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Even though there doesn't seem to be anyone out there, just read Rick's column, the sentiment of which I generally agree with, and thought I'd add another addendum, even if I'm only talking to myself.

The "let many flowers bloom" potential of the internet for the creation and distribution of intellectual content, including music, art, and literature, needs to solve several problems, all of which are the same problems that had to be dealt with (I won't say the solutions were always pretty) in pre-digital publishing and production.

1) Copyright. Creators must have a way of getting fairly paid, as must those who invest in enabling creators to bring their work to fruition (someone pays for studio time, and if not the starving artist, then someone upfronting capital for the starving artist). Copyright needs to be protected in a way that does not stifle the fluid transmission prospects of the internet or prevents the wider options for use that should be available for consumers (e.g., buying the rights to listen to 3 songs instead of to a single or a whole album, or having the right to create your own mix of different artists, as we did with "party tapes" when I was in college, though, as someone who came of age during the move from Meet the Beatles, as a compilation of singles, to Sgt. Pepper, as an artistic whole, I have doubts about the aesthetic impact of piece-mealing). But, well defined fair use must be differentiated from "why buy the cow when the milk is free?"

2) Quality control—production. Letting every Tom, Dick, and Sally produce his or her own music, art, and literature comes with a likelihood that most of it will be of a lesser quality than the same creators could accomplish with help. Editors, producers, sound engineers, etc. have played a tremendous role in nurturing raw talent and turning work with potential into art. The loss or reduction of this expertise will truly result in perpetuating the internet as primarily "garbage in, garbage out."

3) Quality control—evaluation. Granted the current publishing and music industries reject much material of high quality (or potential high quality, with the kind of help alluded to above), because they don't think it will make enough money. Still, most of what gets submitted to producers and publishers is, in fact, incredibly awful (witness some fo the self-published fiction I've come across, or some of the singer-song-writers I have to submit to at a local music festival). The internet needs some evaluation system, based on quality not profit margins, that is flexible and niche oriented (i.e., if you like hot acoustic guitar pickers, this guy is cool), but can help the consumer distinguish my superb guitar picking friend from my college roomate, whose girlfriend swooned while his forced companions were ready to reenact The Who on stage with his precious Martin.

4) The "yenta" function. Somehow, with all the stuff that could be out there, the creator and the consumer must be "fixed-up." This is where current publishers and studios spend fortunes on promotion (which is the main reason they limit their artists to those they think they can sell big). Again, we see an essential role for reviewers/promotors (lets hope we avoid payola), though, as with the current system, word of mouth is the final determiner (Ishtar, anyone?).

All of these considerations have been part of publishing/production for a long time and cannot be disregarded in the move to digital transmission. At times, as with the proliferation of well-edited literature from innovative publishers, such as Random House, in the 1930s, or the facilitation of young musicians and song writers at various times and places (TIn Pan Alley, Motown, Carole King and the other NY kid writers in the early to mid-'60s), publishers and producers, usually anti-establishment ones, have done a great job of fostering innovation. At other times—the increasing monopolization of the publishing and music industries over the last 20 years being, in my opinion, a prime example—publishers and producers have had a deleterious affect on creativity.

What we need to be careful with in this new era is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The legitimate, traditional, fuctions of copyright, quality control and production, and informing/promotion must be preserved, while rejecting the illegitimate extention of these functions into ripping off artists and limiting product availability and creativity.
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