All we need is "Love"?:
I saw the Beatles "Love" CD at Virgin Records and thought, "Just what I don't need, another Beatles anthology." Much as I loved the Beatles, thanks to my Ipod, I have grown very tired of their recordings. But when I saw this was a "remix," I decided to give it a try since I liked the Elvis remixes released a few years ago until I wore those out as well. What I did not realize is that this CD is not just remixed individual songs, but an entire 90+ minutes of remixed music. For example, one track might mix 3 drum riffs from different songs before starting a fourth song, play a portion of it before transitioning to two more excerpts. Two songs can be playing over each other simultaneously. An early acoustic version can meld into the full studio version. Reading the liner notes, I discovered that this was a sound track for a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas called "Love" and was mixed by George Martin and his son Giles. As a result it all sounds fresh and new again. I recommend it. You can listen to samples of each track here (using the "listen" button at the bottom) but most of the samples are from the heart of the songs rather than the more interesting transitions and overlays so it is not indicative of why I like this CD.

But then I had a very different thought. We could be enjoying this sort of thing all the time with different artists, or multiple artists except for one thing: Intellectual (so-called) Property. How did this single CD come about? Turns out George Harrison was buddies with Guy Laliberté, one of Cirque's founders, and arranged permissions from the other principals after three years of negotiations. Otherwise we would not have this one remix. And we won't have any more unless lightning strikes.

IP is supposed to create incentives for innovation. Here, as elsewhere, it is suppressing innovation. I know the counter arguments: The Beatles songs would not exist in the first place if not for IP; nor would this mix. And they deserve recompense. And they should be able to control the quality of derivative uses lest the value of their property be diminished, etc. I know the drill.

I also know the responses. The Beatles would not have created music unless compensated untold millions? Cirque Du Soleil would not have need a sound track for their show? Unlikely. They would not have created music unless their decedents were made millionaires many times over? Hardly. They deserve to control all derivative uses? What about the writer of the poster on which "For The Benefit of Mr. Pike Kite" was based and his or her deserving descendants?

We won't settle this here. Suffice it to say that there is an enormous difference between tangible and intangible property rights. With tangible property you control your stuff. With intangible property you control other people's stuff. (For more tentative thoughts along this line see here (pdf).)

One problem with IP is the "P." Private property, of which I am a big fan, invites a right of unlimited exclusion, unlimited terms of ownership, rights to bequeath to one's heirs in perpetuity, and the dreaded accusation of THEFT. The Constitution does not use the term "property," but merely "exclusive right" for "limited times." Hardly how one would express a full-blown property right. If you really MUST have a legal subsidy for authors, composers and performers, unlike chefs and dress designers, there is no reason why copyrights, like patents, could not be for a 5 or 7 years nonrenewable term, after which a work is in the public domain. Probably 99% of all value to be gleaned by artists from all copyrights would be captured by these terms leaving the works to be exploited by others with creativity rather than by entertainment companies collecting rents. For another example of rent-seeking, see this post about the RIAA killing internet radio with royalties.

But most people reading this post already know all this and have chosen up sides on the IP debate. I cannot help that when I heard this wonderful Beatles remix my second thought was: "Love" is not all we need.

Update: I found the following video on Against Monopoly, a very interesting IP-skeptic blog that is well-worth checking out: