Chapter 10. The muse's ransom

Software is an idea; hamburger is a cow.

Peter Coy, Business Week

In 1997 America produced $414 billion worth of books, films, music, TV programmes and other copyright products. Copyright became America's number one export, outselling clothes, chemicals, cars, computers and planes.

John Howkins, The Creative Economy

A culture persists in time only to the degree it is inventing, creating and dynamically evolving in a way that promotes the production of ideas across all social classes and groups.

Shalini Venturelli, From the Information Economy to the Creative Economy

Now that everyone knows that you can make more money out of ideas than you can out of hamburgers, will someone please explain the following. On the eve of Christmas 2006 UK music retailers were complaining that sales – including downloads – were down by as much as 30%, blaming it on a very bad year for music in general, and specifically on the disturbing news that the holiday season charts were topped by an album called Beautiful World by Take That. For those readers who didn't have to live through Take That's rise to musical notoriety in the 1990s, the kindest way to describe their anodyne version of R&B/pop/rock is that they were designed to appeal to the market – and they did. Imagine Justin Timberlake without the charisma.

Something is clearly going wrong.

In numerical terms there is little doubt that we have crossed some sort of structural threshold. The US Patent & Trademark office is handing ...

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