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20 September 2007



Your three starting observations are right to the point. I often have to explain essentially the same points again and again.

(a) What do you mean by a
"public stock market" for music?

The only kind of system I can think of that would work and would not create scarcity where there is none (which the current system does create) would be one in which listeners would pool to support musicians from whom they want new music. Do you have an implementation of something similar in mind?

(b)Educate me: what are the effects of cheap luxuries?

Barnaby Dawson

Firstly (b): When luxuries are cheap people do not need to work nearly as hard to attain their expectations in terms of material happyness. This leads to a depression in the hours people are prepared to work. Also of course the more luxury goods an economy produces the less capital is plowed back into the economy in investment.

Of course this attitude to taxation is a good thing as it is preferable for the government to get tax from luxuries rather than necessities.

Now (a): If you were selling a fixed number of identical items you would probably use a multi-unit English ascending auction (known sometimes as a Dutch auction). My proposed system would be to perform multiple Dutch auctions simultaneously each one assuming a different number of items to be sold (say one for 1,000 one for 10,000 and one for 100,000). The auction that results in the highest total payout would become binding and the others would be ignored.

Several important details:

1) Companies should not be allowed to bid for rights on their own copyrighted songs.

2) The items sold should be one time play rights to a track. Otherwise speculation over the future value of a track becomes impossible.

3) Auctions shouldn't be automatic but should be triggered by a certain level of interest in them. Those participating in an auction should pay the cost of setting it up and should decide what the upper bound for sales is.

The main benefit from such a system would be the liberalising of trade in copyright. It is thus analagous to a stock market.

This is still only an outline of the system I have in mind (and its consequences). Expect a post on this in the future.

Sinistre (and Destre)


Not the way I would normally approach the issue at all. But I begrudingly see reason to your approach of putting watermarks. I wonder what will follow from this implementation. I suspect, as you do, that the organisation of peer to peer downloading will change.


Throughout history, the issue of proper music ownership has been a percieved threat. With the following technological innovations have necessarily come threats of piracy:

i. Printing press (and manuscript paper)

ii. The invention of music playing and recording (post-Edison) - although this threat was regarding the 'authenticity' or 'aura' (cf. Walter Benjamin) of music; it was a threat to live performances.

iii. The innovation of cassettes and piracy/bootlegging (which encouraged the flourishing of musical styles such as Punk and Thrash Metal [bands like Metallica - who ironically are against mp3 downloading - which I was going to write a post about])

On a side note; Michael tells me for your readers to consult "Bootlegging: Romanticism And Copyright In The Music Industry", by Dr. Lee Marshall; who was a tutor of his, for an ideological account of the status of copyright (sinistre and myself's favoured approach).

From the noumenal realm

Barnaby Dawson

Destre: I agree with you.

Michael: I'll see if I can find a copy of that book to browse.

Sinestre: I'm not advocating water marks (although I would prefer them to locked down music). I think they will become unnecessary after a proper public market in music is established. I'll edit the post to make that clear. I do think that the use of copyrights is a phase which the music industry will pass through on its way to a more sensible final system.

As I said to Harald I shall be coming back to this topic.


Again, with such an auction, we would be creating scarcity where there is none, and we would be relying on copy-protection mechanisms.

Why can't we have a system where a group of consumers simply comes together to commision a new composition (or recorded performance) from an artist, which then becomes freely available to all?

Barnaby Dawson

There is scarcity there. It is the scarcity of musical talent and lives devoted to music. I think that my auction system properly takes this into account.

Your system sadly would not work because people are selfish and wouldn't want to be amongst the few who pay'd for the music.

re copy protection: The point is that copy-protection mechanisms are only hard to enfore because they are propping up a system that is ripping customers off. What I'm advocating wouldn't prevent you from copying and sharing as much music as you want. It just sits there in the background measuring your music usage in a fair manner (price scales logarithmically with usage).

I think going into the question in any more detail would require a blog post or two. So lets leave any further discussion until I've rigorously defined my proposed system along with its expected consequences.

Alex Stacey

Interesting ideas, thanks.

We've recently introduced mp3 watermarking into our digital promo service at FATdrop. The purpose of it was, as you mentioned above, to identify the original downloader of the track in the case of a track found shared illegally. We are against the idea of using restrictive technology like DRM which attempts to prevent copying of a file and we certainly don't want to get into a battle of seeing how well we can hide a watermark, and seeing how long it takes people to find out how to remove it. In our case, it's not about that. It's about finding the people who carelessly share music and in necessary, taking away their right to receive pre-release promos.

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