Innovation and Intellectual Property

February 25, 2004 · 0 comments

“Grey Album” case.

On February 24th, the album was released. It is a a stunning good remix which samples many tracks of The Beatles (licensed by Capitol Recordings). The album is only released in a run of 3.000 pieces, but was copied allover the Internet (especially on P2P networks). In 12 hours, Downhill Battle, the organization behind the initiative, had more than 40 sites signed on to participate. Within two days, Greytuesday.org reached the top ranking on Blogdex and Popdex, Web sites that track which sites are being linked to from blogs.
Meanwhile, the CD is being copied and played more than any CD currently sold (or copied -who buys CDs these days?-)

EMI records responded immideately:
“…as well as the valuable intellectual property rights of other artists, music publishers, and/or record companies and will subject you to serious legal remedies for willful violation of the laws. We accordingly demand that you cease any plans or efforts to distribute or publicly perform this unlawful recording.”

The response of Downhill Battle:
Our posting of the Grey Album on Downhill Battle is a political act with no commercial interest and fits well within fair use rights. Lawyers have advised us that we can ignore your demands number 2, 3, and 4 that are listed at the bottom of your letter. EMI has no legal right to make these demands and we will not comply with them. Furthermore, if EMI attempts to disrupt our protest by sending takedown letters to participating websites, ISPs of participating websites, or any upstream ISPs, we will file a counter-suit against you. We consider any attempts to stifle this protest to be an abuse under section 512F of the DMCA.

Michele Mees of The House of Marketing posted an article on Stella Artois (a Belgian Beer brewer), which is starting it’s own label (headed by Len Doens, former director at TMF). Her closing question (I failed to read her point, except the point that the current music industry is being thrown upside down):
“Will Stella Artois Music work with a different business model than the big record companies?”

It’s strange that people really fail to see the point.
The point is that the current definition of ‘intellectual ownership’ is dead. The music industry is the first one under serious attack. But in fact, it is a global phenomenon. The same threats could be applied to Photographers.

We as consultants should know everything about the right to sample. It is what we do. We hire young greedy consultants (even if they have only practical experience in, let’s say, finance), we copy models we find in books, the Internet. Mix them… and we sell our ‘intellectual property’ to our clients.
Do we really fail to see there is no point in the ‘property’ dimension?

Just like Brian Burton (a/k/a Danger Mouse) proved in his remixes on “Grey Album”, the value is in the focus. Marketing consultants are hired because they offer focus, not for their intellectual property. A music artist, a photographer, an architect,… they don’t create really. They focus, collect, assemble and produce. The value is in the focus. Once created, the creation is public property and you are in for a next cycle.

As long as we fail to see this evolution, we will fail in defining the new value chains and business models, we will fail to see the value of sheer attention, the value of publishing and distribution.

Creative Commons is a good point to start your reflections, it has recently been integrated into a Mozilla browser.

Oh, and yes… the role of the business who will manage our exhange platforms is the most cleary defined. I guess Sacha of NTT Verio is fully aware of this after having visited PMA 2004

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