Dave Allen: Give away your work NOW!

 Note: I posted the following as a comment on Dave Allen’s politely-worded but still not quite comprehensible interview about file sharing posted on Willamette Week’s website earlier this week. I also posted it as a comment on Dave’s blog (where he posted it) and am now posting it here because why the hell not? Don’t cost nothin’.

Dear Editor,

I write this on the 4th of July, which feels particularly appropriate given that the holiday is all about the need to keep grabby English folks from taking your belongings in the name of some social/economic construct that has no benefit for its targets.

In this case our British friend is Dave Allen, and the socio-economic construct is his vision of the Internet as a grand bazaar of other people’s intellectual property. 

Dave asserts that much of the dialogue about illegal downloading on the Internet revolves around the wrong questions. However, I think the first question he needs to ask himself is whether he truly understands what intellectual property is, and how its value differs from hard goods and services. (follow the jump for more!)

He quotes Justin Spohn, who uses an iPhone as an analogy for music files. If you walk into an Apple store, Allen quotes Spohn as writing, take a cell phone for a brief amount of time and then put it back where you found it, you’ve harmed no one. The phone continues to have value, the store can still sell it. “Theft seems to be a two-step process,” Dave writes. “I have to take it, and then have to no longer have it.” 

Then Allen/Spohn analogize that digital files of music (and presumably every other form of digitizable work, e.g., essays, novels, poems, recipes, etc.) cannot truly be stolen: “There is no property to recover because no property was actually removed from anyone’s possession.” 

Wrong. 

The value in an intellectual property (the song, the poem, the precise balance of Col. Sanders’ 11 herbs and spices) is in the information it contains. The good or service it provides is entirely in its content: the rhythm and melody that makes your heart sing; the novel that opens your eyes to new worlds, and so on. This is what artists/writers/creators own, and can market to an audience that is willing to pay to have the right to use it whenever and however they please. 

The only way the borrowed iPhone could even enter the conversation is if it were possible to absorb its powers — calling, texting, consorting with angry birds, addressing you as Rock God — through your fingertips. Then you don’t need the phone anymore. And assuming your magical iPhone-absorbing skill is transferable to others, who then transfer the complete iPhone package to others, etc, etc, then you definitely HAVE stolen something: you’ve taken the value of that iPhone and thrown it into the public domain. The demand for iPhones evaporates. The store closes, everyone loses their jobs. 

 Here’s the crowning irony: While Dave has given up on the music industry, he continues to create intellectual property for a living. Granted, it’s a more structured environment when you’re developing Internet sales/publicity strategies for the likes of PGE, Subaru and the Regence Health Network, but that only enhances the value of the work Dave performs — those are huge corporations that are accustomed to spending big money for advertising and advertising strategies.  

But what if we had access to Dave’s professionally-wrought strategizing? We could post it on the Internet and allow OTHER companies  — many belonging to the scrappy young folks to whom Dave finds himself so fiercely dedicated  — to thrive, too. According to Dave it wouldn’t even be a crime. After all, Dave, the North advertising company and PGE (or Subaru or Regence or whoever) would still have access to his work, too. As Dave reassures us, there’s no harm in “taking” something if the original owner still has it, too. 

So here’s my challenge to Dave: When you finish media strategizing for some big company you can show your commitment to the new paradigm, and the brave new society that exists beyond the bonds of ownership/theft/etc by posting it immediately on the Internet, in easily-downloadable and shareable files. 

Once you’re willing to do that then we can start getting to the post-ownership questions we need to start asking.

Best,

Peter Ames Carlin

FOOD FIGHT! Ex-UK punk Dave Allen serves up more spotted dick

Here we go again:  Tear-stained digital branding expert Dave Allen dredges up our internet feud from the other day to complain further about being called a dick and a corporate ad man. He definitely prefers DBE (see above), though ‘branding’ is a promotional tactic (e.g., advertising) that his company performs for corporate concerns. A tin of spotted dick for anyone who can spot the difference.

Also curious: For all his hiccuping about the nastiness of my original post about his vicious take-down of David Lowery for his post about NPR intern Emily White’s essay on why she doesn’t feel badly about hardly ever payingfor the music she loves to hear, Allen won’t even acknowledge (let alone explain the purpose of) the brutal ad hominem attacks he uses in his piece. Which is what my original post was almost entirely about. Is Dave Allen still a dick? VOTE NOW! But first, check out the kick-ass cyber-brawl between a washed-up punk rocker and a writer/critic who is definitely no Greil Marcus. Most of this happened on Sunday night.

Follow the jump to see how Allen responded to my first post  with this:

Peter, I don’t quite know where to begin. Exotic business trips? What are you talking about? Do you mean my 3 day vacation in Palm Springs as a guest of a friend which cost me nothing as I actually do not live the high life? My income is no higher than any middle class ad person I would wager not that it’s any of your business. I haven’t actually been on a business trip since attending SXSW this year. And I presume you understand that I reside in the USA not the UK right? As for advertising and image design joining the list as you put it – it’s already happened and I write about that too.

I’m actually happy to be the seething dick when I see someone attack young people. After all I teach many young people at the University of Oregon and I admire them immensely and learn so much from them. I say constant whining about Lowery’s Letter to Emily because I see the same stuff from him over and over. He’s flogging a dead horse which might be a metaphor for both his career and mine. I just don’t complain at length that no one cares any longer about my band and I don’t blame the Internet for it either. And Lowery’s essay is passive/aggressive, that’s why he brought up Mark and Vic’s suicides..it’s all the fault of the Emily’s of the world not buying artist’s music.

As I said at the beginning of my “scorched earth” rant – you can’t litigate human behavior. Sorry Peter.

And if you think I wrote the headline for SEO purposes then your far more subtle than I actually am. I was simply stating a truth and if it comes across as SEO-friendly then I’m the greatest accidental content strategist on the planet.

I’m just passionate about music and musicians and I’m tired of their complaints, and I’m tired of them blaming everyone but themselves for not finding a solution. But then again, no one is guaranteed an income from the arts.

Litigate the internet? Did someone, anyone, mention civil litigation? Plus also, do you think Dave looks good modeling the bloody shirt of the perpetually attacked young people, who he’ll protect (as an abstraction, at least) with all the sinewy fibers of his British being. Strong stuff, post-wise. And yet, it still wasn’t quite good enough, in his estimation, so he doubled down with:

Ah Peter, having now clicked through to your website I see it is you that is playing the SEO Google bait tricks, not me. I’m happy for you to leave your comment reposted from here on your site, but I would ask you to correct your assumptions about my “business trips.” And using that headline “Famous Internet pedant Dave Allen is a dick” will bring you lots of attention from the Irish comedian of the same name’s fans, I can assure you of that. You also call me a “corporate ad man” and that’s not true either. Yes I work at an agency, no I have no skills whatsoever in advertising, although I have spent 18 years worrying about how people use the Internet. I’m an Interactive Strategist, make of that what you will. Agencies, unlike authors and musicians began adapting to the reality of the Internet’s disruption quite some time ago. You should do your homework before attacking me.

 No advertising skills? Too bad he works in the advertising industry. Also too bad that I was beginning to get into the hot-blooded rhythm of internet feuding. Thus:

Dave,

1. I live in Portland, Ore., same as you.
2. I don’t care how much money you make, and that’s nowhere near the point of what I was saying, but if you need to marginalize me without addressing my actual argument I guess that’s as good a distraction as any.
3. I’m so glad you’re here to protect the young people. That is so beautiful.
4. As is your admiration of the young people. You’re like Jesus. Only angry and mean.
5. Do you teach the youngsters to reduce their discussions to ad hominem attacks, too? And then to justify their savagery with a shrugged, ‘you can’t litigate human behavior’? Is that another way of saying that ethics are nothing compared to self-interest? If so, I hope you do learn a lot from the young people. The young folks I know are so much more warm-spirited than you are.

Is this getting tiresome? I think so. No, I know so. And yet we were already outside the pub, coats off, manly fists cocked and loaded, with great oceans of Guinness gone bloody and brutal in our veins :  

Peter,

I’ve just realized something – you never read Emily’s post. If you had you wouldn’t have accused her of “illegally downloading music” in your Google-bait titled post “Stealing Music Is The American Way.” Stand up for Lowery all you want, call me as many names as you’d like but don’t tell untruths about Emily. Here’s Emily’s NPR post so you can correct your post (he included the url of the NPR link near the top of this entry).

Which, frankly, struck me as sad and desperate on his part. For him to accuse me of not even being up to speed on the very thing I had been inspired to converse angrily about in public? I’m angsty, I know, (we’ll get to that in a minute) but that sort of Sean Hannity style of debate — hurling accusations that are too bizarre to even discuss more fully — leaves me cold. So whatever. And yet I had great fun posting this response:

Dave,

Funny how your attention to detail grows so much more precise when you’re the subject at hand. I’m looking at the logos of 14 corporate entities at the bottom of your blog, all of whom are clients of the agency for which you work (and which does indeed help promote their wares) and yet you don’t consider yourself a corporate ad man? Are you ashamed of your work? It actually seems kind of cool to me.

And are you seriously proposing that your career as an interactive strategist has not included a working knowledge of search engine optimization? What kind of interactive strategies are you creating? Do they involve actual interaction?

I love the Internet. I can’t wait to see how it continues to alter the media, society and the world. I just can’t understand why churlishness and situational ethics have to define so much of the dialogue about it.

I  I’m all, take THAT, bitch! Not even dreaming that he’d fire right back with this:  

Peter,

No not ashamed, why would I be? I’ll be honest, I don’t know what “advertising” means in a digital age. I came up through music, started my own label in L.A., graduated to using the web for reaching music fans in 1993, was first indie label to have a website. In 1998 I joined eMusic.com to further my passion for getting music into people’s hands. Napster killed that, but any web company is only one step away from dissolution because of the zero-barrier to entry model of the web. I joined Intel in 2000 to work on music and Internet-connected products such as MP3 players etc and then after leaving in 2002 I found myself in the confluence of the web, popular culture and user behavior. So no formal background in advertising. I am very proud of the mobile-first beer finder I helped launch for Deschutes Brewery at North because it provides value – beer lovers want to find beer, the mobile site provides that for them. User behavior was studied, then we gave them what they were asking for. So yes, actual interaction. Of course I have a working knowledge of SEO. I don’t write post or essays with that in mind though. Just like music, if the content is strong then people will gravitate toward it. If not.. SEO won’t win you followers if the content sucks. As for loving the Internet and waiting to see how it alters media, society and the world – it did that about 18 years ago. It’s now up to us to just utilize its powers for the greater good.

I see a lot of fun-with-semantics and shame-based obfuscation in that argument (does having no formal training in advertising mean you can never, ever work in that industry? As Dave Allen hisself proves on weekdays, obviously not. But then it was all so tiresome and I was so very tired of being tiresome, so I went to bed. Job done! Back to my cheerfully Dave Allen-free real life! But Dave Allen has apparently been stewing this week. So then I woke up this morning (five days later) and found that DA had written me personally on Facebook to say he’d tried to post a comment on my peteramescarlin.com blog, but found that he wasn’t an authorized user (Sorry ’bout that, I changed the settings a few weeks ago to keep out spammers, but accidentally blocked everyone else too)iSo he took to the greater Facebook universe to post yet ANOTHER outraged response, imploring his friends to reaffirm his own belief that he is not, in fact, a dick. Which some of them did, many being careful to insult me/writers/music writers, etc., too.
To wit:
Well everyone, what do you make of this deeply intellectual take down of me? Seriously, I’m interested as all hell.. Try and avoid the misrepresentations of my long-term tenure as a digital strategist and my lifestyle, please focus on what Peter has to say about my character, my work and my longstanding efforts in this critical debate. 
So there it is. Believe it if you need it. I’m going to turn off my computer and go for a run.

Famous Internet pedant Dave Allen is a dick

Former Gang of Four member-turned corporate ad man-slash-Internet pundit Dave Allen takes a virtual hammer to the virtual skull of the real David Lowery, for the sin of writing this blog post about NPR intern Emily White’s blog post about why she’s okay with not paying for the music she downloads on the Internet. Which already inspired me to write this blog post.

When I read his post and noted how viciously he wrote it, and came to think that it both demeaned his ability to make rational arguments while also underscoring the vile, state-of-nature-ish behavior that defines so much of the ‘net (including the headline of this very blog post!) I posted this comment on Allen’s blog.I’m re-posting it here because why not, and also because it’s an exercise in search engine optimization, which dominates the ‘net. But first, here’s a scantily clad lady who I believe hails from Canada:
Dear Dave,

The Internet does many cool things for and to people. Arguably, making it possible to download music for free is one of them. When advertising and image design join that list you might want to revisit this topic and write about it from that end of the equation.

No matter. What I’m wondering is this: Why does the Internet make people behave, or at least present themselves, like seething dicks? This occurs to me now because your essay — which I read with great interest, by the way — overflows with scorched earth tactics that do nothing to further your argument and everything to make you seem like a digital hooligan. It also makes you seem less like someone who knows what he’s talking about, and more like a constructor/destroyer of straw enemies.

Let’s look at your own text.
David Lowery, who feels differently on this issue than you do, isn’t just incorrect. He’s also “maudlin” and “mildly talented.” Lowery’s position amounts to “constant whining.” Worse, his essay is “passive/aggressive.” If you’re using that last grenade to explode his yucky roping-in of the Chesnutt/Linkous tragedies (I agree with your disdain there, btw), then how can you justify ridiculing the musicians’ expectation of payment by waving the bloodied banner of the homeless, the unemployed and screwed-over firefighters, teachers and so on?
Does that not indict you for living the high life as what some intemperate types might call a corporate shill (love those Facebook shots from all your exotic business trips, by the way)? And don’t you feel just a little bit queasy quoting Margaret Thatcher — one of the 20th century’s great punishers of the working class — to give Lowery yet another righteous boot in the crotch?
“The Internet can not be ethical,” you write, and again, I agree with you. I bet Lowery does, too: he’s not calling for the medium to be regulated, he’s urging Emily White, et. al, to act in a way he believes is more fair to musicians. See? You agree with him, and you were too busy hating him to notice!
What Lowery, you and I all know is that it’s the people who USE the Internet whose behavior can/should define how its powers are deployed. But here’s the irony: the Internet itself, or more accurately, the people who write the logarithms that organize the Internet to appeal to searchers’ desires, do so with laser focus on hot-button subjects and words. Sex! Tits! Slams! Lashes out! Scandal! Fight! But why am I telling you that, Dave? As the headline of your essay (The Internet could not care less about your mediocre band) you’ve got your search engine optimization skills purring right along.

So I’ll do you a favor here and close by rephrasing my opinion of your essay by saying, simply, that it makes you seem like a pathetic, washed-up twat whose shitty band no one ever liked in the first place. That’s not what I think, but it’s short and punchy and SEO like a motherfucker. That’s what sells on the Internet. And everyone’s gotta earn a living, right?
Peter