3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

March 15, 2006 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on March 15, 2006.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:


Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us


The Arts, "contre" the Internet?

The digital world needs to do a better job, still, of explaining itself to the non-digital. The journal "Libération" has been running a full-page petition: jeudi 2 mars 2006, p. 5 --


(APPEAL! To Mesdames et Messieurs the Deputies!!
against the Global License for
cultural works on the Internet!!!)

-- signed by a long and fascinating "who's who" list of leading luminaries in the arts, in France, most of them in music --

-- also signed by a fairly extensive assortment of major French music firms and organizations... UNAC, SACEM, UPFI, SPPF...

And for several weeks, now, the Assemblée Nationale has been debating, heatedly, their new "Droits d'Auteur et Droits Voisins dans la Société (DADVSI)" legislation: not their last word, on copyright in France and its enforcement in the digital era, but thus far the most comprehensive, and intrusive, and protective, and above all inflammatory effort by all sides --

Various issues have surfaced, in these digital era copyright debates, in France, which may sound familiar to others among us grappling with these very same issues elsewhere:


One thing seems clear, in all cases, and in all cases it seems to be un-clearly understood:

That last was the lesson of the Dotcom Boom & Bust: a great many small and poorly-funded and poorly-thought-out companies discovered, to their great and ultimately fatal cost, that print and other traditional publishing industries -- such as the music "biz" -- do a great deal of good work, in fact, to earn their money.

Marketing and management and inventory control and "back office" are not the most glamorous parts of a corporate organization chart or expense statement, but they are necessary; "customer service", above all, is a necessity too, although a burdensome and expensive job, for all commercial firms; the little Dotcom era startups which tried to do without these necessities, and without budgeting generously for them, all failed.

Bureaucracy is what the commercial world does best -- all those "meetings" and "minutes", and all the internal get-ahead mutual sniping and jealous backbiting and ambitious politicking -- some folks in the commercial world actually enjoy all that, even if "artists" and imaginative "digital engineers" do not.

Seeing that the bills get sent out, and get paid, and that returns get handled promptly and efficiently, and customer tech support and complaints patiently registered and resolved: instead of referring customers to some convoluted "website", to do the work themselves... Large corporate bureaucracies like those of traditional print and music and movie publishers have long experience, and do this sort of thing much better than most little beginner "startups" do.


The first consideration, though, too -- that the online digital world likewise can be a Good Thing for the traditional industries -- has been a lesson felt heavily, in every branch of every industry, since the Dotcom Boom. Digital technique at last has revolutionized national productivity -- after the long "productivity paradox" wait, of the end of the last century --

-- as of the 2000s, the productivity of firms and industries and even entire national economies, which had not embraced digital techniques sufficiently and correctly, was slipping, while that of the others which had embraced and mastered "the digital" was soaring. And the Internet had emerged as the planet's #1 new advertising and general marketing vehicle.

But is it only that: is the Internet only a place to buy and sell? That is the dilemma faced now by the traditional marketing and merchandising industries, because there are many who say that the Internet needs to do more than simply "buy and sell"... handle just "goods and service"... be governed only by "market economics"....

Those in the copyright debates now, for example, who insist on exceptions for things like "education" and "libraries" -- also those who insist, for social policy reasons they say, that access to important "free information" on the Internet, as a "free information network", be free-of-charge or nearly so -- also those who offer values, of privacy and confidentiality and various civil liberties, which they say are at odds with the very guarantees and enforcement procedures which commercial Internet users believe are so important to their own financial success.


So it's a dance, a balancing act, between the print and other traditional publishing industries, who want the Internet for keeping up competitively and expanding their businesses, and those in the digital world who have developed it and want to see it "remain free": each group in fact needs the other -- the one for business support and financial solvency, the other to keep the free-wheeling and innovative techniques progressing and expanding, too -- and yet neither bunch currently seems anxious to compromise, too much.

The Internet, even if it is not to become completely commercial -- entirely a sales infrastructure, governed solely by "market mechanisms" -- remains the single best place to advertise, in the modern commercial world. Commercial firms which "get" this are prospering -- from books to music to automobiles to even real estate, now -- while firms which don't are going bankrupt.

The Internet is the ideal place to offer the "teaser" -- the "hot" item or service which leads consumers in to buy the other products offered by the company -- or the "loss-leader", the item or service offered cheap, in the hope that consumers will investigate and buy the others. Any commercial firm does this: the book-dealer's list of "bargains", the automobile sales "discount", the auctioneer's "firm price" bid -- but commercial firms need not offer everything online, and so any insistence that everything online be governed and regulated "commercially" is over-reaching -- it ought to be enough that "online" is invaluable to them, the commercial firms which use it, so that, online as offline, the traditional balances between the commercial and non-commercial aspects of our lives, may be continued.

So if commercial people enter negotiations for this particular venture, which by its very nature is required to be "joint and several", insisting on their particular world-view and allowing for no other, they will do what business people never like to do: "clue the deal", "kill the goose that has been laying golden eggs", "throw out the baby with the bathwater" -- they're going to need these "digital" kids, their new ideas and unfamiliar freedoms and unstructured thinking, to keep their Internet going.

Also, none of us, or very few, spend the entire day thinking about money. At the same time few of us can remain financially solvent without thinking about money at least just a little bit, during our day. Just so with the Internet, then: if activities there swing entirely in a "commercial" direction -- dominated by buying & selling & getting & spending, governed by copyright and other legislation & enforcement all designed solely for the benefit of commercial firms, the Internet will have less and less to do with our daily lives, in fact.

In addition to necessary commercial goods and services we also seek education, and entertainment, and relaxation, and political and social participation, and other personal goals which to us are non-commercial -- or at least most of us cannot afford to pay, for all of the "optional" latter, as much as we can for the former "necessities" which we really must have.

The commercial world can get our online attention, with the "free music download" -- and use that to woo us over to the purchase of the music CD, or the monetized full-album download -- protecting the latter "virtual" purchase, as it does "physical" purchases now, with various enforcement mechanisms, as it always has. All of us need this: the business economics, of conducting a music industry without the "back office" and other services of commercial music production and distribution companies, largely are naive and would defeat us once again, as they did so many during the Dotcom Boom & Bust. It's a new paradigm, perhaps, but some things about it are not so new.

So, too, with the "free text download": traditional print publishing firms still are needed -- even as they migrate much of their output increasingly to digital downloading formats, suitably-protected, they nevertheless still will be needed online, as well. Imagining mass market and for that matter most other text production and distribution without the risky and difficult and expensive services of the traditional industries can be as naive as the many Dotcom Bust garage-band-style "music companies"... someone has to put up the venture capital, do the editing, sell the product, handle the bills & marketing & merchandising & packaging, and the customer service... all of it expensive, and all of it very necessary...

And without the digital, the traditional industries will die: many have died already, or now are dying, or have migrated overseas to die there instead -- if they don't "get digital" they simply delay the inevitable by outsourcing, and their business competitors will beat them -- "nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide", from the new digital era, not even and perhaps particularly in China.


So there is a symbiosis, here -- a mutual need, certainly -- digital needs industry, and industry needs digital. It is a balancing, a negotiation, a dance: each must win concessions from the other -- but if either partner crushes the other completely the entire effort will fail, as both are needed.

Copyright licensing which snuffs out traditional industries will leave a vacuum, which new digital industries as yet cannot fill: no bright new digital firm can do without at least some of the supposedly decrepit bureaucracy it so abhors in the old tweedy institutions it wants to replace -- those elderly bureaucrats and their byzantine procedures are cherished by the customers, who tend to be un-interested in the arcane details of "digital", and so are relentlessly passé themselves. Digital innovations which insist on the purity and value-free status, literally, of their new techniques will be, as before during the Dotcom Bust, unable to pay their bills.

But digital innovations also need their freedom, and room for innovation, and flexibility: otherwise nothing new can be added, to the old commercial superstructures as well as in other arenas, and then the tremendous "economies of scale" and "global reach" and "productivity" advantages of the digital era will not be realized, by the commercial industries or by anyone else. Copyright and other old techniques which try to make the jump from the old world to the new, without changing, simply will snuff out the new.

And there always are those non-commercial applications to consider, as well: education, entertainment, political and social participation, others -- "one size" simply never fits "all", here -- the commercial mold is neither necessary nor sufficient for the non-commercial, no matter what the commercial people may say or even truly believe themselves. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail...


"Napster redux", Americans in the U.S. might say, with a sigh... But Americans in the U.S. need to remember -- and we always forget -- that things legal and governmental and regulatory work a lot differently in some other systems than they do in the US: what may seem more benign in the US case may turn out to be far more sinister overseas -- also the reverse, but not always. This particular "digital" fracas originated in the US, and it would be informative for us -- and at least good market research -- to understand how it is manifesting itself elsewhere: in France, and in China, and in other places.


Jack Kessler, kessler@well.com






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Last update: July 16, 2008