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Music Piracy Your Rights Online

A Composer's-Eye View of the Copyright Wars 973

bonch writes "As an experiment, composer Jason Robert Brown logged onto a site illegally offering his sheet music for download and contacted hundreds of users, politely asking them to stop listing the material. Most complied, some were confused, and a few fought back. Brown chronicles a lengthy exchange he had with a teenage girl named Brenna, which provides an interesting insight into the artists' perspective of the copyright debate. He also responds to several points raised in comments to the article and says, 'I don't wish to be the enemy; I'm just a guy trying to make a living.'"
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A Composer's-Eye View of the Copyright Wars

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2010 @10:47PM (#32795356)

    An (Analogue) Artist's Reply to Just Criticism [] . Glynn Moody commented on this days ago

  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:5, Informative)

    by matzahboy ( 1656011 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:00PM (#32795406)
    You are allowed to share, as long as it is the original copy. That's how libraries work. You are allowed to buy a piece of sheet music and give it to a friend. But you are not allowed to buy a piece of sheet music and give your friend a replica. Then there are 2 copies and you only paid for one. Without DRM, it is nearly impossible to share music or sheet music legally on the internet. To share it legally would mean deleting your copy when you send it to a friend.
  • Re:Indeed (Score:5, Informative)

    by pgmrdlm ( 1642279 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:02PM (#32795410) Journal
    A previous poster made the point was made that you can get prepaid credit cards from walmart.

    Hell, from strictly a security standpoint that would be the best way to purchase anything from the web.

    Lack of a credit card is not an excuse, you can get prepaid ones.

  • Re:simple math (Score:3, Informative)

    by matzahboy ( 1656011 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:04PM (#32795426)
    But you can't substitute an mp3 for sheet music. You use an mp3 to listen to a song. But if you want to perform a song for a talent show, you need to know all of the notes and rhythms. Unless you have a very well trained ear, you will not be able to easily play all of the notes just from listening to the song (unless you listen to it quite a lot).
  • Re:Indeed (Score:3, Informative)

    by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:10PM (#32795474) Journal

    You can buy a prepaid credit card at the local drug store. They cost $5 plus the face value, though I think you can recharge them.

    You need a credit card number to buy from steam, but AFAIK, they don't require that you have an actual line of credit..

    The books you described are priced inline, I'm sorry to say, with your typical college text book. Which, as a side note, I suggest that you do not sell back to the school bookstore at the end of the semester. If you have a good professor, the books are chosen to supplement your education, and make a great start to your personal library.

    While I'm not sure the books are worth the $100++ that they charge, I'm confident that giving them up is not worth the $5-$20 you'll get for them at the end of the semester. Go ahead and buy the used books if they're available, but don't bother with the buy-back unless you're sure you don't want the book for your library and you need the pittance for something.

  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:30PM (#32795612)

    Presumptuous, are we?

    I'll have you know, I make sandwiches on a regular basis.

  • by johnhp ( 1807490 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:46PM (#32795728)
    You made a great argument, but couldn't resist slipping this in there: "nothing but lies, just like the rest of christianity."

    Please, keep your militant atheism under wraps, at least when you're trying to make a controversial point about an unrelated topic. It muddies your argument and by attaching a controversial rider, you're certain to instantly lose plenty of people who might have otherwise been converted.

    Just a fun example, imagine if we sold recycling like this: "By recycling, you can help ensure a better tomorrow for our children, as long as you don't kill them with abortions first." Imagine how well that would go over in California.
  • Re:simple math (Score:3, Informative)

    by boondaburrah ( 1748490 ) on Sunday July 04, 2010 @11:57PM (#32795814)
    You forget, as I often do, that time spent working is worth money too. It's true that recording a song costs much more money to hire musicians, get/rent equipment, edit, etc, but when you say

    Does making sheet music take days of editing to get it to sound just right? No.

    It really does. In fact, it can take weeks or even months before the artist is satisfied with their composition. During that time, the composer doesn't get nearly as much money as the people who are just recording, (as they can output faster) with about the same amount of effort (providing the artist isn't procrastinating). They have to make up that money in the end by selling copies of their composition. Granted, this isn't true for every composer, but to simply dismiss composition as a "cheaper" form of art is rather short-sighted. (Unless we're talking about top-20 hits or so, that is cheap composition)

    (Side note: My Dad's an artist, and I definitely feel the difference in family budget when his prints are selling or not.)

  • by madpansy ( 1410973 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:08AM (#32795914)

    The best solution for individuals wanting to learn new music, inefficient in the short term but invaluable in the long run, is to learn how to play by ear and transcribe the music yourself. But I'm sure you've heard that before. Anyway here are some sheet music sites I know of, primarily piano.

    • [] Torrent site. Registrations are closed, but says you can go to their IRC channel to apply.
    • Piano Files [] Digital sheet music trading site. List your collection, then e-mail others to request sheets from their list to trade for.
    • GamingForce [] Video Game forum, but also has a broad range of sheet music. Have to register to see the forum; once you do, it's under concert hall > musician's library.

    In case anyone does not already know, IMSLP [] is a great site for public domain sheet music.

  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:24AM (#32796016) Journal

    One is for personal entertainment and the other is for providing a performance tool.

    Except that the sheet music you buy does not allow you to perform the piece in public [] - you also need to purchase the right to perform it as well. So the only legal use purchasing the sheet music gives is personal entertainment as well.

  • Re:A Little Too Late (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:33AM (#32796074)

    I have n remorse over screwing the Lables over - it's not like the artists see much of the money anyway. The lables are screwing us over copyright in the first place.

  • Re:Indeed (Score:4, Informative)

    by Aranykai ( 1053846 ) <slgonser&gmail,com> on Monday July 05, 2010 @12:34AM (#32796078)

    The contract you enter into when using those requires an adult. Minors cannot enter into a binding legal contract in the US.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @01:29AM (#32796382)

    Are you sure about the -1? Because you can get a copyright on silence [].

  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Low Ranked Craig ( 1327799 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @02:44AM (#32796818)

    I'm sorry, I have to disagree with this. My personal thoughts and beliefs on the matter run counter to the general population on /., but here goes.

    Copying is a right. Just one that is restricted by law.

    First, you are completely, absolutely wrong. Copyright is, (quoting Wikipedia which has is right): "Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned. Copyright lasts for a certain time period after which the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright applies to a wide range of works that are substantive and fixed in a medium. Some jurisdictions also recognize "moral rights" of the creator of a work, such as the right to be credited for the work."

    Copying someone else's work is not a right. period. While I disagree strenuously with the *AAs and other assorted fuckery surrounding this issue, your position is one of hey, you can't stop me so I can do it. This is wrong. I especially support the copyrights of individuals like Brown, and myself. I work my ass off creating applications for companies and I absolutely prohibit them from selling my works or distributing copies, and I will sue anyone that violates that agreement. They do not have the right to copy my work, because I did not grant them that right. End of story.

    When you get right down to it, while not exactly the same as stealing or shoplifting, copying someone else's work without permission is still a bad thing, but of course there are degrees. If I download a song to listen to, that is one thing. If I'm doing it because I don't like it enough to pay for it, that's one thing, as arguably I haven't cost the owner anything since I wasn't going to pay for it anyway. If I download it, burn discs and sell it for a profit that is the other end of the scale. Both are wrong, but the latter is much, much worse. This is where I get really pissed off at the *AAs, because they apply the law meant for the latter to the former, which IMO is an abuse of the civil law system, but I digress.

    only physical force can stop that person from making copies

    So what? This is a lame ass excuse for poor behavior on your part and nothing more. To carry your analogy to it's ludicrous extreme, the only way you can stop me from dragging someone into an alley and slicing their throat is by physical force. Is copying something as bad as killing someone? No, of course it isn't, but excusing behaviors because they can only be prevented by physical force is just fucking stupid.

    In general I support the rights of an individual or a company to protect the copyrights of their works. Creating software, writing books, making music and movies is, in realty, a lot of work, and the people involved should enjoy the fruits of their labors, and if you don't want to pay the price, then don't. This does not change my position on the *AAs - they can fuck off and die in a fire.

    In short I find your position self-centered, childish and utterly incorrect.

  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kitkoan ( 1719118 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @03:26AM (#32797130)

    Music (AFAIK, everything on iTunes and Amazon are DRM-free) Software (MS office vs. Open Office) ?? What categories exist where DRM is the only way material is available??

    Windows OS/Mac OS, everything beyond music on iTunes, eBooks from most companies, digital movies, consoles...

  • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @09:50AM (#32798894) Journal

    Really, copyright debate boils down to free-loaders demanding free access to everything, and copyright holders demanding restrictions on everything.

    Nice straw man there. Lots of people argue in the middle ground. Even The Pirate Party calls for some copyrights, but with a much reduced limit, as you suggest also.

  • Re:It's not "trade" (Score:3, Informative)

    by mpeskett ( 1221084 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @10:25AM (#32799184)

    Copyright is a legal construct granting an artist (or their employer, or a corporation, or whoever) exclusive control over the making of copies of a work, and hence also denying everyone else that right unless they have authorisation from the copyright owner. In theory that legally granted monopoly eventually expires and the work enters the public domain, allowing everyone to copy it however they please (except it doesn't any more... whenever something old but profitable comes close to going public the industry lobbies for another extension).

    In the absence of copyright law, everything would be public domain, everyone would have a natural right to share, to copy, to trade, to make derivative works, to do whatever they want with whatever information they have (I'm using information for want of a better term to describe all the possible copyrightable works). I think the original point was that this natural right should be given primacy, rather than everyone accepting copyright law and giving up their right to copy.

    The original idea of copyright law was that, as a society, we temporarily give up the right to make copies of a new work, so that the creative types will be able to make a profit from a short period of monopoly, hence have the motive to make more nice things, and the public domain would be enriched by that when the copyrights expire. Unfortunately the length of that temporary period has grown ever longer, and the law no longer serves its original purpose. Now, instead of serving to enrich the public domain it serves only to enrich copyright owners. Maybe that does mean more creative works, a gain for society, but it also means a corresponding loss from the public domain. The question is whether that trade is fair; whether the assumed increase in creative output from longer copyright terms justifies us giving away our right to make copies.

    Honestly, I doubt that there's any great difference in the number of things that would be made between, say a 50 year copyright term and a 70 year one (extend that logic back to as short a copyright term as you think sensible... I doubt it makes much difference to the number of works being made past 20 years) and given that copyright also serves to stifle creative output (any creative work that would be infringing on earlier work can be blocked by means of copyright) I think its fair to say that the trade is not fair at all - we're giving away the right to make copies for decades and getting very little back for it that we wouldn't get with a shorter term. Effectively, we're all getting ripped off, so breaking copyright law could be justified as a means of resistance.

    Personally, I'd favour a drastic reduction in the length of copyright terms; maybe 7 years. It'd make it much easier to respect copyright if I knew it was doing what it was intended for, as opposed to giving a massive industry a near-perpetual line of profit (what other industry gets to continue making money on work that was done decades ago?) as well as the power to sue people indiscriminately, as it seems to be doing today.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @01:57PM (#32801448)

    I disagree on the writing part. I've been running forums for a while now and people my age (this was a few years back) all wrote far better than "Brenna." No errors, good grammar, no chatspeak -- these teenagers were a dime a dozen.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin