Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Response to

Response to an article I found via Slashdot:

Why Money Doesn't Motivate File-sharers

"File-sharers aren't motivated by financial gain, but by altruism, according to an economist. Joe Cox, of the Portsmouth Business School, said those uploading content for others to share don't see what they're doing as illegal, meaning current tactics to deter piracy are doomed to fail. 'The survey data suggested there was a deep-seated belief that this type of activity shouldn't be illegal, that there was no criminal act involved.'"

Here are my thoughts in reaction:
  • I am not surprised that sharers are motivated by altruism.  Generally whenever there is a breach between means and ends you can be certain that altruism is part of the moral defense of that action.  Notice that the sharers don't care what happens to the producers of the art, nor whether great art will ever be created again.
  • The author of the original article suggests that we re-classify music as a public good and have it supported by "potential funding from the public sector".  This idea is a non-starter for a few reasons:
    • It breaks price rationing.  Suppose for arguments sake that you agree that arts should be publicly funded.  You still have to answer what portion of your productive return you wish to dedicate toward investment in art production.  You also have to answer what constitutes art, and which art in particular is deserving of your investment.  On a free market with protection of intellectual property, this is handled by price rationing.  The author proposes no solution for these problems, which he fails to identify.
    • It hands over control of what constitutes art and which art is deserving of support to the government.  At best, this means it becomes the result of an average of averages and that necessarily trims out the best and worst art which means a lean toward the mediocre.  At worst, this leads to art determined by a czar or dictator and, in the end, a frightening amount of control of the future of intellectual development in the hands of some micro-minority in control of government.  These are the seeds of tyranny.
    • It will over-reward mediocre artists and under-reward the ones who produce the most popular works.  Ultimately, creating a fund to pay artists will end up implementing some egalitarian scheme.  Only a method of protecting the rights of art producers on a free-market will reward the most deserving (with the most profits).
  • I agree that the existing artist rights model is broken.  But public funding is selling your soul to the devil.