At today’s very well produced SanFran MusicTech Summit on a panel called “The Paradise of Infinite Storage” Mike Godwin said that the existence of a recording industry protected by copyright is a very recent phenomenon and conjectured that one could take the position that all of the music created to this point is enough. I don’t recall whether he spelled it out, but the implication being that all music should be available for free and we shouldn’t worry about the creation of more music.
This really upset someone in the audience who identified themselves as representing songwriters for decades. This person righteously stipulated that music has value, musicians must be paid, and that if recording copyright is recent, so was the abolition of slavery. It is really too bad he didn’t make reference to Nazis instead of slavery. Hmm, they did use slave labor.
Unfortunately Godwin said he did not agree with the conjecture and agreed with the vacuous statement that music has value (duh, consumers spend valuable time listening to music). But if the conjecture is not plainly correct, it is at least extremely weighty. Given that a vast amount of music exists and much more will be created regardless of protection, any harms done (e.g. to free speech and innovation) in the name of incentivizing marginal additions to this vast supply must be viewed with extreme skepticism.
There are basically two perspectives in the ‘Music and Technology‘ conversation. One’s priority is to ensure copyright holders are paid, with a strong preference for protecting existing revenue streams, and the other’s priority is to build cool stuff with new technology. Both were present in every part of this conference that I saw.
Probably the most significant example of the latter present was Lucas Gonze demoing the Yahoo! Media Player, which does a great job of playing media linked on a web page, with nice affordances for that environment.