In the aftermath of Congress delaying further action on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), there’s been a rush to summarize what the debate might mean for the future of technology and copyright policy. Naturally, we have a few thoughts.
One thing that is clear from the massive blowback is that the “business-as-usual” approach to policymaking is unlikely to produce results (at least not the results desired and expected by major industry trade groups). Unfortunately, some folks seem to be missing that point entirely, and are clinging to the idea that the SOPA/PIPA kerfluffle was simply Big Content vs. Silicon Valley.
We beg to differ.
Among the millions of people who voiced concerns about the scope and application of these bills were many copyright owners. We’re talking tens of thousands of arts and culture reps and even individual artists like MGMT, Trent Reznor, Amanda Palmer, Jason Mraz, Zoe Keating and more. What does this tell us? That a lot of folks with skin in the game are uncomfortable with Washington trade groups like the MPAA and RIAA claiming to represent their interests.
Another thing policymakers should keep in mind is that data is important when legislating around creative expression and technology. The good news is that there are more and more artists willing to share their insights. Take Zoe Keating, for example, who recently spoke to Digital Music News about how “the battle over piracy doesn’t really include artists.” Here’s another fun fact from the DMN story:
Keating actually doesn’t sell merch, and makes more than half of her income from recordings, according to breakdowns shared with us. And, before she found a good booking agent, recordings comprised more than 70 percent of income.
Is she an anomaly? It would probably be helpful to have some comparative data. That’s why we’re so excited to start highlighting some of the information gleaned from our Artist Revenue Streams project. We’ll be presenting various permutations of the rich data collected in this study throughout the year. In fact, if you’re going to be at MIDEM in Cannes, France next week, you won’t want to miss project co-director Kristin Thomson’s presentation, which includes some initial findings and how they relate to an artist’s “brand.”
All of this is to say that there is still more to uncover about how artists are being compensated in a digital age. This information is key to ensuring that policies aimed at curbing unauthorized distribution do what they’re supposed to do without unintended consequences.
It would also be interesting if policymakers were to take a close look at whether more could be done to encourage the major rightsholders to adapt their business models to the actual realities of the marketplace. Without putting too fine a point on it, the music industry has encountered disruptive technologies before and found a way to make it work in their favor. Radio is just one example. Copyright enforcement is important, but it’s only one side of the coin. Surely there is more to be done to bring the economics (and laws) around copyright more in line with consumptive realities.
The real takeaway from the SOPA/PIPA debate is that nearly everyone is a stakeholder — artists, fans, entrepreneurs, innovators and internet users, to name a few. Protecting creators’ rights is crucial, but so is understanding the experience of actual creators. FMC is here to help.