14 August 2003

Napster Bad

Ernie the Attorney quite properly suggests that Congressional hearings on the P2P ("Napsterlike file sharing") controversy may be necessary. However, as all too well illustrated over at Camp Chaos, there is much more to this problem than file sharing. As I remarked last month, "The rent-seekers are not the creators of intellectual property. The rent-seekers are distributors and other middle-men." Thus, those hearings should not be limited to P2P issues, but to the context in which they arise: an industry that looks an awful lot like the steel and utility industries did a century ago.

Treating a disease needs to look at more than one symptom. Sometimes amputation of an infected toe isn't the right solution; sometimes, instead, one uses debridement or an an antibiotic. Of course, being vaccinated beforehand would be even better.

Bluntly, accounting in the entertainment industry—publishing being more honest than most of the rest, but that's very much a relative term—makes Enron look honest. Since those accounting practices, among other tools, are used to raise significant entry barriers to competitors and to control prices charged by suppliers…