Join 3,442 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


MP3 Translator
March 6, 2001 7:40 AM   Subscribe

MP3 Translator You deserve the right to privately trade music on the Internet. Napster currently has filters set in place that look for certain words in the Artist and/or Song Title. To get around this, all you have to do is:
posted by webcowboy (47 comments total)

 
Where is it written that we have "the right" to privately trade music to potentially thousands of people? If already-filthy-rich artists like Madonna and Dave Matthews want their music traded, fine. But other independent artists who don't want their music traded should have that choice - and Napster is keeping them from that choice! If music should be free, then by extension anything you can convert to a digital medium should be free as well. I'm sure all of you professional programmers out there would be thrilled to just give away the fruits of your labors for free in the name of "Internet rights".
posted by starvingartist at 7:48 AM on March 6, 2001


Actually, I am a professional programmer, and I give everything I do away for free, in the name of the GPL. Sometimes I get paid to actually create programs, but they are still free and open to everyone. I am getting paid for my talent and skill and ability to fill a need for my clients, not for some commodified piece of code. Musicians should not be paid for songs; they should be paid for performances.
posted by donkeymon at 8:02 AM on March 6, 2001


If the record companies had offered to download the songs at a reasonable price online, Napster would never have taken off to begin with. They're going to have to update their distribution system, and do it quick, or they're headed for obsolescense.

Artists who produce songs should start thinking about bypassing the major record labels and selling their songs directly to consumers online. People don't just use Napster because it's free; they use it because it's far more convenient than going to a record store to buy the CD.

Hollywood should take note because they're next on the chopping block.
posted by Loudmax at 8:03 AM on March 6, 2001


You deserve the right to privately trade music on the Internet.

Is anyone else embarrassed that while past generations illegally traded booze (prohibition) and drugs ('60s), we're going to be known as the generation that broke the law to traffic in pop music?
posted by rcade at 8:09 AM on March 6, 2001


donkeymon, have you ever heard of the term "pay to play"? A lot of bands invest huge amounts of money just to tour and play to their audiences - and even the ones who have major record deals pay for a large part of their tours out of pocket. The money they get from song royalties offsets their expenses. An independent band with a "small but strong" following might tour a 10-state area over a couple of months and play to all their hardcore fans, but if their music isn't played and royalties collected on album sales and radio play, they lose money on their investment. If that's what they're going for, fine; some people are in it just for the art. But others want to make a living at it, they want to eat and pay their rent and raise their kids with decent clothes, and this is how they've chosen to do it. Napster may be a blow to the bigwig bloated record companies but it's also crippling to small-time artists who are trying to create art in this cold coporate world.
I appreciate the fact that you give away your work, but with all due respect, I think it's dumb to do something "professionally" for free - it's not really professional, is it? You might be good at it, but if you're not getting paid, by definition, it's amateur. Authors get paid when they produce books and get royalties for book sales (and sometimes get paid by the word!). A lot of stage actors take a share of the house every night of performance (myself being one of those). If we just start to give away all of our art and culture without remuneration, pretty soon there will be no art and culture, because no one will want to make the investment to do it.
posted by starvingartist at 8:16 AM on March 6, 2001


It's also worth pointing out that a lot of modern music - and to my mind a lot of the most interesting modern music - is simply not designed for live performance. Modern pop music is so much more than just live rock and roll and a performance-based compensation system doesn't take this into account.

That said since I started listening to and trading MP3s I spend more money on CDs and a higher percentage of those CDs come from independent record labels. I usually like to hear music before I buy it: MP3s are a godsend in this sense.

rcade: not at all. I'd give up booze and drugs before I gave up pop music ;)
posted by freakytrigger at 8:30 AM on March 6, 2001


starvingartist, he's paid to code. he's a professional coder. his code is free. someone who pays him to do the work because they need to do what the code does, not because they want to sell the code.

and saying that art and culture would evaporate without money and investments is ridiculous, although those cave artist were rolling in dough.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:38 AM on March 6, 2001


Musicians should not be paid for songs; they should be paid for performances.

Huh? And so authors should be paid for what? Reading tours? Painters should give away everything they do on canvas and tour like rock stars? Napster has certainly performed a modern miracle here in America: it has somehow, unbelievably, actually increased our collective sense of entitlement, something I wouldn't have thought possible.

I am getting paid for my talent and skill and ability to fill a need for my clients, not for some commodified piece of code.

This sounds very noble and all, but of course, you're actually being paid for both. Or maybe next time you need a paycheck, you can just explain, "I don't actually have any code for you to commodify, but it's okay . . . I'm sure my talent and skill will find another way to fill your needs. Perhaps I can wash your car?"
posted by Skot at 8:40 AM on March 6, 2001


Apparently you didn't actually read my comment. I do get paid for what I do. How do you think I live? Let's say that I code web pages. Anyone can see the source of every web page with ease, so why would they pay for web programming? They pay me to sit here and create the web pages, and to change them, and all that. All the web pages I create are freely available to the public, but I am still getting paid.

As an actor you are not getting paid for "A Streetcar Named Desire," for instance; you are getting paid for your performance in a specific iteration of that play. You don't own the play. The person (or entity) who owns the play is getting paid by you in return for your being allowed to perform the play. If "A Streetcar Named Desire" was freely available to the public for no charge, do you think that you could still make money from the performance of it. Of course you could, if you were talented or skilled. People are not paying for the play, they are paying for your performance of it. And if you paid simply for the right to perform the shows, and not for the right to hold the script in your hand, do you think that the authors would still make money? I think that they would.

Books are a little different though, aren't they? If I was an author, and the text of my book was freely available to the public, what is to prevent my readers from just reading the book for free? Not so much. I would be paid by publishers for the right to publish (that is, sell for profit) iterations of my work; that is, specific books with covers or forewords or distribution or notes or whatever. I would retain ownership of the publishing rights, while the publishers retained ownership of that particular version of the book. I could publish my own book if I wanted to, but I would be competing with any other publishers I had licensed. I could choose to be paid extra in exchange for agreeing to only license one publisher. Music that I perform that is published on CDs would work the same way.

Beyond all of this, I would be writing the book, or coding, or play music, or performing in theater because it is what I am supposed to do and because I am good at it, and because I do soemthing people want, not as some sort of "investment." The goal of my life would be (and is) to create what I create, and to generate enough money to allow that creation to continue; not to get rich writing books, or web pages, or whatever. If I had to get a job washing dishes to allow myself to play my music (and don't tell me you don't know anyone like that), what would be so wrong with that? Do you think that Britney Spears is in it because of her creative vision? There is definitely demand for her product, but it is a product and not a creation. I have no doubt that she loves to sing though, and that she is probably in the right career and would continue to sing even if the gigantic machine surrounding her ceased to exist. She would simply make a normal amount of money based on performances and publishing rights.

posted by donkeymon at 8:56 AM on March 6, 2001


And it isn't out of a sense of personal entitlement, although I sense that a lot of this Napster thing is driven by that; good music and art benefit society and their dissemination should be promoted. The copyright driven schlock machine that is today's music industry benefits essentially nobody.

Right now, I am not getting paid to code at all. I am getting paid to post to MetaFilter. Actually, I am being paid to sit here and know things, so that if someone needs any of the things I know, they will just come to me and I will supply them. i am not actually doing anything right now. I suppose that my boss could ask me to wash his car since I am not doing anything, but he would risk losing his source of knowledge. If his need for my knowledge dried up, I am sure that he would stop paying me to sit here, and I would have to get another job to allow myself to continue coding, maybe even washing cars.
posted by donkeymon at 9:07 AM on March 6, 2001


Apparently you didn't read my comment either - or we just don't understand each other, which is more likely, because I did read your comment. I'll look past the veiled insult...
I get paid to do what I do, too. However, I work in the "real world" on the side, and that is how I manage to keep barely above water. As an artist first and foremost, I hate the fact that I am unable to completely support myself through acting and feel that I am compromising my artistic vision by working dead-boring temp jobs. However, if I were to do only theater, or music, or writing, or whatever, and it was being given away for free because people felt they had a right to my work, I would starve to death. You get paid to do what you do - and I'll back up what Skot said - when it comes down to it you get paid for your actual code, too, because if you don't produce that code you don't get paid. Why can't a dramatic production or a song be considered a commodity, just because you can't touch it or own it? Shakespeare's body of work is in the public domain now, because he's been dead for 400 years and he has no living estate to claim royalties. It costs nothing for a theater to produce Shakespeare, but hundreds of theaters around the world make money performing Shakespeare - because they are producing something and putting an investment into it.
But I'll get back to the original topic. I dislike Napster because a great deal of its resources are used to steal music from artists who don't get anything out of it. Trading tapes among a few friends is one thing - sharing your hard drive with thousands and thousands of users is something completely different. If I used Napster, and I had a CD burner, I would never buy another CD again. I don't care how long it would take to dl a whole album - I wouldn't spend money on music anymore. And that means the artists I listen to wouldn't get their part of the album sales that I wouldn't be making.
All this talk of "the right to share music" on the Internet is a blatant excuse to steal, and as long as the music industry continues to up prices ($19 for a 45-minute CD? I don't think so), it's going to continue. I don't like it, and I don't condone it, but it can't be stopped.
posted by starvingartist at 9:13 AM on March 6, 2001


If a creator wishes to give his work away freely, that's his right -- but if another creator wishes to sell his work for money, that's his right to do as well. Be the product music, writing, handy-work or whatever. After all, it's the right of the creator to set the terms by which his work shall be offered to others, not that of any potential consumers and/or Napster-leeches. Their role is merely to evaluate the offer, and either accept the terms -- and engage in a voluntary trade -- or refuse it -- and neither give nor receive anything. But this to me seems obvious. Just a pity that Napster-leeches seem to believe otherwise.
posted by frednorman at 9:17 AM on March 6, 2001


I think that we don't disagree as much as it seems. A situation like this has never existed before. Most people are just good, lazy, rationalising people who don't feel like they are stealing because they are not physically taking something from the store; that is, the original version is still where it was and is not destroyed. But they are. I am not arguing that these users are not violating the system as it currently exists; I am disagreeing with the system itself. The needs of the artist to profit from his creation should be balanced with the needs of society to benefit from the genius of artists. I would argue that the current situation is not very balanced. I feel that record companies creating an artificial scarcity of music are behind this imbalance and are standing between artists and their rightful profits, while at the same time seeming to enable them. Isn't the world a better place because Shakespeare's work is in the public domain? Wouldn't you be angry is AOL/Time Warner somehow owned all the rights to all of Shakespeare's works, and charged $400,000 for performance rights, or worse yet, wouldn't allow anyone else to perform the works except for them, so that they could play them on their cable channels? I am not saying that I should write something and that anyone should then be able to just take it for any purpose; I am just saying there there needs to be a balance that is currently lacking.

I am sorry if there was a veiled insult in there. I do not intend to be insulting, since you obviously have thought about what you are talking about.
posted by donkeymon at 9:39 AM on March 6, 2001


The needs of the artist to profit from his creation should be balanced with the needs of society to benefit from the genius of artists

Say what? If I choose to invest a huge amount of time and effort in order to excel at something, it is my mere obligation to act as a slave for you -- as a member of "society"? I don't think so, donkeymon. You do, however, have a right to offer me [things] in trade for my various capacities. But I have no obligation to accept this offer. Neither do you, to me.
posted by frednorman at 9:55 AM on March 6, 2001


I think someone posted a link a while back to a new Courtney Love article - she said that when lawyers in any other industry look at music contracts they are amazed at how much they are getting away with. And that most artist's sign with major labels with these ridiculous contracts because they don't really see any other alternatives if they want to record. To me, that's another way to look at this whole 'industry' - we are now coming up with EASY ways to distribute that clash with the OLD centralized control structures. NEW ways have to be found, and until then, clashes will continue. In order to come up with new ideas we have to throw out the old ones and put all the new elements out on the table and see how we can ALL win. (i.e., digital copying is easy - companies should be thinking about what NEW ways they can assist musicians - create a NEW service in some way - have a NEW vision, etc.)Trouble is, I don't think the record industry CAN win... unless it's willing to change too. Or are they just in it for the money and not as a service for artists - if so, maybe they SHOULD die and people who really want to help artists get their stuff out there can step into the limelight. Are artists that have depended on this structure for even SOME profit willing to try something new? Maybe a bit more so than the industry? Lots of questions here and it's probably still too early yet to try to come up with any conclusive answers.
posted by thunder at 10:03 AM on March 6, 2001


But others want to make a living at [making music], they want to eat and pay their rent and raise their kids with decent clothes, and this is how they've chosen to do it.

Not to take a position on the validity of intellectual property law or the morality of Napster, but this particular argument has no validity.

What if I want to make a living at contributing comments to Metafilter? I may spend hours carefully crafting each response, pouring out my heart and soul into each and every word I type. All I want to do is to eat and pay my rent and raise my kids with decent clothes, and this is how I've chosen to do it.

My analogy isn't perfect, but my point is: what right does someone have to insist that they be allowed to make a living off a certain craft, trade, or product? They don't. There may be a socially redeeming value to music that makes IP protection of recordings worthwhile, but the idea that someone is entitled to make a living doing some particular thing, regardless of their works' value to society, is pretty silly.
posted by daveadams at 10:09 AM on March 6, 2001


Daveadams: sorry, your analogy isn't just a bit off, it's totally screwed and misses the point. Bringing Metafilter into it is completely flawed and makes it totally insane. Better analogy: If you want to make a living writing comments on your own web page, and so you charge to access the website, you have that right. It's not the right to be GUARANTEED to make a living, it's the right to not have someone steal from you.

I seriously don't know why I am even bothering to argue with anyone here, the sense of entitlement is indeed sky-high, as is the self-righteousness. Just because YOU give away things for free, and just cause YOU want something for free does not mean that the person who actually spent time and money creating it has to give it to you. Web discussion on this is always ridiculous, I swear I just want these people to go up to ANY normal person who doesn't sit around on internet discussion boards and discuss this, and see them try to argue without looking like asses.
posted by beefula at 10:20 AM on March 6, 2001


Yeah, well, in that regard, it's pretty silly for most people to make a living doing what they're doing. After all, do we really need things like fitness clubs, high class restaurants, and... dare I say it... web sites? To a great extent America, and a large part of the developed world, is a consumer economy, and a luxury economy. My point was that playing music, peforming theater, and writing books have all become industries where you can make money if you are good enough. If somebody were to suddenly start paying you to post comments to Metafilter, you would be participating in an industry, too. Once you establish that something is a job, and not a hobby, the people who do that job should very well expect to get something back for their work. Even in Shakespeare's day actor's got paid for their work - granted, not very much, but they got paid. Now movie stars are making $25M to make movies, and Stephen King and Britney Spears are listed among the 15 most powerful celebrities in Forbes. If that's not an industry, what is? But when bands that are trying to make a living are suddenly robbed of the little amount of money they made before Napster-leeches came along, I think it's wrong.
posted by starvingartist at 10:24 AM on March 6, 2001


Even in Shakespeare's day actor's got paid for their work...
Whoops... I meant "actors". Makes your argument look pretty stupid when you have typos :-)
posted by starvingartist at 10:25 AM on March 6, 2001


And with that said, I remove myself from this online discussion. I feel I've made my point clear enough, and there are more important things to discuss. I'll entertain email if anyone really wants to talk about this further.
posted by starvingartist at 10:29 AM on March 6, 2001


Say what? If I choose to invest a huge amount of time and effort in order to excel at something, it is my mere obligation to act as a slave for you -- as a member of "society"? I don't think so, donkeymon. You do, however, have a right to offer me [things] in trade for my various capacities. But I have no obligation to accept this offer. Neither do you, to me.

Copyright, despite Disney's ongoing efforts to rewrite law, doesn't last forever. Copyright is and is meant to enforce a limited window during which the author of a work can be compensated for his or her efforts. The base state of intellectual property is not "I own it, nobody else can use it" but "everyone can use it, nobody owns it." The idea of allowing a period for an artist make money off a work is similar to the idea of allowing an inventor to make money off his or her invention -- both are limited-time deals that are intended to encourage the public good of (artistic or engineering) innovation.

This isn't to say that that's what Napster is about.
posted by snarkout at 10:32 AM on March 6, 2001


I swear I just want these people to go up to ANY normal person who doesn't sit around on internet discussion boards and discuss this, and see them try to argue without looking like asses.This is another thing that is changing - people who 'sit around on internet discussion boards' ARE becoming more a norm. That's just another split in society right now as things shift around - the perspective that people who spend their time on computers are fringe is going away. When you shift from red to blue, there's a lot of purple in between, and some are talking blue and some are talking red and in between you are... heh heh... comparing apples and oranges - which makes for all kinds of interesting conversation. :-)A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of Freaky Links, which is a tv show centered around a WEB SITE - in this episode the characters saved the day by using information stored on someone's hard drive. As I describe it, that's not so unusual. What was so COOl about it is that the characters' lives are basically CENTERED around the web, even when they go off on their adventures. They were the first characters I've seen on television that actually represent people who've integrated computer use into their lives and THINK in those terms, like many here do, I imagine. But anyway, I digress... :-)
posted by thunder at 10:32 AM on March 6, 2001


> Shakespeare's body of work is in the public domain
> now, because he's been dead for 400 years and he has
> no living estate to claim royalties.

Shakespeare's work was in the public domain the moment the ink dried, because there were no copyright laws in the fifteen hundreds. Mutual theft was rife among Elizabethan dramatists. Shakespeare stole freely, and was stolen from. Did the lack of "intellectual property protection" prevent the single greatest English-language dramatist from producing the greatest English-language body of drama? It did not. Shakespeare earned his living by putting on productions and selling tickets.


> I get paid to do what I do, too. However, I work in the
> "real world" on the side, and that is how I manage to
> keep barely above water. As an artist first and foremost,
> I hate the fact that I am unable to completely support
> myself through acting and feel that I am compromising my
> artistic vision by working dead-boring temp jobs.

That's one point of view. There's just as much to be said for the other p.o.v., namely that having a day job and NOT making a living off your art allows you to follow your "artistic vision" *precisely* and prevents your having to modify your work to meet commercial pressures -- i.e., to sell out. Some folks you (may) have heard of who had day jobs and wore suits to work: Charles Ives (insurance), Wallace Stevens (insurance), T. S. Eliot (banking.)


>> Musicians should not be paid for songs; they should be
>> paid for performances.
>
> Huh? And so authors should be paid for what? Reading
> tours?

Telling stories. Like, y'know' Homer? (They've been saying the novel is dead for about a hundred years now. Maybe they're finally right.)

> Painters should give away everything they do on canvas
> and tour like rock stars?

Work for a fee - like, y'know, Michaelangelo doing the Cistine Chapel ceiling.


> If we just start to give away all of our art and culture
> without remuneration, pretty soon there will be no art
> and culture, because no one will want to make the
> investment to do it.

Please try, if you can, to distinguish between nonremuneration, on the one hand, and control over the copying of your work, on the other. The two are not even remotely the same.

Shakespeare made a living. Giotto made a living. Josquin des Pres made a living. Snorri Sturluson made a living. (You may look any of these up, as necessary.) None of them had any control over the copying of their work, either now or in their lifetimes. Did this prevent art from being done? Of course it didn't. Copyright and intellectual property protection are extremely recent inventions, and most of the greatest artists the human race has produced managed to work without it.

The fact is that the need to create is, for creative persons, very much like being stuck in a car on a long trip and needing to go to the bathroom. The work has just GOTTA COME OUT; and it will come out, remuneration or no. Any artist knows all about this (though artist-wannabees may not have tumbled to it yet.)

P.S. Van Gogh did *not* make a living. But it didn't stop him.


(note: the quoted text above comes from various messages and posters and is reproduced without permission.)

posted by jfuller at 10:56 AM on March 6, 2001


Web discussion on this is always ridiculous, I swear I just want these people to go up to ANY normal person who doesn't sit around on internet discussion boards and discuss this, and see them try to argue without looking like asses.

There's nothing unusual about having a sense of entitlement regarding personal copies of media. Copyright owners used to think that it should be illegal for TV viewers to tape a show and give it to someone else.
posted by rcade at 11:05 AM on March 6, 2001


It's all well and good to argue about what's right and wrong, but the fact of the matter is that this is completely unstoppable. Technology has changed the rules, as it has millions of times before and will continue to. Everyone will have to adjust.

And if you think the artists have it bad, think about the distributors. Music will always be in demand. Moving music around, however, not so much.
posted by frenetic at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2001


You're right frenetic, times are changing. Big Tobacco, Big oil, and the horse buggy makers had to (or will have to ) change what they did (do) to make money. Times have changed for music makers and entertainers. Thats just the way it works. The cat is out of the bag, and there's no way to get it back in, better get a new pet.
posted by tomplus2 at 12:35 PM on March 6, 2001


Copying digital music from one computer to another is not stealing, and I'd appreciate it if people would stop calling it that. When you steal a real thing, you deprive that thing's owner of its use. If I steal your car, you have no more car. If I steal your money, you can't spend it. If I steal your lunch, you go hungry. If I steal your CD, you can't listen to it.

But if I "steal" your CD by buying a copy, turning it into MP3 files, and giving the files away to my friends, what have you lost? You still have your master CD. You can still listen to your music. You can still make copies of your master CD and sell them to people. You have everything you had before. What, pray tell, did I steal?

The only thing you lose is the potential, imaginary profit you might have made had you been able to convince my friends to buy one of your CDs instead of downloading the same thing from me.

If you are going to call this "stealing", I'm going to call the stock market "stealing," because it's depriving me of money I would have made had I been able to sell my stock options at a profit. The market didn't choose to move that way, so I lost out - clearly, all those millions of ameritrade junkies are stealing my stock options, and must be stopped before I go bankrupt. Boo hoo, poor me.

Calling napster-style file sharing "stealing" is just propaganda. It conflates things that aren't even remotely similar in an effort to cast a guilty shadow over something new and not yet fully understood. It's cheap guilt and a poor substitute for rational thought.

Call it copyright law violation. Call it unauthorized copying. Call it cheating. Call it illegal sharing. There are plenty of things you can call it that make it sound bad - but "stealing" is just silly.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:22 PM on March 6, 2001


the thing i wish would come up more often in these discussions is that CD SALES HAVE GONE UP in the "napster era". sure, some |-|4rDc4x0r 14 year olds aren't going to spend money on a cd if they can download it... but how many of them would have bought it anyway? i buy more cds than i used to thanks to napster - sometimes even after i've downloaded the WHOLE ALBUM to see how i like it. then i go out and get the cd. i don't think enough credit is being given to the napster users. i don't use it out of a sense of entitlement, i use it to check out recommendations, find really obscure stuff that i wouldn't have bought anyway because i couldn't find it, or bsides from EPs that shouldn't have been released anyway (mindless moneymaking scheme. i hate EPs).

and as for the renumeration issue, from what i've been led to understand, the artists themselves don't get a particularly huge share of the profits from a cd anyway. it goes to the music industry. and i should hope that everyone here can agree that the RIAA and the major labels are not only ridiculously overpaid, but exploitative. so instead of whining and bitching about how napster users are ripping artists off, why don't we find a way to give artists a bigger cut from the cds and eliminate the middleman of the recording industry? that's obviously what the RIAA is really concerned about anyway - digital music threatens their distribution enterprise. if anything, napster's shown me how out of order the recording industry is.
posted by pikachulolita at 1:53 PM on March 6, 2001


pikachulolita: the question isn't whether CD sales are going up or down, nor whether artists get a profit from the deals the have signed or not. the question is simply who hold the rights to a piece of artistic work: the artist who created it in the first place, or those who are interested in taking/getting/buying it. needless to say, it is the former. and thus they should be allowed to set the premises for any trading, should they decide to take part in such an activity at all.
posted by frednorman at 2:34 PM on March 6, 2001


Since the money that signed artists make from their records in negligible, the point is practically moot. But, as has been said before it doesn't matter, the cats out of the bag.
(unless the computer manufacturers strike a deal with the devil (media producers and distributors) and build copy-protection into the hardware. but i wouldn't buy something like that. would you?)
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:39 PM on March 6, 2001


is negligible. Is.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:39 PM on March 6, 2001


frednorman: "the question is simply who hold the rights to a piece of artistic work: the artist who created it in the first place, or those who are interested in taking/getting/buying it. needless to say, it is the former. and thus they should be allowed to set the premises for any trading, should they decide to take part in such an activity at all."

I think this is an extremely important issue to consider in this whole napster discussion. I'd also like to know how many of you are musicians or artists here, arguing for the transfer of music as it is through napster? I can see the argument for it being called "sharing" and also for it being called "stealing." As a musician, I lean more towards considering it stealing. It is different from sharing tapes. And Mars Saxman, digital music is a real thing. I'm sorry you don't see that.
posted by doublehelix at 2:59 PM on March 6, 2001


doublehelix, Mars might see it better if you justified your claim instead of condescending to him.
posted by darukaru at 3:05 PM on March 6, 2001


I am a musician. I give away my music for free. If I want to get paid, I'll get a gig. It is not different than sharing tapes, simply a more efficient way of spreading data. If you think of 'files' as physical objects, (there is one here, there isn't one here...) I'd have to disagree with you.

Also, unless you're already rich and famous, I can't see why you wouldn't want to get your music traded. It means people like it, people who likely wouldn't be able to hear it unless you get w i d e l y distributed.
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:13 PM on March 6, 2001


I'm an author who has published several books, but I do not even remotely make enough money from them that I could live off them. I have a day job (teaching) to pay the bills and afford a few luxuries. Rather than chase insignificant profits from my publications, I would much rather have people read my writing for free--which is why I put a lot of it up on the Web. I get more out of my work becoming better known, because more people have read it, than I would get out of being paid by the very few who would be willing to pay for it *before* they got a chance to read it. Thinking of writing, or music, or any other art solely in terms of unit sales and monetary profits made is simply not adequate.
posted by Rebis at 3:51 PM on March 6, 2001


> the question is simply who hold the rights to a piece of
> artistic work: the artist who created it in the first
> place, or those who are interested in taking/getting/
> buying it. needless to say, it is the former.

Which rights? Complete control, in perpetuity, forever? Or even for the life of the artist? No copyright statute (nor the Berne Convention) gives you that.

Well then, maybe some more limited set of rights for a specified time? But how arbitrary! And how arguable! This, FYI, is precisely what the argument is over. For most of human history the socially agreed-upon answer was "no rights, for no time."

It's not AT ALL obvious to me that this answer is the wrong one. The work of any artist is a product of his native abilities as modified and informed by his assimilation of the culture into which he was born. And since he had nothing at all to do with either his evolution as an organic being OR his gifts as a genetic individual OR the culture passed on to him by previous generations, it's not obvious to me that he has any claim to ownership of his creations at all. That's on all fours with claiming you "own" the carbon dioxide and water vapor you just exhaled, simply because it's a product of your metabolism.


> needless to say, it is the former.

You missed the third possibility, namely that nobody possesses any such rights because there are no such rights to possess. Intellectual property is a social fiction, and social fictions can be altered at will. As it happens, this one is very much in the process of being altered right now.


P.S. for those who didn't notice -- this post is flamebait, and purposefully so. I don't state, as from on high, that artists must sing for their supper or be poorly-paid pets of the propertied classes, as they were from Ur of the Chaldees to the industrial revolution. I do state that the unspoken assumption ("needless to say") that artists obviously deserve complete control of their works is questionable and may be questioned. The notion that artists *don't* have or deserve such control is a thinkable thought, and needs to be addressed before we have any blanket condemnation of file-sharers.


posted by jfuller at 3:55 PM on March 6, 2001


I do state that the unspoken assumption ("needless to say") that artists obviously deserve complete control of their works is questionable and may be questioned.

Every time this debate comes up, you see quickly that many people think copyright is the same thing as property ownership. It isn't. Copyright is a limited right that balances the need to give artists an incentive to create with society's need to make use of the work.

Copyright has always been a balancing act between an artist and society. I think Napster continues a fight that took place over the sale of used CDs, which the recording industry opposed vehemently and consumers considered to be a fair practice.
posted by rcade at 7:33 PM on March 6, 2001


On the subject of copyright:

When copyright came about, the *sole* purpose was not to make money. The purpose was to, as rcade said, balance incentive with productivity.

In zero-cost per item days as today, copyright laws like we have today *decrease productivity*.

Here's my suggestion: There a concept not yet recognized in legal arenas. It's called freeware. The artist keeps the rights to what they made. If anyone wants to *sell* what the artist made, or perform it publicly (such as in an advertisment), the artist must be paid. However, the digital component on any art should be free for anyone who wants to distribute it freely. End story.

People do not have a right to be paid to "do what they want to do". It's as simple as that. It is not stealing if someone takes what you create, as long as you still have what you created.

Freeware is an incredibly effective concept, I believe. Windows could still be sold, because of the post-market customer service MS would provide (like Red Hat/Linux). Music could make money thru live performance, or, even better, by working other jobs. No one has the *right* to be a musician or an artist or a lawyer or what have you.

Additionally, I think that even in a freeware society, there would still be people who would buy books, since any > zero cost delivery would involve the artist getting paid, and a lot of people would want "definitive copies" on paper of books, or the actual CD with case, or the DVD with the pretty pictures on the front.

Peace,
Kevs
posted by Kevs at 9:38 PM on March 6, 2001


People do not have a right to be paid to "do what they want to do."

No, but they should sure as hell have a right to try.

It is not stealing if someone takes what you create, as long as you still have what you created.

Sure it is. The issue of whether I still have it or not is a red herring. It doesn't belong to you. That's the only reason you need to call taking it "stealing."
posted by kindall at 10:38 PM on March 6, 2001


the question is simply who hold the rights to a piece of artistic work: the artist who created it in the first place, or those who are interested in taking/getting/buying it. needless to say, it is the former. and thus they should be allowed to set the premises for any trading, should they decide to take part in such an activity at all.

and i'm not saying that they don't hold rights. i don't have the background to argue that part. however, show me an artist who is happy with the RIAA system. show me an artist who would rather go through labels and get almost nothing out of cd sales. what i'm saying is that it's not enough to defend the status quo just because that's how it's always been. if your argument is that napster is hurting artists, then instead of attacking something that's going to be around for a long time now that it's broken wide open, why not argue for reform of the record industry?

if you're defending the record industry, come out and say so. don't hide behind a thin shield of "but the artists!" when the artist, in an economic sense, doesn't really come into it at all. given a choice, i think that an artist would take their "intellectual property" rights to another, less exploitative venue.
posted by pikachulolita at 10:49 PM on March 6, 2001


However, Napster is not that venue -- it's actually more exploitative than the record labels, since artists get nothing (and neither, of course, do the labels, who spent all that money promoting the music so you'd know how to find it on Napster).

Those who are against Napster are not necessarily for the record industry as it exists now. The fact is that most well-known artists have assigned their rights to record companies in exchange for a chance at becoming stars. (Most of them don't make it, of course, but up until very recently it was virtually the only game in town. Better a slim chance at superstardom than none at all.) It's supply and demand at its most brutal; there are many more aspiring musicians than there is room in the marketplace, so the record companies have historically been able to dictate terms to artists. For a long time this system, despite its obvious deficiencies, showed enough promise that artists lined up for a shot at the brass ring. The record company receives the bulk of the proceeds from music sales and artists receive a pittance, it's true, but artists are entitled to make that deal if they want.

The deal is changing, though, and what hurts mostly record companies today will hurt artists more and more in the future. Think of big record companies as being parallel to Larry Flynt in the Hustler obscenity case. If copyright protects scumbags like the record companies, it will also protect the artists. Weaken copyright and you've undermined the very thing that will, as the record companies become less relevant, enable musicians to get a bigger chunk of the revenues from their music. You may be able to bring Goliath down with that little Napster you fire from your slingshot, but you haven't done the Davids of the world much of a service if you destroy the ground they stand on in the process.
posted by kindall at 12:54 AM on March 7, 2001


People do not have a right to be paid to "do what they want to do".

I do have the right to my labor and effort. If you do not want to compensate me for my effort, you do not have the right to enjoy it.

Why do so many people think that the world owes them something?
posted by Mick at 7:21 AM on March 7, 2001


sonofsamiam: "I am a musician. I give away my music for free."

I think you have that choice. It goes back to the issue of the creator making these choices. Question: if people were distributing your music without your initial choice/decision to have it distributed for free, without your permission, would you feel the same? This is a genuine question.
OK, apologies to Mars Saxman for my comment yesterday. I get tired of people talking about music as if it's not really anything tangible, like a car or a computer. When I hear comments like that, it sounds like fuel for the fire for people who consider music an "extra" in our educational system. Tangential, but connected in my mind.
posted by doublehelix at 9:03 AM on March 7, 2001


kindall:
The issue of whether I still have it or not is a red herring. It doesn't belong to you. That's the only reason you need to call taking it "stealing."

You are simply wrong. It does belong to me, because I went to the store and bought it. I own the CD. I own the CD player that reads it. I own the hard drive that holds the mp3 copy. The data is mine, because it is encoded into the structure of physical objects I own.

What you are talking about is not ownership, but a more abstract notion called "copyright", a limited legal monopoly on the reproduction of a certain piece of data. It's a law of convenience, designed to encourage investment - no different than a tax deduction. It's not some moral right of control.

Stop arguing about "belonging" and "stealing" and start talking pragmatics. Does copyright do what you think needs to be done, encourage who you think needs to be encouraged? Isn't it possible that a law designed around the limits of last century's duplication technology might be obsolete now?

doublehelix:
I get tired of people talking about music as if it's not really anything tangible, like a car or a computer. When I hear comments like that, it sounds like fuel for the fire for people who consider music an "extra" in our educational system. Tangential, but connected in my mind.

I understand what you mean, and perhaps my choice of words was unfortunate. I was trying to distinguish between physical objects and the information encoded into them; not to imply greater or lesser value, but to indicate that the rules work differently.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:55 AM on March 7, 2001


You are simply wrong. It does belong to me, because I went to the store and bought it. I own the CD. I own the CD player that reads it. I own the hard drive that holds the mp3 copy. The data is mine, because it is encoded into the structure of physical objects I own.

The music is not the disc, any more than the book is the story in it or the car is its design. The two are separate and it is possible to own one without owning the other. I think if you bought a VW Beetle and then started manufacturing and selling (or giving away) cars that were exactly identical to it, this line of argument would not get you very far. The design of the car is encoded in the structure of the car, and you own the car, so you own its design too? After all, VW still has all their Beetles, so nothing has been stolen, eh?

What you are talking about is not ownership, but a more abstract notion called "copyright", a limited legal monopoly on the reproduction of a certain piece of data. It's a law of convenience, designed to encourage investment - no different than a tax deduction. It's not some moral right of control.

On the contrary, ownership of what one creates is exactly a fundamental moral right. The fact that one's creation is not tangible and/or is separable from its physical manifestation does not diminish this principle.
posted by kindall at 12:53 PM on March 7, 2001


After all, VW still has all their Beetles, so nothing has been stolen, eh?

correct. nothing has been stolen - copyright has been infringed.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:01 PM on March 7, 2001


nothing has been stolen - copyright has been infringed.

Thank god for that hyphen in the middle, or the matter and antimatter in that sentence would annihilate each other.
posted by kindall at 3:36 PM on March 7, 2001


« Older A new JD Salinger Book!...  |  Undercover cop poses as high s... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments