December 2004

A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that artists and musicians are less antagonistic to P2P than their “industry.”

The conclusions of the study, copied here for artistic, literary, scholarly, and news-reportorial purposes, are:

Artists and musicians on all points of the spectrum from superstars to starving singers have embraced the internet as a tool to improve how they make, market, and sell their creative works. They use the internet to gain inspiration, build community with fans and fellow artists, and pursue new commercial activity.

Artists and musicians believe that unauthorized peer-to-peer file-sharing of copyrighted works should be illegal. However, the vast majority do not see online file-sharing as a big threat to creative industries. Across the board, artists and musicians are more likely to say that the internet has made it possible for them to make more money from their art than they are to say it has made it harder to protect their work from piracy or unlawful use.

As with all studies, there are reasons to be skeptical of this one. Pew allowed some of its sample to self-identify as artists. That is, the performer of macrame-related folk tunes who has never left his bedroom may be an “artist” for purposes of this study. (My interpretive dance inspired by The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law might qualify me.)

But the gist of the study is well-taken: Artists benefit from the Internet and see its commercial potential as a benefit to themselves, file-sharing/piracy notwithstanding. posted an interesting piece on Saturday questioning how strong public support really is for the FCC crackdown on indecency. The piece is keyed off numbers obtained by Jeff Jarvis for his blog. Last month, you may remember, the FCC fined Fox $1.2 million for a raunchy scene on its (quite unsuccessful) reality show “Married in America.” At the time, the FCC said it had received 159 complaints about the show. But a FOIA request by Jarvis found that there were only 90 complaints, written by only 23 individuals. And 21 of those were copies of the same form letter.

Its not clear whether this case is typical–there were certainly more complaints about the Janet Jackson exposure, for instance. But in a related story, Mediaweek is reporting today that 99.8 percent of FCC complaints in 2003 were filed by one organization–the Parents Television Council. PTC has been responsible for a similar proportion so far this year, when complaints related to Janet’s expose are excluded.

All this reminds us that broad brush statements that the FCC is flooded with complaints should be taken with giant shakers of salt.

It also indicates that the FCC can be pressured quite easily even by a few complaints. The ABC report memorably quotes Chris Sterling of George Washington University as saying “the FCC is a leaning tower of Jello” on such things,” easily pushed one way or the other.

Yet another impediment to rapid worldwide RFID deployment is the lack of qualified people to operate the systems. Yet another reason to retreat from the sci-fi view of RFID as all-encompassing.