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 Everett True

stealing music – the conversation

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Once again, I find myself in the position of having to drag something across from Facebook that has direct relevance to this site. Facebook is like people’s safety zone on the Internet: they don’t need to stray any further afield, they can be reassured that everything happens within clearly defined parameters: indeed, the idea of “having a conversation” now holds sway over the concept of “discovery” (Facebook stats Vs Google stats) … although I think I would argue that the first often amounts to the second. Anyway, here’s the conversation that took place on Facebook around Edward Guglielmino‘s recent post about stealing music. If his main reason for writing it was to stir debate he achieved his aim.

(One of the reasons this dialogue is so intriguing is because two of its main participants – Beth and Neil – are fine music commentators in their own write.)

STEALING MUSIC

Aaron Richard Piper, Tina Silvey, Aisha Dixon and 2 others like this.

Abrar Hafiz

Almost Sufi~esque.

Massimo Usai

that sounds really, really moving. I only have one question: how about those who made some money while still retaining their souls?

Ned Guggenheim

Not possible

Neil Griffin

I love how these parables always single out artists as special cases. I’m yet to read one about the noble innkeeper who puts people up for the pleasure of their company, hoping to pay hir own rent etc with an intoxicating miasma of respect, the memories of hugs and occasional tips.

Ben Webster

This article seems a little misplaced seeing as Plan B folded in the main because record labels could no longer afford to pay for advertising anymore. Myself and many of my friends have been made redundent because of people stealing music. But at least we had the warm glow self-satisfaction to tie us over when we could no longer afford to pay the heating

Everett True

Ben, just because I print it doesn’t mean I agree with it

Ben Webster

I understand, Everett. My last comment wasn’t aimed at yourself, just at the naivity and insensitivity of your writer towards yours and many others situation

Everett True

well, speaking as someone who’s supporting his family (two kids) on a student grant and virtually no paid freelance work, at the age of (almost) 50… um…

Neil Griffin

Yeah, this ruined my morning. I strongly considered asking Everett if I could write a counterblast – even warming up a blank doc – until counting the sheer number of wrong-headed points that needed addressing made me (marginally) more tired than angry. I bet Jeff Pollack‘s been fwding it to friends all day.

Beth Capper

well, the only way to control these things is to distribute music on old, not new, (digital) media (as records etc), or to become super nutso about copyrights. Both are ways of forcing scarcity, and strong copyright laws hurt artistic production as much as they encourage it, and were never meant to feed an artist’s children after they die. Copyright was originally meant to be incentive for creation. Maybe people need to think about other ways of living off art, or a living wage for artists? And yea, maybe old distribution systems (labels, film distros etc) need to change or maybe they’re outmoded models? I’m not saying that to be disrespectful of people who’ve lost jobs because of piracy but piracy isn’t going anywhere. I’ve heard countless arguments against the free culture/piracy movement, but none that seem centered on helping solve the issue in a way that is appropriate to our contemporary world. I don’t think you’re going to convince ppl not to take music when they can and when they have grown up in a culture where that’s all they’ve known.

Ned Guggenheim

Maybe it is a joke.

Paul Koehler

I am seriously fantasizing about “Mandelo” (who incidentally, like most musicians prior to the advent of recorded music, probably lived to the ripe old age of 30 or so…) kicking this asshole in the nuts.

Neil Griffin

Yeah, Beth – I’m aware we’re not going to be able to upload the genie back into the bottle – and I think eventually ways and means will be found to replace commodification of music (which clearly wasn’t perfect, and didn’t last a vast historical stretch). My main problem is the happy abstraction these arguments always take – ‘information wants to be free’ rather than ‘someone has made something I want and asks I make a small contribution to help pay off their debts for a copy. I refuse, but I am still a fan. Because I feel it. In my soul.’ New technologies offer new ways fans can support artists – pledgemusic, etc – but new models only stand a chance if it’s recognised the artist, like the audience, however much they may hate it, lives within capitalism and the creation of art takes time and money.

Neil Griffin

It’s also, as others have noted, the double standard – those that advocate free art never seem to carry that supposedly anti-capitalist impulse into other spheres, like squatting properties, refusing to pay taxes, shoplifting, etc etc. No, they’ll meekly pay their rent, for fast food, for latest gadgets, for cheap clothes (to awful companies they profess to hate but financially support) but art (to artists they claim to be fans of and feel for)…? Nah.

Neil Griffin

Besides which, the parable form is excruciating + there are ridiculous lapses in cohesive logic – the article suggests art is ruined by money – but if this is the case, the best art would be that made and given away for free – so why is there even a need to steal?

Neil Griffin

And Everett, if CB does attain funding, remember not to pay Edward and ruin the purity of his self-expression.

Neil Griffin

Hmph. Just noticed Edward’s now labelled the piece satire. Since I don’t know him, and he’s one of yr droogs, I guess I have to take him at his word, but I’m not sure it reeeeally functions as such. Maybe that’s the sting speaking. Anyway, these arguments are worth having + having again regardless of pretext.

Ned Guggenheim

I’m Ed G and I’m a social libertarian. The article is making fun of the moral high ground that labels attempt about piracy. They talk about piracy being against the ten commandments “thou shall not steal” the opposing argument sounds just as ridiculous. We need to accept we have entered a new paradigm and that it isn’t a moral argument. It’s a pragmatic one. How do be monitize recordings in the 21 century? Stop calling pirates thieves. Stop calling labels evil. Watermark mp3s so we get a royalty every time they are played. Or something like that.

Beth Capper

I wasn’t defending the article. But, I think you characterize free culture/piracy advocates in simple terms kick. Maybe this is just because I am surrounded by a lot of free and open source software movement ppl here in Chicago, but not everyone who makes such arguments is an anarchist (and I agree that the ones who are ARE annoying). As I understand it, oftentimes it’s an argument about art as operating differently to other things in the world (that, I suppose, would be part of the argument of the gift.) Or, as an extension of the first (and this more relates to books most centrally i think) it’s an argument about the fact that information should be freely accessible to everyone, but not necessarily one about the fact that other things should be freely accessible to everyone (though I’m sure this does extend to other issues that you and I would probably agree on.) There’s also ppl like Corey Doctorow, who just want people to adapt to the paradigm shift, but who says he isn’t forcing anyone to put their shit out there for free (he just thinks opting not to is a bad business decision.)

The people I know who make the argument from either of these standpoints also often support artists who put their work out there for free by both opting to buy and download the thing at the same time. Many of them also contribute to funding projects through kickstarter etc. and are artists who fund their own projects through platforms like that themselves and then give their art away for free. The problem, I actually think, comes from people who aren’t political about these things – who just want to have shit for free. But I’m not totally convinced that these people always represent actual audiences that would have bought the thing before the internet – IE. if their choice is to pay for your thing or not have it, they might choose the latter. Also, I’m not suggesting that free culture people have the solutions to how one funds art outside of the current way of selling it as a commodity, but it seems to me that they are trying to think about it: http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2010/10/economies-of-the-commons-conference-amsterdam/

Neil Griffin

Thanks for responding, N/Ed.I admit I’ve been a bit binary / old school here, but it’s partially ’cause I’ve gradually (and quite recently) shifted from a position not unlike that you’re advocating (and Beth is flanking with alts) precisely toward one where we go back to the artist/audience interaction as the basic unit. What’s really depressed me recently is when an indie record shop-working friend told me about the latest indignity they’re facing – people stealing the original packaging for the CD-Rs they’ve burned. Bang goes one of the tactics I thought might fight some sort of rearguard action – the commodity as artefact.

Another reason I’m admittedly emotional about it is the way that – as audiences become less important to artists, it’s corporate sponsorship which is already filling the gap, and increasingly thus setting the agenda. So, until a pragmatic solution comes along (which must be technological), I think the moral case is all we have to make sure – once a workable micro-payment or distributed patronage or whatever arrives – that audiences will respond to it. I dunno – above all, I think I’m just frustrated on behalf of all the artists who are going to struggle to survive in the meanwhile.

Beth Capper
but artists have always struggled to survive?

Neil Griffin
All the more reason to stay angry.

Beth Capper
yea, I agree. I wanna see things change too, but I don’t want to see more artists becoming stronger proponents of copyright, because I think it hurts more than helps creativity

Neil Griffin
I guess you could say art spent much of history being a church functionary, then a tradesperson’s pet before being commodified into a capitalist object ranked by popular appeal before – next – either becoming some new virtually-mediated magically-profitable unthing or finally existing totally under/within/for a corporate aegis. I’m a tragic idealist, but I know which I think looks more likely, and it bugs me because I can’t or won’t believe this is inevitable. We can talk about historical trends or sociological inevitability, but I won’t or can’t let go of that choice we have (and this includes artists themselves) to act as members of an audience in supporting art. To a degree, then, it’s a feeling we’re losing a model which (while awful in lots of ways) felt like the least worst for … well, we’ll see.

Neil Griffin
SIGH.

Ned Guggenheim
Hio. I’m a musician. I can speak first hand about piracy. I know I’m going to shake the tree a bit here but I don’t think piracy affects independents as much as online streaming does (which is a choice artists make to promote there music). I help run an indie co-opt and many of our artists have sold well over 1,000 units but good luck finding them on torrents. I think the iPod and streaming have more of a role in the decline of indies than piracy (part of my Masters is trying to prove this point).

I think piracy affects artists who have sold over 10,000 units which in no what makes it fair but at this stage they are probably still okay due to touring income and merch. So this system isn’t completely broken and pirates arent the sole problem (IMO). All we need to do as entrepreneurs is find a way to make the consumer pay after they have enjoyed the music for a while. A lot of downloading is previewing. Say if they got three plays and then were asked (are these mp3s registered?). Pretty simple technology really. In the meantime everyone is going to quote law from thousands of years ago as a solution. Won’t do jack shit because people don’t feel like thieves.

Beth Capper
I don’t think its necessarily as pessimistic as you think it is. Do artists necessarily have to turn to corporate sponsorship to make $$? I don’t know. There’s a lot of micro-funding schemes (at least over here in chicago) where administrators and artists are working together to rethink ways of funding the arts. I think there needs to be real initiatives to justify the arts again (i might be talking from the american context more right now.) People need to advocate for the arts as a fundamental contribution to society – until that happens artists will always get shafted.

Ned Guggenheim
Can I just say I work in the music industry and play in a band and teach a bit and I am comfortable. I think the old machine is dead and gone but a new one has risen from the ashes. I recon a lot of the old school has trouble navigating the new paradigm so they get very upset about how things have changed. Honestly they are much better for a middle ground muso like me, in the 90s I wouldn’t exist.

Beth Capper
I agree with that. I would say that more and more, audiences are done with taste-makers. Some people have lost out, other people are being heard more than they were before because of the internet/cheap digital technologies.

21 Responses to stealing music – the conversation

  1. han April 20, 2011 at 10:29 am

    There are plus-points to the internet and platforms for distribution available which can enhance the DIY ability and allow bands and musicians to do everything themselves. It’s just a time to rewrite the strategy, potentially an opportunity to side-step the middle men. It’s hard to accurately compare things now with things before the internet for musicians… because the internet didn’t happen in isolation- all technology has blossomed. It used to cost a lot of money to go somewhere and record a demo onto a cassette tape! Then you needed to post it to John Peel and the indie labels to try to start a career in music whilst playing pub gigs. Now we have programmes so simple to record at high quality on and fast, that children can use them. You can now make your own music video using software and almost any digital camera.

    So I’m saying that although the music-economy is in a total mess right now, there is also opportunity there that there wasn’t before. People used to tape record songs off the radio you know.

    Personally, I am interested in the Playbutton format for future sales of my music. I think it’s a good idea and as long as they market it well and it takes off, we might have a hope of reclaiming the album whilst maintaining MP3 singles which are popular.

    Artists should be paid properly because with art and music, although it may not seem to be as important as bread and water, kind of is just as important because it gives us solace, fun, excitement, communication, beauty, relaxation, strength and a civilised refined society which is worth living in. Those things help survival, so we should all help the artists survival in return.

  2. Wallace Wylie April 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

    While I don’t think there’s an excuse for stealing music in moral terms, I also don’t think there’s an excuse in moral terms for how badly countless artists have been treated over the years by record companies. Record companies have contracts on their side, which certainly makes it legal, but that doesn’t make it ethical.

  3. Darragh April 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    “Beth and Neil – are fine music commentators in their own write” – is that some sort of glorious pun like object? Me likies.

  4. Darragh April 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Music IP is a complete load of hogswash. A lame animal that should be euthanised immediately, and if it the internet to reorientate the industry in a more egalitarian manner, then I’m 100% behind this.

    We live in an age where a third parties can purchase copyright to songs, then use that copyright to sue another party who apparently ‘stole’ part of song years before the third party actually owned said song. This third party contribute absolutely nothing to the creative process and yet can profit from it by asserting IP rights (I’m referring to the Down Under debacle played out in Australian courts recently).

  5. Everett True April 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    “Beth and Neil – are fine music commentators in their own write”

    Not really mine, Darragh. Lennon used it first.

  6. Princess Stomper April 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    @ Ned, a friend released an album, and mid-week sales figures were pretty strong for the label. Then it found its way onto torrents. Sales dropped off IMMEDIATELY. The album continued to be torrented widely – people were clearly wanting to download the tracks, but just didn’t feel like paying for them.

    Another friend was in an unsigned band, and believed that torrents were a great way to “advertise” the music since obviously that’s what filesharers believed. He uploaded his album onto torrents, but nobody wanted to seed it. Only the signed acts had their albums torrented, because since someone else had invested money in the band, it was a sign that the music was worth hearing, and since this guy couldn’t sell his music, nobody wanted to hear it.

    Two further friends estimate the torrent-to-purchase ratio of their music to be one thousand to one. That’s a bit different to home taping, when the ratio was more like one person in three had bought the album.

  7. Darragh April 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    “Only the signed acts had their albums torrented, because since someone else had invested money in the band, it was a sign that the music was worth hearing, and since this guy couldn’t sell his music, nobody wanted to hear it.”

    Sorry Princess Stomper, what about the possibility of his songs not being worth hearing because they were not that good?

  8. BC April 20, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    “a friend released an album, and mid-week sales figures were pretty strong for the label. Then it found its way onto torrents. Sales dropped off IMMEDIATELY. The album continued to be torrented widely – people were clearly wanting to download the tracks, but just didn’t feel like paying for them.”

    A similar case could be made for this – people bought the album initially because they could not get it for free. Then people could, so they did, but perhaps they didn’t like the album enough to follow up and buy it? I have LOADS of pdfs on my computer, and I own some of the books of those pdfs, but some, I don’t, because I checked the book out and I didn’t think it was awesome enough to buy. Being able to preview things can often mean that they don’t sell so well. It used to be a lot harder to preview records, unless you saw them played at a live show. Also, it’s more likely that small bands will prosper in this climate than in the one before, where record labels controlled who got to put their music out there. Those small bands that people aren’t even torrenting would probably not have gotten picked up by a label either.

    Also, what’s the solution? More copyrights? Should kids get arrested for this? We live in an age where people see culture as something that should be free – whether you agree with that or not, more and more young people don’t see anything wrong with torrenting etc. You can get angry about it, but I don’t think you’ll sway most people to feel that torrenting etc is morally wrong.

  9. Wallace Wylie April 21, 2011 at 12:01 am

    George Clinton has to play all sorts of shitty gigs all over America (and the world) because he got screwed out of money by record companies and music publishers. You’d think he’d be rich from all the sampling, but no, all that money goes to people who had nothing to do with the creative side of things (which record companies now claim they are very concerned about), all that money goes to people who were business savvy and were able to include small print and pressure artists with no legal background into signing things that they regretted years later when they were struggling to make rent. Where was this same concern for creative artists in the 40s, 50s, 60′s, 70s and 80s? Answer: there was none because record companies were making money regardless. What happens when music companies start losing money? We get sob stories about starving artists. Tell it to George Clinton and a thousand others. Christ, The Beatles got rich despite having one of the worst contracts in history. That should tell you just how much income they generated. Were the record companies concerned that The Beatles themselves get most of the money after they had more than recouped the recording costs, probably after an hour of sales? Were they fuck. They were looking forward to fleecing a bunch of naive musicians who felt lucky just to be allowed to record. It’s a very familiar story. Ask Chuck Berry. Ask the surviving Small Faces. I could go on and on but I would begin to bore you with the stories of selfishness and entitlement that has been the hallmark of record company behaviour through most of the 20th century. Now the kids are acting selfish and have a sense of entitlement? God, I wonder how that attitude became the norm.

  10. Princess Stomper April 21, 2011 at 4:39 am

    @ Darragh, then we’re back to the argument of “if the band was any good, a label would have invested in them.” Seal of quality and all that.

    “A similar case could be made for this – people bought the album initially because they could not get it for free. Then people could, so they did, but perhaps they didn’t like the album enough to follow up and buy it? I have LOADS of pdfs on my computer, and I own some of the books of those pdfs, but some, I don’t, because I checked the book out and I didn’t think it was awesome enough to buy.”

    So apply that to everything. If you went to a restaurant and the food was OK but not THAT great so you just decided not to pay for it. You thought a pair of shoes were comfy enough but not the greatest thing ever, so you just stole them from the store. You are not ENTITLED to music for free.

    “Also, what’s the solution? More copyrights? Should kids get arrested for this? We live in an age where people see culture as something that should be free – whether you agree with that or not, more and more young people don’t see anything wrong with torrenting etc. You can get angry about it, but I don’t think you’ll sway most people to feel that torrenting etc is morally wrong.”

    Actually, yeah, I’d really like to see people get arrested for it in exactly the same way that video-cassette pirates were arrested in the 80s for selling dodgy tapes at the market. If anyone bothered to enforce it, it might actually reinforce the idea that it was wrong.

    Don’t even get me started on “people see culture as something that should be free”. They’re the same people who think that EVERYTHING should just be given to them – lazy, incompetent, selfish, whiny, self-entitled, self-important brats who contribute nothing and shamble about moaning how unfair everything is, and because nobody ever told them that to have anything worth having in life takes pain and sweat and effort, they will never have anything, never do anything and never be anything. Pathetic.

    As for record companies ripping off artists, we’re back to how 11% of a lot is more than 50% of nothing. In spite of all the bravado about the MySpace age, a hell of a lot of the “alternative” acts I like have major label distribution – probably the reason I ever got to hear of their existence in the first place.

  11. Wallace Wylie April 21, 2011 at 5:17 am

    @Princess Stomper. So record companies exploiting poor and naive artists is fine because at least the artists get a few crumbs from the table (though even this isn’t always true) while others get insanely rich, but people downloading music for free is just so completely wrong and immoral and pathetic and indicative of a selfish mindset that more people need to be arrested for it? You seem to equate ‘legal’ with ‘ethical’, which is rather troubling. You don’t think mass exploitation is indicative of a selfish mindset that reeks of entitlement?

  12. Darragh April 21, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Well, I do take your point, but there are lots of examples of groups and artists that have managed to gain following without label backing – purely through popular following on the internet – I’m thinking the likes of Lilly Allen, Fleet Foxes and the like here.

  13. Lucy Cage April 21, 2011 at 8:25 am

    “Don’t even get me started on “people see culture as something that should be free”. They’re the same people who think that EVERYTHING should just be given to them – lazy, incompetent, selfish, whiny, self-entitled, self-important brats who contribute nothing and shamble about moaning how unfair everything is, and because nobody ever told them that to have anything worth having in life takes pain and sweat and effort, they will never have anything, never do anything and never be anything. Pathetic.”

    And the artists and musicians and writers who not only believe culture can be – at least partially – untethered from monetary value but actually act on that? The people who put on free gigs and the people who make free fanzines and the people who write blogs for free and the people who upload recordings and photographs and comic strips and apps and programmes and software? I just don’t think it is as simple as you paint it. People both consume and create all different kinds of art and what they can and can’t sell of it varies from genre to genre and from age to age. I don’t see those people as lazy or whiny or selfish. There are no such clear demarcation lines between “good” artists and “bad” freeloaders in the real world. From my own experience as both consumer and creator of art/music/writing, there is a vast amount of passion, energy and love for those endeavours in the population which has precisely fuck all to do with monetary value. Dismissing such people wholesale as lazy and selfish is kind of mind-blowing.

  14. BC April 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

    “So apply that to everything. If you went to a restaurant and the food was OK but not THAT great so you just decided not to pay for it. You thought a pair of shoes were comfy enough but not the greatest thing ever, so you just stole them from the store. You are not ENTITLED to music for free.”

    Actually, people do go to a store, try on shoes, and decide not to buy them. People do go out for dinner, partially eat food and complain that the quality sucks and that they want a discount or don’t want to pay for it. I might take a music file, listen to it, and then put it in my digital trashbin, and no musician ever lost anything. It’s not the same as me robbing your tour van and stealing the merch.

    Are all the people that take a digital file actual audiences that would have bought it? IE. would they have paid for it if they couldn’t get it for free? When there’s so much music out there, you have to make decisions about what you spend your money on. Illegal downloads do not necessarily = sales that would have happened otherwise. Sometimes they might = sales that wouldn’t have happened otherwise if people couldn’t listen to the music beforehand.

    Anyway, comparing it to food/clothes etc is just not a good analogy (and anyway, I could make a pretty compelling case for these things being free to people who don’t have the money for them aswell.) Nothing is being “taken” from an artist when a digital file is copied. In the digital realm, a copy is a copy is a copy.

    Moreover: Is the ownership of intellectual property a natural, inherent right we have to certain things? Why?

    I’m going to borrow some points from my friend Tom, who eloquently argued along similar lines to these in relation to the issue of Ubuweb:

    “It’s worth pointing out that copyright is not, actually, a “right” and it is not really a kind of “ownership”. The assumption of copyright law – that is, what was assumed by those who originally put it in place and has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court – is that art and ideas put out into the public are owned by the public. The problem copyright is trying to solve is how to encourage the production of public goods – and the solution (which may no longer be working properly) is copyright – a limited monopoly on use, the purpose of which is to, again, encourage the creation of public goods. People who create a work have no ownership – they have a limited monopoly on use meant to encourage the creation of the work they do not own. Obviously, corporate interests have, in the past 100 or so years, deformed the original purpose of copyright law. One effect of this is that it has limited artists and intellectuals in terms of the materials they can use – another, equally alarming development, is that it has warped the minds of whole generations of people into believing ridiculous and factually incorrect things about “ intellectual ownership.”

    I’ll also offer up this Thomas Jefferson quote:

    “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

    Jefferson was talking specifically about inventions, which are usually objects, but always ideas too. This can be applied to the idea of digital technologies which make culture infinitely reproducible. Anything that can be digital: songs, films, books, etc works this way.

    “Don’t even get me started on “people see culture as something that should be free”. They’re the same people who think that EVERYTHING should just be given to them – lazy, incompetent, selfish, whiny, self-entitled, self-important brats who contribute nothing and shamble about moaning how unfair everything is, and because nobody ever told them that to have anything worth having in life takes pain and sweat and effort, they will never have anything, never do anything and never be anything. Pathetic.”

    There’s just no truth to this. People who advocate for free culture are not people who think everything should be given to them. Many of them are artists themselves who work hard and put their work out there for free simultaneously. I know people who work relentlessly hard to make music, artgames, software etc etc and all of them put their work out there for free. People who are open source give their code away for free. Some of them have creative jobs that enable them to get paid for doing things similar to the art they make, others subsist solely from things like kickstarter, and from the people that buy their work anyway (even while they download it.) They contribute as much to art and society as any of the “whiny” bands you’re talking about who want kids arrested cus they don’t have the money to pay for their music. They believe in culture being accessible to everyone. Also, what about when copyrights make it impossible for artists to creatively critique, pay homage to, or remake/rework current works? Should people be arrested for sampling or should people have to pay for every sample they use?

    Moreover, certainly not every artist has to “want” the current state of things (although, I think there are aspects worth celebrating), but it might be psychologically healthy to “accept” it. According to people like Corey Doctorow, putting your shit out there for free can even be a good business move. What you want to do to people who share files is reactionary and provides no solutions that are workable in the world we currently exist in.

  15. Princess Stomper April 21, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Just to briefly address some of the points before bowing out of the discussion:

    - Record companies are neither fairy godmother nor wicked stepmother. Things would be a lot more transparent if they were called “production agencies” instead because then the relationship would be more clear: you are paying them for a service. The more you pay, the better service you (are supposed) to get. I would have drawn an analogy with banks and mortgages (a similar high-value loan) and how nobody would sign a contract for something that valuable without fully understanding the terms and possible implications, and then I remembered that many people did.

    - Try-before-you-buy is radio or streaming services. If you try on shoes in a shop you are not in a position where you can just keep them without paying for them if you want them but don’t want to part with money for them. Maybe you dilligently delete everything that you don’t want to pay for, but that makes you the exception – because listening once and then deleting would be exactly the same experience as using Pandora or Last.fm – if you wanted to keep it, you’d have to buy it.

    - At least in this country there is an aspect of copyright called “moral rights”, which means, according to the law, copyright is a moral issue.

    - You can’t equate gift with theft (or, more accurately, counterfeiting). If someone wants to give something away, that’s their prerogative and of course it can be a promotional tool. It’s entirely different to demanding it for free all the time, because it is still the artist’s intrinsic right to decide if and when something will be given away for free (or the label/publisher, if those rights have been transferred). What I’m objecting to is the EXPECTATION of something being free, of the demand by the public of the transfer of the rights from the copyright holder to the end user – that the artist/label no longer has any right to determine how and when something is released.

    - “who want kids arrested cus they don’t have the money to pay for their music”

    And thus we hit the real issue: you don’t have the money to buy music, and can get away with not paying for it, so you don’t pay for it. That’s all there is to it.

    Anyway, it’s all moot: the internet in its current form won’t be here for too much longer. Call it 3.0, cloud computing, whatever: there’ll be very little piracy on the new web. It will all be secure and sanitised and licensed and above board. Sure, some will find ways around it and there’ll always be a dedicated criminal fraternity, but the majority will move over to the new system without even noticing, and you’ll pay for everything. There’ll be the box under the TV through which you stream movies and TVs and music and your tablet or smartphone through which you log into your subscription services and top things up with microtransactions and paid-for apps. It’s already happening. Ten years from now, the idea of having gigabytes of virus-ridden illict stuff on your hard-drive will seem very quaint indeed.

  16. polarbearisdying April 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    i see culture as something that should be free.

  17. Lucy Cage April 21, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    You lazy, incompetent, selfish, whiny, self-entitled, self-important brat, polarbearisdying. Shame on you.

    So do I.
    The fact that it isn’t is to do with the (stupid, inhumane, market-driven) economic and politic system we live under, not about the intrinsic nature of culture itself. Nor is it to do with the intrinsic nature of those that would have it otherwise.

  18. Wallace Wylie April 22, 2011 at 1:33 am

    “Record companies are neither fairy godmother nor wicked stepmother. Things would be a lot more transparent if they were called “production agencies” instead because then the relationship would be more clear: you are paying them for a service. The more you pay, the better service you (are supposed) to get. I would have drawn an analogy with banks and mortgages (a similar high-value loan) and how nobody would sign a contract for something that valuable without fully understanding the terms and possible implications, and then I remembered that many people did.”

    This is one of the most disingenuous things I’ve ever read. If it were simply a matter of usury then most artists would be a lot richer than they are today. If you were simply paying them for a service, which implies one pre-agreed payment for services rendered, artists would be a lot richer than they are today. Neither of those things are ultimately true. Corporations do not make the profits they do by functioning in such a manner and only a naive apologist for corporate culture would say such a thing. Things would be a lot more transparent if record companies broke down what goes where in terms of music sales because people would find out just how much goes to the payment of some CEO’s yearly bonus. The reason people sign contracts without knowing the full ramifications is because they can’t afford lawyers and they have no legal background and the record companies themselves sit back with fingers crossed hoping that people don’t notice the complete ramifications of the contract.

    Seeing as you compare record companies to banks, I’ll say this. One of the reasons behind the recent global economic collapse was toxic loans, i.e. loans being given out to people who had absolutely no chance of paying them back. The banks did this knowing that the person signing the loan would essentially be in debt to the banks for the rest of their lives but in the meantime the banks themselves were in deep trouble for giving too many of them out. Now, what happened to the banks? The government stepped in and saved them. What happened to the people? They will spend the rest of their miserable lives paying off some loan that a bank should never have given them in the first place. If you’re asking people to be put in jail for illegally downloading some music, then I want thousands of people in prison for almost bringing the entire world to the brink of economic collapse, with literally millions of people being made unemployed as a result. If we’re going to call anybody lazy, incompetent, selfish, whiny, self-entitled, self-important brats then it is these people. Business ethics are a disgrace and record companies are no different, having built their fortunes on exploitation. To hear them talk about their concern for the artist makes me sick to my stomach. Concern for the artist has never been record companies driving forces.

    As for the major labels, EMI is now owned by Citigroup. Citigroup was one of the companies that got huge bailouts from the American government despite the fact that it was paying out millions in bonuses to its employees.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2009/07/30/wall-street-compensation-no-clear-rhyme-or-reason/tab/print/

    The CEO of WB is Edgar Bronfman Jr. His net worth is $2,500,000,000. Here’s a little story of how he was found guilty of lying and manipulating stock prices for his own gain. He didn’t go to jail.

    http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20110121/bronfman-financial-case-french-court-110121/

    If anybody thinks people illegally downloading music is one of the ‘problems’ of society destroying the music business, or indeed any aspect of the economy, then they are living in a fairytale world.

  19. BC April 22, 2011 at 1:49 am

    “At least in this country there is an aspect of copyright called “moral rights”, which means, according to the law, copyright is a moral issue.”

    WRONG. “Moral rights” encompasses the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudo-anonymously, or the right to the integrity of the work. In most court cases it refers to the integrity of the work. For example, when, in 1958, a black and white mobile by alexander calder that was displayed at the pittsburgh international airport was painted the city’s official colors, calder protested that painting it was a violation of his “moral rights” because the color of his mobiles is an integral part of the artwork, of it being a “calder mobile.”

    Moral rights are distinct from any economic rights tied to copyrights. Indeed, moral rights can and often are invoked when others already have the rights to show or use a work.

    “Try-before-you-buy is radio or streaming services. If you try on shoes in a shop you are not in a position where you can just keep them without paying for them if you want them but don’t want to part with money for them. Maybe you dilligently delete everything that you don’t want to pay for, but that makes you the exception – because listening once and then deleting would be exactly the same experience as using Pandora or Last.fm – if you wanted to keep it, you’d have to buy it.”

    You missed the point. It makes no difference whether it stays in a folder on my desktop or goes into a trashbin. A copy is a copy is a copy. The price of making a digital copy is zero. It’s not the same as reproducing an object (like a record with packaging, nice sleeves etc etc).

    “Anyway, it’s all moot: the internet in its current form won’t be here for too much longer. Call it 3.0, cloud computing, whatever: there’ll be very little piracy on the new web. It will all be secure and sanitised and licensed and above board. Sure, some will find ways around it and there’ll always be a dedicated criminal fraternity, but the majority will move over to the new system without even noticing, and you’ll pay for everything. There’ll be the box under the TV through which you stream movies and TVs and music and your tablet or smartphone through which you log into your subscription services and top things up with microtransactions and paid-for apps. It’s already happening. Ten years from now, the idea of having gigabytes of virus-ridden illict stuff on your hard-drive will seem very quaint indeed.”

    Actually, this is what many of us in the free culture movement are currently working diligently to fight in the United States. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen because if it does it will be truly awful for art and audiences. That you celebrate this is worrying.

  20. BC April 22, 2011 at 2:05 am

    One more thing:

    “You can’t equate gift with theft (or, more accurately, counterfeiting). If someone wants to give something away, that’s their prerogative and of course it can be a promotional tool. It’s entirely different to demanding it for free all the time, because it is still the artist’s intrinsic right to decide if and when something will be given away for free (or the label/publisher, if those rights have been transferred). What I’m objecting to is the EXPECTATION of something being free, of the demand by the public of the transfer of the rights from the copyright holder to the end user – that the artist/label no longer has any right to determine how and when something is released.”

    Lots of people who advocate for free culture (corey doctorow is a good example) don’t think other ppl need to make their shit free. They just think not doing so isn’t a smart business move. Doctorow is a NYT best-selling author, but all of his books are freely available and downloadable. For those that do think everything should be free, the argument is that it’s not “theft” for the reasons I have mentioned about the nature of digital technologies and their infinite reproducibility. Again, you speak about “the rights of the copyright holder” as though these were natural rights. As I have suggested, copyright is not exactly a “right.” Copyright law, as it was originally conceived, states that art and ideas put out into the public are owned by the public. If you want to completely control and hold onto your art/ideas, then, as Jefferson suggests, you’ll have to keep it to yourself. “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

    The way copyright law has become distorted through special interests is both disgusting and has had inhumane consequences more far reaching than culture. That’s why all of us over here in the states get 95 percent of our food from the same Monsanto corporately owned, patented seeds.

  21. BC April 22, 2011 at 3:41 am

    @Lucy, you have an excellent post about this stuff yourself @ http://somethingtocryfor.blogspot.com/2011/02/for-what-its-worth-file-sharing-art-and.html

    One more thing @ Princess – in response to that NYT article written by members of the writers guild that you so love to post in debates about copyright, how about this take on it:

    http://www.fair.org/blog/2011/02/15/would-the-bard-have-survived-u-s-copyright-law/

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