Anti-Tank Mines and Land Mines

Is the entertainment industry dying?

The Internet era has been attended by a parade of new copyright laws and proposals, each one justified by the supposed near death of the entertainment industry. The stats behind these proclamations of imminent doom are not particularly reliable. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, as neutral a body of economic statisticians as you’re likely to find, concluded that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole.” Of the piracy-impact studies most often cited by the entertainment lobby, the GAO said, “[They] cannot be substantiated or traced back to an underlying data source or methodology.”

It is probably true that some companies’ and some creators’ fortunes are affected by piracy, and by the expansion of the pool of entertainment choices that audiences can make when they spend their money. But in January 2012, a thoroughly documented Computer and Communications Industry Association study called “The Sky Is Rising” found that more creators are creating more media, and that larger audiences are spending more money, than ever before. There’s now more music, more movies, more video, and more books being created than at any other time in history, and they’re bringing in a larger pool of money than ever.

However, the money is a lot less “lumpy” than it has been in the past, especially in the recent past. Since the creation of communications technology, entertainment has been a winner-takes-all kind of business, with the most successful creators outperforming the least successful by huge margins. Think of how, before the record player, local singers could always find work playing the popular songs of the day. But after the invention of records, local audiences could buy recordings of the most popular performers performing the most popular songs, and the local second choices were no longer in demand.

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