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June 11, 2009 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Home taping didn’t kill music, says Ben Goldacre - but where did all the money go?
posted by Artw (168 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Somebody from the copyright promoters The Industry Trust apparently contacted Goldacre about this article, but received short shrift due to her lack of maths skills:
she thinks the lost VAT revenue at 17.5% on £500m of sales is £875,000. it's as if these people never went to school.
I find it weird when Goldacre writes about something non-medical.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 2:25 PM on June 11, 2009


I love it when math and logic can be used to prove that the music industry is full of liars.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:33 PM on June 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Are downloads really killing the music industry? Or is it something else?"

No, it's downloads.
posted by MarshallPoe at 2:38 PM on June 11, 2009


Are there people who are still convinced by this industry bloviation? I haven't had a conversation about downloading in a while where any of the participants took the side of the record industry.
posted by Fraxas at 2:42 PM on June 11, 2009


RIAA Voice: Me fail economics? Unpossible!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:49 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


My question about this stuff is always this: For the sake of argument, posit that the industry is being killed by downloads. Now what?

Computers aren't going to get worse at copying files. That's what they do, they move bits around. What do you do now? This kind of thing is already criminalized, do they think harsh sentencing would do it? Piracy gulags? What?

Take a look at this whole paradigm of 'cloud computing' that has all the major software companies sporting major woodies and tell me how this is going to work in the future. Now, people will always go for the easiest option. So either you figure out a way to make a decent revenue stream out of that, or you find something else to occupy your time.

I have so little sympathy for the music industry because it's been obvious that the future has been bearing down on them like an express train for like a decade. But it's only in the past few years that suddenly they figure this out and freak out about it.

That's the kind of market inefficency the invisible hand is supposed to render obsolete.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:49 PM on June 11, 2009 [32 favorites]


MORE than seven million Brits use illegal downloading sites that cost the economy billions of pounds,

Also: the fact that every Metafilter user has not bought a Rolls-Royce has cost the economy, let's see, just about 100,000 users, 200,000 pounds per car, 200 billion pounds!

Metafilter, why do you hate Britain?
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:51 PM on June 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


1,2 - 1 2 3 4
give me more lovin then i've ever had.
make it all better when i'm feelin sad.
tell me that i'm special even when i know i'm not.
make me feel good when i hurt so bad.
barely gettin mad,
im so glad i found you.
i love bein around you.
you make it easy,
as easy as 1 2,(1 2 3 4.)
theres only one thing two do three words four you.
i love you.
(i love you)
theres only one way two say those three words
and that's what i'll do.
i love you.
(i love you)
give me more lovin from the very start.
piece me back together when i fall apart.
tell me things you never even tell your closest friends.
make me feel good when i hurt so bad.
best that i've had.
im so glad that i found you.
i love bein around you.
you make it easy as easy as 1 2,(1 2 3 4.)
theres only one thing two do three words four you.
i love you.
(i love you)
theres only one way two say those three words
and that's what i'll do.
i love you.i love you
(i love you)
you make it easy, its easy as 1234
theres only one thing two do three words four you i love you
(i love you)
theres only one way two say those three words
thats what ill do i love you
(i love you)
i love you i love you.
one two three four i love you.
(iloveyou)
i love you
(i love you)

posted by Phssthpok at 2:51 PM on June 11, 2009


OMG copyright infringement!!!!!! is taken very seriously by the post-middle-aged librarians I know.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:52 PM on June 11, 2009


"Are downloads really killing the music industry? Or is it something else?"

Shit music would be my guess.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:56 PM on June 11, 2009 [22 favorites]


MORE than seven million Brits use illegal downloading sites that cost the economy…

Nothing at all, because all that money that would have been spent on music was spent on something else. Probably something a lot more local than anything provided by RIAA.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:58 PM on June 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


To be fair, 17.5% of 500m is 875,000 in dog pounds.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:58 PM on June 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


THE BUGGYWHIP INDUSTRY IS COLLAPSING!!!!

Er, has nothing to do with cars, trains, busses and airplanes.

These aren't the industries you're looking for.
You can go about your business.
Move along.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:04 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


> OMG copyright infringement!!!!!! is taken very seriously by the post-middle-aged librarians I know.

Most of the pre-middle-aged ones too, I hope. Libraries are big fat institutional targets with 6, 7 or 8 digit annual budgets (in the case of a library system like, say, Vancouver Island). As an indivdual, you're a gnat that will only be swatted on principle.

So yeah.
posted by Decimask at 3:04 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is, I can't even be troubled to load my iPhone with mp3s, let alone hunt the internet for illegal downloads. That's waaaaay too much work. And of course driving to the record store is completely out of the question!

Slacker Radio is aptly named, free, and legal.
posted by LordSludge at 3:06 PM on June 11, 2009


Librarians are like the ultimate institutional warez dealers. I'm totally killing the shit out of the book industry with all the neat shit I score from them.
posted by Artw at 3:06 PM on June 11, 2009 [20 favorites]


Shit music would be my guess.

DINGDINGDINDINGDING!

The shit radio and shit TV can't be helping much either.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:08 PM on June 11, 2009


Where did all the money go? Hookers and blow.
posted by adamrice at 3:10 PM on June 11, 2009


I blame blogs. Blogs are killing everything. Including my grass.
posted by GuyZero at 3:10 PM on June 11, 2009


Decimask, I mean: if you ever let out a hint that you may have music you have downloaded illegally they will give you a very long lecture about how evil you are.
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:13 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where did all the money go? Hookers and blow.

You mean these guys?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:15 PM on June 11, 2009


Are there people who are still convinced by this industry bloviation?

Probably, yeah. Most people don't read Goldacre's articles, or check out the actual statements, or do the maths themselves. They just read the ridiculously overblown press releases treated as news by the papers, who know that OMG piracy costs billions shifts more copies than reasoned coverage, and hear about the little old ladies and schoolkids slapped with £10k fines for downloading illegal Girls Aloud mp3s.

The recording industry long ago decided that keeping the piracy=death of civilization message in the media at all possibly times was well worth the price of looking like the bunch of idiotic twats that they demonstrably are.
posted by permafrost at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, has nothing to do with cars, trains, busses and airplanes.


Dude, kissing did it...
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:18 PM on June 11, 2009


Well, I think the "record industry is being killed by downloading (presumably because people are "selfish")" meme is a more politically acceptable one for the media to report on than "real wages for almost everyone in American and Western Europe are at 100-year lows, which means that the disposable income required for album purchases is evaporating in front of our eyes." "Economics" reporting is largely f-ing laughable, as it almost never assumes structural economic impediments that might be affecting consumer behavior.
posted by Lee Marvin at 3:27 PM on June 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


> Mental Wimp,

I'm Not sure I get your drift.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:28 PM on June 11, 2009


Unless you meant to use the definition not supported by the context...
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:29 PM on June 11, 2009


And furthermore busses only links to transport. There is no plural listed for buss.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:30 PM on June 11, 2009


five fresh fish: "Shit music would be my guess."

Amy Winehouse's Back To Black is (relatively) recent major label music that excited me. Well worth paying for.

I didn't.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:37 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the 2nd link: ... nowadays, one can choose between a game costing £40 that will last weeks, or a £10 CD with two great tracks and eight dud ones...

This sentiment has been has been repeated so often that's it's become a mantra. Accepted as cast-iron fact. And while it is undoubtedly sometimes true, it unfortunately points toward a lazy attitude, I believe, on the part of many listeners. For one thing, gone is the idea that a set of songs (an album!) can or should be considered as a whole. Sure, not every tune is THE SINGLE. But giving the 'in between' songs a chance, some repeated listenings, some consideration of how those songs speak to the other songs in the collection, that's something that seems to have been forgotten in this era of instant gratification. The rewards of such an open-eared approach may not be immediate, but they can be enriching. Sadly, though, many people just don't seem to have an interest in exploring the work of even their favorite artists beyond the one or two tunes that instantly deliver the knockout punch, the obvious "hits".

Ah well, I'm just an old fart, nostalgic for the days when music really meant something to people.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:08 PM on June 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


Fraxas: Are there people who are still convinced by this industry bloviation?

Unfortunately, yes, and a lot of them are members of the United States Congress. Here is one reason why these kinds of bullshit statistics need to be shouted down publicly and with vigor:

As intellectual property has grown into a larger and larger source of America's income, the industries that profit the most from it are fighting more and more fervently to ensure that their profit is actively protected by the laws of the land. This leads to intense standoffs between the content industries, played out via the Congresspersons they bankroll. (It took so long to reach agreeable balances that it took twelve years from the introduction of the most recent Copyright Act until it was finally passed in 1976) But technology has only been getting more complex in the decades since, which has made the implications of copyright law so hard to ponder that Congress has increasingly just thrown its hands up in the air and let the major players negotiate a workable agreement amongst themselves, which is then signed into law by Congresspersons who largely don't have a clue what it means. (This is essentially what happened when cable and satellite TV were worked into the Act)

But it's gotten to the point where Congress doesn't just pass laws that deal with copyright situations that have already arisen, but they take anticipatory measures on behalf of content providers to ensure there won't be any future hits to their share prices. Example: When device manufacturers started working on digital audio tape decks for consumer use, and reeling from the failure of the courts to find manufacturers of VCRs liable for infringement in the Sony case, the record industry started demanding protection. So they sat down and negotiated an agreement whereby they collected royalties from every manufacturer selling DAT equipment in exchange for a promise not to sue those manufacturers (or their consumers) into oblivion, and the agreement got passed in 1992 as the AHRA. Then absolutely nobody for the most part ended up actually buying DAT players, but whew, glad Congress could help the record labels dodge that bullet!

Another bill that came onto the table in 1992: a proposal to grant developers of anti-copying mechanisms for videotapes the legal standing to sue people who circumvent those mechanisms under the Copyright Act. That didn't go anywhere at the time, but six years later Congress passed a much broader anticircumvention provision as part of the DMCA, which the content providers are coming up with all kinds of perverse ways to apply now. Thus: if you buy a DVD, making a personal backup copy is technically a fair use. But since DVDs are encrypted and copy-protected, doing so is circumvention of a technical protection measure, so you'd better go buy that movie (that you already bought) again if you want to watch it on your iPod, Citizen!

The whole process is spinning out of control, and one thing has become clear: If you do not have a large, expensive lobbying wing, your voice will not be taken into account when these laws are being drafted. Which is exactly why, when negotiating royalties for digital performances of audio recordings, the record labels and big companies with their eye on the web/satellite/digital radio market were satisfied with the results, but nobody noticed that the rates were high enough to drive minor webcasters out of the game before they could make enough profit to enter the market. Or maybe the people brokering the deal DID notice all along, and that's the exact balance they wanted to strike. (Another party who came away satisfied: terrestrial radio broadcasters, who pay lower rates for webcasting than individuals webcasting the exact same songs who don't happen to own an FM transmitter. Makes sense!)

So studies like the one linked are absurd and bogus, but don't think they're harmless. The more they are able to cultivate a perception that Serious Studies Prove that Piracy is Killing Music/Movies!!!, the more likely Congress will be to roll over and codify into US law whatever safety nets these poor multibillion dollar corporations want, and there will be nobody in the negotiations standing up on our behalf. (And don't sleep soundly if you aren't in the US, since we throw around our weight and use trade agreements to force similar copyright protection terms on as many other countries as we possibly can)

Sen. Hollings tried to introduce a bill in 2002 that would cripple every single digital device on sale, including personal computers, in the name of piracy mitigation. And thank God it didn't get anywhere, but neither did anticircumvention, the first time it came up. Be careful.

oh god sorry this went on way too long
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:15 PM on June 11, 2009 [29 favorites]


If I was Prime Minister I'd appoint Ben Goldacre 'Bullshit Czar' in charge of a shiny new (and admittedly Orwellian sounding) Ministry of Truth.
posted by stumcg at 4:22 PM on June 11, 2009


I actually think downloads are going to cut into music sales worse and worse over time. The difference between home taping and downloads is big. Home taping is more expensive than just buying something for most people. It's enough of a pain in the ass that in terms of total cost it is just plain easier to to buy a cd or tape than do it yourself unless you are a kid who doesn't have any money and in that case it is a good way to get into pop music for when you do have money.

Downloading illegally however is easier than just buying something and you get something that for most people is superior in utility than a physical cd. And it's free. Now if the music industry was responsive they would have offered their own way to download music that was easier than the various pain in the ass ways of getting music that people had to use from 1998 until torrents came along. They probably would have taken a hit on a per-unit basis and just sold more music for less money which if distribution costs are almost zero is a perfectly workable model. But instead they focused exclusively on litigation. There were people that should have been sued for music piracy, mostly providers not with the intent of wiping out piracy completely but just enough to keep it less convenient than the legal option.
posted by I Foody at 4:27 PM on June 11, 2009


Boy am I tired of this argument. Of course I don't like big record labels or the RIAA. of course I pirate music myself.

But this:
the industries that profit the most from it are fighting more and more fervently to ensure that their profit is actively protected by the laws of the land

The talk only of abstract "industries" and the denial that artists* use sales of their work to live borders on psychotic at this point.

*and their descendants, which is the worst thing in the world for some reason to all the copyright-expiration fanatics

posted by drjimmy11 at 4:30 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Computers aren't going to get worse at copying files. That's what they do, they move bits around. What do you do now? This kind of thing is already criminalized, do they think harsh sentencing would do it? Piracy gulags? What?
K.W. Jeter seems to have thought so.

Eventually, some crimes against copyright (such as providing mass piracy tools) will become capital crimes, defined as "acts of economic terrorism".
posted by acb at 4:31 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


But it left me wondering. Why does the music industry persist in saying that every download is a lost sale? If you even think about it, it can't be true.

That's because it isn't. As the legal opinion of the particular judge cited in this case states:
""[A]lthough it is true that someone who copies a digital version of a sound recording has little incentive to purchase the recording through legitimate means, it does not necessarily follow that the downloader would have made a legitimate purchase if the recording had not been available for free ... It is a basic principle of economics that as price increases, demand decreases. Customers who download music and movies for free would not necessarily spend money to acquire the same product. I am skeptical that customers would pay $7.22 or $19 for something they got for free. Certainly 100% of the illegal downloads through Elite Torrents did not result in the loss of a sale, but both Lionsgate and RIAA estimate their losses based on this faulty assumption."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:33 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


"'real wages for almost everyone in American and Western Europe are at 100-year lows,"

Have you got a cite for this? I know we've slipped back to 1970s levels but I'm a bit surprised to hear we've slipped past 1950s levels.
posted by Mitheral at 4:34 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


flapjax at midnite - Thank you. You just articulated everything I was thinking.
posted by davebush at 4:37 PM on June 11, 2009


"Ah well, I'm just an old fart, nostalgic for the days when music really meant something to people."

Music seemed to mean something to people in the 40, 50, and early 60s, when all records were singles because the LP hadn't been invented yet. Tech shapes art: There are some brilliant albums which are far greater as wholes than parts. And there are a lot of albums with two great songs and 8 or ten mediocre ones, because making great songs is damn hard to do and very few bands have that many in them. Now that the medium is the download, there is no reason to download the mediocre stuff. Some people will still make albums because their musical ideas need that much room to play out. But if you've got two great songs, don't try and con me into paying you ten bucks more for the crap ones as well, especially when I will most likely listen to them as individual songs, in a shuffled mix. (I know some people only listen to full albums on their ipods, which is certainly their prerogative. I don't think they are the majority anymore, however.)

I don't have time to listen to all the awesome music in the world, why waste it on the boring stuff?
posted by Diablevert at 4:38 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think that the whole idea of downloading is near or just past its peak. My prediction is that the phenomenon by which users seek to download and hence own a copy of a file will soon start to become less prevalent as people move towards streaming music of their choice to wherever they are. They might stream from what is effectively an online version of their library or they may use the library of a fried, streaming radio station, record label, etc.

Having your extensive music library sitting on a hard drive means that you have to worry about stuff like backups, theft and whether or not you will lug the drive about whenever you travel.

The music industry missed the boat when people started to digitize their music. As people move towards on-line libraries they may just get a second chance to work out an acceptable charging model.
posted by rongorongo at 4:47 PM on June 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


drjimmy11: The talk only of abstract "industries" and the denial that artists* use sales of their work to live borders on psychotic at this point.

I don't even know where to start.
(a) I never denied artists use sales of their work to live, and I haven't seen anyone else in here do so either. Anyway, you've clearly ignored other salient points, such as that the average downloader is more likely to purchase music than the average non-downloader, and that I was lamenting the results of poor lawmaking (criminalization of fair use, unfair licensing rates, etc.), rather than holding artists upside down and shaking them until the money from their sales falls out of their pockets
(b) The reason I spoke of "industries" and not individual artists is because individual artists aren't the ones doing what I was talking about. Meanwhile, major industries (record labels, movie studios, television studios, corporate radio, etc.) are.
(c) It's less that I hate descendants and more that perpetual copyright is a bad idea for any number of reasons that I can write about at length to you in a MeMail if you're interested, but I've diatribed in this thread enough already
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:49 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"and their descendants, which is the worst thing in the world for some reason to all the copyright-expiration fanatics"

The Public Domain is more important than the livelihood of descendants six generations out.
posted by Mitheral at 4:58 PM on June 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


there is no reason to download the mediocre stuff

Not all music rewards you immediately. Albums often slowly reveal their genius after several listens. If you're unwilling to invest the time, no problem, but you'll be missing out on a ton of great music.
posted by davebush at 4:59 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Goldacre appropriately links to a study that shows that people who download music actually spend more money on music. Anyone who downloads music knows that this is true. Before I discovered music blogs I had only three real sources of information about music--friends, tv and radio. The stuff on radio and tv was, of course, mostly shit, which left my friends, who generally had the same tastes and the same resources as me anyway. It is true that, now, I download way more than I actually purchase. However, most of the albums I download for free are out of print anyway and, furthermore, almost every album that I do purchase is one that I initially discovered by hearing for free. Now that I download free music, I hear more good music than at any other time in my life and that means that I buy more music than at any other time in my life. The music industry either doesn't understand the phenomenon or, it doesn't care to and has decided to make up for its failures by issuing lawsuits instead.
posted by cnjnctvsynth at 5:09 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mitheral, here's a link to an excellent Harper's article from last May about how the formulas used to calculate unemployment and the CPI (and hence, "real wages," as well), have been subtly tweaked by nearly every presidential administration going back to Kennedy. So when you see a graph like this, it's being calculated according to those fudged figures.

I'm not an economist, so I couldn't tell you exactly what today's real wages would look like if they were calculated according to the pre-1963 formula, but I imagine the difference would be fairly profound. To wit, here's a graph comparing the nominal severity of the current economic crisis against three previous major US recessions, and here's another version of the same graph using the alternate (which is to say, non-adjusted) CPI.

And then there's the question of whether "real wages" really means anything; it's a static category that doesn't take into account things like the increasing necessity of higher education for one's children, multiple cars to support multiple workers within the same home, etc. In order for a family of four to effectively function and maintain themselves in today's society, they require far more material resources (and subsequently, must expend far more money) to reproduce their labor-power than they did a century ago. So, even when consistent formulas are used to calculate real wages over time, I'm not convinced that those figures accurately reflect the real situation of most Americans, as there are far more "socially necessary" recurring costs inflicted on the average family today compared with even thirty years ago (cellphones being but one of the more recent examples).
posted by Lee Marvin at 5:09 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


The music industry market is moving away from wanting a hard copy of the music (you can get those for free, or close enough) to wanting live acts. Money is now in concerts, not in record sales.

Good? Maybe. The traditional core of reliable profit is threatened so ideally the industry should be forced to take more risks, such as promoting more new acts on a small scale with the hope that they will catch on and become the new 'people to see'. Problem there is that the industry is, as far as I can tell, preferring to promote the big acts rather than going local. Plus, simply, not all music works live.

The intellectual property debate is a sterile one. Wherever you think the battle lines should be drawn, copyright is not and cannot be enforced. You can get jurisprudential if you want, but a law without enforcement is an empty shell.

Now all I want is to be able to give money directly to the artists I think want to support.
posted by litleozy at 5:19 PM on June 11, 2009


acb already mentioned him, but K.W. Jeter's book Noir has a future where copyright violation has the punishment of permanent unending torture.

At the end of the novel there is a URL to an essay by Jeter on copyright, but the site has gone down. Anyone know where I can read it?
Even after finishing the book Im not really sure where he actually stands on copyright. In one of his other books Farewell Horizontal even peoples tattoos are controlled by a central DRM satellite.
posted by Iax at 5:26 PM on June 11, 2009


Librarians are like the ultimate institutional warez dealers.

And book publishers are not happy about it. If they could have their way, libraries would be profit centers.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2009


Librarians are like the ultimate institutional warez dealers.

And book publishers are not happy about it. If they could have their way, libraries would be profit centers.


For one thing, gone is the idea that a set of songs (an album!) can or should be considered as a whole. …something that seems to have been forgotten in this era of instant gratification.

Radio killed the music industry. You don't play albums on the radio. One-hit earworm wonders are where the money's at.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:36 PM on June 11, 2009


I know everyone has their own fish to fry on this post.

As an old guy, I don't care to download music. I also don't want to wear earbuds or sport headphones. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I listened to music nonstop.

Now, I just buy CD's from the occasional artist who impresses the hell out of me.

(I am a musician, I suppose I should mention.)

BUT, aside from the whole download controversy - and I can understand downloading a song when a group puts out a CD with two great songs and a bunch of filler - here's where the music industry harshed my mellow.

CD's are cheaper to produce than vinyl...yet they raised the price! And they put them in the cheapest possible containers ("jewel boxes" - ha), hard to open, easy to break the cheap hinges.

Having memories of the music industry nurturing artists instead of following the quick buck trends, I could rant on...but let me just hurl another bag of shit on the mercenaries in the City of Angels who have money, not music, on their minds.
posted by kozad at 5:37 PM on June 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oooh! Copyright violation! Someone catch that fish!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:42 PM on June 11, 2009


MarshallPoe: "No, it's downloads."

Did you read the article?

From TFA:
If we assume that there's roughly the same amount of discretionary spending available (which, even allowing for the credit bubble, should be roughly true; most of the credit went into houses), then it's clear who the culprit is: the games industry. By 2009, the amount spent in games and music is almost exactly the same as 1999 (though note that the music industry changed its methods from 2004).
If it wasn't downloads, it would've been taping music off the radio, or some other form of not paying for music. What's killing the industry is consumers not seeing the benefit of exchanging dollars for music, when there are more worthwhile uses for their finite budgets. Right now video games offer a better value, and that's where people are spending their money.
posted by mullingitover at 6:09 PM on June 11, 2009


The 'problem' of downloading mp3s got well beyond the point of no return ten years ago when your six year old cousin first got on to Napster. It baffles me that this issue gets discussed as if there is the remotest chance that it'll ever decrease. Human nature and technology are so massively predisposed in favour of pirating that any appeal to ethics can't hope to sound like anything more than trite wishful thinking.

What the industry needs is innovation in response to the reality of piracy instead of this continual bellyaching at the changing marketplace.

Compare the evolution of piracy (tapes -> CDRs -> P2P'd mp3s -> torrents) with the evolution of the music industry (overpriced vinyl -> overpriced tapes -> overpriced CDs -> overpriced DRM'd mp3s). Now fast-forward five years to the next stage of piracy - it is easy to imagine a cheap portable device with free wireless access to every song of all time. Is the music industry doing anything at all to prepare itself for the relentless march of technology, other than "Waaaaaa"?

p.s. stop all the downloadin'!
posted by mhjb at 6:16 PM on June 11, 2009


"real wages for almost everyone in American and Western Europe are at 100-year lows"

Really? Someone had better go fix Wikipedia.
posted by roystgnr at 6:26 PM on June 11, 2009


I freakin' adored Noir. It made up for Dark Seeker coming into being, five times over. And while it was deliciously outlandish and over the top, it made me think about what a Copyright At All Costs future might be like.

A tension exists right now between the ??AA and the We Want It All For Free crowd. Both have their proxies, catspaws, and spokespeople. The former squeals through "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." and pukes out fake studies with bad math. The latter issues manifestos about how the old business models are dead and because Radiohead did it, you can do it too! The market will just ... work! I hear that, despite knowing people who just laugh at the concept of paying a cent for music; these people do not go see bands, buy T-shirts, and so forth. Of all of the people I talk to about music offline, I am the only one who buys more than, say, ten CDs a year.

Intellectual property and assorted services are a growing part of the American and world economies, and if we do not find a way to strike a healthy balance, we will see something fairly unpleasant emerge as the situation tips to one side or another, at least when it comes to music.

I could see a somewhat ghettoized version of the arts evolve, with very few full-time artists. Instead, it's CDBaby and one-off "labors of love." Local tours that might be as far as the band can drive and make it home by 2 a.m. so they can grab a few hours before their day jobs. Fewer middle-of-the-road bands, with moderate exposure, will exist. Big stars will come out of it, but they'll be bankrolled to hell and back — the sure thing guaranteed to pay back on the label's investment on a big tour and merchandising. They will be autotuned to hell and back, managed to an inch, and surgically perfected.

The other is essentially a watered-down version of Noir: Palladium Trusted Computing Modules for anything with more than a few million transistors in it. Banned encryption for the hoi polloi, deep packet inspection and traffic pattern monitoring on every internet connection. First sale doctrine nuked and goodbye, used CDs. Ridiculous, draconian penalties on the Mitnick scale. The FCC can come in and look at your ham radio any time — why not surprise computer inspections once your bandwidth usage for the month ticks up a little too high?

I'm less likely to engage about wild speculation with regards to movies. I do not know how a balance could be struck when it comes to music, or if such a thing is even possible, given human nature, so I have mostly resigned myself to just hoping the resultant chaos will be interesting.
posted by adipocere at 6:26 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fraxas: Are there people who are still convinced paid by this industry bloviation?

Flapjax: Unfortunately, yes, and a lot of them are members of the United States Congress.

posted by xorry at 6:36 PM on June 11, 2009


One thing that always seems to infest this sort of conversation is a painful lack of understanding of the value of time. "Free downloading" is not free if you have to seek it out, fiddle with downloads, wait for peers that might never exist, and then have it turn out that your files are of questionable quality, or not even what you thought they were. The majority of these "free downloads" are by people who can't afford them. The folks who can, often have better things to do with their time than fiddling with BitTorrent.
posted by explosion at 7:06 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Interesting article Lee Marvin, the superiority of a metal standard implication at the start was kind of off putting though.

"I'm not convinced that those figures accurately reflect the real situation of most Americans, as there are far more 'socially necessary' recurring costs inflicted on the average family today compared with even thirty years ago (cellphones being but one of the more recent examples)."

This of course is what makes CPI an essentially biased metric. How do you compare the "value" vs cost of an 1920s automobile vs. one from the 50s, 70s, 90s, and one today. They are vastly better in every way one can measure (except coolness maybe). A similar thing with cellphones, cable/satellite TV, out of season fruit, two or more cars, more bathrooms in a house than bedrooms, vacations requiring plane travel, games consoles, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Practically no one needs these things (I get by just fine without most of them), how does one adjust CPI, GDP etc. for their impact.

Anecdotally speaking my parents didn't eat much that they didn't grow themselves (I'd kill for my grandmother's garden). How do you put a price on half an acre of potatoes manually seeded from last years left overs?

I'd be really interested if a less biases source had published some numbers after giving this some though. It's pretty expensive to do this analysis and I never seem to see any numbers from anyone without an obvious agenda. The only reason I'm pretty sure real wages have declined in the last couple decades is no one seems to be saying otherwise but I'm pretty sure I'm living better than people in my class from the 40s.

roystgnr writes "Really? Someone had better go fix Wikipedia."

The problem is those charts are based on numbers that a known to be biased.
posted by Mitheral at 7:09 PM on June 11, 2009


The folks who can, often have better things to do with their time than fiddling with BitTorrent.

Once you get your router's ports forwarded and rotate in some of the larger trackers you really shouldn't have any problems. Keep seeding!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:15 PM on June 11, 2009


Or, all the music piracy/theft means that many in a certain demographic are spending less on music and thus have more disposable income to spend on other forms of personal entertainment like video games. Video game piracy is more difficult because is requires hardware modification.

Logic, it hurts.
posted by cgomez at 7:15 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Once you get your router's ports forwarded and rotate in some of the larger trackers you really shouldn't have any problems. Keep seeding!

Or just switch to Linux. Torrent downloading is so much easier on Linux.

Not that I would know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:34 PM on June 11, 2009


It's definitely earier on Linux. Especially with Transmission. You still need to forward your ports though, which is pretty easy to do. I actually found that out because when I discovered the world of torrenting for the first time, I googled the process but wasn't sure I'd done it right. So I called my ISP and asked the guy on the phone how to forward my ports. There was a pause, then a sigh, and then he said, "Look, we personally can't tell you how to do that. Did you try ... that site with the words 'port forward' in the name?" I said I had, and he said, "Well, then, you should be alright." I like the tech guys at my ISP.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:41 PM on June 11, 2009


Torrent downloading is easier on Linux? How can it become easier than "Install uTorrent, click .torrent file"? You still have to forward ports even if you run Linux, you know.
posted by ymgve at 7:52 PM on June 11, 2009


Torrent downloading is easier on Linux? How can it become easier than "Install uTorrent, click .torrent file"? You still have to forward ports even if you run Linux, you know.

Because it comes with kTorrent installed and configured to automatically search all the large torrent sites right from the program?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2009


Well, the process of torrenting became easier for me when I switched to Linux because my OS came with Transmission. And that's a client that takes much less memory than uTorrent. It's pretty streamlined and simple to use. On the other hand, by the time I switched to Linux and had gotten settled with the basics of the OS, technical details were no longer so mysterious to me anymore. So I guess really, it's only marginally easier in Linux, and the clients are less bloaty.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:58 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I adore what flapjax at midnite has had to say here, as I always do. The best songs in my life have almost always been the ones that grew on me after listening to albums ad nauseum, the ones which were more specific and had little tics and moments which meant something to me but wouldn't necessarily do anything for someone else. Those who claim that they only want the one or two singles and can do without the "filler," well... I have two truths for you.

First, as a musician (kind of) I can tell you that bands are very conscious about building "singles" into their albums in order to draw people in to hear the parts of the album they've ricked more for, gone more out on a limb for, because that's the way the fucking RIAA has set it all up. If you're only listening to the singles, you're eating the fry and missing the meat.

Secondly, very related to the first idea, the "singles" become popular because they are universal, which isn't in itself a vice by any means, but it tends almost invariably towards being shallow as well. I guess what I mean to say is that pop singles are essentially memes in musical form. So go ahead and listen to the equivalent of "All Your Base" and LOLcats to the exclusion of everything else, but being snobby about it makes you come off like a dick.

My other big issue here is with the idea that the problem is that the RIAA hasn't adapted to the new way of doing things. Here's what the RIAA actually does:

1. Sell tangible media to be used in players designed by third parties.
2. Bribe or otherwise coerce free media (e.g. Radio) to only play what they want.
3. Sign artists up to contracts which are indistinguishable from indentured servitude for the luxury of having access to a group with a monopoly over parts 1 and 2.

What in the fuck here needs to adapt? The RIAA doesn't need to be fixed. It needs to be killed with fire. It is antithetical to art and music. Function 1 is now obsolete and functions 2 and 3 are illegal (technically) and should be, respectively.

Seriously, what is worth saving about such an evil and obstructive enterprise?
posted by Navelgazer at 8:03 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oooh! Copyright violation! Someone catch that fish!

That's much less funny when it's not following a doubled-up post.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on June 11, 2009


So I guess really, it's only marginally easier in Linux, and the clients are less bloaty.

For me, it's presented an experience closest to napster--get on, search, download, without worrying about configuration of anything or spyware. It's usually pretty clear from the outset if there aren't enough peers to get a file in a reasonable amount of time (though that's almost never the case), and I've never downloaded something and had it be something else. Maybe I'm just lucky?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:05 PM on June 11, 2009


No, my experience with Transmission is similar. I search for what I want through the client and open it with it. If I don't have enough peers I just rotate in more trackers.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:10 PM on June 11, 2009


The talk only of abstract "industries" and the denial that artists* use sales of their work to live borders on psychotic at this point.

*and their descendants, which is the worst thing in the world for some reason to all the copyright-expiration fanatics


Thank you for saying this because this is what frustrates me so much in these discussions. I'm not a musician but I am an artist who makes a living off intellectual property and the constant call for dismantling copyright as a solution to anything has always seemed bizarre to me.

It should be up to the actual artists how their work is distributed and used, and that is what copyright does. Copyright is what enables artists to choose to give away their work for free (or not) if that is what they want, under their terms. If the tech community spent half as much time coming up with new ways to leverage all these technologies into business models instead of constantly bitching about what a terrible evil artists owning their own work is we wouldn't need to have this discussion, consumers would get what they want, and the RIAA would be long dead and buried.
posted by bradbane at 8:21 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Computers aren't going to get worse at copying files. That's what they do, they move bits around. What do you do now? This kind of thing is already criminalized, do they think harsh sentencing would do it? Piracy gulags? What?

It's actually not really criminalized. I mean, can you name one case where someone has gone to jail for uploading music via filesharing? In some cases you see prosecution of 'release groups', but that's about it.
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on June 11, 2009


It should be up to the actual artists how their work is distributed and used, and that is what copyright does. Copyright is what enables artists to choose to give away their work for free (or not) if that is what they want, under their terms.

Yes, if by 'should' you mean "would be if were up to me". But who decided it should be up to you? That's how copyright works now, but that's not how it worked originally (it was only for 14 years) and there isn't really any good reason why it should be that way in the future.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 PM on June 11, 2009


I'd love copyright law if it were about the artists, but it isn't, at all. The period of copyright has extended exactly as long as Disney has needed it to do so. Artists and their children have nothing to do with it.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:02 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a middle aged librarian.

You don't know shit about what I think, sonny jim.
posted by the dief at 9:18 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


this post has reminded me. I need to spend less time on MetaFilter, more time downloading. At least I've got something to show for it afterword.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 PM on June 11, 2009


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.
Nothing in there about the families of authors or inventors. In fact, the clause explicitly states that the focus of copyright is to promote progress, not a specific group of people. If (a big 'if', I grant you) "science and useful arts" can be promoted without copyright, then copyright is unnecessary.
posted by Ritchie at 9:56 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


bradbane: Copyright is what enables artists to choose to give away their work for free (or not) if that is what they want, under their terms. If the tech community spent half as much time coming up with new ways to leverage all these technologies into business models instead of constantly bitching about what a terrible evil artists owning their own work is we wouldn't need to have this discussion

...not exactly. Copyright is what gives artists protection that is essentially endless in duration. If those artists choose not to prosecute infringements, they may be found to have abandoned that protection, and forced to waive it thereafter. Thus, if an artist allowed some people to use his/her work for free, others could claim that he/she had no right to bring infringement suits against them.

Alternative licenses, like Creative Commons licenses and the GPL, are what give artists the right to give away their work for free while still being able to dictate their own terms. Many of these licenses were developed by the exact same "tech community" that you're complaining about, as a response to the deficiencies they perceived in copyright law. And these types of licenses were just held to be enforceable by the Federal Circuit in Jacobsen v. Katzer in August 2008, after enormous amounts of time and money spent on litigation by the plaintiff, a programmer whose open-source software project was ripped off, and his legal team, made up in part of "tech community" advocates from the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.

So maybe the problem isn't where you think it is.

,.-'¯`* the more you knooooooow
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:01 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Free downloading" is not free if you have to seek it out, fiddle with downloads, wait for peers that might never exist, and then have it turn out that your files are of questionable quality, or not even what you thought they were. The majority of these "free downloads" are by people who can't afford them. The folks who can, often have better things to do with their time than fiddling with BitTorrent.

Not sure which planet you are downloading from. For most any well known artist it is 30-45 seconds of time to search on Pirate Bay, two or three clicks, and you are downloading their entire discography in one easy package.

Show me any "legal" music acquisition option as simple and as that.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:52 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


mullingitover:
From TFA:
If we assume that there's roughly the same amount of discretionary spending available (which, even allowing for the credit bubble, should be roughly true; most of the credit went into houses), then it's clear who the culprit is: the games industry. By 2009, the amount spent in games and music is almost exactly the same as 1999 (though note that the music industry changed its methods from 2004).


Nice to see someone talking about the actual article. It's not downloading per se, it's the relative appeal of games vs music. Still, piracy seems to be easier for music than games, so it becomes basic economics (as someone mentioned above): if I have a limited amount of money and I can get music for free, OR pay for it; but I have to pay for games, it's no real surprise that I'm paying for games and pirating music.

At least from my own experience, I can say I'm buying less music now I pirate. Although I try to buy every album I download and decide to keep, there are plenty that I never get around to buying.

I'm liking Spotify (UK only, I think) as a streaming service that pays record companies and is free (tho' ad-supported) to me. (I'd prefer if there were no record companies and they paid the artists directly, but it's better than nothing).
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:18 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Infinite Jest

yeah,

Spotify has changed the game, it removes the need for downloading. I don't think you can use it on any mobile handsets yet, but it is coming to the iPhone soon (pro version only). The service is free to air and ad supported with a premium subscription service. They also offer 24 hour party passes for £0.99 so you can do the music at a wedding, etc.

This free to air on demand model is the future for content businesses, with revenues coming from ads, subscriptions and sponsorship deals.
posted by johnny novak at 1:10 AM on June 12, 2009


Maybe music sales are not so much down as returning to normal. When CD's came out I remember repurchasing everything I had ever bought on vinyl, cassette or eight track. When some of the early CD transfers turned out to be crap I bought the remastered versions. I'll bet a lot of people did the same. Since it's fair use to rip your CDs to mp3s the only thing I buy anymore is really new stuff. And if it were not for the ability to sample music on the internet without paying $15-20 upfront I would have bought very little in the last decade or so. From my personal experience I doubt downloads, internet radio, and the like have hurt the music industry at all. They have probably helped it more than hurt it.
posted by Tashtego at 1:12 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah videogames, is there anything you can't destroy or corrupt?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:20 AM on June 12, 2009


Cobra-high-tiger: Licenses like the GPL and CC are meaningless without the intellectual property framework of which copyright is a fundamental plank. It is what gives creators the right to impose licences on the use of their creations, which is all that the poster you were replying to is asking for.

I think the tone of this argument would be very, very different if the US had Spotify. It really has changed the game forever. There were people who set out to hack it right away and get copies of the files it streams ... But everyone looked at them oddly and went "why bother? I don't need to lug about 500gb of data, just stream what I want to me when I want it and we're done".
posted by fightorflight at 6:35 AM on June 12, 2009


Not sure which planet you are downloading from. For most any well known artist it is 30-45 seconds of time to search on Pirate Bay, two or three clicks, and you are downloading their entire discography in one easy package.

People torrent music? Why? You can google the album title plus ".rar .zip" and find pretty much anything for DDL.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:38 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the tone of this argument would be very, very different if the US had Spotify. It really has changed the game forever.

I don't know how Spotify is any different, but we have several internet streaming services here in the US -- Slacker and Pandora are all I've used -- and yeah for me it has changed the game. I don't mess with mp3s too much anymore and downright dislike physical CDs.
posted by LordSludge at 7:40 AM on June 12, 2009


Overview of Spotify for those, like me, who hadn't heard of it -- basically, it lets you play particular songs on-demand, which the Slacker & Pandora won't.
posted by LordSludge at 8:02 AM on June 12, 2009


the
posted by LordSludge at 8:02 AM on June 12, 2009


My prediction is that the phenomenon by which users seek to download and hence own a copy of a file will soon start to become less prevalent as people move towards streaming music of their choice to wherever they are...Having your extensive music library sitting on a hard drive means that you have to worry about stuff like backups, theft and whether or not you will lug the drive about whenever you travel.

I agree that streaming is growing quite a lot, but storage space is still growing much faster than bandwidth.

I believe we will have be able to carry around copies of The Set Of All Known Recorded Music* (something like the "Full MAME Roms" set) on our keychains before we'll have Instant Online Access To Any Song I Want Available Anywhere On Earth.

It will certainly be trivial to have a copy of my current music collection on every electronic device I own long before I have equivalent online access to the same music.

*Free business tip for the music industry: You can either spend the next ten years trying to make ownership of TSOAKRM a felony (which will probably require crippling your country's technology industry, possibly leading to that industry being entirely supplanted by China or India, which may happen anyway), or you can work on developing and selling people ways of exploring, indexing, and enjoying TSOAKRM. Only one of these options will earn you a profit.
posted by straight at 9:09 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


First, as a musician (kind of) I can tell you that bands are very conscious about building "singles" into their albums in order to draw people in to hear the parts of the album they've ricked more for, gone more out on a limb for, because that's the way the fucking RIAA has set it all up. If you're only listening to the singles, you're eating the fry and missing the meat.

Secondly, very related to the first idea, the "singles" become popular because they are universal, which isn't in itself a vice by any means, but it tends almost invariably towards being shallow as well. I guess what I mean to say is that pop singles are essentially memes in musical form. So go ahead and listen to the equivalent of "All Your Base" and LOLcats to the exclusion of everything else, but being snobby about it makes you come off like a dick.


I don't dispute your first point, for my favorite artists. With people I really dig, I would prefer to have an entire album, because I love their style that much. But there is a far greater number of artists, who for reasons of nostalgia, amusement, or killer party mixes, I would like to have one or two songs by, but if it's a question of buying a whole album, I wouldn't be bothered. Personally, the poppier the artist the more this is so.

My taste is broad but shallow, but I don't think that means it's crap. It's just that's I'd like to have a bite or two from all along the buffet rather than a heaping plateful of one cuisine. Shakeing the 8-Ball that is Itunes, I've got 3734 songs, 509 artists, 648 albums, and 33 genres in there. Sure, I seem to spend and awful lot of time listeing to indie rock and Nina Simone. But sometimes you want a bit of "Brown Skin Girl" or "Garbageman" or "Mack the Knife" or "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" or "Cock Mobster" or "Voodoo Woman" "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and "God Save the Queen" each have their uses.
posted by Diablevert at 9:17 AM on June 12, 2009


The intensity of people's loopy rationalizations when faced with having to pay for something rather than take it for free never ceases to amaze me.

"The music industry is to blame for making crappy music!" And you're downloading that crappy music for free because you like to torture yourself by listening to bad music? Or you mean that you only download stuff by older musicians, and everybody knows that they don't deserve to be paid for having produced non-crappy music.

"The amount people spend on video games proves that it's not music piracy that is hurting music sales!" This one (from the linked article) is so laughably stupid that it's hard to believe it isn't a parody. Guess what, if video games were as easily available in pirated formats as music is, we'd see a correspondent rise in discretionary entertainment spending on yet some other item that is currently difficult to obtain for free. Getting all your music for free sure frees up your entertainment budget for video games.

"There's no way I could ever pay for all the songs I've downloaded, therefore the music industry isn't actually losing anything from my activities." Of course not every download represents an actual "lost sale." But so what? Every single bit of music that you would have bought if there was no way for you to simply steal it does represent a direct loss to the artist and to the company that produced and markets their music.

"I only download songs to try them out before I buy them, so it's actually free marketing for the music industry that drives their sales up, not down!" For a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of music downloaders, this is actually true. The vast majority of people who say this are just lying to themselves. What they mean, at best, is that they download the album, thrash it until they're bored with it, and then decide that they "didn't like it enough to buy it." Once upon a time we had to buy the album in order to have the privilege of thrashing it until we were bored with it. I don't see why we suddenly feel that we have the right only to buy those very few CDs that we feel will keep being rewarding to us throughout our entire lives. Even the makers of disposable, one-summer pop deserve to get paid for their work.

"Why should I buy a whole shitty CD when all I want is the one good song?" Well A) buy the one good song on Itunes or Amazon.com or what have you. B) Even if that argument wasn't transparently bogus, no artist is compelled to sell their work in the form that happens to suit you. Maybe you only like the last 30 minutes of some movie, or the last two chapters of some novel, but that doesn't mean that the director or the author are required to put out separate, truncated editions on those works on pain of having their work stolen.

"Copyright isn't about protecting the artist, it's about the evil greedy corporations, man!" Sure, the evil greedy corporations want their profit. Sure, they often treat the artists like shit. I notice, though, that your deep concern for the artist's rights doesn't extend to compensating them for their creative labor when you steal the music they created. I think most artists, if given a choice between being badly ripped off by their record company and being completely ripped off by their "fans" would say that they'd prefer the former, thank you very much.

The argument for music piracy is simple: it's nice getting stuff you want for free, and knowing that you're very unlikely to be punished for doing so. At least be fucking honest about that rather than dressing your greed up in these transparently bogus rationalizations.
posted by yoink at 9:53 AM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I notice, though, that your deep concern for the artist's rights doesn't extend to compensating them for their creative labor when you steal the music they created.

Well, see, that's ignoring live music, merchandise, etc., which is how those artists actually make money. Copncert ticket sales are hitting record highs every year, even in this economy.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:14 AM on June 12, 2009


Show me any "legal" music acquisition option as simple and as that.

And if legal downloading were as easy as that, I would spend probably 5X what I currently spend on CDs (about $500/year). I just don't have the fuckin' time to spend with DRM-loaded shit, and fumbling with ripping CDs.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:43 AM on June 12, 2009


Alternative licenses, like Creative Commons licenses and the GPL, are what give artists the right to give away their work for free while still being able to dictate their own terms. Many of these licenses were developed by the exact same "tech community" that you're complaining about, as a response to the deficiencies they perceived in copyright law.

I already got beaten on this, but CC and the GPL would not be enforceable or even exist at all if it were not for copyright. Copyright is what enables content creators to choose those terms if they want and is what gives those terms teeth. CC and GPL aren't alternatives to copyright - they are copyright licenses. What they are not is business models.
posted by bradbane at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2009


bradbane - I wouldn't bother. Doctroesque nutters are as bad as record companies when it comes to talking self serving nonsense.
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on June 12, 2009


"Artists don't want to make money! If they did they'd sell T-Shirts" - repeat ad naseum.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2009


bradbane and fightorflight: Notice that nowhere have I called for the abolition of copyright, nor has anyone else that I've seen in the thread.

Regardless, I was responding to your assertion that copyright is what allows artists to give things away for free "under their terms," which is not true.

As you mentioned, doing so requires a license agreement. And for any artists who aren't (a) lawyers, or (b) working for an employer who has retained a lawyer to draft such agreements, the only way to release your work without spending large amounts of money to hire such a lawyer is by using one of those free licenses.

Anyway, criticizing the tech community for not coming up with new business models was laughable enough that I didn't think it required a response. American copyright litigation is lousy with examples of content providers actively trying to prevent the tech community from coming up with new business models. (just a few examples off the top of my head: 1 2 3 4, although I can dig up more if you want)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:44 AM on June 12, 2009


Dammit. THREAD'S OVER, ARTW DOCTOROW'D IT
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:45 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, see, that's ignoring live music, merchandise, etc., which is how those artists actually make money. Copncert ticket sales are hitting record highs every year, even in this economy.

Yes, there are certainly plenty more bullshit rationalizations one can indulge in, such as that one. Thanks for pointing that out.

(No, not all artists make their money of live music, merchandise etc. Nor is it your right to determine that those avenues remain the only viable way for artists to, in fact, make a living.)
posted by yoink at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2009


"The music industry is to blame for making crappy music!" And you're downloading that crappy music for free because you like to torture yourself by listening to bad music?

No, we're downloading the good music. The bad music is being ignored altogether.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:03 PM on June 12, 2009


No, we're downloading the good music. The bad music is being ignored altogether.

And the excuse for not paying for the good music is...?
posted by yoink at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2009


My "bullshit rationalizations" of course.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2009


My "bullshit rationalizations" of course.

Well, at least that's honest.
posted by yoink at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2009


Did you buy a T-Shirt?
posted by Artw at 2:15 PM on June 12, 2009


(No, not all artists make their money of live music, merchandise etc. Nor is it your right to determine that those avenues remain the only viable way for artists to, in fact, make a living.)

Well, luckily, I don't determine that. The business dealings of RIAA labels do.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:17 PM on June 12, 2009


One "bullshit rationalization" you've left out, yoink, was put quite succinctly in an unrelated thread. It is, I must say, not entirely without merit:
"Why do people who presumably want to make a living at something work as hard as they can to advertise the fact that they have nothing but contempt for the people whose custom they depend on to make that living?"
posted by Sys Rq at 2:29 PM on June 12, 2009


Well, at least that's honest.

In all seriousness, I will say this:

I'm sure everyone who downloads music without paying for it is aware that it's against the law. I do happen to think that concert tickets and merch is a legitimate way to compensate for doing it, but it doesn't change it being illegal. Having said that, people are evolving with the technology. They no longer want to buy entire albums, they want to be able to pick and choose what tracks they get, and they want to be able to do so with ease. If the music industry insists that people continue to buy what's fast becoming increasingly obsolete material such as CDs, people are going to continue to ignore them, and download anyway. I'm of course not saying that the industry is "forcing" people to download. But the industry needs to change to meet the demand of its consumers; not the reverse. And fortunately more bands and labels are adapting.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2009


We will be auditing you on this you know.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2009


I really hope you don't mean that in the Scientologist sense.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:39 PM on June 12, 2009


What are the last ten tracks you listened too?
How many T-Shirts and events tickets have you bought relating to those artists?
Are a reincarnation of a space alien buried in a volcano?
How many T-Shirts and events tickets are you intending to buy relating to those artists?
How do you feel about that?
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2009


I'm a little peeved at the use of the small-time artists as justification for draconian enforcement of non-copying of music files. 99.9999% of musicians (I exaggerate for effect) are not affected by copyright violations because no one would bother copying their work for profit and they, in fact, benefit by file sharing because that's the only way their work will get known. The very small percentage that could be adversely affected are not starving (or if they are it's because the record company they signed the bad deal with is getting all of the money) and they are certainly not losing revenue because of it. However, the big guys figure the image of a small indie band unable to make it because of rampant free sharing of its music is the only sympathetic one they can muster, so they perpetuate the myth.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Are there examples of bands that were victimized in this way?
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regardless, I was responding to your assertion that copyright is what allows artists to give things away for free "under their terms," which is not true.

As you mentioned, doing so requires a license agreement. And for any artists who aren't (a) lawyers, or (b) working for an employer who has retained a lawyer to draft such agreements, the only way to release your work without spending large amounts of money to hire such a lawyer is by using one of those free licenses.


How come people who are so critical of copyright seem to have no clue what it actually is or how it works?

Copyright absolutely gives artists the right to do whatever they want with their work, whether that means locking it up for eternity, charging money for it, giving it away for free, licensing specific rights to clients as needed, or giving up all rights and control completely. That choice should be up to the creator of the work and no one else. What all these armchair doctorow-esque copyright reformers want is to take that choice away from the actual artists and pretend that never paying for any content ever under any circumstances is some kind of virtue.

I am a young, self-employed artist and I write license agreements all the time. I did one this morning for a client, it took me less than a minute. I have zero legal training and have never hired a lawyer or even thought about hiring one. Artists of all kinds do this on a daily basis, you do not have to be a lawyer to do this anymore than you would need a lawyer to write up your invoices for services rendered.

I'll just post the license I wrote this morning. I licensed the copyright of a portrait I took to a musician to use in their CD:
GRANT OF RIGHTS:
Upon receipt of payment, bradbane shall grant to MyMusicianClient the following exclusive rights:

For use as: CD artwork - inside cover of album
For the product, project, or publication named: MyMusicianClient's Band Name
In the following territory: Worldwide
For the following time period of number of uses: CD run up to X number of pieces
Clearly only artists with an army of lawyers are capable of writing something like this.
posted by bradbane at 3:34 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Copyright absolutely gives artists the right to do whatever they want with their work, whether that means locking it up for eternity,

I think that's hyperbole.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:17 PM on June 12, 2009


"Copyright absolutely gives artists the right to do whatever they want with their work, whether that means locking it up for eternity,"

Unless you mean not distributing works after creation this isn't true. Copyrights expire and works out of copyright enter the public domain.
posted by Mitheral at 4:19 PM on June 12, 2009


I'm aware that copyrights expire. My point was that artists get to choose the terms under which their works are distributed, used, and profited from and all they have to do is write those terms down.
posted by bradbane at 4:26 PM on June 12, 2009


bradbane: We're talking past each other. Copyright grants its exclusive rights to the copyright owner, and the right to authorize another to exercise them under §106. A copyright owner can't magically let some people use the work for free and seek to charge others for infringement, or simply start suing people who don't use their work in the way they want. This is where license agreements come in. Hence, what I was saying earlier (and what you seem to acknowledge later in this very post, which is that a license is needed to grant limited control of your rights) - copyright alone doesn't do it all by itself.

And great, yeah. It didn't take a team of lawyers to draft the simple license that you reproduced here for us. And I hope you never have to litigate it in court, either, because there is a whole lot left untouched that's present in a lot of professionally-drafted licenses, such as a clause for termination if the license is breached, a disclaimer that this is the full integration of your agreement, etc. You didn't even use the names of any of the actual exclusive rights. I assume you intend to grant MyMusicianClient the right to reproduce your photo, but you sure has hell didn't make it clear that you aren't granting him the right to prepare derivative works. Not to mention that you didn't take into account all kinds of other cases that might arise, such as: Can MyMusicianClient use the cover artwork in promotional material reproduced in flyers or local newsmagazines or elsewhere advertising the availability of his new CD? If MyMuscianClient makes his album available via CDBaby or iTunes or elsewhere, and copies of the image are distributed with each album download, do those count against the total? And so on.

Maybe you don't care about these details anyway, and it's a moot point. But you aren't every artist, either. Moreover, license agreements for photographs are a fucking walk in the park compared to those necessary for someone who writes and records a song. And other clients may be more likely to breach the license agreement, or more willing to get litigious over the terms, than yours are. In none of these cases would a license like the one you drafted be sufficient.

I'm glad you're satisfied with your license agreements. Plenty of artists want something that will grant them some degree more control and protection, and I'm glad there are people offering them online for free, even if they are somehow involved in the "tech community" you're so eager to hate on.

==================
Side note, to you and Artw and probably others:

I can't stand Doctorow and he doesn't speak for me. So when you say that I want to "take that choice away from the actual artists and pretend that never paying for any content ever under any circumstances is some kind of virtue" after quoting me saying something entirely unrelated, it doesn't do anything to advance the argument and it's incredibly frustrating. I'm an actual fucking artist and I like getting paid, and there is no way in which that is inconsistent with recognizing that current American copyright law is absurd and needs reform. Moreover, I clearly DO know what it is and how it works, so unless you want to drop the ad hominems and argue with what I'm actually SAYING instead of dismissing a facile caricature of how you imagine I think and behave, I'm done with this conversation.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:27 PM on June 12, 2009


MentalWimp and Mitheral: In his defense, if things keep going the way they have been throughout the 20th century, nothing created in America will ever enter the public domain again. So, he has a point!
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:28 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Copyright, shmopyright. Don't y'all ever get tired of that swingset?

There's another issue to argue about: Choice.

To buy or sell music online, there are but a handful of venues.

Oh, who am I kidding? There's essentially only one, and we all know what it is.

In order to access this venue, one must first download and install a frustratingly slow, outrageously bloated, insanely resource-heavy, and ultimately wholly redundant piece of software--a glorified AOL-esque walled-garden web browser slash ad delivery system--plus a bunch of other stuff no one wants or needs or uses.

Next, one must "join up" for no good reason. Don't have a credit card? I guess you can uninstall all that software now. (I suppose you could always just fill out the first application that comes in the mail and spend! spend! spend! -- What could possibly go wrong?)

Once signed up, one browses all the 256kbit/s AAC files priced at a dollar a piece. Huh. CDs also cost roughly a dollar a song, and they're physical objects that have to be designed and manufactured and packaged and shipped and sold. That's a lot of overhead! These 256kbit/s AAC files are strings of code transferred from one computer to another. Why do they cost a dollar? What am I paying for? How much is profit, and who gets it?

Is it this guy?

Now, lest this diatribe be read as merely pro-consumer (or, worse, pro-thief), let it be known that this monopoly, like all monopolies, cuts both ways. It's not just that consumers are denied choice; so are the artists who would like to sell their music online. In this sense, the iTunes store is likely just as bad on content providers as any torrent site, if not worse.

With music downloads, the Means of Production doesn't matter nearly as much as the Means of Distribution. Most of the time, no one controls the former (talent + studio time) but the artists themselves; the latter, however, is controlled (and how!) by you-know-who. Music has become, to be blunt, an Apple product.

Compound Apple's iffiness with the RIAA's, and, well, the winners are few.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


One "bullshit rationalization" you've left out, yoink, was put quite succinctly in an unrelated thread. It is, I must say, not entirely without merit:

"Why do people who presumably want to make a living at something work as hard as they can to advertise the fact that they have nothing but contempt for the people whose custom they depend on to make that living?"


I may not like someone's business or their business model, that doesn't give me license to shoplift their product.

The same argument applies to your anti iTunes rant (oh yes, I'm sure all those people listening to pirated music on their iPods are only doing so because of their fierce opposition to Apple's tyrannical hold on the music industry. Why, if they could buy directly from the artists or course they'd pay for their music!).
posted by yoink at 5:06 PM on June 12, 2009


And I hope you never have to litigate it in court, either, because there is a whole lot left untouched that's present in a lot of professionally-drafted licenses, such as a clause for termination if the license is breached, a disclaimer that this is the full integration of your agreement, etc. You didn't even use the names of any of the actual exclusive rights.

Well I didn't copy and paste the entire thing, and this isn't the only license I have for this image & client. I use standard, professionally-drafted forms from my professional organization (looking on Amazon it looks like there are plenty of similar handbooks for musicians and other artists). I am well aware it can get much more complicated, and I do enlist the help of others for particularly complicated usages. I am just tired of this talking point that copyright and licensing is exclusively the tool of faceless corporations and evil armies of lawyers out to oppress progress and freedom at every stroke of the pen. I am the little guy, and I do this all the time for the benefit of both myself and my clients.

You are right that every artist and industry has different needs as far as licensing goes. The beauty of copyright is the huge variety of works it covers and the endless ways that it allows artists to get their work out there under the terms they set. You can have as little or as much control over your work as you want. This is why I don't think copyright needs to be reformed* or overhauled in any major way - it's only as restrictive (or free) as the creator of the work chooses.

Anyways, my problem with the "tech community" (not you specifically) is that no one seems to be interested in using any of the exciting new technologies we have to enable artists to reach their audiences, bypassing assholes and middlemen like the RIAA or MPAA, and get paid. Copyright isn't the problem, the lack of viable business models is. Doing away with whatever techies think is "absurd" about copyright isn't going to solve that problem. If less restrictive copyright is the answer then that solution is just a license away, no legislative overhaul needed and no need to take that choice away from artists.

But of course it's not surprising that most anti-copyright people (not you specifically) aren't interested in that, because it means they would have to actually pay for content.

* except I think there should be a fair-use exception for people archiving works, which is what the whole Orphan Works thing originally started out as
posted by bradbane at 5:14 PM on June 12, 2009


oh yes, I'm sure all those people listening to pirated music on their iPods are only doing so because of their fierce opposition to Apple's tyrannical hold on the music industry.

Congratulations on a point so spectacularly missed.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:30 PM on June 12, 2009


Congratulations on a point so spectacularly missed.

Sigh. And the rationalization train keeps rolllin' on down the tracks. You don't like iTunes compression rates. That doesn't give you a right to steal music. You don't like their cost structure? That doesn't give you a right to steal music. You don't like their program? That doesn't give you a right to steal music.

The music industry may be fucking up everything royally. There may be a much better business model out there than the ones they're employing. None of that gives you a right to download copyrighted music for free.

It's all just a big, transparent rationalization.
posted by yoink at 6:08 PM on June 12, 2009


This is getting a little heated isn't it? For most people, downloading music is morally on a par with jaywalking, except less risky for the criminal. Show me the creators who have actually been hurt by downloading. Tell me their names. Enumerate and quantify their hurts.
posted by Ritchie at 8:39 PM on June 12, 2009


Show me the creators who have actually been hurt by downloading.

There are too many of them to do that. There are millions of them. Downloads cut into sales, and that hurts creators who depend on sales as part of their livelihood.

Enumerate and quantify their hurts.

Again, that's a task too vast to be undertaken here in a MeFi comment. Suffice to say that some musicians lose out on income in the hundreds of dollars, some in the thousands, some (I reckon) in the millions. It's lost income, Ritchie, and for musicians, it's real. That's so difficult to accept, or understand?

It sems pretty simple to me. Until very recently (historically speaking), if you wanted to own recorded music, you generally had to pay for it. Taking into account certain facts about artists not always receiving their fare share of the proceeds, we can still say that artists often received some share of the proceeds. When there are NO proceeds, artists don't receive ANYTHING. The music they recorded and made available for sale is not being sold, it's being downloaded for free. By people who would have (theoretically) paid something for it otherwise.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:00 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"It's all just a big, transparent rationalization."

Man, I love when people are like, you can't possibly sincerely believe what you say—it must be a cover for your sinister agenda!

I've just got this image of you in tights saying, well, I dislike Prince John's tax policy as much as the next serf, but that stealing is just plain wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno, flapjax; I have pretty clear memories of a documentary about musicians being forced by the music companies to front the cash (or take a loan) to create music videos, which they were still responsible for if the album sales didn't materialize. Thus you end up with a couple Chers and a fucking pile of people who have been taken for a serious ride by BMI.

The big music companies are Actively Bad, and I feel no obligation to act according to their profit-driven vision of morality. I decide my own ethics. My particular musical solution involves using a lot of emusic.com - cheap as hell, supports artists not tied to The Beast, BMI - and a bit of torrenting. I don't find this unethical in the slightest.

(Last ten tracks: an Alan Watts recording. Borrowed from a friend, so perhaps technically pirated. However, Alan has been dead for twenty-five years, so I don't imagine he minds. Or would have minded, anyways. I did buy a book of his a while back, second-hand, though no T-Shirts, and, of course, live shows are out of the question.)
posted by kaibutsu at 1:06 AM on June 13, 2009


Anyways, my problem with the "tech community" (not you specifically) is that no one seems to be interested in using any of the exciting new technologies we have to enable artists to reach their audiences, bypassing assholes and middlemen like the RIAA or MPAA, and get paid. Copyright isn't the problem, the lack of viable business models is.


Firstly I'd ask why this is the responsibility of the 'tech community' not the artists or the record companies?

Second, I'd say that there are a huge range of solutions being offered, which aren't being used (or not widely).

1. The Spotify model: streaming music to the desktop. Huge range of artists available. Users pay either a monthly fee, or get a free, ad-supported version. The rights societies get paid a small fee per track. [Problem: how do we know that the rights societies are distributing the money to the relevant artists?]

2. The emusic solution: a monthly subscription fee gets you downloadable MP3s, at a more reasonable price than iTunes

3. The loss-leader solution: give the music away, make money from merchandising, concert sales, or related things (fans pay to hang out with the band, go backstage, etc: people like Nine Inch Nails and Kristen Hersh do this).

4. The tip-jar model: stick your music on your site, make it freely available, ask fans to donate if they like it (people like Kristen Hersh, Wilco and Radiohead have done this).

5. [My suggestion]: the subscription torrrent model. PirateBay (or whoever) hosts torrents and collects a monthly subscription fee. Most of it goes to the artists, divided up in proportion to how often their albums are downloaded. Rest is costs and profit for the host. There's basically no cost to the artists/record labels in terms of distribution. An indie artist can record an album cheaply, stick it on the torrent site, and hope word-of-mouth makes it popular. A bigger artist can sign to a record company, who pays for recording and promotion of the album, in return for money from sales. I'd easily pay $10/month for something like this. Tie in enough people paying at that rate, and there would be more money spent on recorded music than there is now.

6. Treat your fans like enemies and criminals and sue them. Hey, that could work.

Go take a look on Techdirt, they've got a lot more suggestions of possible ways to make money from giving recorded music away for free. It is not true that the tech community is offering no solutions. It is true that most of the music industry is not listening (probably because most of the music industry is the recording industry - and while artists might make money from giving music away, the record companies will have a harder time doing so. But I'm not shedding many tears for them).
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:26 AM on June 13, 2009


I think the record companies just got too greedy. When I was a kid, my folks owned maybe 40 LP records. They were from artists they liked, they listened to them fairly often, and buying a record was, if not a big deal, at least something they considered before they plunked down their $9.99.
When I was a teenager, I spent a huge proportion of my meager income on music, and probably owned 100 LPs and cassettes before they were supplanted by CDs.
I own a few hundred CDs. The music industry has banked a lot more money from me than it did from my parents generation, and the results are visible - rock stars are obscenely paid, even in this age where apparently nobody is buying music.
My top dozen favourite artists are nearly all independent musicians to some extent, in terms of not appearing in the top 100 charts. I buy their CDs, and their T-shirts and go to their gigs.
My favourite artist is Darren Hanlon, a small time Aussie folk/rock guy. I religiously buy everything he produces, I see him live whenever I can. I suspect he probably earns less than me, but he seems to travel the world and have a good time with his chosen career, which I am very happy about.
At the other extreme is a band like Guns and Roses. As a 16yro I got a copied tape of Appetite for Destruction, a couple of years later I bought it on CD. That disc has gone to the graveyard, but if anybody could think I would have a moments hesitation in downloading it, be reassured, I recently did so my kids could hear it.
Nearly everything easily gathered by piracy is by acts that are millionaires already. In my lifetime my parents have bought lots of Simon &U Garfunkel records, and seen them live, my wife bought plenty of their records too. I own on CD every album, and I've got a fucking $150 ticket to see them next weekend. I owe them nothing for any track I download, at least in my moral picture.
In the grey area are indie-ish bands that I like but might rely on record sales for income. Ben Kweller is an example for me. I've seen him live 4 times, bought two shirts and three albums. His latest I haven't listened to yet. I'll probably pirate it. But this is a guy that gets paid $15,000 a night for a live gig. I'm not really crying tears for him if he misses out on my CD sale.
I firmly believe that downloading doesn't do anything to hurt the artists who could possibly be in any position to suffer, but I will concede it shaves some percentages off the mega-stars. And fuck-em. If I could shave some percentages off top basketballers, or top fashion designers or top authors or Bill Gates (well, I might owe him a few dollars) I would.
The people arguing that pirating is morally wrong are arguing that immensely fat riches is morally right. And it ain't.
posted by bystander at 8:18 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


"That doesn't give you a right to steal music."

No one is stealing anything.
posted by Mitheral at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2009


Yoink: Ffs, they're not excuses or justifications or "rationalizations"; they're reasons. Not Why should they, but Why do they.

Consider:

-Perhaps fewer people would download illegally if there were fewer reasons to do so.

-Perhaps removing as many of those reasons as possible would be a more effective means of damage control than the decade-long game of Whack-A-Mole the RIAA has heretofore been playing.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2009


To be honest, the last 20 tracks I've listened to are:

4 "illegal" remixes (Janelle Mornae, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cristina Aguilera and Puff Daddy) released through blog leaks
9 songs from an album I bought at a live show (Nomo's Invisible Cities—the best thing they've put out and fucking awesome awesome awesome)
2 Carl Craig live set bootlegs
7 Witch songs from an out of print '82 vinyl rip

So, yeah, this whole "YER A-STEALIN' WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?!INTERROBANG!"? Fuggov, man. I listen to more music, I love more music, I buy more music than you do. So ride a cold dildo and leave me alone.

(I thought about a trolling "But I put 'em up as mixes on my blog" but felt too weary.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:01 PM on June 13, 2009


22 tracks, actually. I've been meeting with this couple for their commitment ceremony and while I'm supposed to be writing their vows, they got me too drunk to math.
posted by klangklangston at 5:02 PM on June 13, 2009


> Dief, you are definitely a librarian, but you are most definitely not "middle-aged".
posted by djfiander at 5:19 PM on June 13, 2009


Let's look back, shall we?

"Napster founder Shawn Fanning's anti-corporate, student-friendly rhetoric (his goal, famously, was "to take down the record industry and give away free stuff!") gave a legitimacy to freeloading, making anyone with a modem think they were slaying old-media Goliaths, rather than – as was more usually the case – swerving copyright and depriving struggling bands of potential income."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:47 AM on June 14, 2009


This whole debate is so pointless.

The fact is that before about 100 years ago, if a musician wanted to be paid for playing music, he had to play it live for an audience.

Then a technological change made it possible for a musician to play music once but charge people over and over for listening to it. If someone wanted to hear the musician pay, they had to buy a physical object from the musician.

Now another technological change has all but erased that ability. If a musician records some music and releases it, it is not physically possible to require people to pay him before they listen to him. Making a recording in 2009 is almost exactly the same as playing music on a street corner. Everyone can hear you, whether they put money in your guitar case or not.

We're back to the way it was 100 years ago: if you want to get paid for playing music, you have to play it for a live audience.
posted by straight at 9:15 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


YOU FORGOT T-SHIRTS!
posted by Artw at 9:25 PM on June 14, 2009


But of course it's not surprising that most anti-copyright people (not you specifically) aren't interested in that, because it means they would have to actually pay for content.

This is bullshit. I have no problem paying for content. I would pay more than they are asking for legitimate, DRM-free files. I do have a problem with distributors sucking my valuable time through their DRM straw when I innocently change computers or players. Now, if I were 17 again and had all the time in the world, I suppose I wouldn't mind, but I would have very little money to spend on music compared to how much I have now.

So, it's not the greed, it's the stupidity.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:36 AM on June 15, 2009


In the grey area are indie-ish bands that I like but might rely on record sales for income. Ben Kweller is an example for me. I've seen him live 4 times, bought two shirts and three albums. His latest I haven't listened to yet. I'll probably pirate it. But this is a guy that gets paid $15,000 a night for a live gig. I'm not really crying tears for him if he misses out on my CD sale.

Nice of you to decide for him what's a "reasonable" amount of money for him to earn from his creative labor; and also to decide that he's not allowed to earn it from just working in the studio, but that he has to go on tour--I'll be he is really thrilled at the "support" you give him.

I wonder if any of you people would go into an art gallery and say "holy crap, $10,000 for that etching? That's clearly far too high a price; I think I'll just steal it. After all, the artist can always print another one!"

Is the only thing that stops you doing that the likelihood that you'd get caught?
posted by yoink at 2:05 PM on June 15, 2009


Is the only thing that stops you doing that the likelihood that you'd get caught?

Whether I would do it or not isn't that relevant - if paper and ink were free then yes, lots of people would do it.
posted by GuyZero at 2:11 PM on June 15, 2009


I've just got this image of you in tights saying, well, I dislike Prince John's tax policy as much as the next serf, but that stealing is just plain wrong.

The sheer blinding stupidity of this analogy (taxes that are imposed an an entire citizenry being compared to prices being charged for a creator's product) might conceal something instructive that lies behind it: the way the music thieves justify their theft to themselves is by beginning from the assumption that they have a right to receive access to all the music that they want to hear in much the same way that we might say that people have a right to have access to clean water or (in civilized countries) medical care. Then you can shift the grounds of the debate over to what is a reasonable "user-pays" contribution that the music-consumer might pay to keep that steady supply of music coming.

If you perform this magical trick of assuming that the music-consumer has a presumptive right to own any music ever recorded, then the various loony arguments advanced in defence of music piracy begin to make sense. It's about "fair burdens" (a la taxes or property rates or water rates) rather than about "fair price." But of course, the magic trick is, like all magic tricks, a fake. If a musician creates a recording then they have every right to determine under what circumstances and at what price that recording should be allowed to be sold, just as an artist who paints a picture has every right to determine who will be allowed to purchase that picture and (until such time as it is sold) who will be allowed to produce reproductions of it.

This, of course, is why the pro-piracy brigage has to keep the discourse firmly focused on the music industry rather than on the artists because you can kinda-sorta see the music industry as like the municipal water supply: they just pump out the product, and we find some reasonably equitable way of ensuring that the product keeps on being pumped. But, of course, that simply ignores the fact that the artist is the one who chose to enter into a contractual agreement with the record company to sell their products. The artist has determined that they are willing to accept a certain cost-and-profit-sharing relationship with that company and when you then go ahead and steal that record company's product (all the while pissing and moaning, of course, about how that company doesn't produce any good music!) you are stealing directly from the pocket of the artist. If you think the record company is charging too high a price, then you have every right not to buy the product that they have put on the market; just as when you think Nike charges too much for a pair of shoes, you have the right not to buy them. What you don't have is the right--legal or moral--to say "oh well, fuck them, I'll just steal the song instead."

Of all the many ironies that haunt this whole debate, the fact that the pro-piracy brigade are the ones who are most prone to shedding crocodile tears for the ways in which the record companies trample on the "rights of the artist" is perhaps the most bitter.
posted by yoink at 2:22 PM on June 15, 2009


if paper and ink were free then yes, lots of people would do it.

Oh, right, of course: it's the terrible burden of buying the replacement paper that stops people from doing this.

Do you people even listen to yourselves?
posted by yoink at 2:23 PM on June 15, 2009


I am not justifying it - the simple fact is that given zero costs, yes, people can and will steal intellectual property. I'm not saying they should or that it's good. I'm just saying they will.
posted by GuyZero at 2:28 PM on June 15, 2009


I wonder if any of you people would go into an art gallery and say "holy crap, $10,000 for that etching? That's clearly far too high a price; I think I'll just steal it. After all, the artist can always print another one!"

I'd have no qualms about taking a high-definition photograph of it. The days in which museums can prevent people from doing that are almost gone.

If a musician creates a recording then they have every right to determine under what circumstances and at what price that recording should be allowed to be sold

Whether a musician theoretically should have that right or not (a right no musician had before the invention of recorded music) is beside the point. It is physically impossible.

Telling people they can't share a copy of a recording that's sitting on their hard drive is as ridiculous as telling them they can't forward a funny Dave Barry column that someone e-mailed them.
posted by straight at 2:32 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I wonder if any of you people would go into an art gallery and say 'holy crap, $10,000 for that etching? That's clearly far too high a price; I think I'll just steal it. After all, the artist can always print another one!'"

"Pirates" aren't stealing anything.
posted by Mitheral at 2:35 PM on June 15, 2009


yoink: Of all the many ironies that haunt this whole debate, the fact that the pro-piracy brigade are the ones who are most prone to shedding crocodile tears for the ways in which the record companies trample on the "rights of the artist" is perhaps the most bitter.

As has been mentioned several times already (including in the Goldacre article) and so far not addressed by any dissenters, the "pro-piracy brigade" is ten times more likely to pay for music than those who don't pirate. So while your rant has some good points ("the industry" is a middleman that passes along some money to actual artists also, who aren't to be forgotten), it appears to be directed at a strawman who merely bitches about the industry and freeloads everything. The more nuanced reality is that a lot of music fans bitch about the industry, freeloads between some low amount and some enormous amount of music, and then still wind up spending more money supporting artists than those who don't download.

Is the only thing that stops you doing that the likelihood that you'd get caught?

As must be pointed out every time we have one of these arguments, an mp3 is not a tangible good. Downloading a copy of an mp3 does not leave the artist with one less. That it is a lost sale is a more tenable argument, but as many many people have argued, a lot of people use downloading as a way of sampling music these days. They'll download a ton of music they're not sure they want to buy and end up deleting most of it. If any major CD store chains weren't bankrupt, it would be just like going into one of those stores and checking a CD out at one of the listening stations before buying it. Is this unfairly depriving the artists of their money? Is there a discernable difference between listening to three songs off a CD in a record store and then not buying it, vs. listening to three tracks off a downloaded album and then not buying it?

A lot of times they'll actually go buy the albums they like, although I'm in no way arguing that there is a 1:1 kept download:purchased album ratio. I'm merely saying that the "downloading is exactly like theft" argument is flawed. But you know what? Downloaders are prosecuted FAR more harshly than people who actually DO engage in theft. Jammie Thomas infringed the equivalent of two CDs, and was charged $222,000 in statutory fines. I bet she's wishing she just HAD shoplifted two CDs, ffs.

Which brings us around to what most people are calling for: a more balanced, more reasonable approach. Not every download is a lost sale. Not every download should expose someone to up to $150,000 of liability. Downloaders should still purchase music when they can (and, as the above-linked study suggests, they do). New, legal alternatives that both are affordable for consumers AND compensate artists (like Spotify, mentioned above) are IDEAL. And content industries could probably spend their money more wisely developing those alternatives than using the legal apparatus to defend old, also-legal alternatives that are no longer economically viable, to the detriment of both consumers and artists (and I say "artists" since these legal battles are waged using RIAA money, which comes out of artist sales...).

It's like people say about those ads before movies on DVD where they're like "YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CAR!!!" Yeah, I wouldn't steal a car. But if I didn't have enough money to actually buy the car in question, and I could get my own copy almost instantaneously, without removing any of the cars on the lot that the dealer could still sell for money, and there was a negligible chance of being caught, I'd sure consider infringing that car
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:57 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The sheer blinding stupidity of this analogy (taxes that are imposed an an entire citizenry being compared to prices being charged for a creator's product) might conceal something instructive that lies behind it: the way the music thieves justify their theft to themselves is by beginning from the assumption that they have a right to receive access to all the music that they want to hear in much the same way that we might say that people have a right to have access to clean water or (in civilized countries) medical care."

No more stupid than your repeated assertion that copyright infringement is stealing—in fact, less so, because mine was intentionally facetious.

And you're beginning with the unsupportable assumption that creators hold inalienable rights to their creations. While I would generally let this slide in the interest of eliminating needless dickering in conversation, since you're playing the prick, I'll note that the presumption of copyright protection starts with the idea that the public owns the work, that the work comes from individual reinterpretation of public property, and that we find this beneficial to protect, so we do so through legislation. You're making the morally infantile mistake of confusing the law with justice, and arguing morality from an assumption of law.

So unless you want to dial back your apoplexy and address this like an adult, I'll treat you like any other ideologue: You're wrong and you can't stop me, so fuck off.
posted by klangklangston at 3:32 PM on June 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some six years ago, I had an internship that included a class with a lawyer from the RIAA. He kept insisting that if you illegally download music you will be sued, and you will go to jail.

I said, "Good luck with that."

He asked if I downloaded, and I said I did. He said I would be stopped, I would be fined and sued and prosecuted.

I said, "Good luck with that."

His face turned red, and he shouted, "You will go to jail!"

I said, "Good luck with that."

Six years later, I'm not in jail. No one I know has been warned, caught or prosecuted.
posted by klangklangston at 3:38 PM on June 15, 2009


By the way: for those technological determinists among you (you know, the "it was reasonable to pay for recordings of music back in the day that they couldn't easily be copied, but now that it's easy to copy them, we obviously shouldn't pay for them!" argument) a couple of questions:

A) Does this apply to live concerts as well? That is, as video and recording technology gets more and more sophisticated and easier and easier to conceal, it's going to be trivially easy soon to skip paying for a concert ticket because you know you'll be able to download a high-quality sound recording/video of the whole thing the next day. Does this kind of piracy become "fair" because of the change in technology, or would you continue to support efforts by the concert promoters to prevent fans from making such recordings? (And please, don't cop out with "such recordings will never be that good"--the question is about the impact of technological change: assume for the sake of the argument that the technology does develop to the point where the sound quality is as good as a professional "live recording").

B) Let's say you go back in your time machine to the dim dark days when music was not easily copiable by the average punter and you're a working musician, making a living off your album sales. Let's now say that you discover that there's someone in the pressing-plant that physically makes your albums who is taking copies of the albums, selling them to people for the price of the vinyl, and slipping the vinyl-money back into the factory's coffers. Would you say "bravo! This is clearly a victimless crime and this brave individual is merely bending to information's inherent desire to be free!" or would you feel that this guy deserved to get a pink slip?
posted by yoink at 5:26 PM on June 15, 2009


And you're beginning with the unsupportable assumption that creators hold inalienable rights to their creations.

No, I'm not. I'm beginning with the very supportable assumption that creators hold rights for a reasonable period of time (which, I would argue, would be a shorter period than currently granted under US copyright law) over their artistic creations.
posted by yoink at 5:28 PM on June 15, 2009


Then you're arguing that justice follows from law. Which is stupid and backwards. Stop being stupid and you may have better luck.
posted by klangklangston at 5:37 PM on June 15, 2009


(PS. I can dickishly mischaracterize your position all day. I will stop when your epiphany comes.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:38 PM on June 15, 2009


yoink, nobody yet has argued "now that it's easy to copy recordings of music, we obviously shouldn't pay for them!", but don't let that stop you from mischaracterizing your opponents yet again.

(for the record, I was arguing, as I'm pretty sure others were as well, that the virtually free cost of reproduction of audio recordings has altered the listening habits of music fans. And since much of this behavior does not map conceptually to the act of purchasing an album, the argument should revolve less around that metaphor)

A) I don't know, have professionally-made music DVDs ever suppressed concert demand? You know, bootlegs have been freely traded for decades now, many of them "professional quality" rips directly from the soundboard, and I haven't heard of any negative impact on ticket sales. I seriously doubt there's going to be any competition between Blu-Ray concert rips with 5.1 audio and actually standing 10 feet away from an artist you like as they play, live, surrounded by other people engaging in this same experience. Calling objections to the gaping flaw in your argument "cop outs" is unfair, since your appeal to some form of ultrarealistic holographic VR helmet recording that could somehow also vibrate your body and simulate interaction with your peers in the crowd is an implausible fantasy anyway.

B) I guess so? I've been a musician for over a decade and never been a "working musician" though, so I'm probably not the right person to ask. Every band I've been in has given away free copies of our CDs to anybody who wanted them, so honestly I'd be stoked that people enjoyed and wanted to hear my music. Oh, except you specified in the hypo that I make my money from the sale of music, which I wouldn't do. Tricky!

Here's a hypo for you: Let's say you go back in your time machine to way earlier in this thread and you're the type of commenter who wants to acknowledge the point that people have made that downloaders are 10x more likely to buy music than non-downloaders. How do you think you would respond to that? Do you think it would force you to reconsider the caricature of downloader behavior that you have in mind? Or would you continue to bend over backwards to ignore it, and make up fictional examples so you could continue demonizing some group you obviously hold in contempt?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 5:54 PM on June 15, 2009


btw, back on 9/16/2003, when arguing to overturn the FCC's regulations that allowed radio station ownership consolidation, Sen. Feingold had this to say:

As we begin to examine the issue of file-sharing, and look for ways to protect copyright owners and artists from infringement of the copyrights on works they struggled to create, we should keep in mind that there used to be a time when American young people heard new music on the radio, when they explored the variety of musical styles and genres by flipping channels. DJs used to make a name for themselves by playing new artists, or taking changes on records other DJs had overlooked. New local programmers do not have the freedom to deviate from the corporate playlist, and young people are turning off their radios and booting up file-sharing programs like Kazaa.

The homogenization of American radio is a grim predictor of the consequences of deregulation. If allowed to stand, the FCC rules will ravage the independence and character of other forms of media, from television to newspapers, the way radio has already been ravaged. This resolution is our chance to say no.


What a fucking lunatic! Ranting against "big industries" like radio in a craven attempt to justify his dirty dirty downloading habits! Why does he hate artists so much??? Stop reading boingboing, Russ!
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 5:59 PM on June 15, 2009


A) Does this apply to live concerts as well? That is, as video and recording technology gets more and more sophisticated and easier and easier to conceal, it's going to be trivially easy soon to skip paying for a concert ticket because you know you'll be able to download a high-quality sound recording/video of the whole thing the next day.

Hi there! I tape random stuff that strikes my fancy, so I've given this some thought.

Tapers are already around. Many bands like them, & more at least tolerate them. Bands such as the Grateful Dead & Jonathan Coulton encourage taping, & it doesn't seem to have hurt their tours. Instead people go & join in singalongs.

For good stuff, recordings are a pale reflection of being there. Not just for possibly technical reasons like "not feeling the thumps resonate in your chest." You shouldn't go to shows just for the stuff onstage, but to hang out with like-minded people. At conferences, chatting in hallways in between presentations can be the good stuff.

People go to live events to actually be there. Watching movies in the theater, as part of an audience, is a different experience from watching it at home. Being able to participate & ask questions of visiting authors is different than watching it later.


B) ... (analogy removed)

I've lost patience with reasoning via hypothetical situations. "Hey, situation A is just like situation B if you leave out all the useful details & go nuts with inventing other details" is really just preaching to the choir. It's lazy.
posted by Pronoiac at 6:32 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


for those technological determinists among you ... Does this apply to live concerts as well?

I think we are already at the point where if you do something interesting with a crowd of people around, it is foolish to assume that no-one is taking pictures or video of you.

So yeah, I think a business model that assumes no one will make recordings at concerts is like a business model that assumes it never rains.

Just as technology created something (recordings) that a musician could "own" and sell, now technology has changed what is possible for a musician to have an expectation of "owning".

Can you sell bottled water to people who have drinkable tap water in their homes? Yes. Can you sell data (musical recordings, movies, video games, whatever) in an environment where data can be trivially copied and distributed? Maybe.
posted by straight at 11:00 PM on June 15, 2009


A) Does this apply to live concerts as well? That is, as video and recording technology gets more and more sophisticated and easier and easier to conceal, it's going to be trivially easy soon to skip paying for a concert ticket because you know you'll be able to download a high-quality sound recording/video of the whole thing the next day. Does this kind of piracy become "fair" because of the change in technology, or would you continue to support efforts by the concert promoters to prevent fans from making such recordings?

My favourite band at the moment is Wilco. They encourage people to tape and share their shows. You can find hundreds online. I've just got back from a week in Portugal, mainly to see them play. I met people who'd flown from the US just to follow the tour. No matter how good you make the recording, I will still go to live gigs, because the experience is completely different from listening to a recording: the vibration of the bass, the sheer volume, the experience of being part of a crowd, the chance to drunkenly yell stupid things at Jeff Tweedy and have him take the piss back, etc etc. Proper live albums already sound better than the actual shows, because they've been remastered. It doesn't seem to be hurting live music; live music is booming (I almost wish it wasn't, I keep missing out on tickets because shows sell out).

So basically, I'd say it would be stupid and pointless of promoters and artists to prevent fans from making and trading their own recordings, I don't believe it hurts the artists. [Is it even illegal to make a recording of a public performance? I was under the impression that it was more of a contractual thing - e.g. as part of the conditions of sale, the promoter says you can't record the show?]
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:42 AM on June 16, 2009


beginning with the unsupportable assumption that creators hold inalienable rights to their creations.

I don't have an iron in the rest of your battle, but this assumption isn't entirely unsupported: the right of protection of moral and material interests in works one authors is enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights (27:2) to give one example.

I don't see how you get the notion that pre-copyright or sans copyright everything automatically belongs to the people, either: the public weren't prevented from acting as if they owned the works, but that doesn't equate to actual ownership. There is no presumption as you specify it in the history of copyright law, so far as I can see.
posted by fightorflight at 4:44 AM on June 16, 2009


Simple—Everything reverts to public domain eventually, ergo public ownership. If public ownership is the ultimate position, and if it is acknowledged that all work is made in the context of other work, you can easily say that the public ownership is the default, mitigated by statute. Like I said, it's normally a point I wouldn't argue, but if yoink is going to be a dick, I'm going to make him slog through every single justification.
posted by klangklangston at 7:38 AM on June 16, 2009


Oh yeah, and the UN is an abstract political body and the universal declaration of human rights both has no true enforceable status and represents merely a congealment of vested interests and appeals to morality; they also follow from laws as they exist.

(Normally, I'm a big fan of the UN, but I do recognize its limitations.)
posted by klangklangston at 7:41 AM on June 16, 2009


Of all the depressingly childish arguments being advanced here for the consumer's right to steal whatever music happens to appeal to them, none is more transparently false than the oft-repeated mantra that because mp3s aren't "physical objects" then you can't really "steal" them. "No, you see, I'm just taking something that doesn't belong to me without paying for it--in what bizarro universe would that be called 'stealing'???"

"Stealing" isn't some kind of abstruse legal jargon; it's a plain English word with a very plain meaning. You "steal" something if you take it when you have no right to take it. There is absolutely no necessity that the thing taken must be material. Think of the common expression "he stole my idea." If someone breaks into your computer when you're at college and copies your essay so that he can hand it in as his own, did or did he not steal your essay? By your logic, you have nothing to complain about: it clearly wasn't theft because he didn't take anything material from you--right?

I call this childish because it's so patently a matter of willfully turning a blind eye to things you know perfectly well to be true because they happen not be convenient. For example, the bizarre notion that the difference between stealing a CD and stealing a bunch of mp3s is all down to the material value of the CD. But the material value of a CD, its case and the booklet is probably no more than about $1. Would you, for one second, think that someone who took CDs from a music store without paying for them "wasn't really stealing" if he left behind sufficient money to cover the material cost of the items taken? Is the guy who steals the $10,000 etching in the example I gave above "not really stealing" if he leaves behind enough money to pay for replacement paper, ink and the labor of pulling a new impression? The vast majority of the money we spend on the durable goods that we buy goes to paying for people's intellectual labor, not for the raw materials used in the item. We're paying for the work done by the designers, the R&D teams, the advertisers etc.--not for the molded plastic or what have you. It just so happens that with music it's become extremely easy to rip off all those intellectual/creative types without having to risk being caught stuffing things under your coat in a store. But the fact that that risk has been taken away doesn't make the fundamental act one iota different.
posted by yoink at 10:16 AM on June 16, 2009


Me responding to klangklangston: And you're beginning with the unsupportable assumption that creators hold inalienable rights to their creations.

No, I'm not. I'm beginning with the very supportable assumption that creators hold rights for a reasonable period of time (which, I would argue, would be a shorter period than currently granted under US copyright law) over their artistic creations.


Klangklangston's response:

Then you're arguing that justice follows from law. Which is stupid and backwards. Stop being stupid and you may have better luck.

Speaking of "stupid and backwards", KK--can you notice the flaw in your argument? I said that I think the current law is wrong, so I'm clearly not deriving my idea of "justice" from current law, am I? Do try to keep up.

I think it is a matter of self-evident "justice" that creators should be given the right to have a measure of control over their created products. I think the law ought to be written in such a way as to defend that right. I think our current laws go overboard, and if the only music you illegally download was produced by people who have been dead for 30 years (say), then I don't much care about what you're doing. On the other hand, if you're illegally downloading music made by people who are still alive and still trying to make a living from their music I think that what you are doing is offensive to my concept of 'natural justice' and it is quite just that the law defines what you are doing as illegal.
posted by yoink at 10:23 AM on June 16, 2009


Simple—Everything reverts to public domain eventually, ergo public ownership. If public ownership is the ultimate position, and if it is acknowledged that all work is made in the context of other work, you can easily say that the public ownership is the default, mitigated by statute. Like I said, it's normally a point I wouldn't argue, but if yoink is going to be a dick, I'm going to make him slog through every single justification.

It really isn't much of a "slog" to dispose of patently stupid arguments like this one. No private property rights are absolute. The state can invoke the power of eminent domain to kick you out of your house if it is in the national interest to do so. That doesn't mean that it would be right either ethically or legally for me to steal your house from you.
posted by yoink at 10:25 AM on June 16, 2009


Oh, and finally--about this much cited but apparently unobtainable study showing that pirates buy more music. I've Googled all over but can't find anything but sketchy (and triumphalist) media reports on the study (and if you notice, none of them are actually reports on the study itself, they're all reports on the short Aftenposten article about the study. Different articles characterize its findings differently, and none of them explain its methodology or the exact scope of its findings; in other words, like most media reports on scientific and sociological reports, they're completely useless.

But let us grant the reading of the report that most of the people who are reporting on it want us to buy: let us grant that people who pirate music buy 10 times as much music online as people who don't pirate music. Lets even assume that this isn't just telling us the difference between older computer users and younger computer users (i.e., old computer users neither pirate music NOR buy their music online--they buy what music they buy on CDs and they, naturally enough, buy less music overall than young people). Let's assume that it really does tell us something about pirates vs. non-pirates (remembering that we just don't know enough about the study to know if this is true).

O.K.--so what? The problem with the triumphalist reading of this finding is that it's premised entirely on the "municipal water supply" model that I outlined above. "Look, I'm pirating music, sure, but I put a steady amount of money back into the system, so that's o.k.--I'm supporting the music-pumping industry!" Yeah, that's nice, but what about the individual artists? If you steal 10 CDs worth of music by artist A and buy 10 CDs worth of music from artist B, that's nice for artist B, but artist A is still completely ripped off. In other words, if you have music in your collection that you do (or did) listen to, that you didn't pay for, that you would have paid for if you couldn't have got it for free, and you have found no way to get money back to the people who made that music then you've stolen money straight out of those people's pockets. It's no comfort to them that you're "supporting the industry" with the money you spend elsewhere. (See the post above by the guy who doesn't pay for Guns n' Roses music because they 'have enough money,' and doesn't pay for more successful indie-rock acts either because they make enough from concerts etc. etc.).

The other obvious problem with the study is that there's no comparison offered with the structure of the music market before the advent of the computer, so it's impossible to tell what the net effect of music piracy is on people's buying habits. The implication that the pro-piracy brigade wants us to embrace is that piracy is stimulating music sales--that if it weren't for piracy then these people would buy only the same amount of music as the non-pirates. But is that true? Perhaps what these figures show is simply the unremarkable fact that people who are music enthusiasts buy more music than people who aren't. If music wasn't so easy to steal, perhaps these people would buy 20 times as much music as the casual enthusiasts? Certainly when I think back to my teenage years, the people who were really into music had collections several orders of magnitude larger than most other people. They might own two or three hundred LPs (yes, pre-CD days), where most people owned just a handful. I'm sure that their contemporary equivalents are the ones who keep the P2P networks buzzing--but if they now only own 10 times the purchased music than their casual-interest peers, that represents a drop for the music industry, not a gain.
posted by yoink at 10:47 AM on June 16, 2009


"Of all the depressingly childish arguments being advanced here for the consumer's right to steal whatever music happens to appeal to them, none is more transparently false than the oft-repeated mantra that because mp3s aren't "physical objects" then you can't really "steal" them. "No, you see, I'm just taking something that doesn't belong to me without paying for it--in what bizarro universe would that be called 'stealing'???""

What have I taken? Do you still have your mp3?

I mean, you sound like some idiot savage afraid that a camera will steal your soul. And that you can't make your case without relying on bad-faith arguments just shows how confused and stupid your claims are.

"I said that I think the current law is wrong, so I'm clearly not deriving my idea of "justice" from current law, am I? Do try to keep up."

Yoink, how can I keep up when you're so far behind? Prior to a recognition and protection of copyrights, did the rights associated with copyrights exist? If you argue they did, you're arguing they're inalienable, which is obviously false, noting that those rights are limited to a time span. If they did not, then they're not rights, they're utilitarian compromise, thus outside of the moral argument that follows from rights. Society compromises and agrees to protect this class of property in order to recognize that society as a whole is better served by protecting copyright.

But in terms of a utilitarian compromise, copyright enters the moral realm of jaywalking and speed limits, where a utilitarian framework is the best and natural system of evaluation. Noting that current copyright laws are, as you agreed, poorly constructed, then as democratic sovereigns, people have the ability to extra-legally renegotiate the terms. Consequences under a legal framework exist, but there is no moral claim.

"It really isn't much of a "slog" to dispose of patently stupid arguments like this one. No private property rights are absolute. The state can invoke the power of eminent domain to kick you out of your house if it is in the national interest to do so. That doesn't mean that it would be right either ethically or legally for me to steal your house from you."

Except that you haven't disposed of the argument—don't mistake repeating the same stupid bullshit again for refutation.
posted by klangklangston at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if any of you people would go into an art gallery and say "holy crap, $10,000 for that etching? That's clearly far too high a price; I think I'll just steal it. After all, the artist can always print another one!"

Well, a $10,000 etching would likely be insured.

Solution: Insure MP3s against theft.

Musician: "Someone's stolen this MP3!"
Insurance Rep: "I'm sorry?"
Musician: "I said, 'Someone's stolen this MP3.'"
Insurance Rep: "What, that one? The one you are presently holding?"
Musician: "Yes, that's right."
Insurance Rep: "Well, in that case, may you receive my fullest congratulations on such a safe and speedy return to its rightful owner! Now, what can I do for you today? Would you like to see a pamphlet detailing our comprehensive disaster relief policies? You'd be covered in case of fire, flood, tornado, termites, complete and utter annihilation of the universe and all matter therein contained, earthquake--"
Musician: "Oh no, thank you. It's just that someone's stolen this MP3, i.e. made a copy for his or her own personal use, and I'd like my due compensation, please."
Insurance Rep: "Oh, I see! But you haven't actually lost anything materially, my good man. In order for you to receive compensation for a loss incurred, you understand, a loss must first be incurred. Yet it is fully apparent to anyone with 'alf a brain in 'is 'ead that the MP3 to which you refer, what you claim to have lost via theft, is currently on your person, just there. Therefore, I must regretfully deny your request and ask that you kindly vacate these premises. Good day."
Musician: "Yes, that's right. Someone's stolen this MP3."
Insurance Rep: "Cathy, be a dear and call security. There appears to be a crazed lunatic in my office."
posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If someone breaks into your computer when you're at college and copies your essay so that he can hand it in as his own, did or did he not steal your essay? By your logic, you have nothing to complain about: it clearly wasn't theft because he didn't take anything material from you--right?"

The materialness of the thing isn't the important part. It's the deprivation of the thing that makes stealing a higher class of crime than copyright infringement. If I copy that file off your machine I've, wait for it, copied it. If I move it onto my flash drive than ya, I've stolen it. If you make a custom chair and I come along and covet that chair there are several approaches I can take to get myself that chair. I could buy it from you. I could steal it thereby depriving you of the chair. I could take pictures and measurements and make myself an exact duplicate; this would be a copyright infringement. This may piss you off or flatter you but I haven't stolen your chair. Railing that copyright infringement = stealing just makes you appear unable to grasp the nuances of the situations.

As to the phrase "he stole my idea."; ideas aren't even copyrightable and people have sloppy language skills. Instead you can get a patent if it's truly new. Is everyone exploiting an expired patent stealing the idea?
posted by Mitheral at 12:07 PM on June 16, 2009


If someone breaks into your computer when you're at college and copies your essay so that he can hand it in as his own...

The materialness of the thing isn't the important part. It's the deprivation of the thing that makes stealing a higher class of crime than copyright infringement.


That. Also, plagiarism is an extra-nasty subset of copyright infringement, and not the least bit relevant to this topic.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:50 PM on June 16, 2009


I'm sympathetic to both sides of the "infringement = stealing" argument, but it really isn't as clear as either side want it to be.

Anti: Of course it doesn't equate to stealing -- the original item isn't lost, and copyright infringement doesn't come close to meeting the legal definitions. Calling something by the wrong name just muddies the waters, makes solutions harder to grasp and introduces all sorts of moralising.

Pro: Language is looser than the law. The infringer gains something of value without recompense to the item's owner, and that's stealing for a lot of people. And while the original item isn't lost, plenty of things are in the transaction -- particularly some portion of the artist's valuable right to control of the exploitation of their works. That's being stolen.

Given that there's a not completely unreasonable "pro" case, it's surprising there's such strong pushback against referring to it even loosely as stealing -- even though you'll hear conversations like:
"Wow, where did you get that?"
"Stole it off the internet".
posted by fightorflight at 12:52 PM on June 16, 2009


"Wow, where did you get that?"
"Stole it off the internet".


See: Humour, irony.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:56 PM on June 16, 2009


When there are NO proceeds, artists don't receive ANYTHING. The music they recorded and made available for sale is not being sold, it's being downloaded for free.

Sorry to take so long to respond, flapjax. I saw your reply to my post and meant to answer, then forgot all about it. The problem with the arguments that pop up around filesharing is that the hypotheses sound solid, but no-one ever provides any supporting evidence. Now, your hypothesis is that free downloading is costing artists. As a hypothesis, it doesn't seem all that farfetched. But a hypothesis is all it is until you've got some supporting evidence.

Now, you can turn this around and say 'well, where's your evidence, Ritchie, that downloading isn't harmful?', and to be honest I can't point to evidence that individual artists aren't being screwed. But the music industry as a whole seems to be doing just dandy even as free downloading (legal or illegal) increases. Downloading doesn't seem to be killing the music business anytime soon.

My hypothesis, for what it's worth without any specific supporting evidence, is that downloading probably does result in some lost sales, but nowhere near the kind of percentages routinely trotted out by industry lobby groups. For established artists, the impact is negligible. For obscure artists, the negative impact is mitigated by the added exposure they derive from having their music widely known, affording them opportunities to monetize their talent that they might not otherwise have had.

I don't think that's such an outrageous claim to make. You yourself have constructed many FPPs around links to YouTube featuring artists that I knew of only vaguely, or didn't know of at all. In many instances, the uploading of those videos may have infringed on copyright* (and some of them have been removed), at the same time theoretically depriving those artists of income, yet you link to them anyway. And thank Christ you do, because it's enriched my life.

* My understanding of copyright law is sketchy at best, but I think even the videos of The Five Racketeers could possibly infringe, if they date from the mid 1920s onward and if the copyright holder (whoever that is) applied for extensions at the appropriate intervals. Not likely, but possible.
posted by Ritchie at 4:43 AM on June 17, 2009


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