I've been browsing about Download.com, and the wheels have started turning in my brain again.
A third of Time's 2005 "Person of the Year", Bill Gates, once said:
I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.
This has come to be something of a mantra among critics of open-source: what, you want to starve out the artists?! You selfish, soulless consumer!
Taking a step back, the focus on "incentives" is rather small-minded. We have only recently become aware of just how much money people are willing to pay for boxed sets of their favorite shows, or more expensive television programs. And yet, TV producers were not starving before this shift.
The form that internet consumption is taking can only alarm those who ignore the historic success of television, and the modern success of the Google business model.
Think about it. When have you ever had to pay for every single show that you watch on TV? The only difference now is that you can pay for things that TV doesn't otherwise have, but for the majority of its existence, the only thing that viewers had to pay for was the box. Would we brand this extremely successful business model "communism"?
Likewise, Google gives just about all of its services away for free. The search engine, the blogs, the e-mail accounts, all of it. Then, it makes its money, as some have put it, by "selling the eyeballs"–utilizing several methods not too far removed from ones that have been used by TVs, radios, and newspapers for decades.
Now, I believe that the law is the law. If you pirate something that doesn't belong to you, and are caught for it, then you don't have much of a case, in my view.
The answer, then, isn't in illegally downloading music without the consent of the musician, but in turning to Download.com and places like it where musicians voluntarily upload their music to be accessed for free. More on the soundness of this business model for musicians can be found here.
I think that people should be allowed their right to charge people in order to access their music or read their books. But I also think that time will render those who choose to operate in that fashion unable to compete with the open-sourcers.
Because ultimately, clinging to monetary compensation for one's intellectual property rights is something you can only do if you're already an entrenched, well-recognized name in the industry. For those up-and-comers, who comprise the vast majority of musicians of any sort, open-source websites are like free advertisement. In fact, people are already moving up in this manner.
Download.com, Fictionpress, and deviantART are all outlets through which one's art, whatever form it may be, can be put out in public for free and to be accessed for free. I believe that as the model is fine tuned, we will see more and more websites that work much like television stations, only without the constraints of timeslots and with a technology that makes storing and sharing your favorites much more convenient.
Then again, with Tivo and DVR taking off, we will probably begin to see television becoming more and more like the internet.
Nothing "communist" about any of this, just good old fashioned entertainment business saavy working with groundbreaking new technology.