To rethink music, one needs to think wider than music and deeper in music

The Rethink Music was organized 25-27 April 2011 in Boston, by the Berklee College of Music and MIDEM in association with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society of Harvard University. Volker Grassmuck has written an account under the title Rethink Music? Think again. His take is that most speakers’ thinking is still too influenced by pre-digital concepts, thus the “think again”. I would add think beyond recorded music, beyond music, that is adopting an all-media encompassing approach to digital culture, and also deeper in music.

Volker Grassmuck also provides an overview of the state-of-play regarding proposals discussed in the Alternative Compensation Systems panel for the legalization of sharing and details on his own talk on the subject. In his talk, he departs from compensatory (for harm) approaches and strongly states: “File-sharing is not a problem, it’s a solution”, even though an “alternative compensation” panel is not necessarily the best home for a non-compensatory approach. He kindly refers to my own proposals for a social rights-based creative contribution (detailed in my still forthcoming Sharing book). Our view points have significantly converged, further to discussions conducted at the Free Culture Forum and with Jamie Love (key designer of the Blur/Banff approach of financing based on user preferences and allocation to competitive intermediaries). His overall view on perspectives in the US is pessimistic. Here is a quote:

As for legalizing and remunerating file-sharing, there was a common understanding that it will not happen in the US. Basing an Alternative Compensation System (ACS) on taxes rather than on copyright levies proved to be a political non-starter. Voluntary arrangements, if anything, would be the only acceptable solution here. The EFF’s 2008 Whitepaper on Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing stands as a tomb stone to this futile approach. Its author, Fred von Lohmann, now works as Senior Copyright Counsel for Google. Both Terry Fisher and Jim Griffin had then attempted to target the gated communities of colleges and universities. Terry’s Noank is dead and Jim describes his Choruss as a “learning experience.”

In contrast, he sees hope for legalization of sharing and new financing mechanisms for creative activities in Europe, in Brazil despite recent changes in the government copyright policy, and from international arenas opening some doors.

Two comments:

  • There is room beyond copyright licensing and taxes.Voluntary resource pooling is there and grows, even though it will have trouble to scale up to the needed level for a society of contributors. Statutory resource pooling for user-governed systems will exist. The question is how long we will lose before.
  • It is surprising how little people speak of music in these music policy events. Last time I got a chance to do it was for my 2004 keynote at the 5th International Symposium on Music Information Retrieval (talk, slides)

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