back to article The 'Digital Economy' in 2012: A big noisy hole where money should be

Thank the Zuck! We should all remember Mark Zuckerberg as we sing Auld Lang Syne this year. Facebook's photographic landgrab via its freshly acquired Instagram service has helped put some vital perspective onto 2012 - bringing home issues that were abstract or buried by political posturing. What Facebook is doing is merely …


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  1. Captain Underpants

    Interesting article, Andrew. I'm inclined to agree that, while copyright terms should be reined in, the orphan works ideas going around at the minute are the wrong way to approach the problem. If the only way you can strengthen the public domain is by putting people's work in there against their wishes, you've got a badly defined public domain.

    That being said, i'm not sure Sky is the best choice of profit-making entity for comparison, since most people's subscription to Sky (or other similar services) involves paying for at least some stuff they don't want. Economies of scale may be the reason for this, but they don't make people any happier about eg having to pay for a sports channel sub they dont want or use.

  2. Blarkon

    Would like to see Orlowski interview Jaron Lanier about these issues - which seem to be canvassed in Lanier's new book

  3. Eddie Edwards
    Black Helicopters

    Cheap, effective justice = DMCA takedown

    "There is no cheap, effective access to justice for the photographer dad whose picture of his kid has been copied and defaced,"

    Well since exactly this happened to me, I can happily report that there is. A DMCA takedown notice. Experience says Twitter, for one, will act on these within a week. Not much you can do if it spreads - the same is true for the big players too, and is the nature of the internet - but it certainly counts as cheap, effective access to justice for the cases where justice could potentially be served at all.

    1. Steve Crook

      Re: Cheap, effective justice = DMCA takedown

      @Eddie Edwards

      Tell us more about it if you can. I'd be interested to know what you did and, if it cost you money, how much....

      1. foxyshadis

        Re: Cheap, effective justice = DMCA takedown

        Here's a sample template, there are lots on Google:

        The great thing about a DMCA takedown is that it's free, fast, easy, and simple, and utterly safe as long as you don't perjure yourself. You don't have to be an American citizen to use it, it only matters that the company does business in the US and that you hold the American copyright, which is automatic if you're a citizen of any Berne Convention country (unless you've signed foreign rights away, of course). They may contact you to verify your contact information.

        If you're the creator but not the rights owner, don't do it. You would be perjuring yourself and opening yourself to huge damages and an arrest warrant if you didn't answer to them.

  4. Sir Runcible Spoon


    The sad truth is that this is just too complicated an issue for the average person in the street. The only people in this situation with power are those who can bring money to bear - because there just aren't enough informed individuals who care.

    It's just human nature writ large on an internet tapestry - poor people get poorer, rich people get richer.

    It's a shame that the upcoming generations, whilst technically savvy, have no interest in politics - they just aren't taught to think critically. I mean, tell your average 20 year old that signing up to the likes of facebook or google is effectively handing over control of their content on the internet. I predict a response along the lines of..


    1. Robert Forsyth

      Re: Sir

      Perhaps some sort of education, but wrapped up in a less 'dusty jacket'.

  5. PyLETS
    Big Brother

    transaction costs, recombination and non-enforceability

    The idea that because content creation status is stuff which can be owned it must therefore be controlled leads to the evils identified in the article concerning non enforceability, and the well-known and malign effects resulting from attempted enforcement against private non-profit making individual users. Having some kind of IP registry could help identify who owns what, just as the Land Registry did with another kind of property transaction. But that isn't going to be the whole story due to the transaction costs resulting from attempting to identify and control individual use especially where multi-layered recombination of content is involved, e.g. as in TV documentaries which can't legally be reshown due to rights negotiation logjams.

    In my own industry (software) many if not most content creators (including myself) have abandoned the idea of charging for use of content due to the transaction costs associated with layered recombination overwhelming product value. So we free the source code and charge for education, training, consultancy time and support instead.

    The fact is, so long as we have computers and networks the detailed actions of which are not under corporate direction content distribution can't be controlled. I for one don't want to live in a society where it becomes an offence for me to tell someone else how to find a working Pirate Bay proxy server - the idea of the courts controlling what we're allowed to know is as ludicrous as the superinjunction.

    The acceptable solution has to be to get commercial beneficiaries pay for supporting what individuals who make no profit from use of content can be enabled to do with it, and to stop pretending what ISP service is for or that currently infringing uses can or should be prevented. This only works if the ISP or blank media manufacturer or importer pays a rate similar to how a shop pays to be licensed to play any music on its premises. People who make money out of something can afford a cut to the content creators for providing the content - but this should be a simple license paid by the commercial beneficiary for all content covered as a single contract, not hundreds of millions of individual contracts to individual content creators. Those who make money out of something can be traced and chased relatively easily while non commercial beneficiaries can't. It should then be up to the content creators through their collection societies which do the tracing and chasing to divvy up the rewards amongst the creators and crats.

  6. Arctic fox

    "It's actually individuals whose rights are being eroded,............

    .................. along with their freedom to take their creativity to a digital marketplace - and it's individuals who are being punished."

    Indeed Andrew. It is precisely that that I find highly ironic. We see time after time postings that make it clear the the person concerned thinks that Micro$BastardSoft is the biggest danger we face. That company (as we all know from painful experience) are scarcely Sunday-school boys and girls but the utter obsession of those posters to the exclusion of all else is about as stupid as it is possible to be. The issues of privacy, freedom of speech and a genuine free-market such that the buggers cannot screw us over are rather more important than which individual company we hate the most. Anyone who believes that any example of "BigCorp" is worth their "loyalty" is deluding themselves.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "It's actually individuals whose rights are being eroded,............

      Thing is, we're all stupid when we upload things to websites.

      You wouldn't put your valuables in a "free self-storage" service in the real world, you would be wondering how they could afford to pay the bills. So why on earth are we believing these free services are just out of the goodness of their heart?

      Pigs in their pig house are probably loving the free shelter and food just the same.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good Article

    A few of us were talking about how all this relates to the Big Brother concept from "1984". There are many similarities, but the biggest conceptual and behavioral difference is, in 1984, freedoms and ownership were viewed to be "taken" from the people. Today, the reality is, most of us simply give it away voluntarily with the mere click on a check box. For those in power with designs to capitalize on, leverage and monitor you and your online assets, uninformed sheeple gladly give themselves away to be with their "friends" and look at pictures. Fascinating.

  8. Turtle

    Can Run On Advetising Forever? Or For How Long?

    And how much of the problem is directly due to the fact that there are too many people who think that the internet can be run on advertising, and that people whose product is in some way either digital or capable of being digitized, can live and continue to produce, on the income generated by page views and Google ads?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh Indeed

    Quite frankly, I honestly don't care about websites tracking my searches/purchases/taste in pornography, or selling ads next to my uploaded content in exchange for a bunch of free services.

    I full expect a million downvotes from this, but it's true and it's the case for the majority of people. It's not ignorance, it's just the fact people would rather give up some privacy and intellectual property rather than pay a single pound for the multitude of Internet services they use daily.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The new enemies

    Google, Apple and Facebook are the biggest threats to privacy we now face.

    They all want to store and process your personal content and are making it easier to give into this than to opt out, this is what social networking, cloud storage and cloud operating systems are all about, dressed up as being convenient and secure.

    Once these companies have enough of the Internet and mobile phone using population sucked in they will start to exploit the stored content for commercial gain and there will be little the individual can then do as these corporations will likely be rather generous in terms of political donations so our supposed elected representatives will be unlikely to challenge them.

    People need to wake up and stop buying into this stuff before it's too late.

  11. Frank Haney
    Thumb Down

    Whenever I read an article on The Register that gratuitously slags off Google I think to myself "Andrew Orlowski". About nine times out of ten I'm right.

    It's become very obvious. What have you got against Google, Andrew?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "What have you got against Google, Andrew?"

      Every writer gravitates towards particular areas of tech to cover. Google is on Andrew's beat, so to speak, along with other corps and things.


    2. BoldMan

      Obviously you didn't read the article very well - its not just Google he has issues with but with most of the "content aggregators" like FB, Google, MySpace and so on that are the guilty parties in this debate. Try reading comprehension - its amazing what you get out of it!

      1. Frank Haney


        My reading comprehension is pretty good thanks. I did read the whole article but it was when I read the dig at Google that the bells rang and I scrolled back to the top of the page to see if my suspicions were correct. One article with an uncalled for dig at a particular company would just slide by. Mr Orlowski seems to be able to shoehorn one into everything he writes recently. I haven't seen a similar pattern with respect to the other big players in the field, Microsoft, Apple and the rest get a free pass from his barbs. I just wonder what Google has done to cause him such annoyance.

  12. ChrisInAStrangeLand
    Thumb Down

    One of the yellowest articles i've seen on this site. I suppose you don't want to make a substantive allegation because of the defamation laws?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps the article is true but it appears to disregard what already is.

    Nearly everyone of the "little people" (voters) has already given up their copyright by using facebook. Very, very few people benefit financially from the content industries. Mr Cowell certainly, but probably not even most of the x-factor bands. Content becomes successful due to promotion, not creative genius. Do you think you can outbid Mr Cowell's blanket advertising purchases?

    The "creative industries" are already slanted against the little chap. The fabled experience of Sun with IBM shows how that works. You can't invent anything because the industries are full of patent trolls and legitimate businesses who will tie you up in legal red tape and lock you out with patent pools rather than let a new competitor in. Ask AMD how easy it is to protect a new architecture from being copied by someone like Intel.

    In the face of this environment, there aren't too many people who care about what Google et al are doing. If 1D never happened, who would really care? What would "we the people" have lost? If BlackOps2 was never made, would the world be worse off? If Windows 8 never saw the light of day....

    When it comes to copyright I see a lot of comments that "even the GPL needs copyright enforced." That may be true, but the GPL is there to prevent companies from taking the work and wrapping it up under copyright so that other people can't use it. The GPL isn't there to stop you taking the code, the GPL is there to stop you taking the code and hiding/placing restrictions further restrictions on it, restrictions created by mostly by copyright.

    The pragmatic response is, "does IP make the people better off or worse off?" I suspect mostly, worse off with money flowing to large overseas corporates. That doesn't mean there is no benefit to IP, but it does mean that we need to monitor it closely. As for the proposed UK laws, IP law has always been a bit of a sledgehammer, almost certainly only accepted by the people because it is badly enforced. With ever better enforcement, I suspect the taste for it is going away and people are willing to swap copyright of their holiday snaps for a free copy of the latest junk coming out of x-factor. That's about the value they place on both.

    I know, this is simplistic. There is far more to the creative industries than 1D, but Hollywood is far away and that is mostly what we see.

    1. Davehhhhh

      We need copyleft protection then?

      I agree - little folk like you and I will never be able to assert copyright, there are too many of us and the transaction rate is too small.

      Copyleft (or other anti-commercial protection like the GPL) would protect content we upload from being exploited without our consent.

      In my view content should be presumed not for commercial use unless explicit consent is given, not least as that would reflect the views of the great majority of those uploading content.

      Non-commercial protection rather than copyright enforcement also leaves us small folk free to re-post and post-edit - ie to share and collaborate, something the internet was going to be all about once.

  14. M Gale

    This video has been removed by the user

    Sorry about that :/

  15. Christian Berger

    Missing the problem

    Records always have been more a way to promote concerts than a source of income. Television has mostly failed except where financed socially (either via television taxes or commercials). And copyrights could never be strongly enforced without actually harming society as a whole.

    The best example is the book market in the UK and Germany in the 18th century. While the UK had strong copyrights, Germany had a much more relaxed system. The UK had only few, fairly poor authors and only few books were published. Publishers were rich. In Germany publishers always had to be afraid of copies of their books, so they constantly had to bring out new books before others could re-print them. The result was that there were lots of authors earning decent wages.

    The big question we need to solve is not how to enforce copyright, but how to make sure our artists (whatever art form) are properly paid. That is the underlying problem we need to solve. Blocking file-sharing sites won't help with that.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Missing the problem

      Maybe I should clarify that this doesn't necessarily mean abolishing copyright or anything like that. However we should ask ourselves if it's right to protect artworks for 75 years after the death of the author, even if there is no commercial interest and the author is unknown.

      Maybe there could be a "property tax" for intellectual properties. So if you have composed some songs you need to declare them with your tax. A number of songs would be free, but if you "own" more you have to pay for them. That way a normal artist probably wouldn't have to pay. If an artist grants a company exclusive rights, teh company needs to way. They will most likely have to pay for every work, and they will have an interest to hand back the rights to the artists when they are no profits to be made any more.

      We need creative solutions, no bans or wars on X.

      1. Captain Underpants

        Re: Missing the problem


        I'm not sure that a tax on IP is necessarily the right way to go. Personally I'd like to see copyright terms for creative works shortened - because, frankly, at the moment the big issue with copyright (especially outside of the US) is that it takes so long for anything to fall into the public domain that we've effectively got nothing there. There are many films which are damn near 100 years old which remain inaccessible to most people unless they happen to be critically acclaimed enough to merit a careful, lengthy and expensive restoration and release on DVD & Blu-Ray (with Metropolis and The Passion Of Joan Of Arc being two examples released in restored form during 2012). These are films which hold an important place in the cultural history of humanity; I appreciate the work and effort that goes into the restoration and have no problem with the restored version being treated as a new work, but I would also like to see transfers of the originals made legitimately available for free. Ditto with works of prose, poetry, and music of a similar age. And that idea should apply beyond the stuff that is clearly the best of our cultural output - if it's not worth someone bothering to release a DVD transfer of some 100 year old silent B&W film, there can't be any actual financial harm derived from allowing it to be seen for free. Doing so might actually generate enough interest to justify a restoration project which would, by virtue of being a new version, be more likely to bring in profits. (If nothing else, I'd at least like to see some sort of general non-commercial derivative works rights be granted, even if they came under the proviso of the original rightholder having first say on whether to pursue commercial exploitation of the new work, on the basis that most of the time remix culture isn't about someone wanting to make money by fiddling with an idea so much as it's about self-expression).

        Of course, ensuring that prospective artists are taught about prudent fiscal planning rather than relying on ongoing residual income to fund their old age would be a good idea too. (Hell, it's a good idea for everyone to have such an education, but it particularly affects those in industries where there's a hope/expectation of being able to derive at least some ongoing income from a given piece of work).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missing the problem

      "Records always have been more a way to promote concerts than a source of income. "

      It's not easy to make statements as ignorant as this, which is pure bullshit.

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