Massive Failures of Copyright and Capitalism


One of the supposed benefits of the copyright system we have is that people with a monopoly over intellectual property will have a market incentive to keep that IP going. There’s money to be made selling copies, they’re the only ones with the right to make copies, so copies will be available.

Obviously, this doesn’t really work. We have numerous examples of IP that have fallen out of print, which can not be legally acquired without paying ruinous prices for used goods.

And if you though THE FUTURE would change all of that with digital distribution, nope. FOR EXAMPLE:



Hopefully, those images show up, but if they don’t, the links take you to the Amazon page for the film soundtrack pages for THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING/THE TWO TOWERS – THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS, respectively. If you want to buy either one you have to pay (at the time I’m writing this) $250/$800 used, or $500/$1300 new.

Of course, if you want to buy The Complete Recordings of Howard Shores’s Return of the King soundtrack, that’s on iTunes.

Why is the third one available for digital download but the first two are not? Good question! You’d think they would be leaving money on the table. So I emailed Warner music about it. The message I sent was lost in the contact form, but it basically reiterated what I said above, along with a request that someone put digital copies on sale. The response:

Hello Harry,

Thank you for contacting us! We do not have current plans for this release, but thank you for your email and your input. We will forward your message to our suggestion box.

Okay. I’m in the suggestion box. For whatever that’s worth.

So, here is some art work–and not obscure art work, either, it’s the complete record of an Oscar- and Grammy-winning musical score–that can only be legally acquired at ridiculous prices.

It’s ridiculous.

Look, I’m in favor of copyright. I pay my bills with the money I earn because of copyright law. And when I see something I can’t afford, I don’t try to get hold of it another way. That’s how I choose to live.

But this is a ludicrous situation to be in.