Copyright y rock progresivo

Hace poco tuve el placer de entrevistar a Peter Jenner y conversar con él sobre copyright y música alrededor de una cena. Esta leyenda viva del management del rock, que descubrió a Pink Floyd participó en el Free Culture Forum de este año en Barcelona, organizado por los siempre excelentes EXGAE. Cuelgo aquí la transcripción en inglés de la entrevista, una versión mejor editada y traducida se publicará en El Mundo más adelante esta semana.
EDIT: Ya se puede visitar la versión traducida y editada en este enlace. Disculpen las molestias.

Peter Jenner. / Foto por Ángela Precht bajo licencia Creative Commons.

Ubeinn: Do you consider copyright is still applicable in the current context?
Peter Jenner:  Copyright is a system that was invented to provide an economic basis for people to invest in creative works instead of employing third parties to do it. But it was also always a control system.  The key issue, as I said in my talking, is the relationship between the people that use, that access the content; I don't say consume, because they don't consume it by using it; and the creators of that content. That's the key relationship. Copyright is a mechanism that was invented to try to transfer resources from the user to the creator and the people who invested in that creation.

Now, that seems to be quite a good idea. And copyright developed in a linear fashion as the technology developed. It got applied to printed music scores when music notation was normalized, then it covered recordings, then it covered playing pianos, radio, and as such it became a very complex system. Technology became more complex, and copyright became more complex. But it was also based within and industrial structure. It implied the people who created works and all the people that manufactured them in a transferable form. Then people bought that transferrable form, and with the time, various structures grew in between: record companies, publishers, collection societies, record manufacturers and retailers... All these people helped this complex system work, and it worked, until we went digital. When we became digital it stopped working and started fucking up.

U.: So copyright being a byproduct of the cultural industry itself, it adapted with the times until the digital age started. Wouldn't you say copyright is then obsolete now?
P.J.: It seems to me that you could argue that as long as there's a linear development in technology, there's a linear development in copyright. But the digital situation was a discontinuity. It was a non-linear development, and linear structures such as copyright have trouble adapting to that.

U.: Has the music industry fallen behind in this scenario?
P.J.:  Absolutely. It almost had to fall behind the times, as the music industry is built around records, and publishing, and radio, and all those things were involved in industrial processes. When you go into digital distribution, you get into a situation where the individual, at home, is in some sense the distributor and the manufacturer of the good. And a lot of the functions done by people in the value chain before have become less and less necessary. The people that were in the factories making records, they were fired. But the people elsewhere, they're trying to hold on. And in a way that's the essence of the problem, those people are hanging on to their jobs.
In a way, you have to be sympathetic, but it's the same thing that happened to hand-weavers when the automatic loom was invented. It was bad news for them, but good news for the owner. And in music, the process has also changed, with digital distribution, ISPs, receivers, storage in digital devices... And the music industry hasn't been able to respond. It's understandable, but it's dysfunctional.

U.: So in the scenario for music, as you have said before, the final user increases the supply every time they copy a file, and the final good is not consumed when used. How does one make business in such an environment?
P.J.:  It's quite difficult, because most economics rely on scarcity. It's about excludability and scarcity. Can I stop from listening to it? Yes. You don't have money, you can't buy it. And scarcity: if I am holding it, you can't have it. If I give it to you, I don't have it anymore. These concepts are very important. Online, neither those things occur. If I send you a copy of my file, I still have it. And you can send it to your friends and they have it. It's a very different structure, and there's no guard, no one's stopping you from keeping on copying.  You can't stop the exchange, and the exchange doesn't reduce the supply. And economics is built around the allocation of scarce resources. Files are not scarce, the electricity used to distribute them may be scarce, but the files themselves are not scarce.

U.: And how does one make a profit out of music in that context?
P.J.: Well, we have to rethink that. And I don't think that the problem is about making money out of music, but monetizing the use of recorded music. We have to find a way which makes sense.  That's why I came up with an "access to music" charge. It's kind of a blanket license, and this isn't new. When music came to the radio, we licensed it, when people started making records, we licensed it, when people started recording music, we licensed it. And people got paid, whether they were the writer or the performer.

U.: So the whole point is to find an agreement.
P.J.: To find a way to license actual behavior, rather than theoretical behavior. When they invented copyright they didn't imagine radio, or the walkman, any of these things. How can we make it work? That's what this whole conference is about. You may have an idea, I may have an idea, and in this room there's probably forty different ideas. And in the end we will find a  way that more or less reasonably works for everyone, and that generates less problems than any other solution. Because we have a historical problem and a future problem.
There are old laws about property, copyright is very deep in our society, it's not just about music, it's about paintings, architecture, trademarks, it's about the very base of capitalist society. It's a very fundamental issue to deal with and it's not going to be easy.

U.: So if everyone has an idea about the future of music distribution, what is Peter Jenner's idea?
P.J.:  My idea essentially is that we should charge based on how people receive music. So if you have a line and access to broadband in a mobile device or otherwise, you could assume that people are going to be using that for music, and make a small charge, a compensation. And that provides a floor, so whether you access the content from sites like the Pirate Bay or any other, you pay a small charge without mattering whatever amount you get. I'm thinking a price of something like one euro per month per device, per contract. It has to be based on contract because, well, we need a way to collect the money.
The problem is that there are going to be very different ways to deliver the content, such as locus services. I'd like for them to pay too, as in essence, the more ways to get it there is, the lower the price will become. If in the UK you charge one pound a month per costumer, on average, you would get  12000 million pounds a year, and the current value of the record industry is 800 million pounds. So, think about it, you could afford to make quite a lot of deductions there.
We also have to accept that there must be some equity in there, you could have a part of funds for support of cultural goods such as non-commercial music. But I think that in the end, the music that gets the most distribution, should get the most money. And how can you measure that? You could measure that by looking at the network. You don't have to see whether if I have it or you have it, just look at the traffic, and that you can measure.

U.:  And in this way of monetizing music, where do the interests of the consumer, the artist and the industry meet? Because it has a certain component of intruding into consumer communication.
P.J.:  In a sense we have to be grown up enough to reach a decision that basically can work. Maybe we can use government arbitration, maybe the industry could resolve it amongst themselves. You have to decide how to split the money, and that is a challenge to the music industry or any other content industry. And if we can't agree, we got to find someone to arbitrate. In the end it would have to be the government, or the judges, or someone would have to decide what is fair.
There is a very interesting essay on the subject at, which basically translates the situation as this: There's a lake, and in the lake there's fish. And there's fishermen, and they make a living by fishing in the lake. And along comes a petrol refinery. The oil refinery is doing their job, but they are also polluting the lake. And by polluting the lake, they reduce the fish stock.  And in a sense, that's what the digital recording is doing to the business industry. It boils down to that we have to find a compensation for the pollution. But that means finding objectively to what extent their business is being polluted. You can contact the ISP and evaluate it, and see how much should be paid objectively. But, this is the most important aspect of the issue, that would give the polluters an incentive to stop the pollution. The less they pollute the lake, the less they pay. They reach an agreement. It's not just a matter of me deciding "I'm worth a lot of money, give it to me". It's a matter of deciding something like "this is what my business does to your business" and reach an equity.

U.: So what you are saying is that for this new system to emerge, there needs to be more of a dialog between the parts implied?
P.J.: There will have to be more dialog. But in the end, the government has to take a view. They cannot stand by. In what is happening to the music business, the newspapers, the books, film or TV, they cannot just stand by. When someone finds the way to make three-dimensional copies of, say, spare parts for cars, or see a lamp and go "oh, I like that, I'll put a copy at my home", there's going to be trouble.

U.: So music is the tip of the iceberg, so to say.
P.J.: Absolutely. If I can reproduce a perfect copy of this bottle of water, and of the label, and fill it with water and sell it at half price, I'll destroy this company. The government has to do something, our whole economic structure is built on it. Some of the people here in the FC talks say that we need a complete restructuration of society. And that's a huge struggle, and it's one that we will probably lose. Karl Marx, Lenin, Castro... I just can't see it happening. I can see the reasoning, but I can't see it happening. And if you throw out capitalism, what are you going to put in its place?
People say "oh, it's just music, what's the hassle", and that's really wrong. Music is just a part of the whole base of society, and how we resolve the problems we have now determines how we treat the whole creative business, not just cultural works, but physical creative works, this chair, or architecture. Architecture could be pirated, plans could be put online, and I could build replicas. It's extremely important, and the government is just letting it run its own course, trying to avoid the issue saying "oh it's just music" and whatnot, but it's not just music, it's a change on the fundamental paradigm of society.
The process of digitization has started with music and books, but it ends with physical goods. And it ends up with creativity, and with chemicals, you could probably replicate any pharmacology. The government cannot stand by on such a fundamental issue. They will find they cannot control many things before too long. This affects how we structure society, and the market. And it just has started.

U.: To close the interview, tell us your view on Spain's situation in the music and copyright controversy.
P.J.: What makes it interesting to hold this conference here in Spain is that the collapse of the Spanish recording industry is spectacular. It leads the world in collapse. And a rich musical heritage is in danger, because no recording companies will invest in Spanish artists because they can't see how they will get any money back. I don't know if that's a threat or an opportunity or both, but the issue needs to be resolved if you want to keep your music creativity.
People like music most of the time because they heard a recording, or they read about it and listen to the record then. Most people haven't seen the artists live. The act of recording itself is the base of a lot of our music and film industry, it creates a whole market that raises standards. Without it we become more provincial. They won't know what's happening in Madrid, or Barcelona or Valencia if you don't have recordings. Eventually people will go to some or another gig, but in the long term it's a large problem. And Spain is the first canary in the mine, because it's perceived by the record industry as to have collapsed. In the rest of the world they say, "if we're not careful, we'll end up like Spain".
And this collapse is going to be used as a reason to clamp down on the Internet, and that's a real problem. If we don't resolve it, they're going to clamp down on it everywhere, and that's going to be very damaging in the long term for our social and economic health. It will be a disaster. Clamping down on it is not the solution. We have to find a way to monetize the use, and that implies looking at what people want and what they do, and that implies moral rights. You just can't escape it. What do we do with moral rights such as privacy? I think that's the final question, and I'll leave that for you to answer.


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