|Mozart in training|
Media companies on whom the digital industry feeds out of business are going out of business. As Levin points out, "Newspaper stocks have fallen to all-time lows as papers are pressured to give away content, music sales have fallen by more than half since file sharing became common, TV ratings are plummeting as viewership migrates online, and publishers face off against Amazon over the price of digital books."
It's true: the media industry has lost control. It's fighting and desperately clawing and hanging its way confusingly to stay afloat. Part of the problem is that the history of copyright has existed long before the digital world disorder. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) was passed in 1998, seven years before YouTube. Seven years before remixing became the norm. Legal scholar Lawrence Lessig has merit when he argues that "creative remixing" is healthy within reason. Yet it appears that the balance has been tipped to the point where it could have harmful effects on the culture industries. Here are a few points:
Copyright and Originality - Sure, YouTube might produce some unique content, but how original really are they? Much of the viral remixes we view online are based on the original products that had been built on the backs of commercial enterprses. Could there be Chad Vader without StarWars? There might have been some unique online stars created overnight, but ultimately these stars still require real agents to promote their originality. They ultimately require people to buy their originality whatever form that may be. There are many who don't necessarily require monetary gains; but ultimately most do. And it isn't through Google Ads.
Content Quality - Yes, it seems print newspapers have also given way to digital content. Commercial newspapers are giving away their copies for free. Content is given away as "information wants to be free." It's an exciting time for open access and open source. Chris Anderson had long argued that businesses should give it all away for free. But is this really for the best though? For one thing, anyone can open a blog and write about the news - it's called grassroots citizen journalism. But much of it is run on shoe string budgets. Editorial oversight is thinly disguised. Much of the news aggregators in fact churn out such news that way. Look at the Huffington Post.
E-Books & Authorship - Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is one of the first services to allow for any writers to self-publish books on the Amazon Kindle Store. It's supposed to be the future of publishing. To cut out the middleman the publisher so that the author can directly publish his work inexpensively and accessibly. It will democratize the literary world. It will change the book industry; with e-books, who needs to purchase directly from a publisher when it can be easily created and bought in digital form? Just hire a designer and a copy editor (or not). But is that really how it will happen? Perhaps not. With publishers no longer involved, who will promote emerging writers? For decades publishing houses have bought the rights of the author's creativity in return for selling their books. Without them, will new authors be able to compete with the established stars? Does the long tail promised by Chris Anderson really work for those artists on the tail who need to survive on next to nothing until they get noticed?
Will artists return to the patronage system as in the days of Mozart? Levine brings forth a really intriguing and plausible scenario. Before the days of record companies and career agents, the only way performers, musicians, painters, and sculptors could maintain their art work was through the financial support of the nobility and the wealthy. With the demise of the commercial industries, will artists revert back to this classical period? Will cultural producers such as authors and musicians rely only on the rich to support them?