Quotes evoking big budget movies as signal case for copyright

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Quotes from reformers stipulating that copyright is necessary for big budget movies. More/better quotes along these lines wanted.

The movies category here suggestions that trading freedom, equality, and security for “terrible Hollywood blockbusters” is a bad deal and that more commons-based production of movies and other premium video will help expand the policy imagination, putting commons-favoring policy in the fore.

James Boyle, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (2008), Chapter 8:

It is important not to overstate how far the sharing economy can get us. It might help to cut the costs of early-stage drug development, as the Tropical Disease Initiative attempts to do for neglected diseases. It will not generate a Phase III drug trial or bring a drug to market. Sharing methods might be used to generate cult movies such as Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, which was created using techniques borrowed from open source software and is available under a Creative Commons license. They will not produce a mammoth blockbuster like Ben Hur, or Waterworld for that matter—results that will generate mixed feelings. So there are real limitations to the processes I describe.

Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (2008), Conclusion:

But I’ve also made the other side to that argument clear: the sharing economy notwithstanding, there’s lots that won’t be created without an effective copyright regime too. I love terrible Hollywood blockbusters. If anyone could copy in high quality a Hollywood film the moment it was released, no one could afford to make $100 million blockbusters. So give me this example at least. And if there’s one example, then it’s plausible that there are more. Movies. Maybe music. Maybe some kinds of books — dictionaries, maybe novels by John Grisham. We should of course be skeptical about how broadly this regulation needs to reach. (Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer got tenure at Harvard with a piece that expressed deep skepticism about how broadly this claimed need reaches.)’ But I’m convinced that it reaches into some places at least. For those cases, without solving the problem of positive externalities, we wouldn’t have that kind of creative work.

So to get Hollywood films, some kinds of blockbuster movies, maybe Justin Timberlake — like music, and maybe a few types of books, we run a copyright system. That system is a form of regulation. Like most regulation, after a while, it becomes big and expensive. Federal courts and federal prosecutors spend a lot of money enforcing the law copyright is. Companies invest millions in technologies for protecting copyrighted material. Universities run sting operations on their own students to punish or expel those who fail to follow copyright’s rule. We build this massively complex system of federal regulation — a regulation that purports to reach everyone who uses a computer — to solve this “problem” of positive externalities.

Note the mention of ‘dictionaries’ seems odd given wiktionary, but maybe it was less well known when Remix was being written.

Lessig, Republic, Lost (2011), Chapter 5:

Consider, for example, the case of movies. Imagine a blockbuster Hollywood feature that costs $20 million to make. Once a single copy of this film is in digital form, the Internet guarantees that millions of copies could be accessed in a matter of minutes. Those “extra” copies are the physical manifestation of the positive externality that a film creates. The value or content of that film can be shared easily—insanely easily—given the magic of “the Internets.”

That ease of sharing creates risk of underproduction for such creative work: If the only way that this film can be made is for the company making it to get paid by those who watch it, or distribute it, then without some effective way to make sure that those who make copies pay for those copies, we’re not going to get many of those films made. That’s not to say we won’t get any films made. There are plenty of films that don’t exist for profit. Government propaganda is one example. Safety films that teach employees at slaughterhouses how to use dangerous equipment is another.

But if you’re like me, and want to watch Hollywood films more than government propaganda (and certainly more than safety films), you might well be keen to figure out how we can ensure that more of the former get made, even if we must suffer too much of the latter.

The answer is copyright—or, more precisely, an effective system of copyright. Copyright law gives the creator of a film (and other art forms) the legal right to control who makes copies of it, who can distribute it, who displays it publicly, and so forth. By giving the creator that power, the creator can then set the price he or she wants. If the system is effective, that price is respected—the only people who can get the film are the people who pay for it. The creator can thus get the return she wants in exchange for creating the film. We would be a poorer culture if copyright didn’t give artists and authors a return for their creativity.

Comments on this excerpt and a few other items in the book.

Lea Shaver, Copyright and Inequality (2014):

The conventional wisdom about copyright as an incentive for creative production requires more nuance. For many types of creative works, copyright protection does indeed enhance the incentives to create, directing significantly greater investments of resources to creative production. For example, strong copyright protection is ideally suited to incentivizing high-budget movies and mass-market novels. Other types of creative works, however, are produced for reasons unrelated to financial incentives, or because of financial incentives that do not rely on copyright protection. Copyright protection is more of a neutral force in academic journal publishing, where authors’ incentives relate to reputation and impact, rather than royalties. And in other instances, strong copyright protection may actually do more harm than good. Copyright protection does not provide meaningful financial incentives to for-profit publishing in neglected languages, and may be holding back the emergence of not-for-profit and open business models that could better serve low-income readers.

Note Sita Sings the Blues is mentioned in an unrelated footnote.

Mark Lemley, IP in a World Without Scarcity (2015):

There is still a role for IP on the Internet. There are some works that are so costly to create even in the digital world that they are unlikely to be made without effective IP protection. Big-budget movies and video games cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make. No amount of creative fire will drive someone who doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars to make Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. They need corporate backing, and the corporate backers need a revenue stream. But in the Internet era those works are increasingly the exception, not the rule. The law therefore needs to figure out ways to protect those exceptional works without blocking the creativity that is happening despite, not because of, IP.

That doesn’t mean IP can or will disappear, and certainly not overnight. It simply means that how much (if any) IP we need in a given industry is a function of the characteristics of that industry. As those characteristics change, so must IP. There are some industries, like pharmaceuticals, that will need strong IP protection for the foreseeable future to encourage innovation despite the cost of government regulatory barriers. Even in industries that lack those barriers, there may be technologies or creative works (like big-budget movies and video games) that cost so much to develop that no one will invest in them without IP protection. (fn: Or perhaps some other form of government subsidy. States in the United States spent $1.4 billion subsidizing films in 2010.)

I think part of this is finding ways to reduce costs. Billion dollar kickstarters certainly won’t get us there. Blender is struggling to get enough cloud subscribers to pay for the rest of Cosmos Laundromat (though I really hope they succeed).

Certainly. But production costs have fallen precipitously, and there hasn’t been much of an emergence of a libre movie movement. That’s why stoking demand and imagination for libre film is needed. People won’t even make cheap movies and make them free if there’s no mechanism for them to get distribution and no community for them to participate in when doing so.

Not surprised.

  1. I’d never heard of this until now.

  2. When you go to the website you have to really click around and commit to joining before they just show you that it’s $10 a month.

  1. I’m kind of surprised that you hadn’t seen the crowdfunding attempt last year that didn’t meet its €500,000 goal. But I guess that’s symptomatic of free culture productions having just about zero easily reachable audience. Surely many fewer people have heard about your Orang-U, or recent Ze Marmot, or @singpolyma’s Big Buck Bunny Board Book. That’s something to fix…

  2. I also find the pitch for Blender Cloud and website purchase flow a bit confusing; presumably they know what they are doing, maybe something to do with really wanting Blender Cloud subscribers interested in Blender and not focused on people who maybe think Blender is cool but really just want to support the movie? Total speculation.

  1. I also had not heard of Gooseberry or the cloud until this spring. Not sure how I missed it.

  2. They have a big link from the gooseberry header now, and also from the first cycle wrap-up. It is a bit tricky, though, since what you get does not apply to most movie supporters. But, most patreon-style support systems you get very little at all (the artist just continues to make art) so thinking of the blender cloud in this way it’s actually much higher value.