• Flattr FoI: 
Falkvinge &Co. on Infopolicy
BEFORE-FALKVINGE-IF-ANY FALKVINGE &CO. ON
INFOPOLICY
Falkvinge on Infopolicy - Home
»
A lot of ice cubes

Nobody Asked For A Refrigerator Fee

30

Infopolicy

Infopolicy

I live in Stockholm, Sweden. A hundred years ago, one of the largest employers in the city was a company named Stockholm Ice. Their business was as straightforward as it was necessary: help keep perishable food edible for longer by distributing cold in a portable format.

They would cut up large blocks of ice from the frozen lakes in the winter, store them on sawdust in huge barns, then cut the blocks into smaller chunks and sell them in the streets. People would buy the ice and keep it with food in special cupboards, so the food would be in cold storage.

(This is why some senior citizens still refer to refrigerators as “ice boxes“.)

COLUMN REPOST
This column has previously been published on TorrentFreak. It has been updated here to reflect recent developments.

When households in Stockholm were electrified in the first half of the last century, these distributors of cold were made obsolete. After all, what they distributed was the ability to keep food cold, and everybody could suddenly do that themselves.

This was a fairly rapid process in the cities. With the availability of the refrigerator from circa 1920, most households had their own refrigerator by the end of the 1930s. One of the city’s largest employers – distributors of cold – had been made totally obsolete by technical development.

There were many personal tragedies in this era as the icemen lost their breadwinning capacity and needed to retrain to get new jobs in a completely new field. The iceman profession had often been tough to begin with, and seeing your industry disintegrate in real-time didn’t make it any easier.

But here are a few things that didn’t happen as the ice distribution industry became obsolete:

  • No refrigerator owner was sued for making their own cold and ignoring the existing corporate cold distribution chains.
  • No laws were proposed that would make electricity companies liable in court if the electricity they provided was used in a way that destroyed icemen’s jobs.
  • Nobody demanded a monthly refrigerator fee from refrigerator owners that would go to the Icemen’s Union.
  • No lavishly expensive expert panels were held in total consensus about how necessary icemen were for the entire economy.

Rather, the distribution monopoly became obsolete, was ignored, and the economy as a whole benefited by the resulting decentralization.

We’re now seeing a repeat of this scenario, but where the distribution industry – the copyright industry – has the audacity to stand up and demand special laws and say that the economy will collapse without their unnecessary services. But we learn from history, every time, that it is good when an industry becomes obsolete. That means we have learned something important – to do things in a more efficient way. New skills and trades always appear in its wake.

The copyright industry tells us, again and again and again, that if they can’t have their obsolete distribution monopoly enshrined into law with ever-increasing penalties for ignoring it, that no culture will be produced at all. As we have seen, equally time and again, this is hogwash.

What might be true is that the copyright industry can’t produce music to the tune of one million US dollars per track. But you can’t motivate monopoly legislation based on your costs, when others are doing the same thing for much less – practically zero. There has never been as much music available as now, just because all of us love to create. It’s not something we do because of money, it’s because of who we are. We have always created, ever since we learned to put red paint on the inside of cave walls.

What about movies, then? Hundred-million productions? There are examples of garage-produced movies (and one even has beat Casablanca to become the most-seen movie of all time in its native country). But it may appear true that the argument is somewhat stronger with the blockbuster-type cinema productions.

A recent article of mine dispels this, too; blockbusters can make double  their investment back before a digital copy can even exist in the wild, so it will not be an issue. Investments will  happen.

But I’m going go out on a limb here and say, that even if it is true that movies can’t be made the same way with the Internet and our civil liberties both in existence, then maybe it’s just the natural progression of culture.

I spend quite a bit of time with teenagers through my work with the Pirate Party. One thing that strikes me is that they don’t watch movies, at least nowhere near the quantity I did when I was a teenager. Just like I threw out my TV set 15 years ago, maybe this is just the natural progression of culture. Nobody would be surprised if we moved from monologue-style culture to dialogue- and conversation-type culture at this point in history. Immersive gaming stands out as an excellent candidate to replace movies.

After all, we have previously had operettes, ballets, and concerts as the high points of culture in the past. Even radio theaters (and famous ones). Nobody is particularly concerned that those expressions have had their peak and that society has moved on to new expressions of culture. There is no inherent value in writing today’s forms of culture into law and preventing the changes we’ve always had.

Everywhere I look, I see that the copyright monopolies need to be cut down to allow society to move on from today’s stranglehold on culture and knowledge. Teenagers today typically don’t even see the problem – they take sharing in the connected world so totally for granted, that they discard any signals to the contrary as “old-world nonsense”.

And they certainly don’t ask for a refrigerator fee.

You've read the whole article. Why not subscribe to the RSS flow using your favorite reader, or even have articles delivered by mail?

About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

Liked This?

TRANSLATIONS AVAILABLE
This article is also available in other languages: French, Russian, Spanish, Hungarian, Estonian.

By participating in the discussion and posting here, you are placing your contribution in the public domain (CC0). If you are quoting somebody else, credit them.

Contributors take own responsibility for their comments.

30

  1. 1

    There was BTW a similiar shift to the copyright industry itself (at least in the US) around the same time. Live performance was the dominant way of distributing music in these days, so the music authors and song writers have been the strongest force in collecting fees. With the rise of Record Labels, Broadcasting and even such stuff as mechanic pianos, this shifted towards the labels. Seems to be about time to shift to the artists (and even back to the authors).

    This introduction here into the US law system features a lot of riddiculous facts on how broken the legislation – especially in the US – is: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-912-introduction-to-copyright-law-january-iap-2006/

    Bernd

    • 1.1
      Rick Falkvinge

      Indeed. I cover a large portion of this fight – the record labels vs. the musicians – in my History of Copyright series. You can read it here:

      http://falkvinge.net/2011/02/01/history-of-copyright-part-1-black-death/

      Cheers,
      Rick

    • 1.2
      Anon Musician

      Here is my issue with everyone wanting it free… it is still hurting the little guy. You are going to get lower and lower quality music and people are going to want to stop trying to produce good work… why? No one cares what we do anymore. People think that everything we as musicians do is free and doesn’t cost us to do.

      Now that you can get it online free everyone thinks we will play their bar for free. They do this by having us charge cover at the door and only giving us cover. Which is fine, we make ok money doing that. But with the free attitude of the bars it means we are charging our friends cover. For example, our last show we made a bit of money selling tickets (for the size of the venue pretty decent). We show up only to have the bar say… “no you can’t charge cover to this party of 30 people because its someone’s birthday.” Are you serious? We had to turn away and refund people who bought tickets because the bar expects it free. I’ve also had bars offer us about $5 an hour that I’ve turned down. I asked the one guy if his waitresses worked for that… his response “anyone can do it, look on youtube.” Anyone can waitress… and please go entertain your patrons yourself with a guitar.

      At the same gig with he 30 free tickets, a patron of the band stopped in and asked why we don’t have a violinist anymore (its a nice funky component of our music). I said I’m sorry the 2 we’ve had haven’t been earning enough to continue playing with us. You see the one violinist was juliard trained and as much as she hates it, makes more money working an hour at a wedding playing for a ceremony than she’d earn with us in a month. The other has 10 years of education and doesn’t see a point in playing gigs where we earn what we do. Music isn’t free.

      At the level we are all at lessons are $65/half hour. We could go without, but we wouldn’t be bringing you better and better music… guitars… our guys have guitars that cost between $2000 and $3000 because they sound better and we can give the audience better sound. A good quality violin costs much more than that and both our violinists had 2 kinds of violins plus pedal boards to give the best sound possible for the right songs. Our keyboard player… easy $3000 in his set up. But you know music is free.

      The guy who lamented about the violinist also lamented about how music is getting worse and worse with not as good of a sound. The same guy bought a CD and told his friends they could rip it off him for free. Be willing to pay for it or you won’t see it. Many people are getting out of music because it isn’t paying for all the investment we put into giving you a good show. Most professional musicians I know are working 2 or 3 jobs and teaching lessons to make ends meet.

      Promoting, managing, making CD’s and albums to sell you, these things aren’t free, most indy bands loose money on making albums. Doing all these things in and of themselves are a full time job.

      The one million dollars per track bit… yeah that’s one in a million artists. If you want us to continue doing what we do with the quality we are doing it at, please be willing to shell out a measly $10 for an album, and please think twice before ripping it to your friends for free. That album cost us $10,000 out of our own pockets to make (on a budget), and trust me, we aren’t cleaning up at the bank over it.

      • 1.2.1
        go uckf yourselves

        Lol… what a bunch of crocodile tears. If I have to choose between civil liberty and life support for you… you’re shit out of luck. Just die already.

        Let deadmau5, or whenever he starts begging for a handout, whomever comes next with a computer take over.

        • Fropixx

          Dear “go uckf yourselves”, why be so rude? People like you are the reason, why Pirates are often seen as a senseless, uncivilized bunch of guys who don’t think about anything but “warez” and like to act in an unnecessarily hostile manner towards creative people. Hostile attitudes diminish the chances that people will listen to the smart parts of the Pirate ideology!

          It’s true that the copyright monopoly’s claims for limiting the liberties of people are terrible. But that’s no excuse of being rude to a musician, who’s just noticed that many restaurants don’t respect his/her work when they, at the same time, want to benefit from that work he/she does. Please note that Anon Musician’s post was not about ACTA-style copyright police system, it was about respecting a live musician. Are your civil liberties diminished if someone gets decently paid for a gig he/she played?

      • 1.2.2
        Paddy

        I am a performing, recording musician, though I do not do it full time or for a living.

        Personally, I couldn’t care less about your expensive gear and your $10,000 album. None of that is of any consequence to me as a customer. Those are your problems. You’re competing with millions of other musicians who don’t have your expenses and some who are better at negotiating with venues than you.

        If you can’t make a living playing your music the way you want to, YOU are the one who needs to change. To cut costs, use cheaper gear, or record at home. To make more money, find a unique way to add value to your performances and releases. Stop letting asshole venue-operators walk all over you. And if you can’t change, at least have the courtesy to quietly get out of the way and let the next people through.

        In my personal experience, people enjoy and value music as much as, or maybe more than, ever. The amount of competition out there is what’s driving prices down.

        The number of small and medium sized venues willing to host live music is shrinking not because of a lack of demand, or respect, but because of constantly rising collection agency fees and, perhaps more importantly at the moment, the fact that most of the western world has been in a recession four nearly four years.

        When I hear musicians whining about how hard it is to be a musician these days, I roll my eyes. It has never been easier. Ever.

        • Anonymous

          Easy to become a musician? I can only imagine how bad YOUR music is. Doing anything excellently takes hard work and dedication. Beethoven underwent torment to produce. You might enjoy the noise that passes for music today — many of us are not.

  2. 2

    Rick, Cory Doctorow has made a very strong argument in “Content” that the reason there’s been a strong push to enforce copyright is because it’s essentially the US’s main export…In the 80s they switched from a manufacturing economy to an IT based economy based on the predictions of the best minds at their disposal, and IT has made it easier to copy as the years have passed, of course. I wonder if this is the main reason that the MAFIAA seem to have the US Gov’t in their back pockets and can push these acts so forcefully on the rest of the world.

    The logic seems sound, yet I never see any discussion on this anywhere. Is that too far off base?

  3. 3

    “…they don’t watch movies, at least nowhere near the quantity I did when I was a teenager. Just like I threw out my TV set 15 years ago, maybe this is just the natural progression of culture. ”

    Interesting that you say that. I’m 24 and I almost never go to the movies. The couple times a year I go, it’s only as something to pass the time, basically a heated/air-conditioned place to socialize, not to specifically watch the movie. I don’t even pirate movies. I spend way more time on youtube when I want to be entertained/moved/enlightened. Or playing games. Or on blogs. Creativity and culture are always going to be around even when certain formats recede or die out. It is odd that current legislation seems so married to the “traditional” form of art. If anything, isn’t that just disadvantaging progressive artists by continuing to protect and promote the old rather than encouraging the new?

    • 3.1
      Rick Falkvinge

      Off-topic: I sent you a mail a couple of days back. Have you seen it?

    • 3.2

      While we’re trading anecdotes, I’d like to offer a counterpoint: I watch movies. Most of my friends watch movies. These days, we don’t generally do that at a movie theater, but we still do watch them.

      However, I don’t read that many books. Many of my friends do, though — and some of them don’t play video games. Some of them play MMO or multiplayer games, but not single-player games; I’m exactly the opposite. (See, games are interesting, because different genres can almost be regarded as entirely different mediums — much like how newscasts, TV shows, and movies are all motion pictures, but certainly not the same medium) Oh, and you know what else I like, even though others don’t? Live theater. That’s not dead yet.

      My point is, yes, culture naturally progresses, and certain media go in and out of style. But most of them do stick around, so it’s a fallacy to argue that “nobody watches movies anymore”, at least for now.

      • 3.2.1

        That’s an interesting point. Maybe the conclusion is that a certain type of creative work doesn’t have to be the dominant form of entertainment to still enjoy a core group of support? I certainly don’t think that movies are going to actually *disappear.* Not anytime soon anyway. But as options for entertainment/creativity diversify, people will find their preferred forms.

        Interesting too that you mention not reading–it’s so common to hear older folks saying that young people don’t read. But then something like Harry Potter or Twilight becomes massively popular with young people, making it clear that they are still reading. So you are right, I think, that types of media tend to stick around, even while they wax and wane in popularity. Personally, I think more options for creativity is a very good thing.

    • 3.3
      Telzey

      “The couple times a year I go, it’s only as something to pass the time, basically a heated/air-conditioned place to socialize, not to specifically watch the movie.”

      I stopped going to movies because too many people there seemed to be there to socialize, not to watch the movie; chatting away with one another or on their cell phones. Please stop going to movies and go to a bar or coffee house instead?

  4. 4
    Herbert

    In my opinion the copyright issue is the lesser evil. Putting censorship in “non-state” hands seems to be the priority. In Germany you can see the effect, where GEMA, which is supposed to support musicians and artists interests by collecting fees degrades into a censorship institution. See:
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/111158219902029730370/posts/iys86hUs6LJ

  5. [...] message. And it now exists to spread this message. And hence why this reblog. You can find the original article here, taken from falkvinge.net {important clarification: nothing I write on this blog will alter the [...]

  6. 5
    Jeff

    Are you serious?

    How is it even possible to have such a huge amount of bad luck when trying to think?

    “No refrigerator owner was sued for making their own cold and ignoring the existing corporate cold distribution chains.”
    No owner of a computer will get sued for creating their own music, distributing someone elses songs, recordings and/or performances will probably get you sued if you’re caught. I can’t see any similarity, maybe if I hit myself over the head a couple of hundred times with a shovel, but why would I want to sink to the intellectual level of a peanut?

    “No laws were proposed that would make electricity companies liable in court if the electricity they provided was used in a way that destroyed icemen’s jobs.”
    Nope, but if you were to distribute the ice, financed by others, without their consent you would probably have gotten your but kicked in court. Again, no similarity what so ever.

    “Nobody demanded a monthly refrigerator fee from refrigerator owners that would go to the Icemen’s Union.”
    No, why would they, nobody’s demanding a monthly fee from someone who creates their own songs are there? If you want to take part of somebodys work I guess you’ll have to pay ‘em for it if their selling it. The cold in the refrigerator wasn’t created by the “icemen”, but the music illegally distributed is created by someone else. Another failed attempt to use an analogy good sir!

    Again, seriously, are you serious?
    I remember when I saw the Southpark episode with a shake weight, I had completly missed that there actually was an actual shake weight, I thought it was to stupid to be true… (You can watch it legally on http://www.southparkstudios.com)
    Are you for real, are you an actual shake weight or are you a satire of an internet pirate?

    • 5.1

      I think you might see this a bit differently than the rest of us. I’m with you on that it would be crazy to make an analogy between the icemen and the music makers. As you said, doesn’t add up at all. Good music making, and all sorts of cultural expression is not “going obsolete”, and is not something that “everyone can do just as well themselves”. But As I see it that’s not what the article is about at all.
      The part that we pirates always argue is going obsolete, is the distribution industry. So the analogy actually stands between the ice men and the music distribution. If you read it that way, I think you’ll find that the reasoning holds up much better.
      -Peace-

    • 5.2
      Yversa

      “No, why would they, nobody’s demanding a monthly fee from someone who creates their own songs are there?”

      A similar system already exist in some countries, although not on a fixed monthly rate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_copying_levy

      Even worse than this is the example of Germany’s GEZ that collects a monthly fee for the usage of any TV, radio or internet-capable device to finance the public broadcast industry a.k.a. state-owned TV networks etc. These fees are used to compete against private TV networks and to license content from the copyright mafia.
      The horrible thing about this system is the fact that you are obliged to register your devices with the GEZ per household, even if you don’t watch TV or listen to radio at all. Since almost any device with access to the internet (PC, Smartphone, etc.) is treated like a TV, you are basically paying to use hardware you bought or content you created by yourself.

    • 5.3
      peterjim

      Actually, I can’t watch SouthPark at that url (legally or otherwise) because I live in the UK. Can anyone tell me how that restriction helps anything?

      Incidentally, nothing to do with copyright infringement can ever be theft. Theft requires the “intension to permanently deprive” and copying something doesn’t deprive anyone of anything, it just makes the thing available where it previously wasn’t. That income stream that the copyrigt holder thinks he’s been deprived of – that doesn’t actually exist, does it?

    • 5.4
      oldmedontgetit

      The point is to put these newfangled digital thingamajigs into a perspective old people can understand because it’s the old people who are the ones in power, for now. If you take the suggestion from Anteater, I think most of your critique will fade and you will more clearly understand the overall concept and intention of this article.

  7. [...] not mine. We haven’t made e-mail illegal to prop up snail mail, why do it for music? No one taxed refrigerators because it’s silly for the government to defend failed business models. The world keeps [...]

  8. [...] Published on 2012-02-08 in eesti keeles. 0 Comments Tags: artikkel, copyright, tõlge. Allikas: falkvinge.net Autor: Rick Falkvinge Tõlge: Peeter P. Mõtsküla [...]

  9. [...] Nobody Asked For A Refrigerator FeeI live in Stockholm, Sweden. A hundred years ago, one of the largest employers in the city was a company named Stockholm Ice. Their business was as straightforward as it was necessary: help keep perishable food edible for longer by distributing cold in a portable format. They would cut up large blocks of ice from the frozen lakes in the winter, store them on sawdust in huge barns, then cut the blocks into smaller chunks and sell them in the streets. People would buy the ice and keep it with food in special cupboards, so the food would be in cold storage. [...]

  10. 6
    Thomas

    If the distribution industry is obsolete, why are you supporting The Pirate Bay?
    After all, the music and movie industries are actually producing stuff, producing content, but TPB is just distributing stuff. Which is obsolete and delivers no value according to you analysis.

    • 6.1
      siiix

      @Thomas not sure if your serious or sarcastic , TPB is distributing data for free, if there would not have been such pirated distribution (like Napster) we would have to still get music on ancient CD’s, i do not own a CD player for over 10 years now, pirating forced the official distributors to start selling MP3′s, and the way they doing it its still horribly primitive (like itunes) … no wonder people have to get they music and movies pirated, who the hell wants to run around with bulky plastic disks… also no one tells anyone to stop producing, its they forced monopoly that is the issue… you probably already forgot how bad it was 10+ years ago, as an artist you had no chance unless you go with the official channels… so in short maybe a few jobs are lost and more will be, but at the same time a LOT more people have an opportunity now to shine , this change is good for MOST artist just as well the end user, as an artist now you have the chance to be popular because your good and not because your one of the few selected to made popular by the industry

  11. [...] hun fået dæn modsatte holdneng? Dette mender maj om Falkvinge’s fortælleng om ismændene: http://falkvinge.net/2012/02/04/nobody-asked-for-a-refrigerator-fee/ Sælføljelig skal digitale teng være gratis ves de er muligt. Dette er dæn ultimative [...]

  12. [...] effective/likeable ways to get your news. Also thinking about this, it’s very interesting as Rick Falkvinge points out the fact that young people “take sharing in the connected world so totally for granted, that [...]

Add a Comment

4 × 1 =   

On Facebook

Popular Articles

Adobe the leech - original photo by OakleyOriginals on Flickr
158

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Money cut into pieces - Photo by Flickr user Tax Credits
71

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

European Parliament
70

Pirate Parties

Pirate Parties

Librep July 12 frame
31

Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties

colorblindflag
20

United States – Zacqary Adam Xeper

United States – Zacqary Adam Xeper

solarroad
15

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

peter_sunde_0237
11

Swarm Economy – Lionel Dricot

Swarm Economy – Lionel Dricot

Other Recent Headlines

Burned book
34

Civil Liberties – Henrik Alexandersson

Civil Liberties – Henrik Alexandersson

PPEU founding in European Parliament, March 21, 2014.
17

Pirate Parties

Pirate Parties

threwitontheground
16

Activism – Travis McCrea

Activism – Travis McCrea

Bottles of Snake Oil - Photo by Jagrap on Flickr
29

Copyright Monopoly – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Copyright Monopoly – Zacqary Adam Xeper

About The Author

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

More On Infopolicy

facebook
12

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

523377_63619557
4

Infopolicy – Henrik Brändén

Infopolicy – Henrik Brändén

photo_10071_20090418-646x363
71

Copyright Monopoly – David Collier-Brown

Copyright Monopoly – David Collier-Brown

National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_Maryland_public_domain_image
149

Infopolicy – Christian Engström

Infopolicy – Christian Engström

"God Hates Signs" next to "God Hates Fags" protesters
8

Freedom of Speech – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Freedom of Speech – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Many different currencies - CC photo by epSos.de
45

Diversity – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Diversity – Zacqary Adam Xeper

le_tresor_rackham_le_rouge_1280x1024
11

Copyright Monopoly – Lionel Dricot

Copyright Monopoly – Lionel Dricot

Valve mechanism
92

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech

Books before copyright
99

Copyright Monopoly – Johnny Olsson

Copyright Monopoly – Johnny Olsson

Collaborative whiteboard at OuiShare 2012, full of wonderful ideas for venture capitalists to ruin - photo by Natalie Ortiz
14

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Swarm Economy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Border Patrol In Montana
25

Activism – Travis McCrea

Activism – Travis McCrea

Spices - Marrakech 09 Souks
58

Swarm Economy

Swarm Economy

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 7.23.12 PM
33

Copyright Monopoly – Travis McCrea

Copyright Monopoly – Travis McCrea

An Ouya console and controller
15

Infopolicy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Infopolicy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Smári McCarthy
36

Privacy – Christian Engström

Privacy – Christian Engström

1984-ish poster from London's Public Transport
8

Privacy – Loz Kaye

Privacy – Loz Kaye

Man slamming his head on a desk in frustration - CC photo by Flickr user mbshane
36

Privacy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Privacy – Zacqary Adam Xeper

This publication is protected under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Sweden. Any problem you have with this publication remains exclusively yours. Accountable publisher: Rick Falkvinge.
All text on this site is Public Domain / CC0 unless specifically noted and credited otherwise. Copy, remix, and inspire. (Troll policy.)
Log in | Original theme design by Gabfire themes (heavily modified)