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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

As we come upon the close of another year, it's hard not to be just a little nostalgic. Think about how much has changed in your life in the last ten years. How much of that change has been built on the backs of hard work and creative vision.

Creativity is what makes America shine. Travel anywhere and it's hard not to listen to American music, see an American television show or hear about an American film. Our designers, our technologies, our creative sphere of influence have defined the last century for much of the world.

Yet while we reflect on this past decade and all the wonderful change we've seen, there's one glaring omission: the protection of creative assets.

Music has been the great testing ground for this issue and the results are in. While music distribution has flourished exponentially, we've seen the most significant decline in the business of recorded music.

But the issue is really not about music. It's about the protection of creative content and about whether one should be paid for their work. It's about the film business, the book business, the newspaper business and any other business that can be replicated with the click of a mouse.

I'm all for rapidly moving forward into that creative void to discover new innovations. But creative people need protections to dance in that space, to find the beauty and wonderment for us to adore.

The fatal flaw for the record business was reacting poorly to the impending threat of their own business. Instead of bringing the discussion to the legislature to help build new gates to protect creativity in the new age, record labels sued illegal downloaders. Instead of educating the public about the economic significance of creativity in our world economy, record companies tried to levy heavy fines on downloaders. Instead of teaming up with the other industries soon to be challenged by piracy, the record business stood alone. And in doing so, they set on the worst PR course possible, alienating their own customer base.

I don't think it ever occurred to record executives that the public would stop buying records. But many have, and now the industry is faced with a public that doesn't necessarily value the exchange of money for music.

Why should companies who manufacture physical goods be given far greater protection than the singer-songwriter, director or designer. Why should Monsanto, Chevron and Hewitt Packard be more valuable, simply because they're not easily duplicatible.

No one doubts the future of American business will include a healthy digital technology sector. If digital files are that easy to duplicate, we must create laws that protect the creator, and are reasonably enforceable. Without protections, creative companies and creative people will be discouraged to create. And without that, our robust creative culture shifts.

It's almost 2011. Isn't it time our legislators focused on protecting the assets that have made our country great? It's our creativity. Let's protect it.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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