Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin are the authors of Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back, a new book from Beacon Press that breaks down how the current economy serves a few major power holders in creative markets rather than the creators themselves. The power is concentrated in the hands of a few in several industries, Doctorow noted: “Five major publishers—shortly to be four—four major studios, three labels that own three music publishers, one cinema chain, one book distributor. Wherever you look, you find these markets.” As a result, when trying to market and sell their work, creators, from writers to musical artists to designers, run into what Doctorow and Giblin call chokepoints, Doctorow explained. “It’s not like you have your choice or there’s a buffet and you can play one off against the other. The point is that when there’s, like, three companies in your sector, they all arrive on the same terms, and by an incredible coincidence, those terms are really good for them and bad for you.”
Part of the problem, Doctorow and Giblin explained, is that the giants of the creative industries are focused on buying out companies in their fields that innovate rather than innovating themselves, as Facebook—now Meta—did with Instagram and WhatsApp. So the power imbalance between creators and their liaisons to the public gets bigger as creators’ options are narrowed. “The problem is not that creators aren’t working hard enough; it’s not that they don’t have enough copyright; the problem is this power imbalance that allows other people to scoop up more than their fair share. And once we’ve made that case and once you understand the problem as one of power imbalance, then the solution is to widen these chokepoints out,” Giblin explained. “Things that do work are things like interventions that create countervailing producer power in the hands of workers and creators, directly regulating buyer power, and taking steps to encourage new entrance into the market.”
Check out these links to some of the topics Doctorow, Giblin, and Rogers brought up this week.
- Read Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back, by Giblin and Doctorow.
- Read more of Doctorow’s work.
- Read more of Giblin’s work.
- Read Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern, by Adam Rogers.
- Read more of Rogers’s work.
- Join us for our November California Book Club event with Kim Stanley Robinson and special guest Doctorow.•