Jerry Brito has an article up on copyrights and access to media that is actually well worth reading, even for lay people.
Stanford law professor and Internet guru Lawrence Lessig has written a new book, Free Culture, in which he decries how companies like Disney have co-opted America’s copyright laws and transformed them into just the opposite of the limited protection our Founding Fathers intended them to be. Fittingly, the book is subtitled “How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity.” But Lessig’s biggest statement may not be any passage in the book, but rather that he has put his money where his mouth is. He is giving away digital copies of the new book on his Web site for free.
“This is an experiment,” Lessig has said, “but it is my view that exercising less control over at least some content is a better way to drive demand.” He’s probably right.
Recently a friend recommended I read G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, which was published in 1908. Not wanting to wait until I found myself a paper copy, I downloaded a free digital copy from Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg is a movement of volunteers around the world who painstakingly scan and proofread books that have fallen into the public domain. The result is an online library of thousands of classics from Austen to Yeats that is available to anyone with Internet access.
Brito goes on to give this fact that I did not know, and which seems to prove the point:
Amazon has been a pioneer in letting customers sample content before they buy it. It recently unveiled a new service that allows users to search the contents—not just the titles and authors—of over 190,000 books. Just a week after the program was launched, Amazon reported a nine percent increase in the sales of the books that are searchable as compared to those that are not. This is consistent with the results of several surveys that have shown that people who download music from the Internet (even illegally) are more likely to buy albums.
That also seems to be a common experience with downloaded music. While the pirated music download trade still exists, it has been slowed by programs like Apple’s iTunes Music Store where you can generally get a better quality song for just $0.99.