Lars' statement to the Comittee
September 16, 2000 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Lars' statement to the Comittee - I don't know how many lawyers co-operated for writting this, but it's the art of writing at its best. It almost convinced me to stop trading .mp3 files. What do you think about Lars' speech?
posted by kchristidis (24 comments total)
He's right. It's wrong to take without permission, especially against the express wishes of the musician, blah, blah, we've been over it 1000 times. I was perplexed to read Derek Powazek's recent essay on copyright, where he tweezes out an exemption for web designers from this type of theft, his point being that fame was the coin of the realm and pics and designs carry no creator information. What if every time a designer debuted a new site it was immediately snagged, zipped, and traded on Napster as FamousWebPerson's latest? Imagine if within a month of its rollout, the new k10k was was mirrored on thousands of sites across the web, all with acknowledgements and credits ("thanx toke and m, you doodz rock!"). Months of toil to create a unique destination, only to have it become a tired fashion statement in weeks. I would've guessed that most if not all designers would understand the helplessness and anger some musicians might feel in seeing their work stolen and distributed worldwide without their say-so.
posted by nikzhowz at 2:20 PM on September 16, 2000

"File's done"?

What's that, an AOLism?
posted by baylink at 3:28 PM on September 16, 2000

What 25% of the population hears when they download, so, yes.

Imagine if within minutes of its rollout, your website was mirrored on thousands of computers all over the world. They would use specialized software that would connect to your site, read the index, download all the associated images, and then store them on their personal computers!
posted by dhartung at 4:54 PM on September 16, 2000

If 25 million people are breaking a law, isn't it time to scrutinize the law and decide whether there's a justifiable reason to keep it on the books?
posted by rcade at 5:36 PM on September 16, 2000

there sure is
posted by owillis at 6:25 PM on September 16, 2000

I'm failing to see the ingenuity of the music -> websites analogy. As the music that is being 'shared' is in their original form, clearly stating artist, song title and whatever, the closest equivalent to this in mirroring websites, would be if the content was actually also maintained. That is, your webpage about you, your dog, your uncle, and what your uncle thinks about your dog, are also mirrored, with no modifications, and not publicised as anything else.

Stealing the design alone with credits as nikzhowz said, would be more equivalent to someone sampling/changing a song, sticking it in a different context and publicising it as something else. And in actuality, every website you visit is stored on your computer, and there are plenty of software out there to allow you to store copies of sites with ease.

So yes by law, the designer, artist, or musician (recording company) owns the right to how their creations be distributed, but i think Derek's point was on the morality issue, and the actual artistic theft that is being claimed. I believe it is, without a doubt, legal theft; but I would question the idea of it being artistic theft, as Lars or the "steal websites" idea claims.
posted by aki at 7:41 PM on September 16, 2000

Once things go digital security is an illusion, everything is vulnerable. Either the internet is re-engineered or we dig trenches and fight it out.

What is the real argument? Is it that people are downloading music or that people are not paying for every download? The real point is that the industry has not adapted to technology and lawsuits will not stop technology. If we can figure out how people can try before they buy, we will solve this whole mess. The days of radio and MTV are fading and word of mouth will rule.

posted by john at 12:26 AM on September 17, 2000

I think some people here, and many people everywhere, misunderstand the arguement by proclaiming how bad the music industry has gotten.

It's been corrupt and bad for years, the artist has been shafted by the industry in many different ways, Napster just shafts both the artist and the industry - that's what gets users excited and artists angry.

You can whine all you want that copyright should go away, but you're wrong. Copyright shouldn't go away in a capitalist system. Capitalism already provides the means and the message to degrade artistry, copyright is one of the only ways to create any form of living as an artist (and even then you usually do not own your copyright).

We can cry and complain that the industry has not caught up to technology, and you're right, but you're missing the point. The industry is providing (sadly) some of the only means an artist currently has of making a living. Many artists opt out of this and distribute their works in alternate formats (indie labels, etc.). Some of these are good (see how McSweeney's is handling book publishing) and some are very bad (see how SST treated their artists). You may argue that Napster put the "fun" back in music for you - like Dave Winer does - and claim that that enough is a reason to rip people off, but you're wrong. The fun is still in music for many of us - we buy things from smaller labels or from the band directly when they're on tour. Music has never stopped being fun for me, and that's because I have deliberately worked to make sure that it hasn't. So stop ripping people off that you admire, try to find ways to buy from them directly, and start supporting your local independents - the lack of support of these stores and labels is what is allowing the industry to happen and the fun to go away.
posted by jbeaumont at 10:55 AM on September 17, 2000

How does trying something before you buy it rip off anyone except those trying to push sludge?

Most people support the artists they admire. It's a personal moral issue for those that don't.

Artists can't be lazy and trust a label to push their crap anymore. When I'm buying the brand new Fugazi CD for 8 bucks and then see the ones in stores going for 16 bucks I know the label is getting most of that.

You seem to misunderstand the main fact that napster undermines the major labels by putting all music on the same level. This boosts exposure of the little guys and gets people to their shows and gets them to buy their CD's.

You can't put the genie back into the bottle. Once books and movies are traded on the internet those industries will either sue like mad or adapt. It all comes back to the fact that online security will never be 100% safe.
posted by john at 11:21 AM on September 17, 2000

"Imagine if within minutes of its rollout, your website was mirrored on thousands of computers all over the world. They would use specialized software that would connect to your site, read the index, download all the associated images, and then store them on their personal computers!"

You mean, like, a web browser? If I made a new website, and it got that many hits "within minutes of its rollout," quite frankly, I'd be honored and impressed.
posted by CrayDrygu at 2:53 PM on September 17, 2000

Theft is theft. Simple as that. The Napster vs. Lars thing illustrates very clearly that society as we know it is in moral decay.

CrayDrygu, if you made a website and it got that many hits "within minutes of its rollout" you'de be impressed. But If I put my name on it, called it my own, you would cry bloody murder.

John, you can try before you buy, without stealing a file. Turn on the radio. Go to the record store and listen to the CD. If your record store doesn't have a listening post, suggest that they get one to support their business or go elsewhere. You don't go to the movies that way do you? You pay BEFORE you see the show.

posted by daddyray at 4:47 PM on September 17, 2000

The Napster vs. Lars thing illustrates very clearly that society as we know it is in moral decay.

I have a problem with the phrase "moral decay," it just sounds too holier-than-thou, whether or not that was the intention.

Your morals are not mine. I'd happily scroll past "societal decay" because this issue is one of lawfulness, with that I fully agree. Society as it's currently defined (through it's laws) is changing, and whether or not those changes are actual a bad thing or not is debatable.

But If I put my name on it, called it my own, you would cry bloody murder.

Of course, as is well-evidenced by some of the other current threads. However, no one's putting their name on any Metallica CDs and calling it their own, which is the difference that many have tried pointing out.

You don't go to the movies that way do you? You pay BEFORE you see the show.

True, but there's also advertising - previews and reviews - associated with that, to try and give people an idea of whether or not they'd like to see it.

Note: that in no way invalidates your point, I'm just pointing out something you can use. :-)
posted by cCranium at 5:44 PM on September 17, 2000

ok, lets go with 'societal decay' over 'moral decay' i for one am definitely NOT thumping the bible here.

and for sake of clarity lets confine the arguement and the analogies to CD sales vs downloads.... its too easy to go off on a tangent with these threads.

metallica cuts an album. the current delivery method for that music to the listener (product to market) is via CD. if you buy the CD, listen to it, and post an opinion, review, whatever, you're nothing worse than a talking head. everyone has an opinion. nothing wrong with that. the recording industry will advertise the album, and radio will play (promote) it. fair game. that's how this current societal system works.

copyright law exists to protect those stakeholders, who created the product, and deliver the product. fair game.

if you buy the CD, and post its contents to the web, and allow others to obtain copies for free, you are in violation of current law.

if you download the copy of the cd in whole or in part, you're a thief. simply put. at a minimum, if that is too strong a term, then you are, in a very significant way, contributing to the market for this activity.

we are either a part of the solution or part of the problem.
posted by daddyray at 6:37 PM on September 17, 2000

its too easy to go off on a tangent with these threads.


that's how this current societal system works.

again, agreed.

you are in violation of current law

You and I think a lot alike... :-)

if that is too strong a term

trust me, it's not. You probably missed a much earlier threads where I repeatedly called everyone on MeFi a thief, for very much the same reasons your'e doing so now. (and I really don't feel like searching for it, so I'm going to be lazy. :-)

we are either a part of the solution or part of the problem.

And, finally, we reach some disagreement.

Not on the surface, of course, that statement's totally and utterly true.

I think the point where we differ, however, is in what the solution is. See, I think that the solution is Free Information. It's a much bandied about phrase these days, so I'm going to elaborate. If you haven't already, I strongly suggest surfing around the Free Software Foundation's Website.

A brief summary of what's bound to be a long post (partially so I can keep on track) - it's been a while since I've discussed this, and it is one of my favorite topics. (I hear the groans of the regulars :-)

The current system is shit, and it must be changed, society now demands a change, and the people who are "In Charge" aren't changing, so society's forcing the change to happen.

Now, we're restricting the conversation to CD sales vs. downloads, so software can't come into play, but music definetely falls under the Free Information umbrella. I'll do my damndest to keep things relevant to the discussion, but I hope you'll be somewhat forgiving if I do end up drifting a little.

As I said above, if I make an exact duplicate of a music file through downloading, the original possesor of the music file hasn't lost anything, they're still able to listen to the track the same way they were before.

Let's say I go out and buy a CD. I get it home, and I make a taped copy of it so I can listen to it in my car. I rip it to MP3 so I can listen to it while I'm working on my computer without having to get up and swap CDs. When I get to work the next day, I connect to my computer and copy the MP3 files over to my office workstation, so I don't have to go through the hassle of CD-swapping here, or bother re-ripping it.

Have I done anything wrong? According to copyright law (at least, that's how I understand it works in the States. Not here in Canada, but that's an entirely different rant, and since the current US system is a pretty good indicator where copyright law in North America is going to - Canadian government is just as susceptible to corporate pressure - there's a good possibility of it happening in the future) I have.

Phew. A parenthetical AND hyphenetical rant. And one whole made-up word.

But then, this isn't what we're addressing, per se. We're addressing downloading a ripped CD (or just a single), as opposed to buying the CD.

Really, there's no possible way, within today's laws, to legally justify copying MP3s. Of course, within today's laws, in certain states, there's no way to justify teaching evolution. Oh, wait, that got repealled.

Now, I'm going to break our agreement here. You've really already won, within the bounds of our discussion. I happily concede the point (although I don't think either of us are terribly interested in keeping score) to you.

I'm going, however, to extend the bounds a little, into a hypothetical world. One in which laws can be changed. One in which the desires of the public actually holds sway with the societal rules and regulations. It's not a terribly far-fetched concept, but so far as I know, no nation on this planet's gotten it completely right yet.

Napster has over 20 million registered users. Let me say that again. 20 million. There are 20 million (alright, I agree... enough of the italicizing :-) people willing to fill out information and say "No, I'm not [didn't say anything about bold! :-] willing to pay for this."

And then, and here's the crux of the matter, and then they turn around and buy the CD! They hear a couple of tracks, and they're able to say to themselves "Wow, this person deserves my money!" and they go buy the CD.

They also go to the concert the band's putting on in 2 months, and buy a t-shirt. Maybe after the show they'll buy an official recording (Pearl Jam's putting out, what, 20 brand new CDs this fall? Or is it like, 70? Either way, holy fuck!) to remember the moment.

Give it a couple months, and there are going to be bands with laptops and burners who take the DAT from the sound geeks in the back, and rip CDs of the show for people to buy while the roadies are tearing down the stage.

The current system is old. The current system needs to be changed. To change the current system we need to express our disgust with the current system, we need to revolt. We just don't have to dump a shipment of tea in the harbour, or shoulder our muskets to do it any more.

We, the sneaky, devious customer, revolt using the current system to break itself. We directly reward artists, and say "Fuck you!" to the layer upon layer of middlemen out there. We take our dollars, and place our vote for who we want to succeed.

( completely aside: Someone remind me someday to rant about why a 'corporate-controlled' government could actually be a Good Thing. I'm interesed in seeing what I come up with :-)
posted by cCranium at 7:11 PM on September 17, 2000

ok, so we agree.

although i think the roads we took to our respective agreement were on different maps, LOL.

i digress. i agree, the current system needs a revamp. hell, the artist whom the copyright law serves, often loses all his/her earning power to the recording company anyway.

what needs a revamp is distribution.

and by the way, by your example, of making copies of a paid for piece, to move from medium to meduim for our own consumption, i totally agree. laws and the so called licensing agreements on CDs and software need to change.

there is definitely a "shareware" value to free distribution which benefits the creator in a tangible way. however, the napster delivery model falls very far from this ideal. we've swung from one piss poor delivery model to another.

i don't believe that rampant free consumption benefits anyone. least of all consumers.

posted by daddyray at 8:02 PM on September 17, 2000

what needs a revamp is distribution.

We already have that revamp, and it's called peer-to-peer file sharing. The recording industry had its best year ever, and bands like the Offspring, Smashing Pumpkins and Hole are intentionally publishing MP3s of their songs to drive sales.

John, you can try before you buy, without stealing a file. Turn on the radio.

When I listen to a streaming MP3 file on an Internet station, the bits end up on my computer. If Napster is theft, isn't it theft for me to listen to a streaming MP3 file too? Shouldn't we just outlaw the transmission of bits entirely?
posted by rcade at 9:51 PM on September 17, 2000

Ah someone else who thinks Napster is a piss poor delivery model. And realistically, a peer-to-peer, or a distributed file sharing system, isn't suitable for commercial (in terms of artist's making a buck and reserving control of distribution) delivery of music.

This idea of people on Napster, finding new music and downloading them and discovering new artists.. that baffles me. Because as far as i can tell, I believe most (say 90%) of users, use the Search function, to find what they're looking for, and proceed to download. In fact, this is all one can do on Gnutella. But for Napster, you might say the chat feature is there and you can browse the file listing of certain users, but who really thinks alot of people discover new music in that medium and form of distribution? The songs are just listed by title and artist, and at most, genre. You might as well use google and search for "mp3".

Even does a better job than that, with lengthy profiles and descriptions of music, not only classifying genres, but also what the artist sounds similar to, etc.

Napster's simply a tool to search for music from artists that you're looking for. Its great (not technically, but because of the amount of people using it) for finding rarities, live recordings and whatever, and of course, leeching music by known artists. But I really don't think of it as 'the future of music distribution'.
posted by aki at 12:05 AM on September 18, 2000

Aki, as I see it, here's how MP3 sharing helps you find new artists.

Say you're reading a Rolling Stone review of an album you like. You're reading their archives, you check the review for one of your favorite albums, the live Nirvana set from MTV Unplugged. The review mentions The Pixies as a big influence on Nirvana.

You think, "Hm, I wonder what the Pixies sound like."

Before MP3 sharing, it would pretty much end there. You don't know what the Pixies sound like, and they never get played on the radio (which isn't all that surprising since they broke up years ago). Unless a friend of yours happened to have some Pixies albums that you could borrow, there's not any good way for you to hear the music. And you don't want to waste any of your music budget on an album you've never heard.

Cue Napster / Gnutella / etc. Search for "Pixies", listen to a few tracks. Don't like them? Erase. You now know that you don't enjoy the Pixies. Fall in love with them? Buy the album. Buy several of their albums! The CDs are better quality recordings and (for now, at least) considerably more portable and convenient.

Here are some artists that my SO and I discovered via file-sharing:

Belle & Sebastian (loved their stuff, bought 3 of their albums so far)
Faye Wong (liked the MP3s, bought the album)
Pussy Galore (didn't care for it, erased)
Aimee Mann (lukewarm, erased)
Hooverphonic (lukewarm on their stuff, erased, but now planning to get a Depeche Mode tribute album in order to have their cover of "Shake the Disease")
Michael Penn (liked his stuff, bought 2 albums)
Mouse on Mars (liked it, bought two of the albums)
u-ziq (actually, we already liked u-ziq but an MP3 search turned up "phiescope", a track we weren't familiar with; we tracked down the album it was on, and bought it)

Of course, all the albums on major labels we bought used. You can see that just from this small list, file sharing prompted us to buy 9 albums that otherwise we probably wouldn't have picked up, making our local indie record shops a little wealthier. We didn't hear of these people from radio or promotions (except Michael Penn, who had 1 hit song back in '88 or so). I searched for Belle & Sebastian because I saw someone wearing a cool shirt with their name on it; Aimee Mann because she co-wrote a song with Elvis Costello that I like; Pussy Galore because some writer mentioned their name in a review of another band.

If the record labels offered MP3s for sale, lo-quality for $.50, hi-qual for $1, pay from your PayPal account & have a nice day, would I pay to try before I buy and/or pay to have MP3s? Much as I hate the major labels, yes, I would. But they don't show any signs of doing that. They don't want to sell you MP3s-- they just want MP3s to GO AWAY. As so many people have said about this issue on MeFi before: Genie. Bottle. Uncorked. Deal.
posted by wiremommy at 2:25 AM on September 18, 2000

This idea of people on Napster, finding new music and downloading them and discovering new artists.. that baffles me.

I recently bought a new CD by Frisbie because of Napster. I had never heard of the group when a writer for Salon called them the best pop band no one has ever heard of. I was curious, so I jumped on Napster and downloaded four of their songs. They were good, I kept going back to them, and ended up buying the CD after a week. How was I going to hear Frisbie without file sharing? Buy the CD without hearing any of it first aside from a 20-second snippet of a few songs on Amazon.Com? Not a chance.

If a million songs are available for instant download and playing, you have a giant music catalog at your disposal to try. While some people use it solely as a source of permanent music they keep around, I think there's also millions of people using file sharing like a radio station -- downloading and trying songs for a little while before deleting them. There's still an incentive to buy albums because collecting entire albums is either a pain in the ass or impossible on Napster (often impossible).

I don't have trouble defending my own use of Napster because I end up buying three or four CDs a month because of it. Those of you who are condemning it without trying it are missing out. A community of 25 million music fans distributing the work they like to other fans. It's an interactive radio station that has thousands of songs you'd like to hear for immediate playback.
posted by rcade at 3:53 AM on September 18, 2000

Radio doesn't play anything new. A local DJ got fired for playing a local band's music. Radio is not a medium for finding anything new other then what the labels want you to buy.

Word of mouth is how Napster works and you are not taking advantage of it by only using the search feature of Napster. Your lazy, fine.

My point is that the RIAA, Metallica, and the labels have no faith in people and basically look down at everyone as greedy, but it's only a reflection of their own greed. The facts are clear that people continue to support what they like.
posted by john at 8:52 AM on September 18, 2000

I smell a sort of "social Darwinism" thing cropping up here.

The sort of bands whose music is enjoyed by "moral" people will prosper under a Napster-esque distribution scheme as the people who like their music feel obligated to pay for it. The sort of bands whose music is enjoyed by people who won't pay for anything if they can get it for free will flounder when no one buys their music because they can, um, get it for free. This would cause "immoral" bands to die out, taking their fans with them as the "immoral" music ceases to influence them.

Therefore, the rest of us will all be happier, more responsible people if a free music distribution system were combined with an major credit card for making direct online donations to the band. (Can we say Napstercard?)

(Well, that's assuming that "moral" people like (generally) the same sort of music and "immoral" people like (generally) the same sort of music. And that a person's morality is determined predominately by the type of music they listen to. Oh well.)
posted by Lirp at 6:34 PM on September 18, 2000

I wouldn't bet on that assumption.
posted by john at 7:41 PM on September 18, 2000

wiremommy, rcade - you've got me there. I wasn't thinking of that at the time, even though I myself do it quite often. ie: search for artists ive heard by word of mouth and giving them a listen. And like you said, it has helped me in testing the waters of a few artists i've been intrigued by.

But what i was trying (but failing) to say was that, Napster/gnutella isn't the future of music distribution that some people put them up to be. Archives of entire discographies of artists are not necessary for this form of (more or less) advertising. What I guess would be an improvement on this model though, would be if all artists, themselves would host their own selection of songs for downloading, and ye olde public can tread the waters they present. Of course, that could only work if theres the same level of participation as Napster etc. But this time it also require the participation of the artists who wants to distribute their music, and not just the participation of the consumer. And yeah, theres the problem of retired/deceased artists, but lets say, if law lets fans take over or something wacky like that :)

And John - There are some radio stations that play new, decent music. Not alot of them, but they do exist (here in .au anyway). Word of mouth can only go so far, and for a Napsterish model of distribution to really work, will require other channels of advertising to really get it out there to the public. It's not simply laziness if people can't find music they like, not everyone is out there, with a keen interest in music, looking for something that'll touch them. Some people like elevator muzak. Some people like music that is contagious and has a lasting appeal of 2 weeks.

...the labels have no faith in people... The facts are clear that people continue to support what they like.

I don't know if you can just ask the RIAA to have faith in people, and that its clear that people will support whoever they like. They can expect that from the market of fans and music lovers, etc, but you're missing the markets of "fashion music". Kinda like what Lirp suggests, weaker music would cop out the most, and music that people like will benefit, perhaps forcing the industry to actually support music quality not marketing potential. And I just don't know if you can have a form of distribution rely on the good will of people to support the artists. Some limits are necessary. But anyway - I'm all for a music distribution model where these ideals are maintained, and I'd love to see it happen.
posted by aki at 11:42 PM on September 18, 2000

Oh and wiremommy - you have taste :)
posted by aki at 11:45 PM on September 18, 2000

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