Follow the dollar
The major argument against filesharing is that the creators of the works don’t get paid. On this page we’ve tried to grasp how much money goes back to actual creators within the Swedish copyright system. Since this is a discussion, not a research project, we’ve arbitrarily talked to internet entrepreneurs, feature film producers and academic researchers.
The Internet Entrepreneur
Over the past ten years, serial entrepreneur Jonas Birgersson‘s companies have (among other things) developed the software behind the majority of the video-on-demand services that the Scandinavian national film companies have brought to the market. With the statistics of every single digital movie sale over a decade at hand, Birgersson got tired of the companies not trying to develop any new business models. He finally told them he didn’t think they were serious about selling films on the internet and terminated the cooperation.
In these five finstamated lessons Birgersson explains what he has learned about the global copyright conflict from a Swedish perspective.
Ogg versions over here.
The Film Producers
Let’s look at the Swedish DVD market through a simplified lens. Normally the distributor takes the costs of the DVD against a large share of the revenue. When you spend 20 Euros (€) on a DVD approximately half of that money goes to VAT and to the retailer. Of the remaining 10€ around 7€ go to the distributor who has paid for the printing of DVDs, the marketing of the movie etc. The remaining 3€ is then split by the financers, royalties to the actors (in fiction films) and the production company who actually made the movie. If the production company had put up 30 % of the financing they get 1€ – or 5 % of the original DVD price – to split among the people that made the movie.
There are few economical evaluations of how the concept of copyright works as incentive for individual creators. An independent survey (in Swedish) from Uppsala University takes a look at how much money copyright generates and how much of it comes back to individual creators in the Swedish system.
It concludes that:
As an underestimated minimum 56% of the total income of culture and media is independent of copyright. Direct copyright income for individual artists represent 2% of the total culture and media spending in Sweden. On average individual creators get a very small share of their income from copyright. Typically creators earn their wages from other income sources. The income sources of creators are unevenly distributed and the income from copyright is distributed extremely unevenly. The results are consistent with previous studies. With strong non-monetary incentives and extensive substitutes for copyright, the incentives to create as a result of copyright are deemed as very low.
Even if the producers’ estimates or the researcher’s figures were way off, they still reveal a deeply imbalanced system. Sure, creators need to work in a context of other professionals who can market, administer, A&R, exhibit, print or publish their work. And that framework costs money to build and maintain. But with the new cheap and free technology around, can the present revenue sharing be justified? What if creators could sell downloads directly to their audiences at prices that reflect the realities of the internet?
We’re offering you the chance to be part of that idea, right here.