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346  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 03:24:02 PM
I think you're doing it right. The people at the tops of these industries are dinosaurs who need to make access to their content easier. Otherwise, it's just going to get stolen. I have a Hulu+ account and a Netflix account. If I can't find what I'm looking for, I'm going the free way.



I don't agree - even if you believe it should be available free, if it actually isn't, you're stealing it. Folks have made some legitimate and sound philosophical stances here on WHY things should work differently in these industries, but until they do the free way is stealing. Again, we may eventually find out with more evidence and research that in fact nobody is actually getting hurt, but let's call it what it is.
347  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 12:59:32 PM
This is how the record industry works (if you want, I will dig up my essay for the sources):

If you're signed to a major label, this is what your financial situation looks like. The average advance is $125,000. This is to cover the expenses of recording and touring. Promoting a single nationally costs $1,000,000 on average. This is all money you have to pay back. Until the record company recoups these expenses, you do not make any money from your albums, your concerts, or your merchandise. Virtually all contracts for a new act require that you sign your stage name and any music you will record over to the record company.

I don't have the sources on hand (they're in an essay I wrote on my laptop), but the break even point for this is 250,000 copies. Some estimates put this number as high as 500,000 copies. 95% of artists fail to achieve this level of sales, and will sell anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 copies of their album. The most common scenario is that the record company releases them from their contract, but retain the rights to their music. This means you are not allowed to perform the songs you wrote under the name everybody recognizes. As a bonus, you owe the record company whatever you fell short of paying back, $10,000 on average.

So let's talk about the 5% who do make it. Think people like Madonna, Eminem, or Michale Jackson. How much do you think they get from a single CD sale? If you guessed .15 on average, you would be correct. Remember back when a CD was the most common way to listen to music? Remember how much we payed for them? $18 fucking dollars. Now, most people who buy music are doing so with an online site for .99 a track (keep in mind though, 85% of all downloads are illegal). The artists are making fractions of a penny from these sites. What's worse, because music is still promoted the same way it has been since the 1920s (see: a single on the radio), people are now are forgoing the album experience for the songs they recognize, netting the artist even less money.

The independent music industry fares much better. There are no advances here, typically. Both the artist and the company assume the risk. They split the costs of recording (much cheaper, anywhere from five to ten thousand), but the artist needs to support their own tour. Advertising is usually done by word of mouth, and records are sold at barely above cost. College radio plays (or played) a pretty big role in getting them exposure. That's the trick here, really. Without any sort of apparatus to broadcast your name nationally, getting your name out there is the hard part.

However, it happens. A band like Sebadoh was able to sell 10,000 copies of one of their albums in the early 90s without the advertising power of Sony or whomever. And they made more money than people who sold 200,000 copies of their album.

With the internet, it happens far more easily. There are two important technological developments in the last ten years. First, the cost of recording has come down significantly. I can make a demo on my iPad with Garage band ($5 app) for example. The second is social media. People are recording and listening to music at a rate that has never been possible. The internet is basically functioning the way word of mouth used to, except it's gone national.

Regardless of the size of the label you're signed to, the majority of the money you will make comes from touring. How do you get people to show up for your shows? Getting your music out there. The primary difference between the two is that being signed to a major label has an incredible amount of overhead, which is why album sales matter more here. However, for independent acts, which comprise the majority or artists out there, their overhead is low enough that piracy does not lose them all that much money, which is why they're usually happy to give it away for free if that translates into a bigger audience.

In short, piracy, at least in regards to the music industry, is an invented problem. The big players are upset because their predatory business practices are becoming less and less profitable as fewer musicians need to rely on them to provide a support structure. The best thing that could possibly happen is for Sony and the other big three record companies to implode so the model of the independent artists can become the dominant paradigm.

Note: if you need clarification on something, just ask. This is long and I typed it in a hurry.

Really useful stuff - thanks for posting. And yeah, it's clearly a bleak situation for most artists with a major labor.

And again, I don't think we're in disagreement on the "tough shit" argument for labels losing money. However I still think that if you want to give something away for free that has to be your choice. Otherwise it is stealing.

That's a real short reply to a post that deserves better, but frankly I agree with the rest of it. I think that internet distribution or distributing music for free is not only a viable strategy, but probably one that will eventually be (if it already isn't) more profitable. But I still maintain that the choice to give something away is the right of property holder. If independent acts want to give their stuff away for free and are making good money that way as you claim here, then that is awesome. But that's still THEIR decision to do that.
348  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 12:54:22 PM
Yeager, I don't defend Megaupload for that, the whole point of contention about this debate is the government being tremendous asshats.

Oh yeah - totally didn't think you did. Sorry if it came off that way. I think we're in total agreement on the Fed's execution here.
349  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 12:46:27 PM
One thing I find most interesting about the Megaupload case is on the one hand, we hate that publishers, who don't actually create the work being consumed, end up getting most of the money from artists. But then on the other hand you have sites like Megaupload that ALSO make crazy amounts of money off of those same artists but get no compensation whatsoever. The part where it is not okay for publishers to gyp artists by giving them only a tiny fraction of the revenue generated by their work but it IS okay for pirates to make money off of those same artists without even TOKEN compensation... it just makes absolutely no sense to me.
350  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 12:16:46 PM
Yeah, very shady.
351  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 12:00:10 PM
Great points on all counts. I agree across the board. As much as I don't care what happens to Kim Dotcom and others at Megaupload, it is damn near impossible to defend the way it has been executed and the timing of course is particularly suspicious.

I also think that the loaf of bread analogy is clearly imperfect, especially given the physical nature of a loaf of bread (hence why I went with a loaf that was going to end up in the garbage regardless - but yeah, imperfect). I also totally agree that the whole "lost sale" theory as presented by publishers is nothing but fallacy.

Again, the only point I'm making here is simply that as much as I don't think publishers have proven their argument that they are being victimized by piracy, I remain equally unconvinced that taking something for free that is not being offered for free has no consequences whatsoever. Perhaps it doesn't. It may be that I will be completely proven wrong at some point, and it sounds like there are some folks right here at RPGFan that think I am wrong about it. But just as I believe it is on the publishers to prove they are actually losing money, I believe it is also on the pirate community to prove nobody is being victimized before engaging in it. That's just my personal opinion.

There is clearly money to be made in piracy - that much we can agree on, correct? Why if there is no intrinsic actual value to what is being pirated? The publisher argument doesn't add up to me even for a second, but neither does the piracy argument.
352  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 11:38:22 AM
The problem, I think, are recording companies and publishers, who at the end steal from artists far more than actual piracy does and are the biggest sponsors of shit like this. It's almost always publishers/recording companies/etc that crusade against this and frankly I'm getting tired of the U.S. government's kowtowing and turning our country into a corporate government. I consider it damn near to regulatory capture, if it isn't already.

Because they're the ones losing money. I can break out industry numbers about how much a new act makes, how much it costs to promote a single song, how much of each sale goes to the artist once they repay their advance etc. There's a reason the industry is losing money, and it's not because I have a 20G of stolen music on my hard drive.

And dyeager, the research is out there. You don't think the RIAA, the big four record companies, and their lawys don't make sure it doesn't get coverage or legitimacy?

I totally agree it seems far more likely that the reason the music industry is losing money is probably a lot more complicated than piracy.

If you feel you've seen research that you believe definitely solves the victim/victimless argument for piracy, I'd be more than happy to read it. Even if it doesn't I'm always interested in info on the topic.
353  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 11:35:46 AM
The problem, I think, are recording companies and publishers, who at the end steal from artists far more than actual piracy does and are the biggest sponsors of shit like this. It's almost always publishers/recording companies/etc that crusade against this and frankly I'm getting tired of the U.S. government's kowtowing and turning our country into a corporate government. I consider it damn near to regulatory capture, if it isn't already.

I agree with this point wholeheartedly. But still - just because recording companies and publishers are unsympathetic jerks does not mean that piracy is suddenly okay. It's still a straw man - a very sympathetic straw man, but a straw man nonetheless.

For the most part it is clear that folks around here have really thought carefully about the topic and have reasonably well informed opinions on this - as well informed as we can get with all the noise and static around this issue. I simply respectfully suggest that when we talk about this topic, we need to talk about it for what it really is, which is taking things for free that are not being offered for free. That is stealing whether it is being done for what may in fact be noble and correct reasons or not.

But even more importantly I would respectfully suggest that we don't really know whether this is victimless or not. I agree 100% that it has not been proven to any rational person's satisfaction that pirating has tangible victims, but I disagree vehemently that we know with certainty it is victimless. And since I don't think we can reasonably know one way or another, I have personally made a choice to always err on the side of stealing probably having a downstream consequence.
354  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 11:21:39 AM
Also there are worse, and totally legal, things you can do to a person.

Agreed. But we're not building straw men here.
355  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 11:19:25 AM
Pirating music has almost zero effect on the creators of it. You can't prove otherwise, unless you go with the logical fallacy of, "every illegal download is a lost sale."

I've heard this time and again and agree that the argument is not provable.

However the other argument is still stealing. If you steal a loaf of bread from a grocery store that was going to end up in the trash tomorrow anyway, it is STILL STEALING even though the store didn't lose a sale. You can argue about whether or not that means it matters from a moral and philosophical standpoint, asking whether there is a victim in that instance, but it is STILL STEALING.

Look I'm the last guy that's going to say corporations are being horribly victimized in some really meaningful way by this - I think more independent study is really needed on the effects - but I'm sick of people pretending that what they are doing isn't stealing just because nobody can prove there is an actual victim beyond any shadow of a doubt.

My gut says you can't get something for nothing - there are always consequences. But gut ain't worth much. What we do know is that if you steal something, it is 100% certain that nobody is getting compensated. Except in the case of places like Megaupload where the people getting compensated are the people doing the stealing. I just fail to see how that can possibly be a good thing.

Sure, but this IS a victimless crime. Analogies tend to be logically fallacious because you create a false equivalency. MP3s are not bread, and stealing them does not harm the musicians the way stealing food from a local co-op does.

I'm not saying it's not stealing, but this argument is based on fear tactics. "Pirating music is stealing, you know who else steals? Criminals."

You know how I support artists? I go to concerts and buy shit directly from their merch table.

My point is merely that I don't think you can actually prove the crime is victimless given current evidence. I don't think you can prove the crime has a victim either. I think the verdict is still out there and unfortunately the research is so one sided because the large interests have trumped up studies that don't seem to add up. But just because they haven't proven their case doesn't mean the opposite (piracy is victimless) automatically becomes true. Hence I think more independent study and research on this is absolutely essential. It may turn out that piracy is, in fact, totally awesome and good just like everybody who does it desperately wants it to be.
356  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 11:16:17 AM
Yeah, I've seen Gaiman's opinions on this. It's definitely worth watching (I listened again) as I think it is a great example of the other side of the argument - aka the "pirating doesn't cost sales" argument.

However I'd also suggest two things:

1) There is a significant difference between people lending books/games to each other and somebody going in to a bookstore, stealing the book, and xeroxing it thousands of times and making money off the copies.

2) Giving books away = advertising. Gaiman is a savvy guy taking advantage of how he perceives the "pirating" market is working. If folks want to do that of their own volition, that's their choice. It should also be their choice, however, to decide NOT to do that.
357  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 11:06:25 AM
I work on software for a living and really DOn'T care if people pirate stuff.

Fair enough.
358  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 11:05:48 AM
Pirating music has almost zero effect on the creators of it. You can't prove otherwise, unless you go with the logical fallacy of, "every illegal download is a lost sale."

I've heard this time and again and agree that the argument is not provable.

However the other argument is still stealing. If you steal a loaf of bread from a grocery store that was going to end up in the trash tomorrow anyway, it is STILL STEALING even though the store didn't lose a sale. You can argue about whether or not that means it matters from a moral and philosophical standpoint, asking whether there is a victim in that instance, but it is STILL STEALING.

Look I'm the last guy that's going to say corporations are being horribly victimized in some really meaningful way by this - I think more independent study is really needed on the effects - but I'm sick of people pretending that what they are doing isn't stealing just because nobody can prove there is an actual victim beyond any shadow of a doubt.

My gut says you can't get something for nothing - there are always consequences. But gut ain't worth much. What we do know is that if you steal something, it is 100% certain that nobody is getting compensated. Except in the case of places like Megaupload where the people getting compensated are the people doing the stealing. I just fail to see how that can possibly be a good thing.
359  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Megaupload seized / shut down on: January 23, 2012, 10:45:17 AM
It's a strange universe we live in where folks who have brazenly made truckloads of money (Kim Dotcom made $42 million according to some reports) off of blatant stealing and money laundering on a massive scale become staunchly defended... but that's the crazy world we find ourselves in with Megaupload.

I'm a card carrying member of the EFF and make my living writing software and those guys and anybody who pirates games/music can burn for all I care. Megaupload is particularly heinous when you consider the lines of business that appear to have been laundering money through them also. Megaupload going down in flames is absolutely a good thing at face value, but I agree there are some disturbing legal issues regarding HOW it has been pulled off that people need to be aware of.

Still though, it was smart to go after Megaupload because their activities go way beyond any kind of rational defense. The methodology used behind the seizure and arrests? That definitely warrants skepticism and a closer look.
360  The Rest / General Discussions / Re: Your First Ebay Purchase... on: January 20, 2012, 10:07:54 AM
First thing I bought was a copy of the World of Synnibarr tabletop RPG. I had heard it was hilarious reading and couldn't find a copy anywhere locally. It has polar bears that shoot laser beams out of their eyes.
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