value defined by what you can’t do

by Hugh

I’m batting around this idea, maybe you can help articulate it better. Here’s the basic idea:

The (monetary) value of something is defined by what you can’t do with it; not by what you can do with it.

I’m thinking of this particularly wrt to digital media, and the music biz. The “value” of LP records was defined not by what you could do with it (ie play music), but what you couldn’t do with it: copy it instantly and share it with all your friends. The LP is valuable because it’s scarce: you’ve got one, I don’t … hence it has value. Ditto tapes and CDs.

Thought experiment #1: imagine that in 1888 someone invented a cheap little device that recorded sounds and that also broadcasted sounds to the world; anyone who had such a device could catch those other sound broadcasts and record them … and the device also had infinite storage. If that were the case, how do you think the music “business” would have evolved?

Thought experiment #2: what if our memories were so good that we could hear a song and remember it exactly, and replay it in our minds exactly as we heard it the first time? would musicians go out of their way to try to prevent individuals from hearing their music?

With audiohijack pro I can copy any sound that passes thru my computer, if I so choose. Regardless of any DRM or whatever else you try to stick on your media. Further, I consume 90% of my media on my computer. So if you want me to hear it, I will be able to record it.

I know this is all old news, but I am reminded of my discussions at PodCamp boston with the founder of Select Records (one of the first indie hip hop labels). He was a good guy, an indie trench warrior who worked for many years trying to get little bands popular. But like many record execs sees P2P etc as “illegal downloading.”

But the point is, it doesn’t matter what he thinks. Ditto for Sony and all the rest. (Same for people who complain about Wikipedia… it doesn’t matter if you think Wikipedia is a bad idea, because it’s what people actually use).

It’s just too easy for me or anyone else to copy music. There’s nothing that can be done, it’s over.

Speaking of which, Galacticast did a great little DMCA.ca vid.