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Music Piracy

David Lowery On the Ethics of Music Piracy 713

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-argue-about-the-semantics-of-the-word-theft dept.
New submitter Mystakaphoros writes "Musician David Lowery (of Cracker fame) takes NPR intern Emily White to task for her stance on paying for (or failing to pay for) music. Quoting: 'By allowing the artist to treat his/her work as actual property, the artist can decide how to monetize his or her work. This system has worked very well for fans and artists. Now we are being asked to undo this not because we think this is a bad or unfair way to compensate artists but simply because it is technologically possible for corporations or individuals to exploit artists work without their permission on a massive scale and globally. We are being asked to continue to let these companies violate the law without being punished or prosecuted. We are being asked to change our morality and principals to match what I think are immoral and unethical business models.'"
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David Lowery On the Ethics of Music Piracy

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  • for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmbasso (1052166) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:26PM (#40373337)

    This system has worked very well for fans and artists.

    No, it's been superb for the middleman, the famous MAFIAA.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:27PM (#40373349) Homepage

    It's not property and never really was. So all of these arguments about devaluing music or not paying for it are all entirely bogus.

    Besides: it was always gratis.

    Video killed the radio star.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:30PM (#40373389) Homepage Journal

    well, that's where artists want to end up on their old days. of course very few of them can become MAFIAA execs.

    and well.. being asked to conform to technical realities? OMG CALL OBAMA!!!!!!!

    wtf do they want, bend the rules of physics so that it would be expensive to copy bits?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:31PM (#40373425)

    Look: the world changed, and we now have computers and the Internet. They are the single greatest boon to productivity, creativity, knowledge and freedom in the past hundred years. The Internet relies, fundamentally, on its ability to make exact copies of data, nearly instantly, and nearly for free.

    We have a choice between strong intellectual property protection and a functioning Internet. We cannot have both, as they are in direct conflict with each other.

    Anybody making arguments for the ethics or piracy, or the benefits of intellectual property, is yelling at clouds. It doesn't matter if piracy is unethical. It doesn't matter if it hurts artists. It doesn't matter if it hurts the economy. The Internet is much more important.

  • In a world... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mw13068 (834804) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:35PM (#40373467)
    Long, long ago, before there was equipment to record sound, musicians made money by playing live music for people.
  • here we go again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hype7 (239530) <u3295110@[ ].edu.au ['anu' in gap]> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:35PM (#40373481) Journal

    the quintessential disrupted producer, complaining about how the world is not conforming to the way they want it to be, or worse yet, the way the world "should" be.

    I'm sure the exact same essay was written somewhere upon the development of the phonograph. "but how will we get paid if they can play back our music a thousand times once it has been recorded?" probably the same argument, too, by playhouse actors when recording movies came along.

    the artists/actors might not like it, but the development of technology drives down the price, massively opens the market up, and, if they're smart, allows them to make more money [therichest.org] than their predecessors could ever have dreamed of.

    writing letters complaining about how people are not paying enough to you is just so 1842 [bbc.co.uk].

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:36PM (#40373491) Journal

    it is up to us individually to examine the consequences of our actions. It is not up to governments or corporations to make us choose to behave ethically. We have to do that ourselves.

    It seems to me that this is the core of copyright abolitionism. As long as file sharing is illegal, we are expecting the government to enforce ethical behavior. The right thing to do is to pay for the things you value willingly. If you don't, they can and should go away.

    The rest of the article, including blaming file sharing for musician suicides (as if musicians didn't commit suicide before) is pants on head retarded. The author isn't even aware that he's agreed with the basic assumption of copyright abolitionism.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:36PM (#40373505) Homepage Journal

    What I took exception to was "'By allowing the artist to treat his/her work as actual property, the artist can decide how to monetize his or her work".

    But your work is NOT your property, at least not according to the US Constitution (haven't rtfa so I don't know if it applies to this fellow). I never heard the term "intellectual property" until they passed the Bono Act (which should have never been passed; copyright was already too long).

    Plus, under US copyright law, phonoecords are "works for hire", meaning the label holds the copyright. The artist doesn't hold the copyright unless he's self-published.

    Yours is good, too -- it has neither worked for the fans, nor the artists. But you are correct, it has indeed worked for the MAFIAA.

  • Re:Bad summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Radres (776901) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:37PM (#40373521)

    OMG unbiased reporting on Slashdot that doesn't tell me what to think? The horror.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:40PM (#40373577) Journal

    You're free to make a copy of it and live in that one.

  • Missed the point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:41PM (#40373581)

    He missed the entire point. I WANT to support the artists and I'm happy to pay for the music I like. But...I have no legal option to do so. I subscribe to Spotify, I pay for that, I get everything through it these days ... but he calls that out as something he doesn't like. He supplies NO legal alternative, just insists that I drop back to what I was doing ten years ago.

    The rest of us want the music industry to catch up to what we are doing NOW.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:47PM (#40373701) Homepage

    Your response nicely sums up the entire gatekeeper position on this situation.

    You are trying to conflate actual natural rights with a temporary statutory grant that exists for the sole purpose of achieving some public good. There is simply no inalienable right to a copyright or a patent. Intellectual property is a legal fiction that's better described as artificial property.

    It gets really interesting when people like you want to trample actual natural rights (like speech and personal property) in order to defend an expansive view of copyright that doesn't even exist in the law.

    That particular problem was directly by the authors of the Constitution.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:48PM (#40373731) Journal
    The post has some merit however I take issue with some of the evidence offered up

    Per capita spending on music is 47% lower than it was in 1973!!

    The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000.

    Of the 75,000 albums released in 2010 only 2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies. Without going into details, 10,000 albums is about the point where independent artists begin to go into the black on professional album production, marketing and promotion.

    It is my opinion that the introduction of the "Top 40" and other lists of hot songs has recently lead to people who only want to hear the same hook over and over on the radio. Radio stations comply, the labels control what radio stations play and then that's what people buy. I listen to Radio K/MPR's The Current streaming online and I will tell you that the diversity of what's on those stations far outweighs any popular radio station I have access to. It seems more logical to me that the RIAA and bigger labels have done this to themselves and contributed to the decline of musicians. I have been in four bands in my life and aside from close friends that came to shows, nobody cared. No radio station wanted to play our songs (some said they legally could not play our songs) and people just wanted to hear The Killers or Radiohead or Britney Spears or whatever the hell the entire world is listening to these two weeks.

    I spend plenty of money on music but it's definitely not to artists that belong to organizations that design their promotional and middleman fees off of a few major acts while absolutely dicking and ignoring everyone else. I pay my money directly to bands like Cloud Cult, to labels that are not members of the RIAA, to kickstarter projects of unsigned bands and use distribution channels like Bandcamp to pay for MP3s that come in any quality or format I want as many times as I want (although after kickstarting a project I now own twenty vinyl records of a punk bluegrass band that I frankly do not know with what to do). That's what stimulates diversity and number of musicians, I'm no longer even a hobby musician and I tried very hard to give my music away. We didn't make great music but there's just no place for it when everyone is trained to listen to the same damn shit on the radio. Have you considered the possibility that if record labels moved money around to starting acts, there would be more musicians? Instead the CEO of Universal Music Group has a new Bentley.

    Enjoy your slow death, I'm taking my disposable income elsewhere.

  • Re:In a world... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Endo13 (1000782) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:50PM (#40373759)

    And in most cases, they probably are. The problem is there are way, WAY too many musicians nowadays for them to all make a living with their music. It's just flat impossible. For every venue (this is including hole-in-the-wall bars) there are a hundred garage bands trying to make a living.

    Bottom line, if you're not able to make money selling your current product, the problem is not your customers. It's time for these unsuccessful artists to get a day job, and recognize their "musical career" for what it really is: a hobby.

  • by debrain (29228) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:52PM (#40373791) Journal

    It's not property and never really was. So all of these arguments about devaluing music or not paying for it are all entirely bogus.

    Some food for thought: All property is a legal fiction.

    It just so happens that most property is tangible. Copyright is intangible, but the legal fiction of property as it applies to qualifying artistic works is no different than the legal fiction of home ownership, stock ownership or life insurance ownership. All these forms of property are granted by legislation.

    Whether copyright in its present form is morally objectionable or adequately serves the social utility for which it was created is another question. Given the mortgage crisis, one could entertain the same question about home ownership.

  • by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:52PM (#40373807)

    Please explain how the internet stops working if people stop pirating. I am not seeing the connection.

  • Re:In a world... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mw13068 (834804) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:53PM (#40373823)
    All these arguments are predicated on the false assumption that because someone calls themselves and artist, that they should then be able to make a solid livelihood from it. And even further, if someone gets some level of fame, that they are somehow entitled to maintain that. The world doesn't work that way. I play guitar in a band, and I have a lot of fun. Sometimes I get paid a little cash. Most of my income comes from an unrelated career that I also built for myself.
  • Re:for artists? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Josuah (26407) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:56PM (#40373863) Homepage

    The point is that the owner of copyright should be free to dictate the terms under which others can access that content. There's no ethical or moral argument that really holds water to contradict that. If the copyright owner is charging too much or inconvenient, you can surely argue it is too expensive or not a good value but you cannot argue any of those reasons makes you exempt from the owner's terms. This is the view our society has agreed upon and in reality we all like that view because each of us wants to have a say in what happens with what we create/produce, even if that say is that what I've produced as an individual should be freely available to everyone.

    The only moral exception to this is for survival. No one would dispute moral violation of accessibility terms when it comes to medicines or food or even property (e.g. living under the city bridge) although that does not preclude legal punishment.

  • Re:In a world... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueStrat (756137) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:01PM (#40373941)

    what an ignorant statement.

    Venue owners believe they are doing the musician a favour by letting them play in their venue. Now go explain how to make a living off that mentality?

    I think you're the one guilty of making ignorant statements.

    I'm a semi-pro musician. Although the pay rates haven't been great, every bar/club/venue I know of that has live music pays to book bands/musicians to perform. Unless it's a "coffee house" type thing where anyone can just get up and perform.

    I and many of my fellow not-signed-with-a-big-label musicians/bands give away recordings (CDs and free downloads). We live in the reality of today where recordings are only promotional tools, not an end product themselves.

    Strat

  • by ffflala (793437) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:02PM (#40373965)
    I'd like Lowery to go back in time and explain his you-must-pay-to-hear approach to one young, incredibly poor Jimi Hendrix. That guy started out playing a broom for fuck's sake; his first guitar had one goddamn string. Where would we all be now if Jimi's access to music should have been limited to the amount he could pay?

    Lowery's approach would be accurate, if he were talking about selling appliances, or even band merchandise. Without further addressing the multiple mistaken premises (replace every instance of "the vast majority" with "a tiny minority", for starters), the main area he fails is his equivocation of music with a physical product.

    We've become used to this model. It has driven pop music culture for close to a century; it's given us the "music star" celebrity model that we've become comfortable with. This approach has progressed naturally, and now we've reached the current point of American Idol-voted celebrity products.

    What he overlooks is the natural power of music. Music, when at its best, can give courage to the otherwise cowardly, joy to those in pain, even trigger mystical experiences in the otherwise mundane. It can cement memories and bring people closer together.

    The problem is when you slap a price tag and marketing on something that serves as a vehicle for these transformative experiences, a few nasty things happen. For one thing, you inevitably see a homogenization of music as salespersons try to maximize profit. Music is reduced to the lowest common denominator to maximize mass appeal, just like fast food. Services exist that compare proposed compositions to past hits in terms of melodic, harmonic, rhythmic structure -- you have people just rewriting variations on the same old tune. Quality is subjective though, and there's no real basis to say one song is better than another -- all that matters is the experience of the listener.

    But the most insidious part of slapping price tags on transformative experiences is that you keep poor people from experiencing them. Can't afford to pay up? Tough shit son, you don't get to experience an essential aspect of your culture. Too poor? Sorry, this joy is reserved for those who can afford it.

    I'm sure Lowery means well, but people like him are one reason why I'm a librarian. There must be a way for people to access vital, possibly transformative parts of our culture regardless of ability to pay. For the time being it seems like taxing society to provide public access to repositories of music, art, and literature, while not perfect, is the best workaround.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:07PM (#40374039)

    This fundamentally ignores the fact that "building a copy" is not the same thing as "producing the hardware, designing the house, and creating blueprints."

    Yes, the cost of copying is low. No, the cost of creation is not driven to zero by "zero-cost copying." It still takes real time, real instruments, real recording gear, and real expertise (developed over the course of real years, at real expense to the real musician) to be able to play music *well*.

    Ethically speaking, if you value a song enough that you believe it is worth having a copy of, you should be willing to give something to the artist who produced it (and, by extension, the chain of support personnel who helped produce it).

    IF YOU VALUE A SONG, it is ethical to compensate the artist for creating that song - in some way, and to some degree, according to the measure of enjoyment and "use" you get out of the song. If you cannot agree to that simple principle, then you reveal yourself as nothing but a looter, who cares as little for "advancement of the arts and culture" as you like to claim the RIAA & other gatekeepers do.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:09PM (#40374065) Homepage Journal

    The whole purpose of copyright is to make sure artists get paid for their labor.

    In your country maybe, but in the US our constitution says "for the promotion of the useful arts and sciences". Writing a book doesn't guarantee it will be published, and getting published doesn't gurantee it will sell. With that in mind, and considering that most songs, movies, and books are financial flops, from your perspective copyright must have failed miserably, because most do NOT get paid for their work. Only the good stuff earns any cash. Well, usually only the good stuff, sometimes crap is successful.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:10PM (#40374083) Homepage

    The "owner" can only exert control so long as something is entirely within their possession. After it leaves that state, there is no good moral or ethical argument for placing the rights of the "artiste" above everyone elses.

    You're basically arguing that everyone elses rights should be subservient to the those of the creative classes and that's simply contradictory to the notion of equality under the law.

    A creative work cannot really be owned because it can't really be contained. It does not exist in a single time and place once it is released into the wild.

    Once it is "out there", controlling it becomes a matter of restricting the liberties of others.

    Trampling the First Sale Doctrine is a great example of copyright run amok. So's Harlan Ellison.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:10PM (#40374099)

    "The point is that the owner of copyright should be free to dictate the terms under which others can access that content. "

    But of course, that's the way it already works.

    If you mean they should be free to enforce the terms any way they want, however, then I must take the opposite stand.

  • by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:13PM (#40374141)

    Here is a novel thought: if you can't pay for something that is a 100% luxury (and having your own copies of songs is exactly that), do without!

  • Re:for artists? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by darjen (879890) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:18PM (#40374241)

    I have to agree. A song is not someone's property, and no amount of wishful thinking or even congressional lawmaking can magically make it so. The same argument holds for intellectual property in all its forms. Granting a monopoly to individuals for their ideas is bad for society and leads to less innovation and creativity. A good book about this for those who are inclined to explore this idea further:

    http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm [ucla.edu]

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:18PM (#40374249)

    ..., people supported the artist because they wanted him or her to generate future content.

    That and bragging rights. My artist in residence is better than your artist in residence.

  • Re:lame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lithdren (605362) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:19PM (#40374257)
    Speaking for myself of course, I dont.

    Because of these absurd, stupid laws, its illegal to sing "Happy Birthday" at a resturant where the employees join in. Music made by John Lennon is still under copywright. The lifting of a CD from a store and 'stealing' the MP3's off a website carry with them punishments that range from "Slap on the wrist" to "Indentured Servitude" for effectivly the same offence. Because of the money they're making, or already made, they're buying laws and turning people into criminals for doing what comes naturally, like having a friend listen to something you like. They're trying to destroy things that make it easy and affordable to engage in my own culture. I consider these laws immoral, and as a result, I dont respect them.

    Much like if it was against the law to give coins to the starving homelss beggers, or to provide photo ID every time I want to cross the street, or whatever absurd concepts you can come up with, i'd do the same. I pay for music, I subscribe to Pandora, and I own an iTunes account with plenty of purchased music. I also pirate things, music I cant seem to find to purchase for a price that isn't absurdly overvalued because its no longer activly printed on physical media or offered as a download somewhere I can be sure I can get another copy of at some point in the future. I dont justify it, because I dont respect the law as its written, as do most people who act like I do. I agree that people who produce music should be paid for it, the disagreement seems to be in how much they should be paid.

    People will follow the path of least resistance, and right now that tends to be pirating music they cannot easily find. Some people will always do it, some will never do it. Most, do it as a show of force of will against something they dont understand. Much like I dont buy seasons of TV shows for a few hundred dollars that have been out of production for 30 years, I dont spend money on music that can be had easily via other means, legit or not. I dont need justification, and I dont need you to agree with me. Through such action does change happen, be it for the better or worse.

    I like to believe it will lead to positive change, given enough time.
  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:19PM (#40374259)

    >>>The only moral exception to this is for survival.

    The other moral exception is the 100+ year copyright. Before the invention of copyright culture was a shared commodity. Artists created and the people enjoyed. Copyright was invented as a way for the artist to recoup his labor with money, but nobody should be paid 100 years after they create something (or after they are dead).

    10 years should be enough for the artist to earn money from sales to repay his labor. Anything beyond that? He should make new music, statues, books, whatever instead of sitting on his laurels. The rest of us don't get to collect money for work performed 20, 30, 100 years earlier.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dmbasso (1052166) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:21PM (#40374301)

    I didn't say anything about greed, or about the middleman being useless, or about piracy being right. I made just two claims, which stand on their own:
    1 - no, the system is not good for the artists (e.g. http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/07/13/1737224/riaa-accounting-how-labels-avoid-paying-musicians [slashdot.org])
    2 - the system is excellent for the MAFIAA, to the point a major effort was needed to avoid legislation being passed that would corrupt the system even more.

  • Re:lame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:21PM (#40374303)

    He's actually the founder of an indie rock band and a college professor.

    He's using math and real-world industry-specific experience to attempt to find real world solutions to complex arguements. He makes several valid points about the network of websites, software, and hardware surrounding the music-should-be-free and copying-is-not-a-crime debates, arguements that are difficult to find a valid rebuttal to. I know because I'm trying to do so.

    Perhaps you should read more than the first few paragraphs. You may not agree with him, but he knows what he's talking about.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:24PM (#40374351)

    Bullshit. The whole purpose of copyright is to encourage creation of new works. The method of encouraging creation is giving people control over their works.

    Not the stupid 'get paid wages' argument again! Here is a clue for you: the ONLY reason you get paid a wage is because someone else expects to make more off of your work than they paid you to do the work. The only reason that person expects to be paid more than they pay you is because they intend to sell or use your product in a money-making operation. Now, if you eliminate (or substantially reduce) the ability for someone to sell your work, do you really think they are going to continue to pay you?

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:26PM (#40374415)

    Guess what? A house is not someone's property either except for the fact that congress made it so. How about we get congress to void all deeds (or simply not enforce them) and see what remains your property.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Purity Of Essence (1007601) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:29PM (#40374453)

    The whole purpose of copyright is to make sure artists get paid for their labor.

    No, that's exactly half its purpose. The other half is to get works into the public domain after a limited period of time, something right-holders are fighting tooth-and-nail to prevent. Copyright law becomes a mockery of itself when that limited period can be extended an unlimited number of times.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:29PM (#40374459)

    I think you're arguing this from the wrong point of view. There are many valid arguements on this side of the issue, but "it's easy to do so it shouldn't be wrong" is not one of them.

  • he is just a troll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by melikamp (631205) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:34PM (#40374565) Homepage Journal
    He is just another troll. He ignores basic facts, like the one that no jurisdiction treats copyrightable material as property. He says that the system worked really well for artists, even though from its very inception in the Statute of Anne, copyright was used by printers to rob artists, and the practice continues to this day. When he complains about corporations taking his profit, it is an ultimate strawman, since no reasonable copyright reformer calls for a free-for-all commercialization. Instead, we want reasonable terms of several years and acceptance of non-commercial sharing as a basic right guaranteed to us by the UN charter in the free expression article. Sure, there are some abolitionists out there, but arguing with them is just as productive as arguing with people who want to abolish civilization. Go back under the bridge, pal. If you are defending MAFIAA shaking down single moms, you are not an artist but a gangster.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:36PM (#40374597)

    The summary quote is about people rationalizing pirating content because "corporate America is evil." And, here they are posting rants with that exact sentiment. If two wrongs make a right, then stream on!

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:38PM (#40374635) Journal

    There are many valid arguements on this side of the issue, but "it's easy to do so it shouldn't be wrong" is not one of them.

    That's not the argument. The argument is "What the fuck does scarcity economics have to do with digital distribution?"

  • Re:for artists? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:39PM (#40374645)
    Everyone makes the same silly ones and zeroes argument and they ignore the real issue. Producing the music and advertizing it costs money. Yes digital distribution is dirt cheap but even it isn't free. There's hosting and bandwidth considerations. Also everyone makes the argument every time that artists should only charge for live performances. A little reality check. Small venues don't pay for the music. Yes you make lots of money when you play 10,000 seat houses but the ones that handle a few hundred don't pay they expect bands to do it for exposure. It's been that way since the 80s. What's the point of exposure if people expect you to give away the recordings? The Venues don't want to pay the artists and the fans don't want to pay for the music. Basically no one wants to pay the artists so you might as well get a job at Starbucks, at least there's money in it.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:45PM (#40374737) Homepage Journal

    I have a reasonable expectation that people should respect my wishes when it comes to how the song should be copied, played, or otherwise consumed.

    I disagree, your expectations are completely unreasonable. What is reasonable is for you to expect that I won't sell copies of it.

    Your right to listen to my song ends where my right to protect my work begins.

    No, your rights to control what I have in my possession are extremely limited, except by artificial constructs. Which is a good thing for you, if you have any talent. If I give your stuff to someone who has never heard it, they may become your customer. If they never hear it you'll never get their money.

    Doctorow puts it succinctly: nobody ever lost money from piracy, but many artists have starved from obscurity. As long as it isn't pure crap, the more people that are exposed to your work, the more people will shovel money your way.

    IMO any artist who doesn't embrace noncommercial piracy is a damned fool.

    Good day, sir. Enjoy your obscurity.

    Now, of course the realities are that the internet makes it so that many people can get their fill of listening to my song once it's been recorded and distributed without paying compensation.

    If I "get my fill" of hearing your song, it sucks. I see why you're so anti-pirate, talentless hacks are always against piracy.

  • by fa2k (881632) <pmbjornstad @ g m a il.com> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:47PM (#40374779)

    Please explain how the internet stops working if people stop pirating. I am not seeing the connection.

    It's not like that, the problem is that people will break the internet in trying to force everyone to stop pirating.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:55PM (#40374927)
    Fundamentally, this is an issue of rights vs. practicality. Ideally the author should have exclusive right to distribution of their work. Practically this was easy to do in the old days of printed books and stamped vinyl records. Today, books and music are so easy to copy that completely enforcing authors' rights to control distribution of their work would require creating a legal and enforcement infrastructure whose cost far exceeds the value all authors combined contribute to society (not to mention turns 90%+ of society into criminals). It's completely impractical.

    However, since the right in question isn't a human right, but rather an artificial right granted for economic expedience, some compromise can easily resolve the situation. In the old days, wedding photographers used to charge little for the wedding shoot, but would charge a lot for the prints. The wedding shoot itself only took a few hours with small hand-portable equipment. Printing represented the majority of the cost - requiring large equipment and expensive materials, and frequently hours of arduous work retouching to make the picture just right. So this cost structure made sense.

    Today the situation has reversed. The most difficult/creative part of the process is the wedding shoot itself. Retouching can be done in a few minutes to a few seconds on a computer, and prints are literally a dime a dozen. Technology has realigned the cost structure to where most of the cost is in the original shoot. Consequently, most wedding photographs today charge a lot of the wedding shoot, and very little for the prints or even give the prints for free. Times changed, and they adapted.

    This is what needs to happen to music. The Constitution was written when reproduction and distribution were a large if not the largest cost in the process of getting creative ideas out to the public. Therefore it made sense give authors exclusive control of reproduction/distribution. But today, reproduction/distribution have gotten so cheap it almost can't be measured (200 GB monthly data cap for $50 works out to 0.1 cents per 4 MB MP3). Insisting that authors retain control of reproduction/distribution doesn't reflect the reality of these price changes, and will lead to huge economic inefficiencies if allowed to persist. 100 years from now when everyone could potentially own a solar powered car by printing it on a 3D printer for $500 dollars (2012 dollars), do you really want the automakers holding the copyright on the design charging $30,000 per copy for "distribution"?

    The nearly zero cost of reproduction and distribution is why the industry is trying to hold onto traditional copyright law. By all rights, you should be paid for work you do. And when a lot of work was involved in making duplicate copies of your work and distributing them around the country, you deserved to be paid a lot for it. But now that those costs of dropped to near zero, the industry sees a huge profit opportunity - being paid per copy, while paying nearly nothing to make copies. No other industry works like this. If I construct a computer for a client, I get paid for that one computer. If I prepare a meal for a customer, I get paid for that one meal. If I stitch a tear in a shirt, I get paid for that one shirt. Only in the copyrighted industries do we have the concept that a person can work once, then get paid for it over and over without ever lifting a finger again. That idea made sense in old times because reproducing and distributing a work required much effort than lifting a finger. But now that it requires less effort than that, the law needs to change to reflect that economic reality.
  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:58PM (#40374973)

    A. I don't think that's what GP was saying,
    and
    B... risking the ire of the single-minded legion of modders in this thread:

    why the fuck does digital distribution need to run on scarcity economics? It's not scarce, so it's not valuable? Why, just because it's trivial to copy music digitally, is digital music now considered to have little-to-no value?

    If you're asking why -artifical scarcity- needs to be implimented in this scenario, I would guess that you already know the answer to that, but just for the sake of arguement, it is because of the tragedy of the commons. None of us wants to pay for music when it is freely available. I know I don't. But all of us not paying for music has long term devastating impact on the production of music as it currently exists.

    And of course all attempts at artifical scarcity are failing... and not necessarily because they're wrong.

    The music industry will change. That's a given. It's probably unavoidable at this point. The question that the author of TFA is posing isn't a "what can I do to legislate people away from doing what they're doing" but "how can I properly explain to people what they, not the RIAA, are doing to the music and musicians they say they love". He is pointing out that changing the way that music is created and that society treats artists is the tyranny of the majority. We are forcing these changes not because it's "the right thing to do" but simply because it's in our own intrest, and we vastly outnumber them.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:03PM (#40375051)

    Guess what? A house is not someone's property either except for the fact that congress made it so. How about we get congress to void all deeds (or simply not enforce them) and see what remains your property.

    Not true. According to Locke's political philosophy (on which the US Constitution was heavily based), the right to physical property is an inherent human right. Government exists to protect it: it does not grant it. Same with life and liberty, or do you also think that Congress gives people the right to live? No: the right is part of human existence. The purpose of forming government is to protect it against others who would infringe on it by force, whether individuals or nations.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:03PM (#40375055)

    Also, in a society that considers government to represent and be "of and for the people", perhaps if some large enough percentage do something or see nothing wrong with other people doing something - it de-facto isn't wrong, and ought to be legal?

    Because that arguement legalized slavery.

    Some things are just -wrong- even if enough selfish people want to do it.

    Note, I'm not equating filesharing with slavery (because I know that the downmodders have their finger on the button). I'm saying that the arguement you're using to promote filesharing is a very weak one, and you need to latch on to the better ones if you hope to make your point.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:25PM (#40375465)

    Ok, and how exactly do you know that filesharing is "wrong"? Slavery is a bit of a red herring, because no one asked the slaves what their opinion on the issue was. Files aren't people, so they don't get a vote; slaves are people, so even though they didn't get a vote back then, they should have.

    Things are "wrong" because the majority of people think they're "wrong". Then they make a law to restrict it, so they can restrict the activities of other people, with the goal being to create social harmony and keep the majority of people happy. Stealing cars is illegal, because in a society where cars are necessary for transportation, it would be a giant hardship to find your $30k car missing when you need to go to work in the morning, and now you need another one and don't have another $30k lying around to buy it; most people agree this this is a problem, so they agree to ban the theft of cars. In practice, car theft is a small problem, very few people do it, and if you were to put the issue up for a vote, very few people would actually vote to legalize it, because they don't want their car stolen either.

    Now of course, if you're a religious conservative, you'll probably try to say that morality is absolute, but that's mostly bunk. There's nothing in the 10 Commandments about file sharing, though there is something in there about theft, but then again, that can equally apply to slaves, so that's really quite useless since it doesn't specify exactly what can and can't be considered "property". If you went back to those days and tried to tell people that ideas were property, they'd think you were nuts. So unless you can get God himself to come down and settle the issue for us, then we're stuck with popular morality whether you like it or not.

    We tried banning alcohol here in the US about 100 years ago. It was a complete disaster. That's a good illustration of what happens when you try to ban something that most citizens want to do, and are going to do despite any laws to the contrary. Ergo, laws must be made based on popular whims: if most people don't want it to be illegal, then it shouldn't be. Otherwise, what you have is not a democracy at all, but a totalitarian police state (it'll be a despotism to keep something illegal that people want to do, and it'll have to turn into a police state to keep fighting the will of the people).

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus (783565) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:41PM (#40375731)

    Not my job to assure they make a living. I know lots of musicians, if the gig covers the cost of getting there and back they will play just for the fun of it.

    They can all work day jobs as far as I'm concerned.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:46PM (#40375809)

    as I pointed out before, you cant' make something legal just because lots of people want to do it, because people do what's best for themselves in the short term, not what's best for themselves in the long term or society in general. It's the tragedy of the commons.

    you can, and certainly should, reconsider if something should be legal in the face of overwhelming popular support of it being legal. you can reconsider if the benefit in keeping it illegal is disportionate to the harm in legalizing it.

    That doesn't mean that the answer to the mob should always be "yes, do whatever you want". Sometimes the best answer is "no".

    We elect our leaders not just to represent our voices, but to -govern- us. I think we can all agree that they generally do a piss-poor job of this, but I'm talking about the theoretical here.

    and to answer your question, I -don't- know whether file sharing of music should be illegal. Nor do I know it whether it should be legal. What I know is that it's a complex debate and we do ourselves a disservice by pretending otherwise. That is why I told GP to champion better arguements for his point.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by robkeeney (1061032) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:58PM (#40376055)

    They're going to. People who make good music love to do it, and love for it to be heard. They make recordings of their music and post them on youtube or whereever for people to see and hear them for free. There are a lot of really talented people in the world. Very few of them get any radio play.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by next_ghost (1868792) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:59PM (#40376087)

    I think you're arguing this from the wrong point of view. There are many valid arguements on this side of the issue, but "it's easy to do so it shouldn't be wrong" is not one of them.

    I think that the only argument that's really needed is this: "No matter how hard you try to legislate water to flow uphill, it just won't happen."

    That said, TFA is utter BS. I support my country's Pirate Party. I did a lot of work a few years ago in open translation of Free Culture into Czech. And I say screw the corporations. My only concern is about culture. If you can make a living from your art, well, that's nice, good for you. But I won't give a damn if you can't. Content doesn't become culture by someone making money from it. The entertainment industry is not our culture no matter how much they try to make it look that way. They just happen to be the biggest contributor to our culture at the moment.

    Content becomes culture when it's being shared. Think about it: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Frankenstein, Dune, Star Wars, Star Trek, Moby Dick, Disney cartoons etc., all of that is part of our culture. Why? Because people know what those stories are all about. But there's also a bajillion obscure books and movies that are not part of our culture because nobody has ever heard of them. That's why locking down content is wrong. I don't care why you're trying to lock down content, whether it's for money, political ends or whatever, it's wrong because it harms culture. If the lockdown is successful, then what's important part of our culture now may be lost forever just some 10, 20 years from now. I don't mind paying for content but at the same time I won't jump through burning hoops just for the privilege of paying somebody. The author has the right to get a fair share of profit from whoever makes money using his content and not to publish the content in the first place if he chooses so. But nobody has the right to lock down published content. Not the author, not anybody else.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:05PM (#40376193)

    If you don't do what the mob wants, they'll replace you or overthrow you, eventually.

    Yes, the mob makes bad decisions, because popular whims change quickly. The job of a good leader is to look out for peoples' long-term interest. Over a longer term, the mob will forget the things you did that were unpopular, if they've changed their minds about it. But if they haven't, then you need to change yours if you want to remain the leader.

    This is the whole reason the Founders originally wrote the Constitution so that Senators were elected by State legislatures, and not by the people directly; it provided a much longer feedback loop, if you will. Eventually, people could change the Senators (by electing different legislators), but it took a lot of time, so the Senate didn't feel the need to answer to the immediate whims of the people the way the House of Representatives did (who are popularly elected every two years).

    So, if something's illegal, and people are still widely disobeying the law 20+ years later, then it really shouldn't be illegal. In a properly functioning democracy, it wouldn't be, because eventually the people would elect new politicians who promise to overturn the unpopular law. The problem we have now is that our government isn't functioning properly at all, since it's a fascist government and doesn't represent the people at all.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by next_ghost (1868792) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:13PM (#40376355)

    as I pointed out before, you cant' make something legal just because lots of people want to do it, because people do what's best for themselves in the short term, not what's best for themselves in the long term or society in general. It's the tragedy of the commons.

    you can, and certainly should, reconsider if something should be legal in the face of overwhelming popular support of it being legal. you can reconsider if the benefit in keeping it illegal is disportionate to the harm in legalizing it.

    You're turning the issue of legality upside down. Things should only be illegal when they cause serious harm to the entire society AND making them illegal won't cause even worse problems. So what's the harm from unauthorized file sharing? Well, in the worst case, some people may not get a return on their investment. Big deal, like that doesn't happen to millions of people in other professions every day. And what's worse, it happens to lots of artists anyway, regardless of copyright.

    and to answer your question, I -don't- know whether file sharing of music should be illegal.

    If you don't know a very good reason why something should be illegal, then you already know one very good reason why it shouldn't.

  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @05:29PM (#40376675) Journal
    You're right about how the photography industry has changed. That doesn't quite work for recording artists, though. The difference is that wedding photographers are making a custom product that only has value to the client. No one else (except maybe your mom) wants your wedding photos. And they're not working on spec, either. They're commissioned directly by the end user to create a one-of-a-kind work that only has value to the client. Musicians, though, are working on spec. They or the record company are putting up tens of thousands to record a song hoping they can sell copies of it for a buck apiece to the public. So the wedding photographer model won't work for recording artists.

    Only in the copyrighted industries do we have the concept that a person can work once, then get paid for it over and over without ever lifting a finger again. That idea made sense in old times because reproducing and distributing a work required much effort than lifting a finger. But now that it requires less effort than that, the law needs to change to reflect that economic reality.

    The problem really with the disconnect between the artists/industry and the consumer is the industry has forgotten that they don't have any fundamental, natural rights. They have protections granted by lawbut they don't have fundamental "intellectual property rights" the way we have inalienable human rights that the Constitution says government may not restrict (except in certain specific cases and only with due process).

    I have a right to free speech. If a musician sings me a song he wrote...I have a right to turn around and sing that same song to somebody else. I have a right to my personal property, to use it how I see fit (unless it hurts blah blah blah). So I have this copy machine right here called a "computer"...I have the right to use it to copy a song or a photograph or a movie or whatever. But nobody has a fundamental right to not have their stuff copied.

    This is a bit of a problem, because as you said, the hard part is creating a new song or thinking up a new invention, and society really likes having those things. So to encourage artists and inventors to create and share, we as a society will agree to curtail our right to use our copy machines (whether they be computers, printing presses, or our own voices) for a limited time. We'll do them that favor, giving up our fundamental rights to free speech and the use of our physical property to help them make a buck. But only for a limited time...say 14 or 28 years.

    And that worked for a long, long time, until they forgot what the agreement was. Now the industry thinks they're the ones with the rights! They think that just because they strung 3 chords together and said "baby" a lot that they have the inalienable right to dictate who can and cannot repeat those sounds and for what purposes for about 120 years. And will bankrupt us through the courts if we defy them. And then they want to lecture us as if they have the moral high ground!

    And that's why there's conflict between the artists and industry and the public. The artists and industry forgot they don't actually have any fundamental rights and are compensated only because of the good will of the public. But they've squandered that good will and are killing the goose that laid their golden eggs.

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