31.8.07

Bazaar Blanket - Blanket Licenses done right

Bazaar Blanket, a term I've just invented, is my intention to (re)define blanket licenses in a way that they might in fact work. For that matter I'm going to try to explain the concept of blanket licenses, what are the flaws of that licenses, and how could they work.

We're, fortunately, starting to hear about "Blanket Licenses" more and more, specially related to the music world. This is a concept that appeared as a way to redifine copyright and its issues. As you surelly know piracy is growing more and more, and while we're allways listining that "piracy is bad", "piracy is wrong", there are two statistics that should not be ignored: for one people are listening to more and more varied music, and seem to be more interested in music and art in general; on the other hand most people who practice any form of that so-called "piracy" don't consider or feel that they are doing something wrong, even if they know that they're doing something that society says it is wrong. So, copyright might be outdated (I believe it is, and I may talk about that later, but that's not the point of this article). But do we really need copyright? Some people thought that, while the concepts behind copyright might be good (I say might because you have to believe that copyright is aimed to give financial and moral retribution to artists) they also think that the actual scenario is wrong, with big corporations get the big stake of the profits and the control of the art without being really involved in the process, while artists win nothing but exposure with the deal, and consumers are treated as criminals (and these are really the two parts related to the art itself). So, they think that all this mess could be solved with a "blanket license": people pay a fair fixed price per month and have the right to have access to any form of copyright material they want to (legalizing the big bulk of p2p traffic that entities like RIAA or MPAA want to anihilate). Those same people usually point out uniquely one downside of this: its implementation would have to allow the perfect calculation of what content and how many times is being transfered, as a way to pay for the copyright holders for it, and that's difficult.

Now my part: I've allways said that I don't agree with blanket licenses, which amazes many people. Here's why: I don't believe you could implement a fair blanket license.

First, you would have to force people to pay, or they wouldn't. See, I pay my water bill, but if I don't I'll stop having water at home. Now, if you would have water in the pipes anyway, do you really think that people would pay for the water? Notice that we're talking about the same people that many times can buy the music they're downloading in an online shop, but they don't. Of course that you can avoid that and do what some countries, including Portugal, do with physical media: every CD, DVD, hard drive, pen disk or other physical media they remembered of pays a "copyright tax", so everytime you buy a CD-R you're paying a copyright fee, and every time you're buying a CD burner you're also paying a "copyright tax". The problem here is quite obvious: I never burnt on my CD/DVD burner any CD-R or DVD-R with copyrighted material without permission, but still I payed that tax, and I don't like it. So, if you force people to adhere for that blanket license and pay for it, is it really good?

Then, the question of retribution: how can you see which copyright holder gets 100 and which ones gets 10? Thinking that you can implement such scheme is completely ridiculous: that doesn't even work (nor is fair) in radio station licenses, where there's a similar scheme implemented, with the particularity that it is a closed environment (one entity to pay to, one list per month to report to that entity, each licensee needs to give that list). But let's look wider: if RIAA can't stop (and is avidly trying to) piracy, do you think they could do the tracking necessary (basicly the same) to make blanket licenses fair, specially when they're getting their money anyway (so they don't really get any monetary benefict in doing such an effort)?

So, how to fix "blanket licenses" and turn them into something praticable? Welcome to the "Bazaar Blanket". First of all, this is almost a request for comments, this ideas I'm writting aren't really well defined. This is something that must evolve until reaches a state of "full praticability", meaning that it must be in a way that it turns out to being the obvious way to lid with this matter. Also, I know quite well that this is almost "radical", utopic, and I know that the actual copyright industry would never let such thing to be implemented.

Abolish the concept of copyright. Copyright is outdated. Copyright doesn't work. Plus, copyright isn't needed, at all. I'm starting with this so you understand from the start why I say that the copyright industry would never accept this: without copyright there's no copyright industry. But that's exactly the particularity of abolishing copyright that makes that abolition necessary. See, to get the most of art, you need artists that are free to be artists, and you want that anyone, in any case, can get access to art. Societies without art do not evolve (I really should put a reference here, but if you fuss a little you'll find thousands of resarch papers telling you this). Copyright could be defined as the process of putting barriers between the artists and the general public, so, as we don't want barriers, we don't really want copyright. Oh, BTW, abolishing copyright is what I'm really calling "Bazaar blanket", since it solves everything.

Let me explain. The first issue I pointed out to blanket licenses is that people would be force to aquire such licenses. Well, without copyright they don't, no copyright means no need to have a license that lets you have access to the content. The second issue is that artists should get money fairly. Well, paying for the art is a astonishing concept that we're forcing to accept, but I defy someone to really understand and deffend it. See, I understand that artists should get money - I really do, and I want that they can get that money with this Bazaar Blanket, but if you can reproduce something tending to the infinite with a cost tending to none, then the price of the thing you're reproducing tends to none. Damn, I'm listening to an awsome music that I didn't pay nothing for, and I'm not taking nothing to no one while doing so: this CD was bought by a friend that lended it to me, but since there's nothing like "while you're listening to it I can't" (remember, the reproducing cost is virtually none) I'm not priving anyone of anything. So, should music be free? YES! That doesn't mean that artist shouldn't make money. See, there are physical costs with being an artist. For instance, I'm listening to a CD, and while the music in it does not have costs, the CD itself has. As going to a concert has. As a DVD has, as a book has. You don't need copyright to be able to sell stuff if you abolish stuff. Plus, you stop having to worry to who deserves more money. Pick Don and Joe. Don has a musical project, makes some gigs and people dig him, he records some CD's at home and do some nice DIY packaging for them, with some photos and an autograph, he goes to the next retail store with 50 CD's and sells them to the store so the store sells those CD's. He's making money. No copyright - no rules - no laws - he makes money and all this is legal. Jon though "hey, that's easy money!" so he decided to make something simillar but since he doesn't know nothing of music he skips the concerts part, and just into recording a CD. He makes 50 CD's full of, er, grunts and burps and tries to sell them. No one buys, of course. This is the Bazaar Blanket.

Bazaar Blanket - a concept disruptive and caustic, but fair and praticable, more than Copyright. Just so far from the actual reality that most people won't get it. What are your thoughts?