« Re: the filibuster | Main | Good Sauceability, but undecided on Forkability »

March 22, 2021

Comments

I might still be paying for the mistake.

I'm not a lawyer, especially a Japanese lawyer, but you paid the fee they asked and got a letter saying it was okay for the band to play it four times. Why would you have still been paying now, when it was their mistake?

They told you that you can do it and then they said "oops, our bad"? Did they at least refund the money? This sounds like a lot of Not Your Fault. They gave you permission and tried to take it back afterwards.

I might be overly dramatic there, but it seems to me that with the easier access to people, they could have made my life miserable to try and get some money out of me. Or just to make sure that every Japanese band director knew not to do anything like that. Examples must be made. Could I have afforded a lawyer if they wanted to file something against me? Definitely not.

When I was working on my PhD, I had an idea of working with gestures by EFL students to see if they were accessing metaphorical ideas following research by Alan Cienki that I was pretty excited about. The set up was that a student would watch a music video that had metaphoric content and talk about the video while it was playing. So I did one and uploaded it to Youtube, keeping it private and sharing it with my advisor. Shortly after I did that, I got a DMCA notice from Youtube because you could hear the song playing while the student spoke.

To connect those two thoughts, it seems more and more it doesn't matter if you are in the right, it matters more if you attract their attention.

This may be of interest
https://www.npr.org/2021/03/12/957054009/will-posting-memes-or-pro-wedding-pics-land-you-in-copyright-small-claims-court

To connect those two thoughts, it seems more and more it doesn't matter if you are in the right, it matters more if you attract their attention.

This is clearly true, and very scary, but even so, you were acting as an "agent" of the school, so make the school hire the lawyer(s). File a countersuit for harassment. ;-)

Years and years and years ago, when getting up to speed making graphics from CGIs, I created a little program to make a "star field" image.

The stars were placed randomly, with a distribution of size/magnitude and color. Not terribly realistic, but looked nice. IIRC, I even testing 'watermarking' the graphics file (copyright statement in a different color index for 'black', invisible unless processed). The CGI was on a publicly accessible, but obscure, website.


Much more recently, yet still quite a while back, I found a starfield image that was clearly from my CGI, on someone's online wedding announcement.

They're welcome, and all the best.

Several years back I put together some software to produce cartograms (regular readers already know this). I used it in a couple of cases for blog postings. A couple of years later I attended a seminar at the University of Denver on the urban/rural divide in Colorado. The opening speaker who was setting the stage put up a slide with a cartogram of Colorado to illustrate how dominant the Front Range urban corridor was in population. A cartogram from one of my blog posts. Properly attributed :^)

I stopped afterwards to tell him I hadn't expected to see any of my work at the seminar. He was afraid that I was offended that he had used it without explicitly asking. I waved him off and said, "If I didn't want it to be copied I wouldn't have put it up on the internet. At least you attributed it."

If you put it on the internet and it's useful, it will be copied. Trying to chase down all the people and convincing them to stop is a mug's game.

as mentioned in the other thread, my issue with copyright is exactly this:

if somebody is making money off of somebody else's creative work, the person who created the work should be getting some of the money.

and 'some', in this context, should be more than a laughable amount.

it's great if people want to make their work available for other people to use for free. more power to you. other people may not want to do that - they might depend on what they produce for their living, and so not have the luxury of giving it away.

the landscape for content creators - composers, songwriters, recording musicians, writers, photographers, filmmakers, graphic artists - has changed dramatically over the last 20 years or so, because most work is now published in digital form, which makes the cost of capturing, reproducing, and distributing it negligible. it has made a professional path that was already fraught with difficulty that much more difficult.

I'm fine with copyright ending at some point, and TBH lifetime plus 70 seems extremely generous to me. the issue is less copyright per se, and more the increasingly monopolistic structure of the industries that have evolved around creative work, and the challenges of enforcing copyright in the digital context.

Here is a piece by David Dayen about the state of the art in the music industry, specifically. Recorded music is increasingly consumed via streaming services - here is an analysis of what streaming services pay artists these days. Briefly, streaming services tend to pay tenths of a cent per stream, which means if your song is streamed 100,000 times, you might get a couple of hundred bucks.

What I find most objectionable is the idea that creative work should just be free for use, by anyone, for any purpose, with no renumeration flowing back to the creator. Creative workers are, far more than most other professions, self-employed. The revenue generated by their work is what they live on.

It's all well and good to say, "if you put it on the internet and it's useful, it will be copied". But the author of the work is quite often not the person putting the work on the internet. And regardless of who puts it out there, copying it without permission actually is stealing from the person who created it.

If you want to give your stuff away, that's fine. But you need to respect the wishes of people who *don't* want to give their stuff away, and who actually make their livelihood from the work that you think you are, somehow, entitled to for free.

People deserve to be paid for their work.

It's all well and good to say, "if you put it on the internet and it's useful, it will be copied". But the author of the work is quite often not the person putting the work on the internet. And regardless of who puts it out there, copying it without permission actually is stealing from the person who created it.

However, it must be noted that frequently the copyright holder is someone who bought (extorted) it from the person who created it -- for peanuts. It may be true that you are stealing it. But probably not from the artist.

It may be true that you are stealing it. But probably not from the artist.

hard to say if the actual odds fall in the "probably" category or not.

In any case, the idea that work published in a form that makes it trivially easy to steal therefore makes it fair game seems, to me, to be weak beer.

Do you like music? Movies? Beautiful pictures? Books? If the folks who make those things can't make a living, they will have to stop making them.

David Byrne's recent book ("How To Write One Song") has a chapter about what record company contracts actually look like and what they mean for songwriters. it's horrifying. very few people are getting rich off making music.

he broke down costs and income on one of his recent records - $218K to make it, total of $276K in sales. so $58K... over six years.

I'm not arguing that it should be fair game. Just about whether the artist is the one getting ripped off.

Quick aside to pimp Bandcamp again. As online music stores and streaming platforms go, it seems to be one of the more artist oriented places, and there is a real community of music fans there who give back to artists and communities.

It's also a great place to find non-mainstream and indy music. I've discovered a ton of great music I would not otherwise ever have heard of.

David Byrne's recent book ("How To Write One Song")

A small correction:

The Byrne book is "How Music Works".

"How To Write One Song" is by Jeff Tweedy.

Both are recommended.

Also - Bandcamp is a much better channel from the artist's point of view than most (or probably all) of the more well known streaming services or other online music platforms.

If you like music - or movies, or theater, or visual arts, or reading - support the people who create that stuff. Most of them aren't getting rich off it, they're just trying to make a living.

A small correction:

heh.

started out thinking it was Tweedy who did that bit. then looked it up... forgot to change the title.

This is interesting. I would suggest that no one would question the right to apainting, the original work. Starting there the question for art in all forms is whether the ease of replicating it diminishes the ownership right. I think not.

I also believe that if you create something your ownership never ends. The government is the protector of your right to what you have created, not the grantor of that right. Therefore, the government can't remove the right, it can only stop defending it.

That right, like any ownership, is inheritable. But I am a simple man.

? If the folks who make those things can't make a living, they will have to stop making them.

Gillian Welch has thoughts:

And everything is free now That's what they say Everything I ever done Gotta give it away Someone hit the big score They figured it out That we're gonna do it anyway Even if doesn't pay

I also believe that if you create something your ownership never ends.

"Work for hire."

You can sell/assign all of your ownership rights. I was paid handsomely to do things that included creating software to solve particular problems. Part of the deal was that I gave up all ownership rights. Ditto for patents, other than my name being on the application because the PTO says only humans can invent something. Patent applications include specific fields identifying which legal entity (me, an LLC of mine, the corporation employing me, whatever) holds the patent rights when they're granted.

Adding to my 06:35 comment, Russell has an excellent point in that few creators are in a position to negotiate a good deal for the IP rights.

everything is free now

Welch won't have something until that includes a) food, b) clothing, and c) shelter. Just to hit the three biggest critical necessities. Until then, it's nonsense.

Until then, it's nonsense.

i assure you, it's not.

(there are more verses than that one)

That Dayen piece skates around the fact that almost all of the revenue paid out by Spotify goes to a small set of the most popular artists, because that's who the customers want to listen to. It's not so much that Galaxy500 is getting cheated as their fan base is microscopic in the greater market, and the few majors left have total control over all major platforms.

Copyrights and patents are revenue streams, and as such are going to be captured just like every other revenue stream. Extending the length of copyright ensures marketable IP profit stays in the hands of the ones who can access the platforms. The "artists" who create the IP are bound to the platforms. Making a living in any artistic medium is about access to the platform, whether a stage, a gallery, or a web site. And every platform has a gatekeeper. Some are nice,some not so nice.

That Dayen piece skates around the fact that almost all of the revenue paid out by Spotify goes to a small set of the most popular artists, because that's who the customers want to listen to.

Perhaps more true to say that this small set of artists are who the algorithms steer people towards in an effort to maximize streams. Probably closer to say that those artists are the ones that either listeners least want to not listen to (excluding those that are just exploiting the algorithm to inflate play counts and maximize their revenue that way).

I agree that if there's money to be made out of creative work, the creators should get a good part of it.

The other side of the argument is that granting monopolies, and enforcing them, imposes a cost on society. This evening I looked up, for free, James Clerk Maxwell's A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field and Albert Einstein's On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies. In a world of perpetual copyright, advocated by some commentators here, this would not be possible. (To be exact, I could do it, using an academic affiliation, but most people could not.)

Ideally, knowledge should be freely available to all. Art should be freely available to all. It should not be forgotten that copyright restrictions are restrictions on access to truth and beauty.

What I want is an intelligently designed copyright system which allows creators to make money, but also recognises the value of allowing everyone to enjoy their work.

What we have is a copyright system designed to enrich corporations.

I have no sympathy for John Scalzi's polemic, which seems to me to say little more than that having been given a unicorn, he wants to keep it.

Here's a thought...give everyone a UBI and then we can negotiate about what to do with unicorns and how much more one should be rewarded for producing beauty and knowledge for others.

As it stands, however, there are very few writers able to make a living from their writing despite there being a large market for said writing. Scalzi knows he's a unicorn. He's not so much worried about his own unicorn as he is the state of the unicorn population worldwide, which is decidedly malnourished despite the work that goes into raising them.

russell is speaking for the musicians. Let me just say that I am saying the same for my wife and other writers who work a lot of time to produce novels that earn them less than minimum wage, or for the fine artists I know that do the same.

Ideally, knowledge should be freely available to all. Art should be freely available to all. It should not be forgotten that copyright restrictions are restrictions on access to truth and beauty.

What I want is an intelligently designed copyright system which allows creators to make money, but also recognises the value of allowing everyone to enjoy their work.

Lofty sentiments. I wonder if the same goes for the "creations" of the captains of industry, or the titans of finance, or the inventors of machines that save labor and put millions out of work, while sending obscene profits to a few.

Or, to put it a different way, it should not be forgotten that drug company profits and exorbitant doctor's salaries and government subsidies to huge agribusiness corporations are restrictions on access to food and health care.

Or yet again, if the results of the labor of artists and writers should be freely available to all, why not the results of the labor of farmers, manufacturers, and Wall Street tycoons?

"Truth and beauty."

It has been a day for laughter, but not the happy kind.

Hadn't seen nous's when I wrote mine. Thanks. (And also to russell, hsh, cleek, and others.)

And let me not forget the right to have access to the results of the labor of lawyers....

A few observations,

Let me be clear: Artists should be paid for their work! With that off my chest, let's dive in.

if somebody is making money off of somebody else's creative work, the person who created the work should be getting some of the money.

Nobody here is arguing that artists should get nothing.

I also believe that if you create something your ownership never ends.

Interesting. In my youth I placed a lot of concrete, and pounded a lot of nails. I was part of creating structures, most of which are still in use. I get nothing today in the way of remuneration from that effort.

The other side of the argument is that granting monopolies, and enforcing them, imposes a cost on society.

Given our current technology, this is an obvious truism that is simply ignored by Scalzi, et. al. So, who should pick up this cost, and how?

In any case, the idea that work published in a form that makes it trivially easy to steal therefore makes it fair game seems, to me, to be weak beer.

An observation is not the same thing as a justification.

he broke down costs and income on one of his recent records - $218K to make it, total of $276K in sales. so $58K... over six years.

How many records per year? Was making recordings their full time avocation? There is likely a problem here of a disconnect as between productivity and income. Could use a bit more elaboration.

Or yet again, if the results of the labor of artists and writers should be freely available to all, why not the results of the labor of farmers, manufacturers, and Wall Street tycoons?

Countme in. :)

The issue here is one of coming up with an effective public policy to blunt the near costless ramifications of copying and distribution of written and musical artistic work (paintings, anybody?), and unchecked shameless market power (you may have noticed there is a lot of that going around). On the other thread, I brought up Dean Baker's proposal. Nobody has taken the time to even remark on it. I believe it sets a baseline for a different tack on this matter.

Back in the way olden days....(say prior to the Industrial Revolution) there was art, there was music, there was song. A great deal of it is still enjoyed today. There was no copyright back then. So how did that happen? Discuss.

an effective public policy to blunt the near costless ramifications of

good lord...that should read: "an effective public policy to blunt the ramifications of the near costless...."

I really need a good editor, but they all want money.

knowledge should be freely available to all. Art should be freely available to all.

Why not food? Why not shoes? Why not eyeglasses or dental fillings or houses?

Why is it legitimate for people to have to buy those things, but art should be free?

Copyright means that if a song is used to sell toothpaste, or as background music on a TV show, or is popular enough that 10 different people decide to record it, the person that wrote the song gets a check. How that ‘imposes a cost on society’ is unclear to me.

LJ’s high school band had to pay a licensing fee to perform Strauss, but they also have to buy instruments and pay for heat and light in their rehearsal space. Who knows, maybe they even have uniforms. If they had to travel to perform in the all-Japan band contest, they probably had to hire a bus to get there.

It’s cool for everybody involved in all of that to get paid, *except* the composer? Because truth and beauty?

Vegetables are beautiful, too, especially if you’re hungry. But the grocery store doesn’t give them away.

Back in the way olden days....(say prior to the Industrial Revolution) there was art, there was music, there was song. A great deal of it is still enjoyed today. There was no copyright back then. So how did that happen? Discuss.

Hmmm. Is this a trick question? Some people had wealthy patrons. Some people tilled the fields and then came home and played the fiddle at the barn dance aftah suppah.

I dunno, how did it happen?

There was no copyright back then. So how did that happen?

Patronage.

Dean Baker's proposal

Dean Baker’s proposal will pay 500K artists $40K a year.

There are way more than 500K people who do the kind of work we’re talking about. And $40K a year is not enough money to live on in most places in this country, especially if you have kids or other dependents.

Baker also asserts:

Creative workers are entitled to be compensated once for their work, not twice.

Why? If their work generates revenue more than once, why should they only be compensated the first time? Who gets the money the rest of the times?

More about "the olden days" -- besides people with patrons and people who had proverbial "day jobs," art [broadly speaking] was also produced by people wealthy enough *not* to have to have a day job.

So?

Seriously, I'm totally missing the point of the question about the olden days. Should we go back to the times of feudal lords and hereditary aristocracies?

the ramifications near the costlessness of copying and distribution of written and musical artistic work (paintings, anybody?) [as amended]

Not entirely a new problem. I can remember when, while paintings (especially by good artists) were expensive. But prints of those same paintings were dirt cheap. Starving college student cheap. And if the original artists were getting much of anything from the prints, I'd be surprised.

Creative workers are entitled to be compensated once for their work, not twice.
Why? If their work generates revenue more than once, why should they only be compensated the first time? Who gets the money the rest of the times?

Compare a rented apartment. Where the work (building it) is done once, but it generates ongoing revenue. Why is an apartment building more worthy than a song?

Should we go back to the times of feudal lords and hereditary aristocracies?

Those who think so (whether they admit to being of that opinion or not) inevitably imagine themselves as part of said aristocracy. Which is statistically unlikely, to say the least.

Not to mention that they generally lack the skills to survive as an aristocrat.

Is the creative worker more like the carpenter or the developer/owner/landlord?

Where does profit fit in this discussion?

And russell's question deserves repeating:

Who gets the money the rest of the times?

Even supposing the artist got an ample UBI, who deserves money "the rest of the times" if not the artist? Or to put it the other way around, if the artist isn't "entitled" to the money the second time around, why is anyone else? Art wants to be free, is that it? So there is no "rest of the times"?

Seriously, I'm totally missing the point of the question about the olden days. Should we go back to the times of feudal lords and hereditary aristocracies?

Well, no. And we cannot. But we are dealing here with claims that without "copyright protection" creative artistic production would simply cease, and that is simply not true.

Societies and their relations change. I believe Marx had some insights about that.

But we are dealing here with claims that without "copyright protection" creative artistic production would simply cease, and that is simply not true.

I'm super-tired, plus distracted with multi-tasking, plus upset over yet another mass shooting.

So maybe I missed it. But where has anyone claimed that artistic production would simply cease?

where has anyone claimed that artistic production would simply cease?

I mean where here...? Not in general.


Dean Baker’s proposal will pay 500K artists $40K a year.

That is an average and does not accurately reflect the nature of the proposed policy. Some performers/artists would get less. Some more. I don't think you are saying that there is no such thing as "worthless" (i.e., bad) art.

Baker's proposal should be seen as an opening to a different way of looking at this matter.

There are way more than 500K people who do the kind of work we’re talking about. And $40K a year is not enough money to live on in most places in this country, especially if you have kids or other dependents.

Everybody should be able to reasonably make a good living.

I am not arguing that creators should go penniless. I am arguing against a social construct that relies on heavy handed state enforcement that has been twisted so much as to be socially destructive (Microsoft, Google, which see). If you will excuse me, what I am seeing here is special pleading insofar as a defense of perpetual copyright/patent protection for a special class of artists must necessarily be extended (how do you distinguish otherwise?) to all those seeking similar state protection (ahem, corporations) and an opening to collect economic rents (i.e., royalties are obviously something that fits neatly, if at all, into a neoclassical microeconomic framework with indifference and supply and demand curves where profit is competed away).

The "twice" thing. I dunno'. If the school district pays for some sheet music to give to the band to play a song, why should the band then have to pay yet again for the privilege of "playing" it?

well, my damned free editor let me down again. You get what you pay for.

"royalties are obviously NOT something...."

sheesh.

where has anyone claimed that artistic production would simply cease?

Well....see Russell above:

"Do you like music? Movies? Beautiful pictures? Books? If the folks who make those things can't make a living, they will have to stop making them."

I feel this comes pretty close to making that case, no? The implication seems to be that without copyright protection (because otherwise artists could not make a living) creative work would cease.

This is a very strong claim.

guns....damn them to hell.

There are 2 arguments being conflated, that artists should be able to "make a living" through their art, and that artists "should get paid for the use of their art". The more specific pay for use model is the copyright argument. For example, musicians who were not composers or famous enough to say make movies or be paid to endorse products made a living as performers. Big band musicians were tradesmen on a par with plumbers or auto mechanics, with a union and everything. That model was killed by the Beatles, though it was possible to raise a family by playing in a band up through the 80's in the US.

Copyright is more specific than that. I'm surprised no one has mentioned that copyright is enshrined in the US Constitution "to promote for a limited time". The Founders have spoken. The idea was that invention and creation must be rewarded, but eventually that knowledge should be freely/widely available. The idea of perpetual ownership leads us to a nation of software patent trolls.

There are 2 arguments being conflated, that artists should be able to "make a living" through their art, and that artists "should get paid for the use of their art".

I agree that these two aspects shouldn't be conflated, but they are very interconnected. If copyright as whole is questioned or undermined, this has an effect on those workers who are not original content creators as well - simply because there's less money to go around.

What we shouldn't conflate is artistic creation, software development and the construction work.

sorry for the writing mistakes, too early...

There was no copyright back then. So how did that happen?

"To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy."

6thC Ireland.

You copy my book, it's mine.

copying painting or sculpture requires huge amounts of talent and time. hand-copying a book, likewise. folk tunes were just out there in the world, while things like symphonies couldn't really be copied from just listening.

so you don't get copyright laws until copying becomes economically feasible - 16thC for printed books, 20thC for sheet music.

The implication seems to be that without copyright protection (because otherwise artists could not make a living) creative work would cease.

it would change things a lot.

people would still write songs. but the companies that promote and distribute music would go away; so would the companies who promote the creation of music by loaning musicians money by which to make recordings (aka 'advances'). no more anticipated revenue = no more loans made in expectation of that revenue. back to the world of authorless folk songs for the masses; the wealthy can use patronage schemes to buy more elaborate pieces (as tributes to themselves, of course).

film studios of all sizes would vanish. without copyright protection, nobody would invest in something as expensive as a movie or a TV show. maybe some wealthy vanity projects would get made.

likewise, the software companies that make the software used to record music and produce video would go away. open source could replace some of it. but let's be honest: open source applications generally look to commercial software for inspiration (aka rip-off), not the other way around.

ideally, copyright gives small artists hope that they can make a living at it, which broadens the amount of art available and increases the quality because people will spend time on their craft. without that hope, those people might write a song or two in their spare time, but the result is probably not going to be the same as if they had spent all their time on it.

Copying (polyphonic music) by just listening is a special talent. Mozart famously used it to get around a very special copyright (threat of excommunication). Some film music scores have been resconstructed that way too after the original score got lost.
So, it is not impossible but a wee bit more difficult than copying a book by hand (unless we are talking about facsimiles of books of high artistic value).

"This comic lays out 2000 years of musical history. A neglected part of musical history. Again and again, there have been attempts to police music; to restrict borrowing, and cultural cross-fertilization. But music builds on itself. To those who think that mash-ups and sampling started with YouTube or the DJ’s turntables, it might be shocking to find that musicians have been borrowing—extensively borrowing—from each other since music began. Then why try to stop that process? The reasons varied. Philosophy, religion, politics, race—again and again, race—and law. And because music affects us so deeply, those struggles were passionate ones. They still are."
Theft! A History of Music: is a graphic novel laying out a 2000-year long history of musical borrowing from Plato to rap.

Everybody should be able to reasonably make a good living.

But whether every would-be artist should be able to make a living from said art is a different story. Granted, good (but not superstar) artists mostly get far less than they deserve. But there are those who obviously (to everyone but themselves) have far more enthusiasm than talent. No reason why they should get a living wage for it. (Unless you want to go with UBI. But that's a different discussion.)

For example, I really enjoy singing. Unfortunately, while I can hear if someone else misses a note, I can't carry a tune and can't hear when I miss. So, unless it's the Sign it Yourself Messiah and the Hallelujah Chorous, I keep it to myself. Nobody should have to listen to my attempts, let alone pay to do so.

But there are those who obviously (to everyone but themselves) have far more enthusiasm than talent. No reason why they should get a living wage for it.

Sorry, but I really don't get why creative people are looked upon with suspicion like this.

The musicians that russell mentioned above seem to be very talented and industrious and yet have a hard time making a living.

And I could give you the names of dozens of people like that in film and TV.

This is a very strong claim.

Cleek at 8:12 covers the main points.

People will still do creative work, even if they can’t make a living at it. There will just be less of it, and a lot of it won’t be as good, and it will be a lot harder for you to have access to it.

There are 2 arguments being conflated, that artists should be able to "make a living" through their art, and that artists "should get paid for the use of their art".

Getting paid for the use of their art is one of the ways that artists make a living. The primary way, for many of them.

Why shouldn’t people get paid for the use of their work? How is society damaged by a songwriter getting paid when somebody records one their songs? Or by a photographer getting paid if one of their photographs is used as a screen saver, or in a magazine ad?

The counter-argument to copyright here seems to be that once a work is realized, in whatever form, it should be free for anyone to use, for any purpose, including renumerative ones, and the creator of the work is not entitled to any income that flows from any of those uses.

Clearly, the work is of some use, because people are using it. Clearly it has some value - some tangible, quantifiable value - because its use is generating revenue.

So - who is entitled to that revenue? Why is the person who created the thing that is generating (in whole or part) that revenue not entitled to that revenue (in whole or part)?

There is a practical issue, which is that a lot of creative work exists in forms that are trivially easy to duplicate. Nobody is arguing that that is not a challenging problem.

But there is an equally practical issue, which is that being able to make a living from your work is what makes it possible for the work to exist at all, at least in any way that makes it accessible to most people and/or with the level of quality that it is available now.

The answer to “how did it work before” is that creative work either took the form of folk or hobbyist work, or it was a luxury good available to a tiny number of people, or it was something provided to the public only through the sponsorship of wealthy sponsors, mostly government or the church.

If you didn’t attend the church where Bach was the music minister, you probably never got to hear Bach cantatas. If you weren’t a Norman royal, you never saw the Bayreuth tapestry. If you weren’t a personal friend of the Barnes family, there were a lot of impressionist paintings you would never see.

Still works that way for a lot of fine art, because the physical object is not reproducible the same way that digital recordings or photographs or videos are. Maybe some rich person will donate the work to a museum, and you will be able to look at it for a few minutes if you have $5 for admission.

That’s how truth and beauty made it’s way to the public in the old days. Via public institutions sponsored by wealthy actors like rich people, the government, or the church, or else not at all.

To me, the issue is that people want stuff for free, and technology has made it difficult to prevent them from having it for free. That has made it that much more challenging for lots of other people - the people who create the stuff - to make a living.

People - especially creative artists - are resilient and, well, creative, so they will figure out ways to deal with it all. But their lives would be a hell of a lot easier if they could reliably get paid a non-laughable amount of money for the use of their work.

Copyright is the lever that makes that even remotely possible. Other suggestions are welcome, but they need to work at least as well as copyright does now. I appreciate the link to Baker’s proposal, but TBH I don’t see it as a practical alternative to what we do now.

Sorry, but I really don't get why creative people are looked upon with suspicion like this.

It was not my intention to view anyone with suspicion. Just to point out that not everybody who thinks they are an artist actually is. At least in the view of anybody else.

Heaven knows I know enough musicians who are extremely talented, but struggle to make a living. Or necessarily hold a day job to make ends meet.

I'm in the same "good singing" boat as wj.

Pro tip: only do covers of Sex Pistols.

Just to point out that not everybody who thinks they are an artist actually is. At least in the view of anybody else.

everyone who makes something they consider art is an artist. being popular or making money from it is a different matter.

on the whole, i think anyone who makes something is entitled to make money from it - just like all work - if someone is willing to pay the asking price.

still, i don't think being an artist should entitle anyone to make a living at it. if you want money from your art, you've got to make something people want to pay for. and if you want to make a living, you've got to make something a lot of people want to pay for (or something a few are willing to pay a lot for, ex. if you're making physical art where reproduction is not easy). but still, it should be possible to make a living at it. copyright is fundamental to making it possible.

until Patreon takes over the world and we all fund our own artists directly and continuously, that it.

Copyright is the lever that makes that even remotely possible.

Simply put, this is the crux of my disagreement. There are and there have been other ways of approaching this issue.

The insistence of strong copyright in the internet age has costly social and economic effects (the strong, maybe too strong, case can be found here), and the Baker proposal is eminently feasible.

Stay safe, all.

If you're really that sucky as an artist, no one is making money off your work, so the point of who is making the money is moot.

To me, the issue is that people want stuff for free, and technology has made it difficult to prevent them from having it for free. That has made it that much more challenging for lots of other people - the people who create the stuff - to make a living.

Even when it's not "free," paid streaming services, as already noted, often pay the artists peanuts. So there's both stealing by end users and short-changing by paid providers.

One thing I find interesting is how willing people were to pay 99 cents for songs on iTunes when it was still possible to get pirated music. Without googling, I don't know if Napster was still a big thing when iTunes started getting big.

i don't think being an artist should entitle anyone to make a living at it.

Nor do I.

There are 10,000 reasons people do creative work, other than to make a living at it.

Some folks choose to try to make a living at it. If their work is good enough to generate some kind of tangible value, they should get some of that value.

In a nutshell, that’s my assertion. Or, at least, opinion.

copyright is the way we make that happen at the moment. I appreciate bobbyp’s counter-argument here, I just don’t think Baker’s proposal would actually work that well.

A walk down Memory Lane:

https://themusicnetwork.com/forget-napster-it-was-itunes-that-held-the-record-industry-to-ransom/

Napster was taking money out of the mouths of musicians, and anyone who downloaded a mislabelled Lit MP3 was complicit in the crime.

The arrogance of its creators when dealing with early copyright claims from Metallica and Dr Dre made them seem like rogue pillaging pirates rather than young entrepreneurs who were being targeted by multi-millionaires who didn’t understand the mechanics of how the software worked.

(...)

There were a lot of steps. A lot of variables. A lot of fake Radiohead songs. In the pre-Y2K wasteland of dial-up modems and constellation screen-savers, it took half an hour to download one four-minute song. And that’s all predicated on the assumption that Mum wouldn’t pick up the phone to call Nan twenty minutes into the download.

Sure Napster was free, but it also traded in a time-based economy, and the costs were high. Before the iPod, MP3 players were in their infancy – until the end of 1999, most handheld units were 32MB systems, meaning they could only hold an album’s worth of songs, assuming you compressed the files to sound like someone was playing them through a tin speaker three houses down. If you want portable music, you’d be better off carrying around a Walkman.

(...)

iTunes launched as a program in 2001, and was touted as a way to rip music from your CDs, and store them all in one central location – much like a jukebox. The idea was that, with the use of a CD burner, you could then compile your own mix CDs, or simply keep a handy collection of your own (presumably legally purchased) music on a central hard drive, without needing to resort to those clunky sharp CDs that had slowly taken over swaths of storage space in the lounge rooms and basements of houses around the world.

(...)

It was a new way of collecting music, of being nerdy about music, and if an illegally obtained track or ten made their way onto the list, or a CD ripped from a friend’s collection sat among your own in the iTunes library, well, what’s the harm? iTunes certainly didn’t make the distinction, and once everything was in this neat and ordered catalogue, neither could anyone else. ‘Everything In Its Right Place’, to quote that Kid A song you got from Napster. “Rip. Mix. Burn” was the instructive slogan for iTunes in the early days, and they didn’t seem to care just what you were ripping, or who you were ripping it from.

(...)

Apple was never invited into the music industry. They stormed in and started taking hostages. They saw a dire situation and provided a solution. They were the ones selling $10 bottles of water during a heatwave, and were filling them up from the taps of those they sold it to. Because the record industry was so incensed by the gall of those stealing their music, they went to war with a format, instead of accepting that the way in which people imbibed music had irreversibly changed and taking steps to capitalise on this.

(...)

In hindsight, the leveraging power that Apple had over the labels was extraordinary. Who allowed them to set the price point, and to democratise it across the board, with no ongoing discussion or leeway? Who allowed them to dictate that albums cannot be locked, so that you couldn’t pluck off individual singles? Who agreed on the shockingly low sound quality, and why didn’t the labels rally for more hi-fidelity options, like FLAC and other lossless formats, especially when internet space and storage space were no longer legitimate issues? Who let Apple dictate their own cut of the profits from each sale?

There are and there have been other ways of approaching this issue.

No question, the WPA turned out some great art. But have there been any other such efforts? (Not counting straight-out propaganda efforts, of course.)
Serious question. I don't know of any, but am willing to be educated on the subject.

there's the National Endowment for the Arts, which "conservatives" hate because it doesn't always produce politically-correct art.

public art often gets funded through various other levels of govt directly. politics gets involved there, too.

if the results of the labor of artists and writers should be freely available to all, why not the results of the labor of farmers, manufacturers, and Wall Street tycoons?

Goods are rivalrous if they can be enjoyed by only one user at a time, non-rivalrous if their consumption can be simultaneous, implying that the marginal cost of an additional consumer is zero. (In practice this is not binary: there's a continuum of marginal cost.)

The reason why an apple, lovingly grown by a farmer, should not be free is that resources are needed to produce an additional apple for you to eat. We use money as a mechanism to assign resources to production.

The reason why a pdf of Einstein's paper on Special Relativity should be free is that (effectively) no resources are needed to create an additional copy for you to read.

Goods can be excludable or non-excludable. For example, a seat in a cinema is excludable - the operator of the theatre can exclude non-paying customers. A pdf is non-excludable, barring government intervention. (Again, in practice there's a continuum.)

Copyright is a legal mechanism for making goods excludable which would otherwise be non-excludable, so that people who want them can be obliged to pay for them.

Making non-rivalrous goods excludable carries a cost to humanity. Suppose reading Einstein's paper on Special Relativity is worth $5 to me. Suppose copyright on the paper is owned by some corporation which wishes to maximise its revenues, and has determined $6 to be the revenue-maximising price. Then I will not read the paper, and humanity as a whole will be $5 worse off.

OK, it doesn't matter very much whether I get to read the paper. Let's talk about patented drugs instead. Many drugs have a low marginal cost of production, so that they are largely non-rivalrous, but regulation of drug manufacture (which is in general a good thing) makes them readily excludable. The consequence is that patent holders price drugs at a level which stops some people being able to afford them. So drug patents cost lives. We need a mechanism to reward companies who create valuable new drugs, but the one we have now is inhuman.

I'm asking readers to see the costs as well as the benefits of legal excludability, and to consider proposals which will bring the two sides into line. Copyright for life plus 70 years is far too long.

Copyright for life plus 70 years is far too long.

definitely.

it's what we get when Congress (literally) lets industry lawyers write laws it doesn't have the expertise to understand, and doesn't listen to public feedback when it says No.

If you weren’t a Norman royal, you never saw the Bayreuth tapestry.

Or got to hear Richard Wagner's grand opera "Wilhelm der Eroberer" ;-)

Copyright for life plus 70 years is far too long.

I don’t disagree.

No copyright at all is not the solution to that.

As a practical matter, there are and have been lots of ways for people to have access to copyrighted (not patented) material for non-commercial purposes. Libraries, exemptions to copyright for educational purposes or for use as examples in other work. Use of excerpts of recorded material.

The cost of things like rehearsal scores for high school bands is in general not prohibitive. If you want to perform pop songs or broadway musical scores, it can be a reach. If you want to perform Mozart, not so much. A piano score and vocal parts for something like a church choir might cost you $20. Your own personal copy of a very high quality recording of a pop song will generally cost you a buck.

As a practical matter, the cost to humanity of the copyright regime for creative work is IMO more than outweighed by the benefit to humanity, which is that it makes it possible for the people who create the stuff to eat.

It actually is what some people do for a living, and in general it’s actually a hell of a lot of work to be good enough at it to even think about doing it for a living. I guess the folks involved could do something else, but it’s highly likely they won’t be as good at whatever ‘something else’ is as they are as creative workers. And so society would bear the cost of having a few million mediocre store clerks or middle managers or roofing contractors or whatever, instead of people creating truth and beauty for all of the rest of us to enjoy.

Nothing against store clerks or middle managers or roofing contractors, we need all of those people. But the people who do those things should be people who are actually good at them and interested in doing them, rather than folks who’d create a lot more value doing something else.

Here's the flip side of all the "copyright harms the public" arguments about how innovation should be freely accessible. If someone invents something that makes some sort of profitable production more efficient and there are no IP protections, then people are not going to stop innovating or producing, they are just going to stop telling others about their IP. The practical alternative to IP protections is trade secrets for things protected by patents and limited, private art for the rich or well-connected. And none of these proposals even begin to deal with the issues of trademark.

I grok the urge to take Disney down a few orders of magnitude, or to nuke the ink jet printer people into radioactive slag for the way that they abuse IP regulation. But the changes suggested here to take those entities down a peg would mean that 90% of the bands I listen to would no longer be able to do what they do. They would all have to find other work (which is something that has happened a lot already with the extended shutdown of live music venues taking away the one decent revenue stream left to them). My wife would not stop writing, but she would likely stop writing for the public or would have to retreat into some sort of patreon arrangement whereby she asks people to pay her a private UBI in order to get access to her written work.

It will not free mass culture, it will impoverish mass culture and move a great deal of that dynamism behind well defended walls or into hiding.

Making non-rivalrous goods excludable carries a cost to humanity.

This reminds me of something Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, wrote in her memoir With a Daughter's Eye. She was writing about her wedding, and IIRC there was some tension between mother and daughter about the size and visibility of the wedding. MCB wrote something to the effect that Margaret (an anthropologist, after all) believed that people "owed meaning to the community" -- and went on through a meditation about the lifelong memories a child might take away from a big fancy wedding.

This book was published in 1984, at which time I, as a gay person, was not only not allowed to have a wedding (of whatever degree of spendour, which would be minimal in my case) where I married the partner of my choice, but still pretty much had to hide in the closet 24/7 if I didn't want to risk dire consequences in all aspects of my life.

So the lofty-sounding notion of what I might "owe" a community that preferred to keep me in the closet, or throw me off a bridge if I got out of line, was, for me, a vexing one at best.

This discussion around copyright reminds me of that. It's all well and good to say that my artistic productions should be available to anyone who wants them at more or less the price of making a PDF, but until you couple that with a discussion about fair play to me in terms of getting paid for my efforts, I don't care all that much about the alleged right of "humanity" to have the fruits of my labor. I'll listen more closely when it's more explicitly framed as a two-way street.

I firmly believe that I "owe [something] [quite a lot, in fact] to the community" -- but the community also owes something to me, and to everyone else as well, in terms of underwriting lives of safety, health, and dignity to the extent that that's ensurable by our collective efforts.

At the far end of the spectrum, JKR shouldn't be a billionaire because people love Harry Potter. But I'm not interested in discussing that separately from the idea that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk or the Waltons or the Sacklers or the Kochs or the Mercers et hoc genus omne shouldn't be billionaires either.

cross-posted with russell and nous, going outside now to watch the ice melt

Copyright is a revenue stream, so naturally it has been corrupted by the economic system that values "efficiency" above all else and rewards the most ruthless players in the game. Arguing in favor of copyright is taken as arguing in favor of corruption, in favor of corporations extracting their rent from the work of others.

There's just something about profiting from the creation of art that bothers some people,and something about limiting the ability to profit from art that bothers other people. The conflict seems to be around the system that implements copyright enforcement, and almost no one seems to like that.

And that system is corrupt, because it rewards and favors ruthless efficiency, power, and immortal corporations. Ironically, technology handed the record companies their age-old dream of charging a customer every time they listen to a song, after decades of fighting them tooth-and-nail because it would (and did) destroy their old business model of shipping physical containers of songs.

Copyright is valuable only if it can be enforced, and in this streaming world you need the resources of a corporation to enforce it effectively. So you wind up either arguing in favor of corporations, or arguing there is no difference between a binary file of a scientific paper and a binary file of a love song.

Copyright is valuable only if it can be enforced, and in this streaming world you need the resources of a corporation to enforce it effectively.

we also have a culture of generally respecting copyright. we look down on those who try to pass off other's work as their own. that helps, too.

About that age-old dream: the collateral damage was the careers of mid-level artists like the ones in Dayen's article. The logic of micro-payments made it unprofitable for a record company to put resources into them, so they are left to their own devices, which are not much. I believe the music business of the 20th century was an anomaly for several reasons, and the culture of the ecosystem created by records, radio, and rock 'n roll will not survive. Copyright will not help them, let alone save them, whether it is enforced or not.

Footnote to my 12:50: The people I've known IRL who talk most about what I "owe" to the "community" are usually people who have appointed themselves to be "the community's" interpreter and mouthpiece. Somehow they have the magic...

Kinda like those RCC prelates who are sure that they speak for God.

I believe the music business of the 20th century was an anomaly for several reasons

This is a good point.

As noted here and elsewhere, people have made a living from creative work via all kinds of business models over the centuries. There is nothing that says the way folks did it in the 20th C has to persist beyond the 20th C. Especially when changes in technology make that model increasingly untenable.

Different models will emerge, and folks will figure it out.

In the meantime, a lot of people finding it challenging to make a living from their work. Especially over the last year, when COVID has made live performance much more difficult.

It may be that recordings simply go away as a primary revenue stream. I'm not sure what replaces them, but if it costs somebody tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to make something and they can't recoup that in one way or other, they're gonna stop making that thing.

Or, people will stop making their stuff available for streaming, and find other ways to distribute it.

Bottom line from my point of view is, if anybody's making money off of somebody's creative work, the person who made the work should be getting some of that. Because it's their work.

I don't really care what mechanism makes that happen.

The Dayen article is very good. This lept out at me:

The music industry was once sprawling enough to accommodate a wide spectrum of artists. But artists today are beset on all sides by monopolists and oligopolists. Like so many sectors of our economy, government inaction has allowed the music business to consolidate, with devastating effects on musicians.

Perhaps copyright is a distraction from the real problem.

Bottom line from my point of view is, if anybody's making money off of somebody's creative work, the person who made the work should be getting some of that. Because it's their work.

Over the years I've been more interested in this for books and such than for music. The "print" industry is only now getting to the point music reached much earlier: all the new stuff is digital, hence trivially easy to copy. The thing propping the print industry up so far is that there are still tens of millions of people who want to hold a book with paper pages, not read on a screen. Note that digital is much broader than ebook sales. A friend of mine published an academic textbook. Very narrow focus. Never sold in ebook form. Yet some weeks after it was released, a copy showed up at Library Genesis. With some work, we determined it was a bit-perfect copy of the PDF file that was transmitted from the publishing house to the printer. To this day, no one knows where the file leaked.

My specific interest is out-of-print works. It seems to me that the obvious hole in the market is a service that handles scanning, OCR, and a proofing pass, then makes the books available at a price that creates sufficient demand, say $1 per book. I have toyed with the idea of creating a service for authors and readers. I'll handle getting the book from paper to e-book form and provide the download service. Priced at, say, $1 per volume, split evenly between the author (or whoever holds the copyright) and myself. The price has to hit a sweet spot. In particular, it has to be low enough that people will pay it rather than wait for a library network to loan them a paper copy, or go to the effort of finding if there's some sort of pirate copy out there.

A number of SFF writers comment at Charlie Stross' blog. They are remarkably consistent in what they see as the future for novels in the genre: a small number of unicorns who can get advances and make a living at it, and a much larger number of authors who have some other means of support (eg, a spouse).

A lot of interesting stuff here, thanks all. My own frustration with copyright is teaching with students and having to deal with the question of whether I should try and educate them about they shouldn't use, say, a copyrighted picture in their presentation or spend time actually getting them to improve their presentation skills. I know some teachers who have made this their mission in life to rag on students for not understanding this and it seems like some of them substitute being cranky about copyright for being cranky about grammar and errors, i.e. it's a ploy to remain above the students.

There is also a template that seems to have too much in common with Randian idiocies of 'makers' and 'takers'. The elevation of creation as the ultimate skill has everyone feel they have to monetize their creative ability. I understand that the perfect fill or the just right doodled image might have a huge amount of work behind it, but the act of monetizing smaller and smaller pieces of what people do ends up having us think that creation is something best done by people with the best PR.

If you have an agent and are published by a mass market SFF publisher, then you should get an advance. The problem is that the average advance on a SFF novel for a new writer with no sales history is about $5k, and that novel likely represents three or four "trunk novels" to get to the point where the writer could write something good enough to secure an agent and then another two years of shopping that manuscript and going through the pre-print process (editor, copy editor, layout, cover art, audio book narrator selection, promo work). That's a lot of work besides the creation of the text that's covered by those advances. And then the book has to pay for all ten or so people involved in that work along with earning back that $5k before the writer makes a penny of royalties.

The advance isn't the tricky part (though that by itself already puts you in the top 2% of writers when looking at rejection rates), it's selling enough beyond the advance to get the publisher to pick up a third book and build enough of a successful backlist to keep yourself in print.

It took winning a Hugo Award before NK Jemisin could afford to write full time.

Scalzi is a unicorn. More power to him.

The elevation of creation as the ultimate skill has everyone feel they have to monetize their creative ability.

The vast majority of people who do creative work do so because they love it, and neither expect nor receive any compensation.

The majority of people who do creative work professionally also do other things, which may or may not be related to their creative pursuit, to round out their household income stream.

There’s nothing magic or privileged about creative work. It’s even weird to call it “creative work”, as if work not involving art forms or technical research isn’t just as creative.

FWIW, I don’t argue for treating the stuff that musicians and painters and writers and actors do as some special kind of work. I argue for treating as work.

The vast majority of people who do creative work do so because they love it, and neither expect nor receive any compensation.

This prompts another thread, in classical music, you go from Haydn, who was basically a servant of the Esterhazy, to Mozart, who perhaps wanted to be like that, but didn't really have the temperament, to Beethoven. The story about Goethe and Beethoven is here
https://www.classicfm.com/composers/beethoven/guides/johann-von-goethe-1749-1832/

On one occasion the two men were walking in the park immediately behind the castle in the centre of Teplitz. Goethe suddenly noticed that the Empress was walking with her retinue on the other side of the park. He hurried over, insisting Beethoven come with him.

Goethe positioned himself in front of the Empress and as she passed executed a deep bow. Beethoven pushed his top hat firmly on the back of his head, crossed his arms and strode past the Empress, intentionally snubbing her. Goethe was appalled, and their friendship was irretrievably damaged.

One thread of the Enlightenment is to argue that artistic genius resides in all men (and later women) and that elevation of genius to be the sine qua non gets you some kick-ass art, but also gets you the artist going over the edge for their art. Classical music doesn't have as many as other art forms (Smetna, and Schumann are two that come to mind, with Tchaikovsky a possible third) though every other art form has tons.

I do agree with Russell that calling stuff 'creative' is a trap, figuring out a bullet proof logistical chain or setting up a curriculum that works to educate seems to be just as creative to me as painting a picture or writing a symphony. But if we elevate the individual over the collective (as the West tends to do), it seems unavoidable to think that way.

Funny you should mention genius. I had occasion to quote this poem elsewhere just the other day. The last stanza is one of my favorite statements about writing:

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

My Irish girlfriend back in the day hated it, because the fact that I liked it suggested to her that there might be something more important to me than she was. Well, there was, but it wasn't writing. Heh.

Double checking wikipedia on Tchaikovsky and read this

Regardless of talent, the only musical careers available in Russia at that time—except for the affluent aristocracy—were as a teacher in an academy or as an instrumentalist in one of the Imperial Theaters. Both were considered on the lowest rank of the social ladder, with individuals in them enjoying no more rights than peasants.

Musical peasants sounds like a great band name

Serf Guitar?

Many Russian aristocrats had whole serf orchestras. A specialty was the 'horn music' with each serf with a horn suited for just one note. That way they did not need talent just a memory for the sequence (so each serf would know at what point he had to blow into his own horn).
Of the Mighty Handful Cui and Borodin had true careers and treated their musical activities as a hobby. Rimsky-Korsakov formally kept his rank as a naval officer and got at times some sinecures (e.g. as chief inspector of naval bands and orchestras or the tsar's own chapel choir). Later he got sponsorships from rich industrialists, who ran their own opera theatres. Balakirev and Mussorgsky had to work as (extremly ineffective) bureaucrats (we have complaints from both about how they hated their jobs).

Mussorgsky and Rimsky also display two ver different ways of approaching their art. For Rimsky it was hard and meticulous work by the book (although he had to write the book himself as an academy teacher after being a mere self-taught dilettant before [his own opinion]). He repeatedly reworked his earlier works to get them up to standard (sometimes to their detriment). Mussorgsky on the other hand never saw the need to read a book on musical theory (let alone write one) and even cursed his friend for his sudden turn to orderly wasy of composing ('Now he is writing fugues. Oh for his ink to dry up in the bottle!'). His own work was 'pure genius' but always an immense struggle*. He also tended to abandon work on one project to start a new one, so a lot was left as a torso for his friends and successors to make ready for (public) performance.
I truly love the work of both composers and it's fascinating how their different approach shaped the final products.

*in some cases he delegated the work of orchestration to Rimsky (e.g the 'Dance of the Persian slave girls' in the Khovanshchina), since his friend was not for naught known as 'the wizard of the orchestra'.

Janie, thank you for the Marge Piercy. I can't overstate how exactly correct it seems to me.

There are a handful of gifts you must bring to the table if you want to work as an artist, of whatever kind.

The first is the ability to be alone, by yourself, in a room, for hours and hours and hours and days and days and years and years.

The next is the ability to be brutally honest with yourself about the quality of your work and the progress you are or are not making.

The next is the ability to fail and fail and fail, over and over again, until, finally, you don't. And then maybe you have to start that cycle all over again.

But maybe most important is to simply be completely fascinated by the material you are working with. Words, sounds, colors, shapes, textures, whatever. If nothing is more interesting to you then, for example, and in Auden's words, "the way that words taste", or the shimmer of fat colors on top of lean ones, or the odd melancholy of a minor 6th interval, you may have some good work in you.

Talent, in the sense of some brilliant spark of genius, is less important, and in fact can work against you. It can make the first steps too easy, and prevent you from building the resilience you will need for the long haul.

You have to love doing the work. So much that outcomes are, not unimportant, but not a make or break thing.

As far as genius, Thelonious Monk said "the genius is the one who is most like themself". That seems about right, to me.

Musical peasants sounds like a great band name

I saw a punk band named "Peasants with Pitchforks" at Abe's Steaks on South Street when I was in high school. I just found some of their stuff. You can buy it, which I suppose makes it relevant to this post. Bandcamp was mentioned on this thread, right?

https://maceistheplace.bandcamp.com/album/peasants-with-pitchforks-1985-demo

Thanks back atcha, russell. I will save your comment along with the Piercy poem, because it's an eloquent statement of the case.

I especially note the part about how talent can work against you. I think talent worked against me in a number of ways (not that making excuses is worth anything, however), and I saw precisely that phenomenon with quite a few little kids when I coached youth/rec basketball. Some of the kids who were quite talented athletically not only didn't develop resilience, they didn't think there was anything they needed to learn, and so were eventually beaten out by kids who worked harder and were more willing to learn. That's a talent too, after all.

Thelonious Monk's take on it reminds me of this Martin Buber quote: Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said "In the coming world, they will not ask me: 'Why were you not Moses?' They will ask me: 'Why were you not Zusya?'"

And I shouldn't have been so snarky about my Irishwoman. It was complicated. As they say.

At the risk of being very boring: I think the discussion of copyright would really benefit if more people were able or willing to differentiate a little bit:

Someone composing a song or writing a novel with the aim, amongst other objectives, of getting some money or eventually making a living has nothing whatsoever to do with a pharma giant patenting life-saving drugs.

Someone making a documentary who wants to get royalties so he/she can live, pay people and maybe make another documentary has nothing whatsoever to do with Disney, Marvel or Banijay - they might as well live on different planets.

nit...

not all drugs are produced or developed by "pharma giants".

there are countless small research shops out there doing real innovation. yes, a lot of them get gobbled-up by the giants once they come up with something useful. but that doesn't change the fact that real people, working in the cheapest office park they could find, came up with the idea. and they deserve to profit from it.

...worked harder and were more willing to learn. That's a talent too, after all.

That's something I ponder occasionally. I try to disentangle natural ability from effort as a distinction between aptitude and inclination. I was good at writing code in college, both in the sense of not making many errors and coming up with efficient logic. But I hated doing it. I had the aptitude, but not the inclination. I would never progress beyond what I had to do to get through whatever class I had to take.

It's not exactly the same thing as wanting to do something, but being so naturally talented that you do well long enough without much effort that you lose the drive to work at getting better. But the result is more or less the same. You peter out at some point. You're just not as disappointed about it if it's not something you liked doing in the first place.

The really exceptional ones are those who have an abundance of natural talent combined with the drive to get better, regardless of how good they might be compared to others around them. They compete with themselves. (Michael Jordan?) Not that it's always about competition in the way that applies to sports, though I'd guess artists (especially musicians?) and scientists might be more competitive than they'd like to admit.

What might also be exceptional is someone who lacks natural ability but their drive is so strong that they still reach elite status in whatever pursuit. I don't know how much that happens, if at all. I'd love to know of any examples if anyone has them.

I'd love to know of any examples if anyone has them.

the entire elected GOP.

Someone composing a song or writing a novel with the aim, amongst other objectives, of getting some money or eventually making a living has nothing whatsoever to do with a pharma giant patenting life-saving drugs.

"nothing whatsoever"? It seems like both are deciding whether to put time and resources into creating something new in order to produce income.

What might also be exceptional is someone who lacks natural ability but their drive is so strong that they still reach elite status in whatever pursuit. I don't know how much that happens, if at all. I'd love to know of any examples if anyone has them.

It would be interesting to have some examples to ponder. It's a difficult framing, because by the time we know someone has reached elite status, the backward look at whether they started with any natural ability is going to be ... complicated. Their own word would count for something, I guess, and the word early teachers or coaches. Or ups and downs along the way, though very talented people have those, too.

But it reminds me of another angle, which is that the work of an artist (speaking broadly) might be retrospectively reevaluated, even after the death of the creator, and seen as much greater works than they were thought to be earlier. Whereas with athletes...well, if you don't make the NBA in this lifetime, you never will. (Presumably.) Although even there you hear serious fans talking about might-have-beens, like Len Bias, or some guy who was the best player anyone ever saw on some playground in NYC.

The Russian composer Vasily Kalinnikov was not very successful selling his works while alive.
After Kalinnikov's death Jurgenson (Tchaikovsky's publisher) purchased the Symphony No. 2 in A major and other works from his widow for a high sum, commenting that his death "had multiplied the value of his works by ten"

...someone who lacks natural ability but their drive is so strong that they still reach elite status in whatever pursuit...

Matthew Syed, formerly a highly ranked table-tennis player, wrote a book, Bounce, about "The myth of talent and the power of practice".

I don't believe that talent is a myth, but I've not read the book.

For many things, practice is more important than talent. BUT, you have to start out with some talent -- without that, no amount of practice will get you anywhere.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Blog powered by Typepad