Friday, June 20, 2008

Gary's Trolling, I'll Bite

Gary's post, The Possibility of Doing Good AND Doing Well, doesn't make much sense, but in particular, the financial turnaround of the Metropolitan Opera doesn't say much about intellectual property. They mostly work from a classical repertoire which is not covered by copyright, costumes aren't covered by copyright, and copyright protection for sets is weak, at best. Acting, singing and directing have nothing to do with copyright.

It is also interesting to note that the Met has traditionally not only broadcast their performance over radio at no cost to the listener, they actually paid radio stations to do it. They distributed their content at a loss!

They have wised up a bit, however, and devised a digital distribution policy which outflanks concerns about intellectual property and copying. What they've done is started doing live digital simulcasts to movie theaters. This is really smart. It retains the sense of opera as a kind of deluxe cultural event while reaching out to a larger audience. Since it is only broadcast to theaters, there is less chance of bootlegging, even if there are bootlegs, it will be difficult to replicate the visual and sound quality of a theater, even if you've got a home theater and a high-def bootleg, you won't get your bootleg live, which they're trying to establish a certain cachet around, even if you could get a bootleg live, if you're interested in opera it is likely that you also value viewing it as a collective experience at a theater (so people can see how cultured you are...) so you're still likely to take that route if you can. Regardless, the more you watch video of opera at The Met, whether it is on a 3" YouTube or an iMax theater, the more likely you are to go to The Met someday.

The point of all this is that none of the above is dependent on intellectual property protection by the state.


Bill Fitzgerald said...

I bit.

You said it better than me.

Which isn't particularly surprising :)



Gary said...


The main reason I was interested in the AP/IP story was in how edubloggers were conflating a property rights issue with school reform. The sort of all old institutions and ideas must die stuff.

I do think that that Met story may offer wisdom for people trying to keep their enterprise (even school) relevant and successful by other measures.

I'm about to retire my pretend lawyer suit.


Tim said...

Actually, almost everything on the Met stage is covered by copyright. The instrumental and vocal arrangements, the staging, choreography, sets, pretty much everything but the original source material.

Of course, the Met also has the deep pockets to "create" all that stuff which they then turn around and lease to smaller music companies, a big source of income.

As I remember the radio broadcasts were paid for by Texaco for many years, even including a fee to the Met. The simulcasts to theaters (and cable/satellite pay per view in a few areas) are loss leaders right now but they expect to develop into another revenue stream.

Even when they cry poverty, large, established arts organizations like the Met are still in pretty good financial shape. It's the smaller groups, the ones who IMHO do more creative and imaginative work, that really are hurting, often in good times and bad.