Paul's Posts — 24 January 2012



My son Scott handed me a new book he just finished reading and suggested I read it.  I am reading it and enjoying it.  Others send me music to listen to.

Sharing books and music has been a part of our culture for many, many years.  I suspect it will continue to be so.

The music industry and the publishing industry wants to make the sharing of media both immoral and illegal.  They would like to shame me and you by suggesting that every time you share music or books – you’re stealing – the author or musician isn’t getting paid for his/her work each time it’s accessed (don’t tell librarians that they may soon be under attack for their years of sharing).

I would suggest this notion of theirs is patently absurd and wrongheaded.  They, on the other hand, will point out that both the publishing industry and the music industry are in shambles and we, the people sharing books and music are to blame.

You buying that?  I am not.   In fact, let me go so far as to say that their attempts to change a culture of sharing that has existed for as long as books and music have been around is, in itself, the shameful act.

The demise of these two industries has nothing to do with sharing and everything to do with a shift in technology.

When technology changes an industry, the first reaction by the industry is to protect itself by whatever means possible.  That’s what’s happening right now.

The better choice is to figure out where you fit into the new culture and make the best of it.

Read any good books lately?

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About Author

Paul McGowan is the CEO and co-founder of PS Audio Inc. a Boulder Colorado design and manufacturing company of high-end audio products and services. McGowan has been designing and building high-end products for nearly 40 years. Hobbies include skiing, music, hiking, artisan bread baking, kick boxing and cooking. He lives in Boulder Colorado with his wife Terri and his 4 sons.

(30) Readers Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more Paul. You cannot stop sharing.

    This industry is dying due to greed. I remember buying my first CD for $15.99 circa 1984 when there was one pressing plant in the world. It costs them a fraction of those levels to mfg today but retail prices have not dropped significantly. I won’t even get started on what they actually pay out to the artists.
    I worse example is the electronic book. Again greed is rearing it’s ugly head. Electronic books have “one” time mfg costs yet I routinely see them being sold for a higher price than the hardcover/paperback. And they wonder why people are sharing.

    Sell products for a fair price and the volumes and profits will rise exponentially

  2. Remember all those years ago, borrowing an album to listen to and then running out to buy your own copy? Sharing works in a way to the benefit of the recording industry. Likewise when I can now listen to a short clip of a song or multiple clips from an album, I will buy the CD or album based on liking the music. More than once I have bought music that I would not have normally given a second glance at based on these clips. Every now and then you even get the bonus of a really good recording.

    • Bingo!

    • I agree with sharing among friends who are trying to expand each others enjoyment of music. I disagree, for example, with a friend of mine that goes to the library get get CDs and then rips them and passes around a 500GB drive full of (MP3) music with others (who also haven’t purchased music in years). I think that if you enjoy the music you should borrow or buy it but not copy and distribute it.

  3. While I fundamentally agree with the spirit of all of these posts, we’re dealing with a different thing culturally nowadays. This isn’t all friendly interpersonal, small-scale sharing. We’re talking businesses that post copyrighted material that thousands of people download for free – no money to the artist or the record company.

    Paul, if your sole product was one that could be taken and duplicated and given away by strangers to thousands of other strangers, how would you feel?

    • How would I feel? Not good if what was happening caused me to no longer survive. But your model is taken out of context and ignores the other benefits and perhaps more importantly, the reality of things.

      The reality is that sharing is a part of our culture and always has been. When you get a new technology in place that allows people to share more – in fact, allows people to circumvent paying altogether – the answer isn’t to legislate against the natural tendency of people to share by calling them thieves and putting up fences, but to figure out how to deal with the new paradigm in a way that makes sense for both parties.

      As an example, let’s say someone invented a duplicating ray. You could put a PerfectWave DAC in the machine and start knocking out PWD’s for free and then selling them to people for $5 each – thus “stealing” all our hard work and effectively putting us out of business.

      In this case we have two choices: jump up and down and call the police or figure out a new way to bring value to what we do. If we pick the former we stop the action until the next owner of the ray machine starts to do the same thing and then we wind up becoming police instead of doing what we love which is bringing high-end music into people’s lives.

      All I am suggesting is that when this type of thing happens the wrong move is to try and legislate against it. It’s counter productive and illogical.

      • So great: lets postulate that its happened. Your being copied at $5 a Perfect Wave.

        Tell us, what’s your alternate plan?

        • Another way to say it: the only thing that prevents me from buying a gun and taking the money and food I need is legislation, and the will of an arbitrary collective to enforce it.

          You’re advocating a kind of Wild West economic theory.

          • I am not advocating anarchy Dan. I am trying to get you and the other readers to recognize change and profit from it.

        • Well I wouldn’t be alone – if such a duplicating ray existed PerfectWaves would probably be low on the list of things people were duplicating – food, cars, houses and necessities would be first, luxury items would be last – so I don’t know the answer but I’d surely be among those that would deal with it instead of hiding from it. :)

          Look, I don’t claim to have the answer. I do claim to understand the fundamental issue and want people to face it square on and then deal with it in clever smart ways.

          You and I have had plenty of conversations about this.

          The high-end is in the same shape as the music industries – why? Because of the internet which allows people to have a choice.

          Audiophiles have chosen to put price above service and support. The net result of this is that brick and mortar dealers are going away and in their place is Audiogon and other internet sites. The public got what they wanted – intentional or not. That’s the free market at work. I support it.

          I am not going to call my congressman and try and legislate against that behavior. Instead I will endeavor to create new models to work with.

          • In a way you are arguing for anarchy – you’re suggesting that existing laws be disregarded because of technological change if the enforcement of those laws requires some additional legislation.

            I’m all for finding new ways for independent artists to survive and thrive and always have been. As you know I worked with AT&T Labs 15 years ago in evaluating the development of compression codecs – precisely so musicians could sell directly.

            But I’m NOT in favor of pretending that all of this is just fine in a Darwinian sense. If me and my fellow musicians are going to be exploited by hardware manufacturers and their customers simply because its possible I want those doing it to man up and face it.

            How do you propose a contemporary orchestra finance new recordings?

  4. The US Patent Office opened in 1827 to protect intellectual property of those who create invention for a specified period of time so that they can control who will reap the rewards of their innovation, the fruit of their creativity.Copyrights do the same for written and recorded material. These laws have helped the US become the world leader in so many ways and transformed civilization.People who violate these laws are thieves but it is becoming so prevalent that it is accepted as normal by many even in our own country.Why bother investing time, effort, even lots of money when someone else can take what you have created and just walk away with it?

    Even within our laws theft of intellectual property and taking credit for other people’s invention has a long history. Sarnoff stole the invention of television from Farnsworth. Watson and Crick stole the discovery of the structure of DNA from a radiologist Rosaland Franklin. Armstrong’s invention of FM radio was rejected as unworkable, only his widow’s 10 year effort even got him credit for it. It isn’t clear that Alexander Bell invented the telephone without stealing someone else’s idea that was crucial to it.

    The inability to protect the rights of invention will lead to a mediocre society that produces no valuable new art and no new technology unless it can be so cleverly disguised nobody else except the inventor will be able to figure it out. Patent and copyright laws are failing due to advances in technology to circumvent them and the huge rewards to be gained from stealing invention. For all we know all of the problems for much better sound reproduction have been solved by someone unwilling to risk public disclosure for fear of just such theft.

    • Yes but you’re reporting the failure of the system to protect the old way – and I am telling you there is no way to continue that protection and putting energy into same is the same as spinning your wheels.

      Smart people like yourself should, instead, be coming up with new ways to work within the new technological paradigms we are being presented – not trying to hold back progress by placing legislative barriers that attempt to keep the status quo. That’s the whole point of the article.

      I am merely pointing out that try as hard as you or society might, it is futility at its best to try and stop the tide of technology that is based on sharing common ideas in a networked world. Ain’t going to happen.

      The smart guys look at this situation, figure out how to make it work to their advantage (not stealing), add value to the equation and off we go!

      Put your thinking cap on and take the “can’t and shouldn’t be done” hat off. You’re way smarter than that.

      • I have. Having seen my own patented ideas and many others stolen, I’ve aborted a slew of applications for new ones. If Apple with all its money can’t protect its patented innovations from theft by Samsung, what chance does an individual inventor have against large corporations. In legal battles of that type the winner is almost always the one with the most money and endurance. Approaching large corporations with new ideas that would be too expensive to develop by a small entrepreneur even with venture capital I’ve learned they won’t consider even expired patented ideas. They want existing patents or current applications…presumably so that they can steal those too. I have no intention of giving my ideas away. Demonstrations of well disguised prototypes seems like the only opportunity to sell an idea and make money out of it without risk of total loss. Meanwhile I think music is dead. Better learn to enjoy the legacy of what we already have. Fortunately there’s plenty of it.

  5. Yesterday’s discussion was exciting; today’s not so much. Science and Engineering ja! Patent Law nein!

    When I purchased Microsoft Office 2008, I signed some sort of lease agreement. I do not own the software. OK that’s one for the lawyers. When I bought Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain on both CD and LP, I own it. I signed no lease agreement. It is mine to do with what I please. Do we want to start leasing LPs, CD, and books? Good luck! I listen to FM and often buy music that I initially heard for free. I see no way to stop the sharing of music.

    • The law doesn’t require the purchaser of a product to sign anything for the author, performer, composer, or inventor to be protected if the product is patented or copyrighted. All that’s required is that it be recognized by the US government under provisions of the laws that create those facilities.

  6. Paul, you make electronics — which I own — and you charge me a pretty penny for them. I write books (novels) which you feel the new technology should expect me — and editors, copy editors, cover illustrators etc — to do for free. The system of payment for creative artists is broken. The previous model of a Patron would work well. Perhaps PS Audio could be mine?

    • Where did you read I think books should be free? That was never the idea and not said at all.

      I think this is an over reaction.

      My point is this: when a new technology or paradigm comes along that changes the way we interact with our music, books, intellectual property or products the wrong thing to do is put up barriers to protect the status quo of those products and property like what’s happening today. Doing that will always result in failure as evidenced by the trail of failed attempts.

      Attempting to legislate against natural and acceptable human interactions just doesn’t make sense.

      What I want is authors and artists to be rewarded for their efforts – but the way to do that does not involve restricting sharing.

      The right thing to do is figure out how make it work in the new era.

      • Yes but — while we wait for the solution to a situation that has decimated conventional book (and recording) publishing, the creative artists are NOT rewarded. The free exchange of one conventional book (or LP) to one friend, is an utterly different action than unlimited exchange of ebooks and mp3 files which is what technology now allows.
        If this seems “over reacting” to your comment on “sharing” it’s because from my perspective the word “share” completely changes its meaning when “paradigm-shifted” from singular to limitless.
        I see no answer to this enormous problem in what remains of my writing lifetime, but in a curious way I take heart for the future from the LP. Like the Book, the vinyl recording too should have died, but it hasn’t. And it remains a physical artifact which people treasure — and can only “share” in the limited, old-fashioned sense.

        • Good points here and I appreciate the dialog. I like the vinyl – book analogy too. Smart.

          However, let me suggest that just because you can’t see an answer doesn’t mean that there isn’t one and the course we should follow is sticking ourselves in the same practice that got us here in the first place.

          I would also argue that the book and music industry were not decimated by the sharing – certainly the sharing contributed – but I reject the notion that the sharing did these industries in. That’s like saying the airline industry did in the railroad industry. While one could make such an argument, they’d be wrong because the railroad industry just didn’t get it together and work in the new paradigm. Instead of building rail lines to airports to handle the airfreight they put up tariffs and taxes, paid lobbyists, jumped up and down and lost. The same thing is happening here.

          I am trying to generate a dialog between smart people to see another side of the problem – and the “problem” isn’t going away.

          Turn problems into solutions. You may not be able to see the solution – but if you are open to an alternative, and it seems that you are, then when something off-the-wall comes along you’ll recognize it as opportunity.

          There are a number of indy authors making loads of money today by leveraging the new technology. Why aren’t you one of them? I don’t say that in a critical way – but one that I would ask you to do a bit of self reflection and maybe help the rest of us understand. In so doing you just may spark and idea. :)

      • Where does sharing end and stealing begin?

  7. Paul: you are directly profiting from the this co-called culture of sharing. Its one thing if I lend you a book or CD, its another if 95% of the music files that I have created are accessed and held with no payment to the artist or production entities involved in creating it.

    But all those stolen files are perfectly playable on a Perfect Wave. Stolen art drives the purchase of audio equipment and computers and keeps ISPs in business. And obviously it does pretty well for overweight New Zealanders as well.

  8. If there were a way – there was but it was a technological disaster – to make a “shared” audio file unplayable, would you implement it?

    • Great question and the answer is an emphatic “no”. That’s because it’s wrong headed and moving in the wrong direction. It’s trying to legislate against progress and change for the better and ignoring the place we are in.

      Let me give you an example. Let’s say we have a nice little village living peacefully below an earthen dam. The dam has worked perfectly for 50 years. Something changed and now there’s twice the water behind the dam and our side is leaking. Do you put your finger in the dyke, patch it up and pray? Complaining the entire time that some knucklehead did us wrong? or do you figure out how to build a new dam or move the village? You can guess the right answer.

      When this happened to other industries; trains to planes – CRT to LCD – tubes to transistors – craftsmen to factory work – those that took advantage of the new paradigm survived and those that tried to cling to the old and legislate against the new died.

      Nothing is different today.

      • Right – we move the village or build a stronger dam.

        But in the environment of today there is nowhere for the village to establish itself again. Anywhere it goes a new tide will overwhelm it – the tide of technological change and free music.

        And that’s absolutely fine, as long as you’re willing to live with your existing collection and not have new music. And we all have so much stuff already, it probably doesn’t matter. But it was nice while it lasted.And as you implicitly emphasize, the world doesn’t owe musicians a living – unless of course it wants more music.

        Look, NOBODY likes record companies, but nobody likes oil companies or car companies either. Somebody makes cars, somebody drills for oil, and somebody finances major recording projects.

        Will you be happy to see Harmonia Mundi go away? Your customers probably have enough HM records, so it may not matter.

        • No I won’t be happy to see them go away – not at all. None of this makes me “happy” except the prospect of the new model emerging is exciting.

          During a transition phase between paradigm shifts there’s lots of heartache and turmoil – Amy playing out as a maid for example. Transitions are tough times. But we can point to many that are doing fine in the new environment already and more will come.

          In 5 years time all this will be water under the bridge and you’ll look back on it and be pleased to see how musicians are being supported. Society needs its artists – requires them – so it is illogical to think they would just go away – they won’t.

          My crystal ball isn’t good enough to tell you what it will look like – only that it will change (has changed) and will work in a way probably surprising to us all – but also in a way that will serve the needs of artists and music lovers.

          No one has “enough music” because music is a reflection of our society which is always changing and the music reflects those changes – and we need to hear those changes expressed as music. It’s nice to vist the past but we need music in our futures. It’ll happen.

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    The world’s most valuable company. How DID they do it?

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