Marginal Thoughts

Originally posted 2005-07-03 14:06:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

In the Grokster afterglow (or hangover, depending on your point of view), consider a very interesting piece by blogger Clay Shirkey has called Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content. The article was first published in September 2003 on the “Networks, Economics, and Culture” mailing list.

Shirkey argues, compellingly, that a simpleminded application of the microeconomic model of marginal value to evaluating marginal content sales of the Internet doesn’t, and can’t, work. Now note that this has no effect on how the Grokster case should have come out, because he is really talking here about supply and demand and prospective IP regimes — not about the application of the copyright laws based on the statutory language, stare decisis and that other dusty old stuff. We’ve already gone from the novelty of the Brandeis brief, which helped take courts of sterile vacuum of legal theory, to the marginalization of legal analysis as such in favor of philosopher-monarchy by the judiciary — but I digress…

One nice quote that’s particular apt for bloggers: “Now, with the power to publish directly in their hands, many creative people face a dilemma they’ve never had before: fame vs fortune.” As to the more pressing issue of online entertainment content (where, after all, the money has more or less been for a long time — believe me, I’ve been a freelance writer), I suppose an economist would argue that no, Shirkey has only introduced more variables (some of them quite soft) into the model, which merely points a way to make it more powerful, while not undermining the concept. It’s food for thought (blogging means not always having to say you’re certain).

That this is a new epoch, however — of this, Shirkey is surely right.

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Author:Ron Coleman

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