Pirates! Arrr!
August 5, 2003 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Killing the music Who is the real enemy here? Mefites argue on whether downloading the latest eminem is theft or merely copyright infringement. RIAA says this activity is killing CD sales and wants to slap a lawsuit on everyone with a cable modem. Everyone seems to be missing the real culprit here. [via Ars-technica]
posted by Nauip (128 comments total)
 
from the article linked by ARS - The pirate CD market is now so big, $4.6bn (£2.86bn), it is "of greater value than the legitimate music market of every country in the world, except the USA and Japan". BBC Article
posted by Nauip at 3:10 PM on August 5, 2003


sharing music with millions of others via peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus
Heard some Universities are thinking that they may add a $25 surge charge to next years tuition fees because of the bandwidth usage as described above.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:18 PM on August 5, 2003


surge charge

heh.
posted by mazola at 3:20 PM on August 5, 2003


I had not heard about this. Indeed, as the article asks, why is the RIAA going after the individual users when the real damage is being done by pirates?
posted by crazy finger at 3:21 PM on August 5, 2003


here we go again. Let's see if mefites can imagine a New Recording World Order that will reward artists for good work, keep pirating to a minimum, send the lawyers to the unemployment office and fill my library with music I want to hear.

How about a pre paid music card. Maybe it's run by ASCAP or something. I go to the artists web site, they charge my card a quarter and I down load their song. The price point has to be nearly free, or theft will be more attractive. At a price of a quarter, folks might be just as likely to share a link to a song and not the song itself. Going directly to the artist cuts out the middle man and directly rewards the artist making the music. If you get 500,000 people to download your song, you've got a $125,000 payday. Does that seem realistic? Aren't we about done with the label created rock star anyway? Aren't you about ready to deal with musicians directly and take MTV and the RIAA out of the equation? I am.
posted by pejamo at 3:23 PM on August 5, 2003


According to the RIAA's own figures, over the last two years the US music industry has produced 25% fewer CDs.
Could the CD industry just be dead itself. Older generations are not into current music; the younger generations have learned how to copy music before they even had money or a job. Put the two together then it makes it look like a bigger revenue loss.
Rarely do I buy a just released CD, yet I had a bank account and job before I ever owned a CD player. Parents had cassette tapes and recorders lying around the house growing up so copied my cassette on my parents equipment or had a friend make me a tape off an album. But I did buy most of my CDs which I have been doing so for 14 years.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2003


it has ALWAYS been the policy of those selling immature, insecure technology on a massive scale to cover up the massive thefts they experience and recover the costs from the legitimate consumer. it is business as usual. billions of dollars a year in telephone services are stolen via hacked PBX's. ditto stolen credit card numbers. one assumes the massive and secret banking networks also suffer theft on a grand scale. the entertainment business, while not selling immature, insecure tech, are simply practicing good old free-market capitalism - take the consumer by the neck, squeeze the living shit out of him, and watch while he thanks you for the wonderful products and services. watch while he comes back to buy more. in short, they do it because you let them. how many CD's you buy this week? seen any movies lately? chumps.
posted by quonsar at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2003


Anybody know where I can find the folks selling pirated CDs in Seattle? $5 sounds like a good price to me!
posted by mr_roboto at 3:38 PM on August 5, 2003


how many CD's you buy this week? seen any movies lately? chumps.

until the pirates can come and install a 40 foot screen in my house, with 16 speakers and eight channel playback. And until they can fill my living room with several dozen strangers to laugh at the funny parts with me, the movies will remain an experience and not something one can duplicate at home.
posted by pejamo at 3:50 PM on August 5, 2003


lets all buy pejamo a drink!
posted by mcsweetie at 3:52 PM on August 5, 2003


Going directly to the artist cuts out the middle man and directly rewards the artist making the music.
MC Hammer did this; in his early days out of his car's trunk.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:01 PM on August 5, 2003


until the pirates can come and install a 40 foot screen in my house, with 16 speakers and eight channel playback. And until they can fill my living room with several dozen strangers to laugh at the funny parts with me, the movies will remain an experience and not something one can duplicate at home.

and this relates how to the fact that the entertainment industry is in the forefront of the movement to restrict your freedom to do what you will with things you puchase? leading the charge to control content and access to the internet? splain that to me again, please? fuck everything, as long as i can put my feet up and watch lights flashing on a big screen? and overpay for the priveledge? you are part of the problem.
posted by quonsar at 4:05 PM on August 5, 2003


"MC Hammer did this; in his early days out of his car's trunk."

Coincidentally where he's living now.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:09 PM on August 5, 2003


The real "criminals" here are the artists themselves. Nobody forces them to sign record deals with major labels...the labels then defend what is, rightfully, their property, on behalf of the artists.
posted by davidmsc at 4:17 PM on August 5, 2003


There was a story last night on one of the current affairs shows (can't remember which one), where they set up a sting operation to catch people hiring jukeboxes for parties. They got about a dozen delivered from different companies and they all had between 50% and 100% pirated CDs or MP3 tracks on them. In my opinion, these are the real criminals - those who are making profit from stealing music, not those who are downloading single tracks here and there, or ripping CDs they have bought to use in iPods and the like.

To the credit of those running the sting (and probably because the evidence was obtained illegally), they served a warning notice on all the operators instead of trying to prosecute them.

The same applies to pirated software - it is one thing to make a copy of software used at work for personal use at home, but another altogether when businesses purchase one copy of an application and then install it on all their machines. I know that this is not the legal situation in either case and that illegal copies are illegal no matter who makes them, but there are more aspects to this than the legal one and there are degrees of wrongness.
posted by dg at 4:41 PM on August 5, 2003


Coincidentally where he's living now.
Who distributed his albums when he lost it all? Think he may have reinvented himself by selling his own stuff again.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:49 PM on August 5, 2003


And until they can fill my living room with several dozen strangers to laugh at the funny parts with me

This is what I like least about the movies. I guess it is not bad when they laugh at the funny parts, but just about everything else they do sucks.
posted by thirteen at 5:00 PM on August 5, 2003


Does that seem realistic? Aren't we about done with the label created rock star anyway?

Oh we were done with the label created rock star years ago. Unfortunately, the labels and adoring fans haven't worked this out yet. But for the rest of us, long live DIY.
posted by Jimbob at 5:07 PM on August 5, 2003


I'm too lazy to try to find it, but I remember reading a news article a while back. From what I remember, it said that the most played cd for that week according to musicmatch's usage data was eminem's not-yet-released-at-the-time last cd. The stats were from pirated cds in major cities, and apparently there were even slightly different versions so they could tell where they were from. Of course musicmatch users are a limited, and not necessarily representative sample, but it still shows that there is a huge level of piracy at stake here.
I remembered wondering at the time why the RIAA wasn't going after these people who were pulling a profit at the record companies' expense, instead of obscessing over file-sharers who just liked to listen to the music. Now with the file-sharing jihad at hand, that question is even more important.

Which brings up a related question. The law ought to distinguish between copyright infringement or piracy for the sake of profit from infringement or piracy for personal use.
If it does in some way, that's great. I honestly don't know.
posted by Wingy at 5:09 PM on August 5, 2003


Ok, so I did look, and here is a similar article to the one I remember reading.
posted by Wingy at 5:17 PM on August 5, 2003


from the linked article:
The big question is: why. Why is the RIAA launching such a public offensive against its own customers when obviously the greatest threat to their business right now are real pirates?

Because scaring off a few kids whose only weapons are a PC, a T1 line and a cd burner is much easier than actually changing your outdated, price-fixing, creatively bankrupt and widely discredited business model. It's also easier than having to do some actual lobbying with law enforcement agencies to have them go after the Italian/Russian/Chinese/Whatever Mafia wiseguys who are making a killing selling knockoff cd's for five bucks, or knockoff Rolex watches, or Louis Vuitton bags, or whatever.
posted by matteo at 5:32 PM on August 5, 2003


Going directly to the artist cuts out the middle man and directly rewards the artist making the music.

Who do you think the RIAA is? It's the trade association for the middle men. Cutting out the middle man is exactly what the RIAA will never do under any circumstances. All of the RIAA's efforts are in defense of the profits that go into the pockets of the middle men. The artists are a commodity traded by the middle men, more or less incidental as long as they keep making with the product. No "direct from the artist to the consumer" scheme, no matter how wonderful it is, will ever be implemented if the RIAA has anything to say about it.
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:05 PM on August 5, 2003


and this relates how to the fact that the entertainment industry is in the forefront of the movement to restrict your freedom to do what you will with things you puchase? leading the charge to control content and access to the internet? splain that to me again, please? fuck everything, as long as i can put my feet up and watch lights flashing on a big screen? and overpay for the priveledge? you are part of the problem.

Um, I call chill on quonsar. pejamo's comment underscores the fact that the panicking media-entertainment industries can in fact compete on added value... even when their product can be had in some measure for free. Movie theaters are an example. Bottled water is a better one... they're not whining* about having to compete with public pluming becausethey're used to the fact that they had to find their market. The media giants are used to having their own kingdom, power as well as money, and that's why they're freaked. That's the why. It's as much or more about control as about the money.

*(Note: there are people out there who want to privatize water rights and delivery. There are frightening implications.)
posted by namespan at 6:11 PM on August 5, 2003


The RIAA doesn't go after the professional pirates, because each label's attorneys go after the professional pirates. When I lived in NY, I did pirate-spotting for a law firm a friend of mine worked at.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:24 PM on August 5, 2003


From today's USA Today story about the EFF (emphasis added):
The RIAA declined comment for this story, but James DeLong, a senior fellow with D.C. advocacy group the Freedom and Progress Foundation, says, "The EFF's basic stance on most issues is plain wrong."

Unlike the EFF, the FPF, which supports the RIAA and the new FCC rules, lists corporate sponsors such as Microsoft, AOL Time Warner and Amazon. DeLong says the RIAA has no other choice but to sue song swappers. "They have to enforce their copyrights. I don't see how you can compensate the artist any other way."
That says it all, doesn't it?
posted by pmurray63 at 7:47 PM on August 5, 2003


Hmm. I could either - a. Start buying CDs again and stop downloading music

b. Continue to download with impunity, or

c. Stop downloading music and stop buying CDs because I value my hard drive space and bandwidth more than I enjoy the shit that artists are putting out as music today?

Newsflash: Not everyone who downloads your CD would buy it otherwise. I can count the number of CDs I actually bought with one hand. I tried to get interested in music by downloading stuff people recommended me on Napster and other file sharing services, but it never really interested me all that much. Meanwhile, I have a record player in my room and like 70 records, and you know what? I'm 17 years old. I think that says it all.
posted by Veritron at 7:57 PM on August 5, 2003


Nice USA Today story. The EFF has been getting some bank because of the RIAA's excess. Kinda how the ACLU has gotten a huge boost from the Patriot Act.

I also think the msuic industry (yes, it's that confused) is fragmenting like the rest of the media landscape. More and more people are taking off on their own, or staying below radio. If you were a solid musician with your head on straight facing 20 years down the road, what kind of stuff would you be doing? Does it show up on the RIAA's income sheet?

That 25% of records they are missing is a whole lotta jam, rap, and electronic music that is headed off in another direction.

Also, focusing so much energy on the legal and social aspects of their business, they missed the boat on the tech. Sure, Apple is innovative, but to come out with a solid music system online before any record company? That's ridiculous.
posted by wah at 8:12 PM on August 5, 2003


You know, I think one of the issues here is how much the artist actually loses, as opposed to the label loses. Last time, I checked (although I have no numbers to support this, mind you), the labels get the lion's share of the receipts on recorded media sales.

So I think the above quote should read....

"They have to enforce their copyrights. I don't see how you can compensate the label any other way."

Of course, I could always be completely wrong. 'Tis happened before...
posted by Samizdata at 8:32 PM on August 5, 2003


Why is it that people feel free to announce to the world that they steal music with impunity? Veritron is just the latest in a long line of people who seem to take a bizarre pleasure in proclaiming that the music is worth stealing, but not worth buying.

Come on folks, that's not the deal you're being offered. Is it wrong for me to remind you that in addition to screwing the record company, you're also screwing the writers, performers, engineers, producers and everybody who does not steal music?
posted by mosch at 8:46 PM on August 5, 2003


They feel free to announce it because: 1. the internet lends the feeling if not the substance of anonymity 2. they don't think of it as stealing (it's not, but that's an argument that's been had tons here) 3. they wouldn't have bought the song anyway, and so know that their having it doesn't deprive anybody of anything they would have had if they hadn't infringed the copyright thus assuaging any twinge of guilt they might have at depriving the creator of anything 4. they don't care about copyrights because a. copyrights are fundamentally broken in this day and age b. copyright holders have created an us versus them mentality which "us" feel compelled to go along with 5. they get music for free on the radio, and they don't assign much value to it.
posted by willnot at 8:59 PM on August 5, 2003


Come on folks, that's not the deal you're being offered. Is it wrong for me to remind you that in addition to screwing the record company, you're also screwing the writers, performers, engineers, producers and everybody who does not steal music?

This is one of the weirdest things about metafilter. The place is full of liberals, atheists and Jack Vance fans - and I'm one of them - but every time a thread starts about file-sharing, people come out of the woodworks to brag about how much they love stealing music or movies.

The point has been made about the difference between copyright-infringement and theft in several other threads, but people who justify what they do by saying things like it's okay to steal old movies because they're unavailable as DVDs are missing the point: intellectual or not, it's still property.

Do you also steal used books? I don't. And I work in a bookstore.

Threads about the theft of intellectual property around here are more screechy and self-serving than threads about how much the Pretendident sucks. Which he does.

Still, though: you are stealing when you use P2Ps. There's no two ways about it. Most of you (gleefully, even) admit it.

Sure, the RIAA is completely evil, and it sucks. I personally rarely buy anything that they have anything to do with. Most of the CDs that I buy are bought from the artists themselves. I like giving money to people that I like.

Think of it that way: if you like someone, or something, especially someone who shouts out into the great senses-dulling void that is the marketplace, and you think they deserve greater appreciation, and you like them enough to bother to listen to them, it is ethically right to give them money.

If you don't like something enough to support it - especially when it comes to artists - don't fucking bother with it! You'll find that if you discriminate between rewarding people who are good and ignoring people who are bad, you can use money to make a point.
posted by interrobang at 9:19 PM on August 5, 2003


interrobang,

the used book example is laughable, man, sorry
If I COPY data (i.e., a long number) you're keeping on your hard disk I don't remove it. You still have it, pristine as it was.
It's not that I steal your book. MP3's aren't atom-made books, apparently.
posted by matteo at 9:27 PM on August 5, 2003


That's not my point: if you like someone who makes music, why not support them?

If you like them enough to listen to your stolen file on your computer, why not give them some money so they can continue to do their thing? Which you so enjoy that you've made sure to aquire it?
posted by interrobang at 9:36 PM on August 5, 2003


No interrobang. I wouldn't steal a used book. I might copy out a few pages though and take them with me -- you know if I liked a passage enough and I was willing to take the time to write it out longhand. I wouldn't feel even the slightest bit guilty about doing that either. Would you?

Saying somebody owns an idea or an expression of an idea is like saying somebody owns the word "rose". You can say it. Everybody might even conspire to make it true. I'm still going to sit here and laugh at you for even attempting to make the assertion though.

on preview - I won't support them because they're conspiring to rob us of our culture. If copyright goes away, we'll still have music. If copyright gets any stronger, we won't (or at least we won't have the stuff that isn't commercially viable, or the stuff that conflicts with whatever product is getting pushed and so it gets thrown in a vault somewhere never to see the light of day or the stuff that builds on what came before - like all other art which is synthesis and not genisis)
posted by willnot at 9:43 PM on August 5, 2003


interrobang, I think you're pretty much dead on. But so is the other guy. If you don't support something you like, it could die. On the other hand, if mp3's were food, I could feed the world with my laptop. The property line is blurred, but the making money off of someone else's work isn't.

Profit is a big part of the copyright thing, from the law that I've read (IANAL) and currently it is defined as including some types of compensation not fully associated with money. I think even enjoying a song without paying is considered profiting, or at least very close to it.

Personally I think making the distinction more explicit would go a long way to solve the problem. If totally non-commercial (no pop ads, etc) P2P were given the go ahead, I think somehow enough money would be collected to write a killer app that could be given away (maybe Cringeley's Snapster, INC. could write it)

I would be curious to know what percentage of MP3's are downloaded and never listened to. Maybe someone will do a study for the upcoming lawsuits.

Bah, when someone writes a bot that can collect all the comments someone has made about the same topic, I'll have a book and a half on this one just waiting for me.
posted by wah at 9:46 PM on August 5, 2003


I wouldn't feel even the slightest bit guilty about doing that either. Would you?

No. But you and matteo are still skirting the issue: if you like an artist - regardless of what field he or she works in, why not support them and encourage them?

Saying somebody owns an idea or an expression of an idea is like saying somebody owns the word "rose". You can say it.

Suppose Gertrude Stein were still alive, and you thought that her statement that "rose is a rose is a rose" was the greatest thing ever. You could just write it down, and I wouldn't think that was wrong.

Suppose further that Gertrude Stein wasn't independently wealthy. Would you consider paying a little money - some of which would go directly to her hypothetically poor, destitute self - just to let her know that you believe in what she says?
posted by interrobang at 9:50 PM on August 5, 2003


If copyright gets any stronger, we won't (or at least we won't have the stuff that isn't commercially viable, or the stuff that conflicts with whatever product is getting pushed and so it gets thrown in a vault somewhere never to see the light of day...

It's a goddamned MARKETPLACE! If you don't buy it, and other people don't buy it, IT WILL NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY because the market has shown the distributor that it's not popular!
posted by interrobang at 9:59 PM on August 5, 2003




Sure, I would consider paying Gertrude Stein, the same way I would consider paying the street musician that I listen to as I walk past. However, I wouldn't fee obligated to pay either of them, and that's the crux. There's a difference between I've created this art and you have to pay me if you want to enjoy it and I've created this art, and if you enjoy it I would appreciate some compensation.

In both situations, artists can get paid which is a great thing. In the first situation, there is a compelling interest on limiting the available choices to a few, effectively gaming the MARKETPLACE! which we can see in the media cartels. That's bad for everybody except a very, very, very few artists and the people who are profiting off of them.
posted by willnot at 10:08 PM on August 5, 2003


Please, people, use the right terminology. Copying a song is not stealing, it is infringing.

\Theft\, n. [OE. thefte, AS. [thorn]i['e]f[eth]e, [thorn][=y]f[eth]e, [thorn]e['o]f[eth]e. See Thief.]

1. (Law) The act of stealing; specifically, the felonious taking and removing of personal property, with an intent to deprive the rightful owner of the same; larceny. Note: To constitute theft there must be a taking without the owner's consent, and it must be unlawful or felonious; every part of the property stolen must be removed, however slightly, from its former position; and it must be, at least momentarily, in the complete possession of the thief. (Emphasis mine) See Larceny, and the Note under Robbery.
2. The thing stolen. [R.] If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, . . . he shall restore double. --Ex. xxii. 4.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, (C) 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

posted by Jairus at 10:17 PM on August 5, 2003


[...}effectively gaming the MARKETPLACE! which we can see in the media cartels. That's bad for everybody except a very, very, very few artists and the people who are profiting off of them.

Yes, but can't you see that what you're doing is a sort of opposite of doctors over-prescribing antibiotics?

When you put your money into something, the (obviously horrible) industry reacts to it. When you steal a bunch of music that you like, the industry doesn't have numbers for it. It reacts not at all.

As a result, in the MARKETPLACE!, it looks like the music that you like is totally unpopular. Which makes the distributors unwilling to put out more music by the artist you like, or more things *like* the artist that you like.

Not to mention that your favorite headphone-tune has profited the artist not one cent.
posted by interrobang at 10:18 PM on August 5, 2003


interrobang,

we agree then that the "stolen book" thing is not really the case, then. good.
now, you seem to think that people download only the songs they'd actually buy. this is not the case, I'd be ready to argue.
I'd be ready to bet that the majority of P2P users download a lot because the cost is 0, the only limit is a) download speed and b) hard disk space available

not every artist is Dylan, or, say, Wilco or whatever high-quality RIAA artist we want to use as example

it's obvious that for millions of computer users not every music cd is worth 17.50 bucks or whatever

after years of cartels and price-fixing and a dumb business plan perfect only to skin fans alive and manufacture expensive artificial aural-Velveeta crap, a new technology brought down the cost of music to zero. the industry's reaction? first silence, inaction, inability to grasp the technology revolution. then, millionaires whining and sueing kid's asses.

also, I hope that you are not under the impression that the RIAA is the artist's friend -- they're the parasites, as explained countless times here, a very greedy, cynical middleman famous for screwing artists over, not only fans


also: people pay to go concerts, you know? it's not that they all gatecrash. the future will be direct download (the IKEA model applied to music, transferring costs of burning and packaging the cd on the customers) and live performances

yes, probably some middleman will have to moderate their lifestyle, sell a few Mercedes, limit the amount of Bolivian products bought in the household. tough shit
posted by matteo at 10:19 PM on August 5, 2003


My rate of CD purchase in 1997, pre-discovery of MP3s: About one a month.
1998: Discover the joys of illegal music, through the famous "Blex's Page of Good MP3".
My current rate of CD purchase, after years of sampling music that I wouldn't otherwise know about: About one a week.

Sure, this isn't true for a lot of people - I have no doubt kiddies download the latest Eminem album so they don't have to go and buy it, but their music taste is probably so pauperly that they don't download (or listen to) volumes of MP3s anyway.

I can honestly say I contribute significant amounts more to the music industry since I've been "thieving" songs. The general process is; hear a band on the radio or read about them. Download two or three tracks (or maybe more if I'm getting the feel for a compilation CD). If I enjoy, go and get my hands on some of their CDs. It's legally wrong, but the result benefits all.

Now surely a system can be set up so this can be done legally, at very low cost to the listener? It would seem to benefit underground artists and music fans. But, of course, this is the direction the industry is fighting constantly. My only conclusion can be that the industry doesn't want to make a greater choice accessible to consumers. They don't want fans to buy more music from obscure artists. What's up with that?
posted by Jimbob at 10:29 PM on August 5, 2003


Jairus, I apologize for my incorrect legal terminology. In the future I'll try to refer to kazaa and friends as copyright infringement software instead of music stealing software.

on preview: the cost of music is not zero. the cost of some forms of distribution have been radically reduced, but it still takes about a hundred thousand dollars to make a small cd, several hundred thousand for a larger one, and multiple millions for one that might garner video airtime and some real promotion.

After spending all that money, not all the discs make money. And I'm not referring to shady accounting, I mean it literally, most of those albums lose money.

Distribution may be cheap, but that was never the expensive part of an album, the expensive part is nearly complete by the time the album makes it to your local record shop.
posted by mosch at 10:30 PM on August 5, 2003


interrobang - a better analogy to what I'm suggesting would be chemotherapy. It's unpleasant for the entire body. Many people say it's worse than the disease. But, you have to do it to get rid of the cancerous cells that are destroying the thing that you love.

If nobody pays for major label music then the labels will thrash, and thrash harder and ultimately die. I want them to die. Once they die, then music can start over with a system that is built to accommodate new technical and social realities. What matteo suggests above is certainly one way that system might look.
posted by willnot at 10:32 PM on August 5, 2003


matteo:

While I usually am *all about* "stickin' it to the rich" - and I know as well as you do that no CD is worth $17.50 - there is still the question of rewarding things that are worthwhile, a subject which has yet to be addressed.

If I had to pay for this very website - and I sort of did, since I paid to get into it - I would. Sure, there's price-fixing and all sorts of maggot-brained shit going on with the RIAA, and huge bands make assloads of money by touring. That's well known.

Still: If you like something -anything! - that's suffering from obscurity and is good, why not make a point to pay for it? We're not talking about RIAA-shills Metallica here. Were talking about the ethics of stealing from people that we support.
posted by interrobang at 10:33 PM on August 5, 2003


mosch - how do all of those bands who scrape by on bubblegum and a six pack manage to get together the 100s of thousands of dollars needed to produce those CDs they're all selling at their shows?

I don't doubt that you can spend millions of dollars if you want to. But, when you can reproduce most of a recording studio with some lines into a computer, to say that you have to is wrong. For proof, go to any bar where a local band is playing and ask them how they got their CDs made.
posted by willnot at 10:38 PM on August 5, 2003



interrobang - a better analogy to what I'm suggesting would be chemotherapy. It's unpleasant for the entire body. Many people say it's worse than the disease. But, you have to do it to get rid of the cancerous cells that are destroying the thing that you love.

If nobody pays for major label music then the labels will thrash, and thrash harder and ultimately die. I want them to die. Once they die, then music can start over with a system that is built to accommodate new technical and social realities. What matteo suggests above is certainly one way that system might look.


Maybe I haven't made it clear already. I do not support the system set up by the Record Industry. All I'm saying is that under the current system, if you steal music, it affects statistics. *Your* favorite band gets low hits if you steal their music. The company - under the present system - gets the message that your favorite band is not popular.

The company that distributes your favorite band then stops distrubuting your favorite band, because they're under the impression that your favorite band is nowheresville..

The result? Your favorite band stops getting any money, and stops getting distributed. Your favorite band dies.
posted by interrobang at 10:40 PM on August 5, 2003


And, maybe I haven't been clear. I am willing to kill my favorite band if it means keeping money out of the hands of people who are lobbying against me. If the labels die, and the couple of hundred artists who are successful under the label system die, thousands more will come up to take their place in a better system.
posted by willnot at 10:42 PM on August 5, 2003


interrobang you said..
It's a goddamned MARKETPLACE! If you don't buy it, and other people don't buy it, IT WILL NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY because the market has shown the distributor that it's not popular!

If that were true then this whole internet would have no value, yet people point to silly pictures of a Turkish guy looking for friends, there was no market for him definately. Yet a niche website exploded in popularity and created wealth.

Another case a band named Wilco was told by a distributor that it's music was not popular or worth putting on the market, they buy back the rights, and have a huge success.

The Marketplace is not perfect, but works best when wiggle room is allowed as David Weinberger noted in a recent article. Blanket black and white arguments will invariably lead to abuse.

The current design of the internet allows for a little wiggle room and that is not such a bad thing.
posted by geist at 10:44 PM on August 5, 2003


A song is not an "idea." It is a "work."

The reason it is called a "work" is because someone had to work to write it, record it, play kajillions of gigs to promote it, etc.

Some people choose to put their work out in the world for free. That's great.

Other people choose not to. And people should respect those artists' choices.

After all, why can't strangers walk in and sleep on your living room floor? It doesn't cost you anything--you're already paying rent on the whole apartment. So why be so selfish?
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:58 PM on August 5, 2003


And, Geist--what the hell are you talking about? Wilco bought the rights to "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" from Reprise Records so that they could release it on Nonesuch Records, not so they could give it away for free.

That was their right, because they made "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot".

posted by Sidhedevil at 11:02 PM on August 5, 2003


Jesus christ.

here's an analogy.

Ten dumbshits live in a town populated by eleven people. The ten dumbshits thrive on selling hamburgers to each other. That's all they do: they sell each other hamburgers.

The town has a thriving hamburger-selling industry.
The eleventh man in the town has no hamburgers to sell. He has neither frier nor barbeque nor stocks of meat. Instead, he writes poems and sells them on street-corners.

His poems describe perfectly the life in a hamburger-selling town. They describe the mashing of patties, the mixing of ingredients - where applicable - the wetness of mustard, the darkness of ketchup, the dryness or crispiness of the buns.

People in town have embroidered plaques in their homes with the sayings of Mister Eleven.

Everyone in town agrees to the veracity of Mr. Eleven's sayings.

Everyone in the town loves Mister Eleven, and quotes his observations on the selling of hamburgers to each other. Mister eleven is a Town Treasure. Everyone respects him.

But, for some reason, Mister Eleven is starving to death. It seems that Mister Eleven - while widely quoted and celebrated - is dying because he has nothing to sell. Why would he die? He has such a fantastic commodity!

It seems that Mr. Eleven - while he puts out a small mimeographed newsletter containing his wisdom about the manufacture of hamburgers - is going to die because the people in the town don't understand that there is a direct correlation between artists eating and artists talking. Very mysterious!

The people of the town only understood that there was information available that they enjoyed reading - and learned from - and it told them great truths about their lives. They didn't understand that a real and actual person had come up with it.
posted by interrobang at 11:04 PM on August 5, 2003


I am willing to kill my favorite band if it means keeping money out of the hands of people who are lobbying against me.

And yet you expect them to give you their music for free because somehow they love you just for listening.

Okay, I'm too lazy and up too late to argue this, but check it out: punk fans, did you know Ben Weasel has a blog? Whether you liked Screeching Weasel or not the man has some pretty good arguments against the kind of file-sharing utopian visions that get thrown around here.
posted by furiousthought at 11:12 PM on August 5, 2003


A few solutions:

The industry should switch to DRM CDs and be done with it. Sure it'll hurt sales but if net piracy is so bad they'll win out in the end. Something tells me it isn't

Compulsary licensing of all songs.

Break up the RIAA cartel, limit media ownership, and pass artists rights legislation to foster competition that will come up with novel solutions to piracy. There should be hundreds of MP3 download sites competing for my dollar (or quarter) instead of three or four with very small catalogues. Same with radio. Its the same top-40 in every town and usually on multiple dials in every town.

This is the downside of being a cartel/monoply. Dinosaurs simply can't move fast enough.
posted by skallas at 11:14 PM on August 5, 2003


I dunno, boycotting record companies for being too greedy while downloading the same music for free seems a bit like staging a hunger strike but then sneaking a bite of a juicy hamburger when no one's watching.
posted by gyc at 11:50 PM on August 5, 2003


Interrobang, how correct! He had nothing to sell, and that's why he was starving.

Lacking a business mind is a killer if you enter any marketplace. Darwinism in action, I suppose.

The real answer is that the eleventh dumbshit (in economics) should have offered the poem to the town in exchange for a lifetime supply of hamburgers. Then the other 10 dumbshits (in english) could have the poem and he could eat! Better yet, dumbshit eleven (in economics) never has to worry about "copyright infringement". How can you beat that?

As it stands, that dumbshit never bothered to even make an offer! How can you expect money without making or receiving an offer (unless you live from social assistance)?

Sure, the 10 dumbshits (in english) would question the quality of his work. So dumbshit eleven (in economics) should have some previous work to give away to back up a claim to having the best work ever.

Amazing how being stupid in virtually everything and starving often go hand in hand in a first world country.
posted by shepd at 12:32 AM on August 6, 2003


Question: if I get mp3s from friends who pass them on to me because they want me to hear them, is that stealing too? I mean, if someone rips it and gives it to me, friend to friend?
posted by Hildegarde at 1:06 AM on August 6, 2003


1. he writes poems and sells them on street-corners
2. ????
3. dying because he has nothing to sell

Sounds to me like Mr. Eleven is not at all adjusting after losing his one very limited, very short-term, very self-created market, and has no idea how to adapt.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:20 AM on August 6, 2003


Do you also steal used books? I don't. And I work in a bookstore.

Plenty of people do.
posted by humuhumu at 1:55 AM on August 6, 2003


>Plenty of people do.

Wait until college textbooks are online with searchable ISBNs. Talk about another out of touch cartel/monopoly. Considering I lug a laptop around all day I have no need for a paper book, a power outlet is all I need.
posted by skallas at 2:01 AM on August 6, 2003


And yet you expect them to give you their music for free because somehow they love you just for listening.

I don't expect anything from them. If they put something into the world that's pleasant, I may stop to appreciate it. I may even compensate them for it, but not if that compensation is going to be used against me.

I'm walking down the street, and I happen upon somebody playing music on the corner. It brightens my day. Maybe I even stop for a moment.

Do I owe the musician anything? No, I don't think I do. They're creating beauty on spec, hoping they'll be rewarded. Let's say that I do decide to throw a dollar in the hat. So, I start going by the same corner every day, and every day there's one or two different musicians who are so great. It really brightens my day. I start looking forward to hearing them. Of course I always leave some money because I want to support the music they create.

Then, I find out that most of the money I've been giving them has been used to keep other street musicians out of that area. They're beating them up or intimidating them or just buying off the cops to keep them out. Passing laws that say that only licensed street performers are allowed, and only people who give most of their earnings over to this group of thugs can get licensed.

Now, I don't feel good about leaving my money. It's still generally on my way though, and the music they create is enjoyable, so sometimes I'll wander by and listen in passing. I don't leave a dollar anymore though. If this one or two artists starves as a result of me not dropping in a dollar, I don't really care. If they go away, I'm sure I'd miss them, but that's fine too. Maybe without all of that money flowing in, all of the other starving artists out there can get some of the attention.

I think there's all kinds of ways that creators can get paid for their works. I'm not opposed to them getting paid. There's work for hire, there's patronage, there's spec/tips, there's holding future creation hostage to getting paid for present works, there's live performance, there's convenience and ease in finding good works.

There's all kinds of ways. Due to a quirk of our laws and a chokehold on distribution, there's also artificial scarcity. Artificial scarcity isn't good for society. It breaks markets. It leads to consolidation and lowest common denominators. When you control the means of production and distribution, you can enforce it. However, once the market controls the means of production and distribution, you'd be foolish to rely on a quirk of law to maintain your imposed monopoly/scarcity. That strategy is particularly foolish when increasing portions of the governed don't see the wisdom of that law.
posted by willnot at 2:10 AM on August 6, 2003


I have a record player in my room and like 70 records, and you know what? I'm 17 years old. I think that says it all.

You're really pretentious?
posted by delmoi at 4:19 AM on August 6, 2003


I'm walking down the street, and I happen upon somebody playing music on the corner. It brightens my day. Maybe I even stop for a moment. Do I owe the musician anything? No, I don't think I do. They're creating beauty on spec, hoping they'll be rewarded.

Unless people sneak into your home and put songs on your computer that you hear the following morning whilst surfing MSNBC, the analogy doesn't work. Or do you walk into a record store, pocket a CD you like and assume the artist is "hoping they'll be rewarded'?

What I hope befalls the RIAA is too cruel to detail for this family website. But all these tortured justifications (I'm doing it for the health of the marketplace!) just make me chuckle. It's really very easy. I like not paying for stuff. Say it. It's a lot easier on the stomach. I do it too. I'm not proud of it. If there was something like the Apple Music Store with a ton of indie stuff I'd toss Kazaa in a second. But until then I'll still (guiltily) download music.
posted by jalexei at 4:47 AM on August 6, 2003


stealing from individuals sucks
stealing from ball-less soul-less conglomerates is cool
posted by timb at 4:52 AM on August 6, 2003


since it's come to this:

interrobang, perhaps you can explain to me how downloading music that is out of print is less ethical than purchasing the same music for prohibitively expensive prices from a record collector. in both cases, the artist is not making any money, but how giving some guy $80 for a 5" chunk of aluminum is somehow better than downloading everything for free and waiting for the cd to be reissued escapes me.

this is not a straw man. i use p2p networks to download out-of-print music that most record companies will not reissue due to the small audience.

every thread i ask this. every thread i am ignored.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:12 AM on August 6, 2003


jalexei, there is buymusic.com that allegedly has lots of good music for cheap download. There is only one problem - you cannot view it unless you are using Windows and IE, so I cannot confirm if this rumour is true. Which is even more stupid (if that were possible) than the Apple Music Store only allowing Mac users in the door. The next thing you will hear is the wailing of investors in buymusic.com wondering where all their money went. I am waiting for them to implement mathowie's offered fix for this problem.

If there was a place where i could buy individual tracks at reasonable prices, I would be in like a shot. As there is no practical way to buy tracks in this way that I know of, I will continue to use shareaza to get them. i don't pretend that I am doing it for the good of anything except my own pocket though and I know that it is stealing. However, if I like an artist enough to want to hear a whole album, I buy the CD and I have bought CDs from artists that I would never have bought if I had not been able to get a taste for their music via downloaded tracks. Hey, we all rationalise our crime in our own way. Just don't pretend that you are some kind of Robin Hood for stealing from the rich when you steal music. (not you jalexei, a general observation)
posted by dg at 5:13 AM on August 6, 2003


An interesting side note:

A compadre of mine just finished an investigative assignment on this subject - I won't bother sharing the URL with you because, frankly, it is repeditive and blowsy. However he did ask one question of the RIAA rep I asked him to;

Of the 9 million bucks recovered from pirates last year, not cent one was paid to the artists "stolen from."
posted by Perigee at 5:19 AM on August 6, 2003


Willnot:

"I think there's all kinds of ways that creators can get paid for their works. I'm not opposed to them getting paid."

You're merely opposed to them getting paid in a way in which you don't approve.

It's particularly egregious that you appear to suggest "work for hire" is a viable alternative to being able to control the performance/profit of one's work through copyright. What you appear to be saying is that since you don't care about a creative person's right to ownership in the product they worked to create, they might as well just go off and work for someone else, who will then own what they've worked to create.

The idea that "ideas" exist for the plucking is silly; they don't exist, pre-formed, for anyone to grab out of the air. They take real work to create, and those who do work for them should be able to profit from their work, just as anyone who does work should be able to profit from the work. Moreover, they should be able to profit from their work in a manner of their choosing (and conversely, keep others from profiting from their work in a manner that they do not choose). That's the essence of copyright.
posted by jscalzi at 5:20 AM on August 6, 2003


every thread i ask this. every thread i am ignored.

It's probably more the silence of agreement than of disagreement, pxe2000; your point is a good one. The trouble is, a lot of record company execs would no doubt like to kill the trade in 5" chunks of aluminium too. There have been various attempts to quash or control the second-hand trade in books and records over the years; all part of the same effort to lock up control of creative product.

The crux of it is that the big entertainment companies have a love-hate relationship with fans—the true fans, the fans who go beyond a casual liking of a single song. They love that the fans give them money, and they love the side-effect of the fans' activities of raising awareness (and therefore sales) of their artists. But they hate having to deal with the level of obsession that fans show. They don't like fans seeking out bootlegs or mp3s of out-of-print tracks, because that's the company's property, but they don't want to go to the effort to make them available in a high-quality product (unless it's an exceptional case, like the Beatles), because that takes considerable resources they would rather devote to a high-selling release. Why turn out a lovingly-compiled 4-CD box set with 50 page booklet which might sell a few thousand copies when you can press a single disk with minimal insert which will sell hundreds of thousands?

The same love/hate relationship drives the crackdown on fan websites, even though those can only be increasing interest in the very artists and creative products they're about. Entertainment companies want to get you hooked on their products to the point where they get maximum dollars out of the maximum number of people, but they don't want to deal with the repercussions of getting you hooked: the fact that you want to see or hear everything an artist or director or writer has ever done; the fact that their work has become such a big part of your life that of course you'll want to put Radiohead lyrics on your personal website, or Simpsons pictures, or Star Trek scripts, because in doing so you are saying something about who you are. Those words may have started out in Thom Yorke's brain, but now they're in yours, drummed in there by countless repetition, because you're a fan. But don't hum them aloud, because the day is coming when EMI will charge you a buck for even that privilege.

Man, to think that I once used to attach special significance to a certain record label, just because it was the one my own musical hero was signed to; I would pay extra attention to releases by his label-mates just because they had the same design on the 7" sleeve. The attitude the big labels have displayed over the past decade has eroded any of that residual respect or affection to zero. This latest instalment of "Oh my God, sales are down over the past two years, it's all the Internet's fault, let's corrupt every new disk we release with copy-control crap" while failing to mention that the number of new releases has been significantly down over that same period—let alone the impact of genuine piracy mentioned above—pretty much seals it.
posted by rory at 6:10 AM on August 6, 2003


Wow. We're going to have some very, very poor writers, artists and musicians in the near future.

I'm rather disappointed in the utter disrespect shown here for those of us who work in artistic fields. If I made (and copyrighted) fridge magnets of belching penguins, I would receive compensation for each copy of my creation. But since I write (and copyright) stories, I'm not entitled to receive compensation from each copy of my creation? Great. Good to know what will be considered a valuable contribution to society in the future.

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

It's hard enough now to 1) get respect and 2) earn a living in the arts. Thanks for trying to make it worse.

And I'm on the side that hates large record companies gouging customers and hoarding older recordings. I think there has to be a new economic model for music, and soon. But it has to involve fair compensation for the artist for every copy. Books and movies are the next electronic battlegrounds, so what happens with music will have far-reaching effects.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:17 AM on August 6, 2003


Whenever I talk about this with musicians I know, they end up emphatically siding with the RIAA on these issues, even though they themselves put out their work on independent labels. The satisfaction of knowing that lots of people are listening to your work, even if they haven't paid for it, is cold comfort when the rent comes due.
posted by Prospero at 6:41 AM on August 6, 2003


Whenever I talk about this with musicians I know, they end up emphatically siding with the people people who download music. As a friend of mine who is a (signed and touring) musician put it: "Anything that enables more people to listen to what I write is pretty kickass, I think."

As another put it: "People are downloading my music? Oh no! I'll never sell another album again, now that they can get it for free!"
posted by Jairus at 6:57 AM on August 6, 2003


(It should be noted: These people write music because they love music, not because they expect to get rich off of it. They have quite a few releases, they're on good indie labels, and they play shows whenever they can.)

GhostintheMachine: I work in the artistic fields, and I feel no shame about having a very large MP3 collection. As an artist, I think it's fantastic that MP3s mean that when I write music, people who can't afford to buy it can listen to it whenever they want. As a promoter, I think it's fantastic that when I'm putting a show on, dozens of people can download a few tracks by the band(s) coming to town to see if they'd like to attend the concert, and support the band in a very real and tangible fashion.

I agree that there has to be a new economic model for music, but I don't agree that it has to involve compensation for every copy. I think it has to involve compensation for anyone who made a copy, and then found the material worthwhile.
posted by Jairus at 7:09 AM on August 6, 2003


Jarius writes:

"I agree that there has to be a new economic model for music, but I don't agree that it has to involve compensation for every copy."

It has to involve compensation for artists on the artist's terms. If the artist is happy with having the music (or writing, or whatever) out there for people, swell. But if the artist (or more broadly, the copyright holder) doesn't want that, it should be respected. And it can go both ways: I have a "shareware" novel that is out there that I let people download for free and they can compensate me for it if they like it; but when my other novel comes out in the bookstores next year, I don't want people making multiple electronic copies and distributing them without my permission.

I have a huge MP3 collection, too, but everything in it is bought and paid for (or provided to me for review purposes by the artist). The issue isn't (or shouldn't be) the media in which music or other artistic material is delivered. The issue is whether we decide we want to compensate artists and copyright holders on their terms -- the terms which are their legal right to impose.
posted by jscalzi at 7:26 AM on August 6, 2003


Jairus--interesting. It seems that the difference between your group of musicians and mine are that mine are composing either jazz, or "new music" (that branch of classical music that comes out of minimalism, etc.) Even indie rock CD releases are an order of magnitude larger in comparison to their releases. Moreover, these guys certainly don't have the option of making money by touring (like most modern composers these days, their main source of income is teaching, and given the nature of the work, unless they've been composing for decades they're lucky if they can get any more than two or three performances by an ensemble in a given year). That may account for the difference of opinion in our informal survey.

On preview: what jscalzi said as well.
posted by Prospero at 7:38 AM on August 6, 2003


1. Artists should get paid.

2. The RIAA needs to come up with some way of taking advantage of new technology, instead of fighting it every step of the way.

3. Record labels need to get rid of bloated VPs who spend money on strippers, drugs, and parties. These are the people who really piss me off. The ones with no artistic sense whatsoever who get into the industry so that they can live the rockstar lifestyle without actually having to create anything themselves.
posted by witchstone at 7:53 AM on August 6, 2003


jscalzi: There's where we differ, I suppose. I think that art should enrich the public, and thus the terms of compensation artist should not be wholly defined by the artist, but by both the artist and the public. As a music/literature/etc consumer, I'd like to have some say in the matter.

You ask if we want to compensate artists and copyright holders on their terms, and with the current state of copyright law, I do not. Seeing how the major label status quo is to consider new artists 'work for hire' and remove them of their own copyrights, and how copyrights themselves have been twisted from law originally designed to both protect the artist and contribute to the public domain... This is not a system I wish to contribute to, or participate in. I will continue to promote artists and compensate them on both my own terms and terms agreed upon by the artist and I... but any kind of institutionalized system such as the current channels of music distribution cannot help but be harmful to the consumer.

Prospero: I should've been more specific, the musicians I'm referring to are almost exclusively industrial musicians, and a good portion of them are not 'bands' in the classical sense, but electronic acts... But I have noticed a difference in the ideologies of musicians that come from the old-school, so to speak. I see a lot less of the napster=theft argument from people who work with electronics as part of their art, and a lot more of it from people involved in 'traditional' music creation.
posted by Jairus at 7:57 AM on August 6, 2003


does downloading mp3s and not feeling guilty make me a sociopath?
posted by mcsweetie at 8:03 AM on August 6, 2003


Wow. We're going to have some very, very poor writers, artists and musicians in the near future.

Look around you man. We already do. Most people who write or sing or paint don't get paid very much for their work. The current method of imposed scarcity favors the promotion of a very select few artists on a mass scale.

People who say that the P2P nets allow them to sample a broader range of music aren't lying about that. The lobbying muscle that worked so hard to kill web radio -- particularly at the small, small end, did it with the specific intention of raising the barrier to entry to keep unknown artists unknown.

It has to involve compensation for artists on the artist's terms.

I disagree with this. Copyright isn't a natural right. The mere fact that copyright is temporary demonstrates that the states intention is not that it be considered as a natural right. It is an artificially imposed rights grant from the state. It's purpose is not to compensate the artist or to make sure the artist can be compensated in the way of their choosing. It's purpose is to encourage the artist to share their creation with the public.

To the extent that it encourages sharing with the public, it's good. To the extend that it discourages sharing with the public, it's failed. So, when you have an artist who signs a 7 album deal who delivers a second album that the label doesn't want to promote (because they're already promoting some other album and don't' want to steal focus or because they just don't believe it's commercial viable enough to justify the expense), then we see the failure of copyright. The public that traded exclusive right to copy in return for the artist sharing the work doesn't have the work. We didn't get what we paid for.

With 98% of books no longer in print, and a total lack of clarity with respect to the proper rights holder, copyright is showing itself to be more burden than boon to society. We've made a bad deal, and we've allowed our law makers to make it worse.

You're merely opposed to them getting paid in a way in which you don't approve.

I frankly don't care how they are paid. I think the market will decide that -- just as it decides that for firemen or waiters or people who defecate on the floor and attempt to sell their creation.

What I am opposed to is artificial constraints on the market that impose the limitations of scarcity where no limitations exist. What I'm saying is that it seems clear from looking at the market that the method of compensation some artist have come to depend on is untenable now that they don't control the means of production and distribution.
posted by willnot at 8:08 AM on August 6, 2003


I use p2p software and I feel shame.
posted by Bonzai at 8:21 AM on August 6, 2003


So, when you have an artist who signs a 7 album deal who delivers a second album that the label doesn't want to promote (because they're already promoting some other album and don't' want to steal focus or because they just don't believe it's commercial viable enough to justify the expense), then we see the failure of copyright.

More accurately, what we see is an artist who shouldn't have signed a seven-album deal with a faceless recording conglomerate.

In my opinion, threads of this type never sufficiently address the responsibility of the artist to manage his or her own business affairs.

With 98% of books no longer in print, and a total lack of clarity with respect to the proper rights holder, copyright is showing itself to be more burden than boon to society.

The issue this brings up for me is--how come people don't get all het up about the book publishing industry, the same way they do about the **AA organizations? They're just as controlling, if not more so in some areas (try publishing in the field of literary criticism, which even publishers will acknowledge operates on a "gift economy": that is, you give the publisher the rights to the work for almost nothing, they make money, and you get a line on your CV that might help you get a shot at tenure at a university, if you're lucky).
posted by Prospero at 8:25 AM on August 6, 2003


I also think the msuic industry (yes, it's that confused) is fragmenting like the rest of the media landscape. More and more people are taking off on their own, or staying below radio. If you were a solid musician with your head on straight facing 20 years down the road, what kind of stuff would you be doing? Does it show up on the RIAA's income sheet?

That 25% of records they are missing is a whole lotta jam, rap, and electronic music that is headed off in another direction.

Also, focusing so much energy on the legal and social aspects of their business, they missed the boat on the tech. Sure, Apple is innovative, but to come out with a solid music system online before any record company? That's ridiculous.

-wah


Sure, the RIAA is completely evil, and it sucks. I personally rarely buy anything that they have anything to do with. Most of the CDs that I buy are bought from the artists themselves. I like giving money to people that I like.

Think of it that way: if you like someone, or something, especially someone who shouts out into the great senses-dulling void that is the marketplace, and you think they deserve greater appreciation, and you like them enough to bother to listen to them, it is ethically right to give them money.

If you don't like something enough to support it - especially when it comes to artists - don't fucking bother with it! You'll find that if you discriminate between rewarding people who are good and ignoring people who are bad, you can use money to make a point.

-interrobang

interrobang, I think you're pretty much dead on. But so is the other guy. If you don't support something you like, it could die. On the other hand, if mp3's were food, I could feed the world with my laptop. The property line is blurred, but the making money off of someone else's work isn't.
-wah

amen, you guys. amen. the last point, wah's, is especially important to consider--it's the aspect of this entire conflict that still makes me uneasy.

people who automatically say "blah blah information is free in this day in age" and thus that copyright is archaic and useless seem unable to acknowledge any notions of dollar voting or what motivates people to produce in a certain, most-desirable way (ie art instead of, say, an artist getting a different job not as suited to their talents so they can pay rent). if you think what an recording artist does is valuable to you, and you want them to stick around and make records you enjoy, supporting them--yes, monetarily--is the main answer. and no, it doesn't make the artist greedy to hope to be reimbursed for their work. it amazes me when people who yeah, blatantly brag about filesharing without compensation to the artist (to a point where it's like "it's my effin' RIGHT and how dare anybody question that..." and self-righteous even, like people who don't fileshare are somehow stupid etc) claim that artists should create solely because they want to make something beautiful (otherwise they're not artists)...what utopia do you guys live in? it doesn't make them less as artists to want to pay rent and still be able to make art. man. it can be the difference indeed between which career people pursue. and that's not wrong at all.

and i especially like that wah also touched on the thorny issue that YES, we know the RIAA and any of the middlemen are "evil"...that still needs to be resolved, too. but the basic argument that copyright alone is dumb is very very flawed, i think.
posted by ifjuly at 8:34 AM on August 6, 2003


Just go to a large flea market in a reasonably sized town.

The point in this article is is why is the RIAA going after the online swappers, when it's obviously much easier to serve a person standing in front of you at a flea market (for example) than try to get court orders to trace someone's identity from their IP address.
posted by joquarky at 8:37 AM on August 6, 2003


[Took too long to write this and partly trumped by intervening comments, but what the hell...]

But if the artist (or more broadly, the copyright holder) doesn't want that, it should be respected.

This is where the debate runs into a big ol' swamp of a greyish shade. Copyrights are granted by governments for limited terms (leaving aside the trend towards perpetual copyrights on the instalment plan) and give their holders limited control; they also grant the public certain rights, such as fair use, and unlimited use once the work passes into the public domain. There was once a time when a work could fall out of copyright within its creator's lifetime, and the creator would have no say over how it was then used, whatever their wishes. Respecting artists' wishes is an important factor in encouraging creativity, certainly, and a system of copyright should attempt to maximize the amount of creative work produced; but always respecting artists' wishes does not necessarily achieve the latter aim. Copyrights are granted by the community and should, in the final analysis, be of benefit to the community. The benefits they bring to artists are a happy side-effect, which ideally will encourage maximum production of artistic work, but even a watertight copyright system carries no guarantee of that, and artists were quite capable of creating sizable bodies of work before copyright even existed.

What GhostintheMachine sees as disrespect for artists I see as a necessary separation in people's minds between individual artists and the mass of artistic works. The world is now so flooded with information and entertainment that only the most high-profile of artists who have made a significant impact on us as individuals seem deserving of our attention and care. We can't possibly care about every single creator of every single artistic work that crosses our path; it would be exhausting. And if we don't care—well, we don't care. So we're forming our own patronage-like relationships with artists, where we'll consciously or unconsciously support some but not others—"I really like her books, so I'll buy them new when they come out; he's okay, maybe I'll borrow his from the library." It's not disrespect, it's just a natural inclination to rank people according to their importance to us, and treat them accordingly. If you're a stranger on the street, I'm not going to come up and offer you my spare bedroom for the weekend; if you're friend or family, it's yours.

That certainly presents a challenge for artists who want to get rich or even just pay the rent; the challenge is to form those sorts of patronage-like bonds with enough people to meet your economic goals. The more modest your goals, the easier that will be. And, I would argue, the more willing you are to harness the power of the Internet to build a community of fans, and not reject the whole medium because a bunch of non-fans are downloading your latest single, the easier it will be. jscalzi, for example, through his online presence and experiments with giving away copies of his work, has built up a sizable community of people interested in buying his books—people who probably would never have heard of him otherwise.

But it's a delicate balance, because if jscalzi (or whoever) then turns around and sets his lawyers onto file-traders of his work, he risks alienating the very community he's built up. Only he can judge how much slack he's willing to allow; but, equally, he's the one who has to live with the repercussions if his judgment is wrong. The community granteth its fickle interest in your artistic work, and the community taketh away.

there has to be a new economic model for music, and soon. But it has to involve fair compensation for the artist for every copy

Where fair compensation may, in some cases, have a cash value of zero; but an intangible, long-term-relationship-building value worth a lot more than a buck an iTune.
posted by rory at 8:49 AM on August 6, 2003


(Maybe not a "necessary separation in people's minds"... unfortunate, in the sense of overlooking the fact that artistic works need artists to create them; necessary in the sense of avoiding the psychological overload of trying to care about each and every artist everywhere. With the way copyright works today, everyone's a copyright holder. See that notice at the bottom of the page—you're an artist! Your every MetaFilter post is an artistic work.)
posted by rory at 9:01 AM on August 6, 2003


Willnot:

"Copyright isn't a natural right. "

Oh, good grief. That's the stupidest argument against copyright that I think I've ever read. Nothing is a natural right, if you want to go that route. Copyright is not a natural right but it is in the Constitution of the United States -- Article I Section 8 Clause 8: "The Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Inasmuch as I derive several other important rights from the Constitution, I'm happy to accept that my right to copyright also stems therein.

Your problems with copyright have nothing to do with copyright per se, they have to do with the fact that people make decisions about their copyrights which are manifestly bad. A new band of musicians doesn't have to sign a seven-album deal; they do it because they're young and uninformed and excited by dreams of stardom. However, if Ani DiFranco has taught us anything, it's that you can make it on your own, using the copyright protections as they exist, if you think long-term rather than short term. Thanks to copyright, artists do control the means of production and distribution; it's merely that too many of them stupidly sign away those rights. Perhaps if we educated people about copyrights, they wouldn't be so quick to do that.

Copyright doesn't exist to make things easy on the consumer; it never has. It exists because of the recognition that intellectual property is inherently stealable and therefore legal protections must be provided to allow its authors the ability to profit from them -- and thus have an incentive to create them. I write because I like to write, but I also write because I like to get paid; copyright protections ensure that I am able to be paid, and that I have legal redress when I am not.

You don't care how they paid because fundamentally you don't care about the rights -- legal, not natural -- of creative people. Mouthing platitudes about the market deciding who will get paid and who will not is aside the point; the market already decides who gets paid and who does not. What copyright does is ensure that the copyright holder also (and primarily) gets paid when anyone else does, and gets paid when his/her ability to be paid is damaged through someone else's unauthorized distribution of the work.

In short: Rather than placing artifical constraints on the artist, copyright provides the artist with an even playing field. Every person who creates something in their own brain owns it at the outset -- no one else can claim it without their consent. That's the guarantee of copyright. What they do with it from there is another matter entirely.

Rory writes:

"If jscalzi (or whoever) then turns around and sets his lawyers onto file-traders of his work, he risks alienating the very community he's built up."

True, although I'm also very educationally-proactive, so I think most people who know me and are in my "community" understand my feelings on copyright and why I have them. In my personal dealings, I'm not at all a copyright ogre, and I would encourage people who like my work to share them with their friends (it why I keep a big archive of work on my site).

When if I come across people who are massively sharing my work, but not attempting to make a profit, I explain very nicely why I wish they wouldn't do so on such an indiscriminate scale, and nearly without exception people understand and stop; I thank them and I usually make a new friend. People who are sharing my work for the intention of financial gain I usually ask to compensate me retroactively, and either they do or they show arrogant ignorance of my rights, in which case off we go to the lawyers. I obviously don't have the same problems musicians have (people who read a lot seem to have more appreciation of the relation between them paying and me eating), but it happens enough that I'm not a stranger to it. So far the balance has been maintained on both sides.
posted by jscalzi at 9:03 AM on August 6, 2003


jscalzi says: Copyright doesn't exist to make things easy on the consumer; it never has.... copyright provides the artist with an even playing field. Every person who creates something in their own brain owns it at the outset -- no one else can claim it without their consent. That's the guarantee of copyright.

Copyright, as originally designed, had another guarantee. To guarantee that works enter the public domain, and to give the work to the public, within a reasonable amound of time. It was never intended to protect the artist and the artist alone.
posted by Jairus at 9:07 AM on August 6, 2003


Value your freedom at least as much as you value your entertainment: match every dollar spent on an activity that feeds the RIAA and MPAA with a dollar donated to the EFF.

I'm tracking every movie ticket, DVD and CD purchase in a running tally. The EFF gets a nice check before the tax year ends.
posted by NortonDC at 9:11 AM on August 6, 2003


"The Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

Please note that the purpose of copyright, as stated in the Constitution, is to promote the arts. Nowhere does it say anything about anyone making money.

If you're just interested in getting rich - hell, if you're just interested in making rent and buying food - then maybe "artist" isn't the right career choice for you.
posted by majcher at 9:13 AM on August 6, 2003


I'm not at all a copyright ogre

I know, John, and wasn't trying to suggest you were; just taking your name in a hypothetical-example vein. I've followed your online experiments with your novels with interest. One of these days I might even get around to reading Agent and sending you a buck. :)
posted by rory at 9:15 AM on August 6, 2003


Jairus:

"Copyright, as originally designed, had another guarantee. To guarantee that works enter the public domain, and to give the work to the public, within a reasonable amound of time. It was never intended to protect the artist and the artist alone."

Right, and I'm a big believer in the public domain. It just doesn't start the second an artistic work hits the market.

I happen to think copyright should be coincident to the natural life of the creator of the work (who is himself or herself a person rather than a corporation) plus a short period of time after that to give the heirs a little something useful. In other words, Mickey Mouse should have been free a long time ago.
posted by jscalzi at 9:19 AM on August 6, 2003


Your problems with copyright have nothing to do with copyright per se, they have to do with the fact that people make decisions about their copyrights which are manifestly bad.

You misread me. I don't care about the choices people make with their copyrights. I care about the way copyrights are being used to circumvent the purpose of the rights grant -- namely getting the public use and enjoyment of the works.

The fact that some artisans can use a tool in a way that doesn't circumvent the purpose of the tool doesn't change the fact that any tool whose purpose is circumvented in routine use (and more to the point any tool that rewards circumvention at its most base level) is fundamentally flawed. That is a hammer that disintegrates nails doesn't make a very good hammer.
posted by willnot at 9:22 AM on August 6, 2003


I happen to think copyright should be coincident to the natural life of the creator of the work [...] plus a short period of time

When you tie copyrights to people's lifespans, you're allowing lucky/healthy people to get the better end of the deal, which doesn't seem too fair to me. There's no reason I can see that Person A and his family should have more protection than Person B and his family just because Person B had the misfortune to get murdered.

Twenty years for everybody, I say. If you haven't made money off of it in twenty years, you probably don't deserve to. Give it back to the public.
posted by Jairus at 9:27 AM on August 6, 2003


"Give it back to the public."

Give it back? Implying the public somehow created it in the first place? What an interesting and totally wrong argument.
posted by jscalzi at 9:32 AM on August 6, 2003


Moment to breathe at work, less grouchy than I was last night. A few things:

There's work for hire, there's patronage, there's spec/tips, there's holding future creation hostage to getting paid for present works, there's live performance, there's convenience and ease in finding good works.

Work for hire: This sucks for the reason jscalzi mentioned, which is that now you never get to control your work (owning it is irrelevant if there's no copyright however). If you are using your art as a promotional vehicle for unrelated commercial jobs, that can suck too: either you take a more oblique and chancy shot at getting really famous and popular, or more likely, you wind up self-censoring so you don't offend clients, and then why not just do straight self-promotional work? It's much less of a pain.

Patronage: In this day and age?

Spec/tips: Artist as mendicant. No prospects for advancement. Excellent!

Holding future creation hostage: is even more dependent on hitting the fame jackpot than the current media cartel system is.

Live performance: One of the entries I linked to addresses that. Basically, if all a musician can hope for is money from live performances they will start charging more for it as soon as possible. And then what happens to their only revenue stream when people record the performances?

Convenience and ease in finding good works: is obviously the best way out of this. But it isn't something a single artist can provide.

Next: i use p2p networks to download out-of-print music that most record companies will not reissue due to the small audience. every thread i ask this. every thread i am ignored.

The dead obvious answer to this quandary is to put a reasonable leash on copyright terms, which these days are basically immortal and really do stifle artistic development a great deal. Then somebody can set up a copyable library somewhere. Until then I don't think downloading out-of-print material should bring on much guilt or any more substantial consequences for that matter. I do agree with willnot that copyright should function as an incentive to create, not as a tomb.

The issue this brings up for me is--how come people don't get all het up about the book publishing industry, the same way they do about the **AA organizations?

Yeah, no joke, but file sharing doesn't seem to plague books the way it does other forms, except maybe for certain geek niches. Books just don't translate as well to computer form yet. Their physical forms are more valuable.

Next: Wow. We're going to have some very, very poor writers, artists and musicians in the near future.

Look around you man. We already do. Most people who write or sing or paint don't get paid very much for their work. The current method of imposed scarcity favors the promotion of a very select few artists on a mass scale.


There is a middle tier of artists who aren't superfamous but have a following and are able to make a comfortable living, and another tier of people who are struggling to get by but believe in their art and their future prospects enough to plug along. Overthrowing the copyright system will take a vast toll on these two tiers; the few the proud the superfamous will survive much better, and you'll still have imposed scarcity.

Aaand: I happen to think copyright should be coincident to the natural life of the creator of the work (who is himself or herself a person rather than a corporation) plus a short period of time after that to give the heirs a little something useful. In other words, Mickey Mouse should have been free a long time ago.

I don't have a big problem with 20 years flat.
posted by furiousthought at 9:38 AM on August 6, 2003


Give it back? Implying the public somehow created it in the first place? What an interesting and totally wrong argument.

No, not "implying" that the public somehow created it, but in fact stating directly that were it not for the public and the people who have come before the artist, said artist would not have created the works that he/she did.

If you can show me a work that is not a result of the world around it, I will personally write a letter to the respective government requesting that the copyright of the work in question be indefinitely extended.
posted by Jairus at 9:42 AM on August 6, 2003


Give it back? Implying the public somehow created it in the first place?

See, that's where our perspectives really diverge. The creator doesn't own it. The creator can't own ideas or expressions of ideas. That belongs to the culture at large.

Society grants limited say in how ideas are propagated. That's it. They don't confer ownership of the idea to the creator, and they don't do it so that the creator can get paid. They just say - hey, we hear you had a good idea. We'd like you to tell us the idea so that we can benefit from it (and, we benefit immediately -- the point isn't to get the work into the public domain since the public already owns it. The point is to get the idea told so that society can begin using it -- if the public can't use it then the public isn't getting what it traded for), and in return, for a limited time we'll give you limited control over who gets to copy your idea.
posted by willnot at 9:47 AM on August 6, 2003


It just disappoints me that something tangible is automatically more respected than the intangible. Were I a watchmaker, I would receive compensation based upon the popularity of my product. Each one I made that I sold would earn me money. But as the creator of a product that can be rendered in digital form (music, movies, books, software), millions of people could be enjoying the product of my labours without a cent of compensation ever reaching me.

Some here have argued that I should build up a demand for my product, to prove my value, before expecting compensation. Why? You don’t demand that of any other producer. Try walking into a car dealership looking for a free car, with the promise that you may buy one in a few years if you like the freebie enough.

And what of the Margaret Mitchells, Harper Lees, and others whose first (and sometimes only) work turns out to be a masterpiece? They may only have one great work in them, for which they should be richly rewarded. Instead, you would leave them impoverished, and that to me is very wrong.

I’m not saying the current system is the answer - it has its flaws. But to expect artists to work for free just because the product of their labours can be reduced to digital form is far worse.

A company can produce an inferior product and will still recoup some funds to put back into research and development in order to improve the next generation of its product. An artist can produce an inferior work and won’t get a cent for it, forcing them into another line of work and being unable to reach their potential. Another company can produce a superior product and make a fortune, and never have to produce another product again. Another artist can produce a superior work and (again) won’t get a cent for it, forcing them into another line of work and being unable to capitalize on their "success", or forcing them to once again produce a superior product in order to be rewarded.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:56 AM on August 6, 2003


majcher: "Please note that the purpose of copyright, as stated in the Constitution, is to promote the arts. Nowhere does it say anything about anyone making money."

Pray tell me how you can "promote the arts" without financial reward for the artist? Empty platitudes? Mmmmmm, filling!
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:59 AM on August 6, 2003


Willnot:

"You misread me. I don't care about the choices people make with their copyrights. I care about the way copyrights are being used to circumvent the purpose of the rights grant -- namely getting the public use and enjoyment of the works."

I don't misread you, you're merely wrong about the purpose of the copyright grant, at least in regard to its existence here in the US. The right to copyright exists whether or not the public ever uses and enjoys the work in question. I could write something up, register it and shove it into a box and leave orders that the sole physical copy be burned upon my death, and it would still be entitled to copyright protection (in fact, I don't even have to register it, which would make the public's lack of access to it even more complete).

Placing public use and enjoyment of a work before the creator's rights is very much putting the cart before the horse. By ensuring the creator's rights, Congress ensures creative work makes it to the public in a substantially less-restricted way than it might otherwise.

In this case, there's nothing wrong with the tool, other than the fact you don't like the tool. But on the other hand, you're not the one for whom the tool was primarily designed.

Willnot:

"See, that's where our perspectives really diverge. The creator doesn't own it. The creator can't own ideas or expressions of ideas. That belongs to the culture at large."

Well, actually, by the US Constitution the creator does own it -- a particular expression of an idea, at the very least, for a certain mandated length of time. I don't own the idea of freedom -- but if I write an essay of what freedom means to me, I do own that. Likewise, I can't own the idea of wiper blades for a car windshield, but I can patent a particular device that accomplishes that action and enjoy the fruits of that expression. This isn't a matter of perspective, it's a matter of law.

Anyway, this is again a matter of putting the cart before the horse. There's no way for the public to access creative works creators don't want to share -- but the creators still have a say in their use even if the public doesn't know about them.
posted by jscalzi at 10:04 AM on August 6, 2003


It just disappoints me that something tangible is automatically more respected than the intangible.

Just wait until we get a nanotech Napster. Free everything for everybody! Karl Marx, come on down!
posted by rory at 10:09 AM on August 6, 2003


I could write something up, register it and shove it into a box and leave orders that the sole physical copy be burned upon my death, and it would still be entitled to copyright protection

You're arguing my point for me. I absolutely understand that's the way copyright as it exists today works. That's why it's broken. The point is to "promote the progress of science and useful arts" That means get the public the use of it. Anything that results in what you write above runs contrary to the stated purpose of the rights grant.

And no, copyright doesn't grant you ownership of the work, and you don't naturally have ownership of the work. You're granted limited rights to reproduction. You might be able to stretch it and say that you own those rights. Certainly they're saleable or transferable, but you don't own the work itself.

If you do actually believe you own it, then how can you possibly justify taking it away once the rights period expires. If you own it, then you should be able to pass ownership on to your heirs, and everybody who uses a wheel should be paying some descendent(s) somewhere a licensing fee.
posted by willnot at 10:17 AM on August 6, 2003


Instead, you would leave them impoverished

Who would? Someone in this thread would? Society as a whole would? Every society on Earth would?

Japan rewards its great artists by treating them as "national living treasures". Western countries hand out prizes on the basis of past work, lifetime achievement, and so on. People turned up to Frank Sinatra's concerts right up to his death, decades after his best work, just to pay homage, or to hear its echoes.

Besides: does anyone deserve to live for a lifetime off something they spent a year or two creating in their youth? It's nice if they can, sure, but do they deserve it? Should society guarantee it? Should an entire system built up to maximize public access to artistic works be held hostage to a very few, very gifted people who hope to be, or even deserve to be, very rich?
posted by rory at 10:21 AM on August 6, 2003


Willnot:

"You're arguing my point for me. I absolutely understand that's the way copyright as it exists today works. That's why it's broken."

No, that's why it works. Because I have the right to say how a work is presented to the public -- including the right to not present it at all -- and that I can profit from it, I feel comfortable about presenting it, period. I don't worry that from the minute it's created I have to worry about somebody else profiting from it without my consent or participation.

"And no, copyright doesn't grant you ownership of the work, and you don't naturally have ownership of the work. You're granted limited rights to reproduction. You might be able to stretch it and say that you own those rights. Certainly they're saleable or transferable, but you don't own the work itself."

This is slicing the salami a little thinly, if you ask me. If I control nearly every relevant right to a work, save a sharply defined right to "fair use" excerpting, then de facto I own it. Eventually the work will be offered up to the public by passing into public domain, but as a matter of current law, I'll be dead so from my perspective it's hard to see how I will care.

Also, it's wrong in a very concrete sense. In the case of the aforementioned work in the box which I have ordered burned, it may be that the work encoded on the paper is "the public's" in some respect; however, the paper it is on is mine, so I can burn it if I want. You might suggest that it's in the national interest that the fire department intervene, but I doubt either they or the executors of my estate would agree with you.

All this concern for the public is nice, but again it's entirely missing the point, which is that the reason we have copyright protections is to protect that rights of the copyright holder. Here in the US, the rights of the copyright holder are protected ostensibly for the benefit of the public; however, the rights of the public to the works are (for a useful but limited time) subordinate to the rights of the copyright holder.

Eventually the rights of the public supersede the rights of the creator (in my opinion, after he or she is dead is about right), but the fact the creator has the initial advantage is implict acknolwedgement that it is individuals who create, not some nebulous "public."

The public cannot demand creative types present work on the reasoning that the public deserves them or owns them. It doesn't work that way; you can't make me write a novel, for example, and if I do write one, you can't make me show it to you on the grounds that I don't "own" it. We cater to individual rights because it is efficient and it works.

Jarius:

"Were it not for the public and the people who have come before the artist, said artist would not have created the works that he/she did."

This is a silly argument -- by extension everything we do stems from those who come before us, back down to the first protozoans. If you want to go that way, sure -- but I'm not acknowledging that first protozoan in my book. I don't think it's unreasonable to say at some point we allow for the idea of original thought within a social context. Also, and again, there's no assurance that whatever work is created by an individual would have been created without that individual -- therefore, it's not at all unreasonable to provide that individual certain rights to it.
posted by jscalzi at 10:58 AM on August 6, 2003


rory: Japan rewards its great artists by treating them as "national living treasures". Western countries hand out prizes on the basis of past work, lifetime achievement, and so on. People turned up to Frank Sinatra's concerts right up to his death, decades after his best work, just to pay homage, or to hear its echoes.

Does this have anything to do with copyright? (Especially when Sinatra made his living singing other people's work?)

But certainly, copyright is out of control in regards to balancing public interest vs. creator's interest.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:01 AM on August 6, 2003


The creator doesn't own it. The creator can't own ideas or expressions of ideas. That belongs to the culture at large.

*shudder*
posted by kindall at 11:02 AM on August 6, 2003


"Besides: does anyone deserve to live for a lifetime off something they spent a year or two creating in their youth? It's nice if they can, sure, but do they deserve it? Should society guarantee it?"

Um, yes. If it's good enough, they do deserve it. You build a better mousetrap, you deserve the reward of its creation. You write a better novel or song or whatever, you deserve the reward of its creation, for as long as you live, and society should guarantee that you receive your due reward. Doesn't matter if you're 8 or 80 when you do it, either.

There is a value to the products of the mind, just as there is a value to products of the hands. There needs to be a system in place to ensure those who create X are properly compensated for it, whether X be a new drug, a new car, or a new novel. If said X is considered important, enjoyable, or beneficial to a large number of people, the creator deserves a hefty reward, not the vague promises that perhaps someone will deign to compensate you if you can come up with another X, or the simple satisfaction of a "job well done". Creators need to eat. If you listen to their music, read their books, or watch their movies, whether or not you like them, you need to feed them. You don't have to like the crappy car you drive, but you still have to pay for it if you want to use it. I see no difference when the product in question can be converted to digital form.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:52 AM on August 6, 2003


I partly agree with what you are saying, but lets flash back a few hundred years. Once upon a time, it was pretty standard academic practice to make handwritten copies of books and articles because their cost was well beyond the reach of both students and faculty. Even 100 years ago one of the major limitations that Einstein faced as a Patent Clerk was that it reduced his access to the reseach libraries he needed. Once upon a time, the primary distribution methods for music was sheet music with the expectation that the purchaser's had the right to perform the music.

Even in 1990 durring my brief flirtation as a journalist, newspapers were selling advertising based on the fairly well-reseached statistic that on average, each copy is seen by three different people. (I am a regular contributor to newspaper karma by buying newspapers and leaving them in cafes for others to look at.)

Basically, there has been a shift in how copyright is conceived over the last 50 years. I see no indication that copyright was intended to prevent me from loaning a textbook, leaving a newspaper for someone else to read, or making a mix-tape or CD for a friend. Instead, copyright was developed to protect publishers from other publishers.

I think there needs to be a balance between fair use and creator's rights. Unfortunately, the RIAA is moving so far away from reason on this that I can't justify spending my money on their products. I don't do file sharing, mostly I do my music shopping used, or by supporting local music.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:44 PM on August 6, 2003


I haven't used a P2P network for music since I signed up for EMusic.com.
posted by botono9 at 1:02 PM on August 6, 2003


The creator doesn't own it. The creator can't own ideas or expressions of ideas. That belongs to the culture at large.

Then why did the creator, and not "the culture at large," create the work in question? Because the creator, and nobody else, could and did. Surely, the creator deserves something for adding to the culture.

Besides: does anyone deserve to live for a lifetime off something they spent a year or two creating in their youth? It's nice if they can, sure, but do they deserve it? Should society guarantee it? Should an entire system built up to maximize public access to artistic works be held hostage to a very few, very gifted people who hope to be, or even deserve to be, very rich?

A few things:

1) I'm not a fan of talking about "rights" when having an IP/copyright discussion. There's a good article on Ars Technica about rights versus structure discourse that does a good job explaining why.

2) The idea that giving artists control over their art will make them very rich would be laughable if the truth of the matter wasn't so depressing.

3) Why should society, and not the artist, be given control over a piece of the artist's work while the artist is alive? If I write something this year that people value, I should benefit from it. If they still value it in 20 years, why shouldn't I still benefit?

4) If ownership were granted for the lifetime of the artist, reverting to the public domain on the artist's death, everyone wins. The artist is compensated during their lifetime, and culture is compensated (ugh, what an ugly phrase) afterward. Everybody wins, and nobody is "held hostage."
posted by amery at 1:53 PM on August 6, 2003


no CD is worth $17.50

...roughly 11ukp. Hmm, no, I'd say I have lots of CDs worth at least that. Some of them are probably worth a lot more, to me at least.

does anyone deserve to live for a lifetime off something they spent a year or two creating in their youth?

Yes. Some artistic contributions are indeed, so great that the artist deserves the rest of their life on tick.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:35 PM on August 6, 2003


Why should society, and not the artist, be given control over a piece of the artist's work while the artist is alive? If I write something this year that people value, I should benefit from it. If they still value it in 20 years, why shouldn't I still benefit?

The thinking is first that the vast majority of works see most of whatever success they're going to see within the first 20 years of publication, and second that it gives the artist incentive to keep creating. Carrot and stick I suppose. I came out for the 20-year copyright in my incredibly rambling horse tranquilizer of a comment a little ways up. But it's not like I'm married to it or anything. :: shrug ::
posted by furiousthought at 2:37 PM on August 6, 2003


If I write something this year that people value, I should benefit from it. If they still value it in 20 years, why shouldn't I still benefit?

Because, and I think that this is the fundamental point that causes much disagreement, copyright does not exist for the benefit of the artist or creator. It exists for the benefit of the public, of society. We thank you. Sometimes, with money! Sometimes, not.

((ranty rant deleted))

Think about what it means to "own" something. Think about why a person becomes an artist in the first place.

There is a break, deep down, about how people think about these things. Heaping lots of words on top of your axioms will not convince either side that they are wrong.
posted by majcher at 5:06 PM on August 6, 2003


"Because, and I think that this is the fundamental point that causes much disagreement, copyright does not exist for the benefit of the artist or creator. It exists for the benefit of the public, of society."

Wrong. It exists for the benefit of both, but to the short-term advantage and benefit of the creator. Says so right there in the US Constitution. It's pretty clear on that point.

"Think about why a person becomes an artist in the first place."

Often it's because they realize that everything else involves lifting heavy objects.
posted by jscalzi at 7:06 PM on August 6, 2003


jscalzi - I believe that Justice Bryer would disagree with you.
The monopoly privileges that the Copyright Clause
confers are neither unlimited nor primarily designed to
provide a special private benefit. Sony Corp. of America
v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U. S. 417, 429 (1984);
cf. Graham v. John Deere Co. of Kansas City, 383 U. S. 1, 5
(1966).
I'm pretty sure he's spent more time reading and thinking about the constitution that you have. I could be wrong about that though - just as I believe you are wrong about the purpose of copyright in the US. I'll concede that it does convey a benefit to the artist, but that's not its purpose.
posted by willnot at 8:31 PM on August 6, 2003


Does this have anything to do with copyright?

A great deal. I was addressing GhostintheMachine's point about exceptional artists deserving recognition and recompense for their work in the form of a strong system of copyright. I argue that there are all sorts of ways to provide recognition and recompense for artistic achievement, and copyright is only one of them; and to strengthen copyright to the point where it effectively never expires, and effectively allows no fair use (which is the way it's heading in the digital environment, which is increasingly the entertainment and information environment), and cuts no slack whatsoever for a modest amount of creative reuse and exploration of better ways of getting art into public hands, is to destroy the balance between the rights of the creator and the rights of the public.

There are all sorts of reasons "why a person becomes an artist in the first place". Some have nothing to do with copyright: the desire for fame, or to be remembered after one's death, or simply to express oneself. Tightening up and extending copyright in the belief that it's the only way of meeting artists' needs for recognition and recompense is simply wrong. It's overkill, and it should be resisted.

Some artistic contributions are indeed, so great that the artist deserves the rest of their life on tick.

Yeah, and my mother's so great that we should enact special laws to guarantee her a life of luxury, no matter what the cost to society.

I'm sure any of us can think of artists and artistic works we would think worthy of special celebration and veneration. But art being such a subjective beast, we're not all going to agree on exactly which ones those are. And the system of copyright is not intended to provide such guarantees or dispense that kind of justice. Limited protection for limited terms to encourage artistic production for the benefit of society. If some people can spin a book or two into a lifelong sinecure on that basis, good for them, but that isn't the aim of copyright, and should not be the basis on which it is determined.
posted by rory at 1:15 AM on August 7, 2003


Willnot:

"I believe that Justice Bryer would disagree with you."

I believe in the specific case you're noting, Breyer was in the minority. So, while it's interesting that Breyer would disagree with me, in that specific case, it's irrelevant.

Ironically, in the specific ruling to which Breyer is dissenting, I happen to agree with Breyer; the current Congressionally mandated length of copyright protection is far too long and does not exist for the benefit of the creator of the work but specifically for entities which exist after the creator dies -- and whose interests (economic though they might be) are not greater than the interests of the public at large.
posted by jscalzi at 4:29 AM on August 7, 2003


Let's not mistake intentions here. I'm also in full agreement that extended copyrights are evil. Anything beyond life+20 is ridiculous. I'm only arguing that the opposite (no copyright) is just as evil.

I'm considering the future possibility that, once digital use is extended to books as well as music and movies (and I'm talking about the general public use, not just the 7 people today with eReaders), writers (and other artists) will receive but a fraction of their current compensation for their work. For the Grishams, Kings, and Clancys of the world that's going to drop their income considerably, but for the mid-level and under writers, currently making a respectable income from writing it's going to mean giving up writing in order to pay the bills. In other words, it eliminates the ability for a writer to put a value on their work.

A refrigerator repairman can put a value on his work, but soon a writer will not. It's nice to say art should be free, and most artists don't create great works to get rich. But they do need to eat, and if you take away their ability to be compensated for their work, there will be fewer and fewer works of art created.

This is a capitalist society, and in such a society you are compensated for what you can offer. By removing the value from an artistic work (by rendering it digitally and freely distributing it) you are eliminating the only way some artists have to be compensated for their work. That's not a good thing. Unless you want to alter the foundation of society and provide "benefactor grants" to artists based on the popularity of their digitally swapped files out of the general taxes, I guess. Artists deserve to be paid for what they do, just as auto mechanics, stock brokers, doctors, and garbage collectors. It's hard to eat electronic praise, and my landlord doesn't accept it either.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:01 AM on August 7, 2003


Those are fair concerns, GhostintheMachine, but others of us are considering the future possibility that if things keep going the way they are, the digital environment will be distorted into one which benefits only the big entertainment corporations and allows no leeway for small players trying to use its potential in creative ways. Big business wants total control over the Internet, and it's getting closer and closer to achieving it. The net has been the biggest challenge to artistic, entertainment and publishing gatekeepers in decades. Entertainment companies resisted the introduction of cable TV, they resisted the introduction of VCRs, they resisted sampling, and now they're resisting this.

But this time, the risk is that they'll achieve their aims through restrictive legislation and DRM before we've had time to figure out what the real effect of a free and open Internet is. We haven't even had a decade of widespread public use of the Web, yet record companies are singling out a two year downturn at a time of global economic uncertainty as 'proof' that the net kills creativity. Well if the net kills creativity, what the hell are we doing here? What is this place, what is this environment, what is this outpouring of creativity we see all around us? Is that all irrelevant, inauthentic creativity, just because it isn't served up to us by Disney or AOL Time Warner?

Sorry, I'm not trying to attack you or anyone in particular; just ranting. Have you read Lessig's The Future of Ideas? He says it all in more detail than I'll ever manage. It's not about killing copyright dead; it's about keeping the leeway and the flexibility that allows wonderful new things to emerge into the world, despite the best efforts of vested interests to quash them.

And I'm not unsympathetic to artists... my father is an artist. I'm an artist (in the broad sense of the term), when I'm not doing the day job to pay the mortgage. I've had times where my only income has been from my art. I'm not saying all art should be free; I'm saying we have to keep some flexibility, or else big business will be able to hold our creative culture to ransom.
posted by rory at 5:59 AM on August 7, 2003


"Those are fair concerns, GhostintheMachine, but others of us are considering the future possibility that if things keep going the way they are, the digital environment will be distorted into one which benefits only the big entertainment corporations and allows no leeway for small players trying to use its potential in creative ways. Big business wants total control over the Internet, and it's getting closer and closer to achieving it."

And this is directly on point to copyright how?

Copyright in a general sense is not the problem here; the problem is that people don't like the impositions large corporations are placing on the distribution of the work they control. The simple answer to this: If you want to protest how the RIAA handles file-sharing, stop buying RIAA-sponsored material entirely and start supporting the artists and companies that support file sharing. This is one (relatively small) reason why I subscribe to eMusic.com. QED. Likewise, boycott any large corporation you feel is acting in an informationally unethical manner.

Unlike Ghost, I don't think the transfer to digital will severely compromise the potential of "mid-list" writers and musicians because I think that writers and musicians can and do make their fans understand the direct relationship between getting paid and continuing to work. I also believe most people of means (and especially people who work for a living) like to support the artists/writers they enjoy. Creative people will have to do their part to build that understanding, of course, but I don't think it will be as difficult as many imagine.

But again, this is neither here nor there to the fact that as the copyright holder, I have the right to say how and when my work will be displayed.
posted by jscalzi at 6:39 AM on August 7, 2003


And this is directly on point to copyright how?

Again, all I can recommend is to read Lawrence Lessig's The Future of Ideas. Directly, absolutely, bang on point. But not something easily distilled into a few posts to MeFi.
posted by rory at 6:50 AM on August 7, 2003


The Future of Ideas, published by Random House, a subsidiary of Bertlesmann, i.e., one of those evil, copyright-hoarding corporations. I'll see if I can find a copy online or something.
posted by jscalzi at 7:17 AM on August 7, 2003


"Evil" isn't a word Lessig uses to describe copyright-holders, and a quick search of this page will show it isn't one I've used either (I did say, though, that his book is "not about killing copyright"). But some of those "copyright-hoarding corporations" are pretty keen on painting anyone who listens to mp3s as "thieves" and "pirates", no matter what the context.

Read it, and then reread this thread. It won't seem the same, I promise.
posted by rory at 7:50 AM on August 7, 2003


naturally i post and am then away from the computer for a few days. if dgaicun was anywhere near this thread, i'd have a "troll" sign around my neck.

anyway.

building on some of what rory said, the problem with music industry (or movie industry) is that music and movies reflect the idiosyncrasies of personal taste. the music and movies contained on 5" aluminum slabs will reflect someone's taste, but even if that record or movie changes someone's life, it's not always going to be in a number that will pay back the investment the label made in it. industries don't do business in lives changed; they do business in units moved. to an extent, the current problems with file-sharing stem from this conflict. i get frustrated when a poster such as interrobang takes what appears to be an absolutist position against file-sharing for this reason: not everyone who shares files is doing so to deprive the artists of money.

(please note that i am reacting to interrobang's first comment, which suggested that file-sharing is 100% wrong even if the property in question is out of print.)

what i would like to know -- from interrobang, as well as others who express the opinion that file-sharing is Evil -- is: what is the solution? how can music that moves units at a sub-britney rate be made available to the small number of fans that want to hear or own it in a way that makes money for the artists and the people who helped put it out?

(i would also like to know how downloading mp3s of records that are out of print and change hands in the low three digits is stealing, but this might be outside the scope of this thread.)
posted by pxe2000 at 12:39 PM on August 7, 2003


At the risk of becoming just another snarky MeFi member, I'm starting to think that any kind of constructive discourse is outside the scope of this thread. Does anyone ever come away from copyright/mp3 threads thinking they've learned something that doesn't reinforce their own views? Doesn't seem like it.

I find this topic takes its toll on me very quickly. I produce art+words+music, I download art+words+music, I promote art+words+music in a professional capacity, I'm involved in the copyright reform process for my country, but... the overwhelming tide of RIAA/MPAA propaganda ("This man is about to steal something!") and FUD leaves me feeling very much like these conversations accomplish nothing, that you are either wired to believe one side or the other.

Lessig and the people he's working with to change the face of copyright today have the right idea, I am convinced, but I'm equally convinced that it doesn't matter who's "right", that in the end the money behind Mickey Mouse will have the most impact.

I'm so tired of American corporate interests dictating the way things work everywhere else in the world, but I'm even more tired of banging my head against the wall trying to change it.

I'm done now, I guess.
posted by Jairus at 3:23 PM on August 7, 2003


Do not yield to those that propagate the lie that copyright infringement is stealing.
posted by NortonDC at 11:15 AM on August 8, 2003



4) If ownership were granted for the lifetime of the artist, reverting to the public domain on the artist's death, everyone wins. The artist is compensated during their lifetime, and culture is compensated (ugh, what an ugly phrase) afterward. Everybody wins, and nobody is "held hostage."
posted by amery at 2:53 PM MST on August 6


I prefer a fix term rather than life or life + x years for many reasons. The most compeling being it would remove the incentive for some sociopath of the rabid fan or soulless corp persuasion to assisinate the artist to free up an artistic work.

I find it interesting that there is no massive push for a 95 year patent term. The big corps seem to realise that it would make it too easy for the independent inventor of some killer invention like Heady Lemar - spread spectrum to "0wn th3m".
posted by Mitheral at 3:29 PM on August 13, 2003


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