Take a concrete example: iTunes. Technically we could all own every tune ever recorded. We would not need to own them, because they all exist on a server in Cupertino, California. We would just need an equitable means to listen to the ones we like.
Should the price be zero? Probably not, but how many perfectly playable vinyl records can be picked up for a penny? Should it be 99p per track? Did the Beatles make the record so that Apple could charge 99p per download for it long after they were all dead, passing to their estates a maximum of 33p and pocketing two-thirds?
A better question is: would the break-up of Apple and the rise of a music-sharing and renting model deter a modern-day group from writing great music? Every rock band or pop singer you talk to complains that information technology is eating into their revenue, and they have to go on the road to sell merchandise in order to make money. They often say this is because of piracy. But, in a sense, rock bands are just facing the same problem as journalists, magazine writers, literary novelists face. The pricing power of their artistic labour no longer depends on a technological bottleneck: the publishing house, the record label, the printing press. What they don’t lose to pirates they lose to the rentier class – firms such as Apple or Amazon, which demand a hefty distribution payment as the price of selling your wares via the internet.
Long, but interesting article.