Wired Prescribes the End of Music Piracy

Is it time to stop pirating music? According to Paul Boutin in Wired (via reddit), yes.

It’s time for everybody to go legit. The reason: We won. And all you audiophiles and copyfighters, you know who fixed our problems? The record labels and online stores we loved to hate.

Paul lines up arguments in favor of pirating, and then attacks each argument in turn. DRM? Gone. Resolution? Improved to the point at which most ears couldn’t hear an improvement in quality. Catalog? Expanded, in fact wider than Paul claims, since you can now find the Beatles in iTunes. And so on.

I’d take issue with Paul on one point (besides the quibble about the Beatles). “The age of stealing music via the Internet is officially over.” But his arguments are that it should be over. In other words, they are prescriptive arguments.

I haven’t seen a strong descriptive case that music piracy is ceasing. That would require data showing that people aren’t taking music for which they payed, and which was not given to them. As the discussion on Reddit shows, there are people who intend to obtain music without paying for it. That raises questions such as: How many of them are there? How responsible is the music industry for their existence? But I won’t go into that here.

I will read with interest Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. I didn’t steal it, I borrowed it from the library. I hope author Steve Knopper doesn’t mind. Perhaps the music industry has become less self-destructive since the book was published.

Depends On What You Mean By “Tail”

Chris Anderson sportingly draws attention to an article in Harvard Business Review that takes issue with Long Tail theory. He traces the paper’s findings about the long tail to the way in which it defines the tail. Jackson West at Valleywag remarks:

Anderson says that [HBR author and HBS prof] Elberse’s analysis isn’t wrong, per se, just that they disagree on exactly what the “head” and “tail” mean. Except that Elberse worked with Anderson on researching his book, so one imagines the Wired magazine editor explained it thoroughly. Funny, it’s as though two different people analyzing the same data have come to entirely different conclusions about the “truth.”

There is brilliance in that quote – yes the quote from Valleywag. The brilliance lies in the link in the last sentence.