them to exist in the first place.
    The artists need to quit enabling the leeches.

  2. I think musicians should stay out of politics. I’ve bought a lot of Robin Davey’s music in the past, but now I know he supports this bullshit concept of “intellectual property” and “owning” ideas I never will again. In fact I try to avoid learning what goes on inside the heads of artists I like, because they usually turn out to be pretty empty and that spoils my enjoyment of their art. I never read interviews with seemingly ‘cool’ bands because too often they turn out to be idiotic right wingers. In this case I only read the article because Davey emailed it to me – as an ex-customer of his I must be on some sort of mailing list.

  3. Basic market laws… Scarcity brings value. In a ubiquitous media-centric age, where nearly any kind of content can be located, consumed, and shared in real time, the value of that content inevitably depreciates. It’s a mistake to think media consumers will continue to support any industry that is rapidly being replaced with new technology. This should be obvious to the author, considering most of your fans only became aware of the TBF through the FREE internet distribution model and viral marketing.
    I did in fact buy a TBF tshirt and CD from your store in support of the band. It’s the only CD I’ve bought in years. I still wear the shirt all the time, and I threw the CD away because I already had the whole album on most of my devices long before I ever considered buying it. CD’s are waste of space, and I’ll never be willing to pay per play. Things that are scarce have value. Food for thought…

  4. Free is fine as long as the artist is in control. The main point of the post was how the worth of music is being diminished. I think core fans always want to support the artist that is why they are fans, but if they think by signing up for a Spotify account to listen to music is supporting the Artist then that is going to have a drastic effect on the artists.

  5. Readers…as you can see..Robin Davey is one of those people who hate criticism so there-for uses sarcasm against the critic/s, If that fails to deter said critic..Next comes profanity…So….Dear readers…watch this space…Egotists like Davey and his tribe can’t help themselves, I was once an avid follower of the Bastards until I made the error of commenting that a certain singer was good but nowhere near as good as yellow Thunder Woman…(Now waiting avidly for in-coming diatribes) also…be careful of him having your comments blocked if he thinks he’s loosing an argument!

  6. While I think you have some interesting points about how society puts value on original content versus remix culture content, you miss the actual issues the ‘internet’ has with SOPA/PIPA.
    And to conflate disliking badly written legislature that has the potential to fracture the internet as it exists now, without effecting piracy AT ALL, with devaluing creative works is a pretty big straw man.
    I think this is the biggest problem in getting all sides of the table talking about this is that the discussion is often two entirely different discussions with each side unwilling, or unable, to acknowledge the other convo.

  7. Hi Again Arthur, you forgot to mention you were blocked for making racist and bigoted comments and also using multiple fake profiles like calling your self John Smith above.

  8. Anyone who thinks this act will actually end piracy probably needs to learn a thing or two about how piracy actually works. You don’t need the internet to get pirated material- be it music, movies, t.v shows or whatever. All over the world people buy pirated dvds, cds etc for a small fraction of the retail price. Sopa is not going to stop this. Sopa is only there to censor.

  9. Since when is music valued by the amount you have paid?
    This is not about the value of art, but the recompense of it.
    Millions can be made of music of little value, and invalubale art never seen or heard.
    As long as we are talking transactionally I don’t see the value of bringing art and artists into it.
    Speak business to business, art to an audience.
    As a business person you are entitled to the nominated value of your product. Thats business.
    Not Art.

  10. What about stuff thats not copyed? say i sell a load of games, cds, dvds and or blurays on ebay or trade them in store, Say the next person does the same and so forth. The person or persons who own the copyrighted material would only be paid once and lose out everytime it passes hands.

  11. If a law like SOPA existed all along, you probably wouldn’t be writing this blog, because no one would have ever heard of you. Sites like MySpace and FaceBook wouldn’t exist as they are, because no one would have risked total shutdown for fear of someone somewhere violating some copyright. I’m all for artists getting what they deserve, but your efforts would be much better served by going after the industries that parasite from the artists and call the shots rather than insulting the consumers who, after all, are where both your and the industries money comes from. Don’t forget, the consumers are what paid you in the first place and can just as easily stop paying you. By the way, just because someone disagrees with you (John Smith)and you’ve branded them a troll, it in no way diminishes the value of their point. Don’t bother saying you didn’t mean to insult the consumers. Hey, in my opinion, a real artist creates because they must, they like it, it makes them happy. If they can get paid for it, bonus. Someone who thinks they’re entitled to payment because they sang a song or drew a picture? Sorry, you’re not. Oh, did that insult artists? I didn’t mean to…and THAT is why I said don’t bother.

  12. Excellent responce !!! …..§:-))
    But you see , corporations are concidered to be persons ….since 1871

  13. @Cody Your first statement is ridiculous, if you make original music then you own it. Where am I insulting the consumers? I made a comment against someone who insulted me.
    If someone attacks me I am perfectly justified in defending myself.
    THe customers paid for a product that they received therefor it was a fair trade, so we are even in that respect. Although my band The Bastard Fairies was the first to ever give a full album away for free download, so I know a little bit about the benefits and pitfalls of that.
    Someone who makes a piece of copyrighted material is of course entitled to a payment should they so want it. Wether or not someone buys it is another thing, but that is not what we are talking about here.
    So Hugo pwned – absolutely not. My argument was completely coherent and Codi’s response was not actually to what I wrote but a predisposed idea of what she thought I wrote – so read it again and maybe have a dictionary at hand to help you understand.

  14. A. No. The whole point of the original bill was for big companies to have the legal authority to shut down sites that contained or might have contained minute traces of copyrighted material. The entire concept really had nothing to do with stopping pirated music. B. No one gives a rat’s ass who looks cool and who looks like the NME in some greater sell-out bow-out scenario. C. What the crap is Spotify?

  15. This was my response to The Bastard Fairies posting a link to this blog article on Facebook. After reading some of the comments here, I wanted to add my two cents to these comments as well:
    The value of anything is whatever someone is willing to pay for it. I’ve purchased music from The Bastard Fairies from their website and from Robin Davey’s newer music project. I downloaded the BF’s first album back in the MySpace days when you were giving it away. When you started to sell physical CDs, I purchased a signed copy from you and have more recently purchased digital copies of your newer music from your site. I think that is the smart play for the indy artist; to connect directly with their fans and sell them their music directly. The larger record labels are willing to take pennies from streaming services because the internet makes their entire business model obsolete. The indy artist shouldn’t worry about what the “big guys” are doing because their time is coming to an end, IMHO. Even some well known artist have seen this and are selling their music directly to their fans without major record labels involved. Lets, also, not forget the pay earned from performance… there was a “music industry” before there was the technology to record and replay sound.

  16. I said if the value of legal music is so low then it sways peoples opinion that music has no value and that piracy is not much different to the legal alternative. I was talking about the devaluation of music. I am not sure what you are referring to.

  17. Man that was a very well articulated response! That’s EXACTLY what the issue is. The artist are barking up the wrong tree. Talk to your labels, know your business. Stop signing 360 deals and giving your income away. Get smarter and stop signing retarded deals. Going indie is becoming a better and better move every year.

  18. Kudos to Robin trying to deal with people with internet access, it can be a headache and a half trying to reason or find some middleground.
    Anyway, I see the point you’re trying to make, I think. The internet and various sharing systems have made something that should be treated as gold being treated like an ordinary rock or just dirt although a lot of these artists put their heart and soul (sometimes a bit more) into their work just to see it tossed around, regurgitated into 32 different AMVs or picture slideshows and other strange ways it might be resurfaced. It’s like you rented black tuxedo, had bleach poured on it, ran through a slaughterhouse then thrown in the washer when its dry wash only. You end up with a small cluster of confusing looking mass that I like to call an individual song of this day and age.
    Some of us want to put value in music in the form of giant money signs. Some of us want to put value in music in the form of simply listening. Then there is a lot of us who don’t particularly care and just want 9000 + songs on their musical device of choice or want to listen to whatever they want whenever they want by paying the least or no amount possible. I’d like to say a lot of us fall into the third category.
    I feel that if a bill such as SOPA and its derivatives to come, would probably end up all about the money. An ultimatum of “YOU GOTZORZ COPYRIGHTED STOOF ON YOUR INTERWEB SITE! PAY ROYALTY AND SITE TEH SOURCE OR FEEL THE WRATH OF THE WEBSITE DESTROYERERERERER” or something with a little less caps and then if they didn’t comply they would get taken off the web. The would probably force their users to pay money for the service. They aren’t just going to start tearing down websites with copyrighted material. Could they? of course, would they? probable? The government isn’t ALWAYS out to screw you over, they want their music entrepreneurs to get the money they rightfully deserve, sure its nice you have five million views on a video but that doesn’t actually put bread on your table.
    Kudos again Robin Davey for at least trying to deal with the ‘public’ and I hope that you somehow got to someone with your input on this matter. Actually thinking about what other artists might feel about this sort of thing.

  19. Excellent post!!
    While SOPA/PIPA “sound” like a good idea on paper. They are both terrible in their execution because they would have allowed corporations to steal your copyright. And now there’s an even worse theft grab by these corporations in front of Congress right now, CISPA. With CISPA, the corporations can even come after if you have a garage sale and resell CDs or DVDs that you legally purchased. Unfettered and unbridled GREED is killing the US economy. Stop the corporations!!

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