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Music Piracy

David Lowery On the Ethics of Music Piracy 713

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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  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:33PM (#40373435)
    interesting there is never any push back on that even though it screws artists a lot more than anything else.
  • Re:In a world... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mw13068 ( 834804 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:46PM (#40373679)
    The musicians who are very talented and easy to work with became popular and were paid more, and the musicians who weren't quite as talented would just play music in their spare time, with friends at pubs and family gatherings in exchange for dinner and drinks -- and work in other trades to make a livelihood. There is no law on the books that states "Anyone who decides they're an 'artist' should therefore be able to make a living at it."
  • The Moral Amount... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chad.koehler ( 859648 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @02:53PM (#40373817)
    In this article David Lowery attempts to get readers on his side of the fence by discussing what would have needed to be paid to "ethically and legally" support the artists, specifically for the 11,000 songs that Emily White has in her collection.  His stated value for those songs, $2,139.50.

    That is approximately $0.20 per song.  I think everyone would agree that is a fair price.  Unfortunately, there is nowhere that you can actually purchase music at anywhere near that price.

    David Lowery suggests that $2,139.50 is fair, and yet then attempts to direct Emily to iTunes, where that collection would likely cost exactly $10,890, assuming an average cost of $0.99.
  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:24PM (#40374353)
    I would be much more in favor of copyright if the 'artists' didn't build their work on other people's 'Intellectual Property'. Of course, If we want to call it property, then lets just tax it as real property. Let the 'owner' declare the properties worth. If they declare that a single copy is worth 10 million dollars, fine. They can pay taxes on that 10 million dollars. If they declare it to be worth $1, then that is how much they can sue for when it gets copied.

    If they are required to pay taxes on the 'property' every year, you will see a lot more of it make it to the public domain.
  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:24PM (#40374369) Journal

    Bimbo Newton Crosby. Know how much Cheap Trick gets from iTunes for their back catalog? That would be ZERO, the middlemen take every cent. Or how about the fact that Meatloaf had to file for bankruptcy TWICE because using Hollywood Accounting [] the record company claimed that Bat Out Of Hell I, which has the record for longest time on the top 200 BTW, and this before the age of piracy, made NO MONEY and therefor he didn't deserve shit for one of the biggest selling albums in history.

    As someone who makes music and hopes to actually make a living from it I have to say FUCK THE MAFIAA as the current system is so damned rigged for the middlemen it is about like trying to win 3 card monty, its a total scam. living a hop, skip, and a jump from two major music centers I've held the actual contracts in my hand, got to see what actually happens. i've seen artists that sell more than half a million copies of an album they 1.-recorded on their own time with their own money and 2.-promoted themselves with no help from the record co get handed a BILL for $50,000 for the "privilege" of giving them a half a million in sales! I've seen bands have to break up and never work together because the "standard deals" for new artists are so damned skewed that unless they sell Britney numbers right out the gate they LOSE MONEY and they LOSE THEIR SONGS whether they sell Britney numbers or not!

    So Cracker, who last i heard was working as a producer and thus being a middleman himself, can frankly kiss my ass. The system DOES NOT WORK for anybody but the leeches, PERIOD. As a final note, know what Metallica gets for all their MAFIAA ass kissing? 89c an album. That's it. they practically blew the record execs and the greedy fucks won't even give them a whole dollar. Fuck the MAFIAA and the quicker they DIAF the better, it'll be a better world without them

  • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:27PM (#40374421)

    Native Americans didn't consider land to be 'property' either.

    This is probably off topic but what you say is factually incorrect. The reason that the Indians sold and gave away their land for a pittance is because the Indians the colonials were buying/taking from weren't the one's that owned the land. Like saying that guy you met on 1st avenue must not understand real estate very well since he was willing to sell you the Brooklyn bridge for just $500.

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

    by geminidomino ( 614729 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:44PM (#40374719) Journal

    Why is it people who quote the constitution never bother quoting the whole sentence:

    Because everyone up to and including SCOTUS seems to think the most important part of what you bolded is irrelevant?

    Particularly, the word "limited."

    It's certainly conducive to an attitude of "why should we unwashed masses play by the rules when the fat cats refuse to?"

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:47PM (#40374773)
    I admit to being shocked to read what Lowery wrote about how advances work. Maybe on the small labels he presumably recorded on it worked that way, but none of the major labels work that way in general. Advances were used specifically to keep musicians in servitude to the recording company by running up debts that they could rarely pay. You can read about the practice here - []
    I don't remember his name but one US Senator called the recording industry something like buying a house and having the bank continue to own it after you paid off the mortgage.
  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:48PM (#40374817) Journal
    Its not the cost, its the idea that an artists and their agents attempt ( and succeed) in limiting technology for nothing else then profit. Art is insignificant compared to the technological communication infrastructure we are building. They need to get the fuck out of the way before we as a society decide to really change the nature of copyright.
  • by terminalhype ( 971547 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @03:54PM (#40374911)
    Comic author Rob Reid unveils Copyright Math (TM), a remarkable new field of study based on actual numbers from entertainment industry lawyers and lobbyists. []
  • Re:for artists? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:04PM (#40375083)

    But all of us not paying for music has long term devastating impact on the production of music as it currently exists.

    We can only hope. A world without Beebers is a dream.

    Why do musicians think the last 80 years is the norm? The world is returning to the norm. They will get paid by audiences for live performances. Instead of a very few getting paid mega bucks, many will make a living. Sucks to be a 'studio band' (e.g. Guns and Roses) that can't play live.

  • by melikamp ( 631205 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:09PM (#40375161) Homepage Journal

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

    No it's not. Try yanking a purse from a girl on a street and see whether she opts to scream or to calmly go home and have her lawyer contact you. Personal property is way, way older than any law or religion, and is understood on a visceral level. The fact that chimps own personal tools should be a dead giveaway.

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

    by Digicaf ( 48857 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:09PM (#40375173)

    Kind of, but not really. It takes time to build a house just like it takes time to make art. Just because it costs very little to copy the final product does not automatically mean that there wasn't some investment of time and effort on the front end. Copyright law seeks to recognize that original time and effort.

    Most of the pro-copying arguments I've seen involve this logic: "It costs me almost nothing to copy this thing, therefore it has no value and the creating artist deserves nothing for it". I've seen it dressed up a lot of different ways but it usually boils down to that, and it's a logical fallacy. If it were true, then people wouldn't recognize a difference between listening to static, and listening to music.

    Whether or not intellectual property has value can be argued all day long, but that's not at issue here. What is at issue is whether or not an implementation of an idea has value. Most people confuse those two things, simply because the music they interact with is so easily manipulated. We must be very careful to recognize the difference between a thought, and something created from that thought. Creation has value, the only question is how much value, and how to recognize it.

  • Seriously, don't be absurd. Different types of property are taxed differently. For example, I own a car. I paid tax when I purchased the car. I also pay a licensing cost (a type of tax, in that it goes to the governement for the purpose of supporting public services) to legally operate the car. However, I certianly don't pay tax on it every year. I also own a number of books, which were subject to sales tax when I bought them but nothing else (and certianly no ongoing tax).

    On the flip side, you have the various producers of copyrightable works ("artists" for brevity). To an artist, their (intellectual) property is their source of income. That is, of course, taxed (on a continuous basis... assuming they are selling anything from it). Nothing special about that. In the case of the modern publishing industry, artists receive royalties for the copies of their property that the artists have allowed a publisher to create and sell. Those royalties are taxed as income. Often, there's also a contract (occasionally, there's a contract but no royalties) where the artist is paid a lump sum up front. Those payments are also taxed as income.

    Your argument is completely empty. A warehouse doesn't pay tax on everything it contains on an annual basis. A farm doesn't pay an annual tax on its livestock, despite those unequivocally being the property of farm. Why in the world should artists pay an annual tax on their intellectual property? Forget empty; your argument is ludicrous...

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

    by Skarecrow77 ( 1714214 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:34PM (#40375603)

    To harken back to a previous arguement I made, ethics can trump economics. If not, we'd still have slavery.

    Your arguement does point out a flaw that both sides are making however. They are equating the distribution of CDs and the distribution of Digital copies as if they were two different processes for the same result, that could be weighed vs each other. They are not the same thing.

    The CD (cassette, album, whatever) always included in it's retail price the distribution cost, the advertising cost, the production cost, the management cost, and the payment to the talent for the original creation. They could get away with this method of bundling costs simply because until the mid-90s, CDs were not easily copied.

    now that we have digital distribution (and digital copying), the industry will need to find a new way to monetize the other portions of the bundle, the advertising, the production, the management, and the talent payment. they need to find a way to do this not because their original method was the wrong way to do things, but only because it is now obsolete. A lot of people in the comments here are equating "0 price for distribution" now as "0 price for music, period", and that's simply wrong-headedness.

    We've got a chance here to shape the way an industry and a cultural medium we all love (or else we wouldn't be in here) is reborn in the face of a new paradigm, and we're spending the time saying "lol fuck you mafiaa" instead.

  • by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:35PM (#40375633) Journal

    A warehouse doesn't pay tax on everything it contains on an annual basis.

    In the United States they do. In the US, companies will often destroy goods (and equipment) by scrapping because it's cheaper to destroy them than pay tax on the inventory. This is also why companies will periodically hold inventory-clearing sales with items at stupendously reduced prices.

    I don't know about farms and livestock though.

  • Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Tuesday June 19, 2012 @04:37PM (#40375659)

    Producing the music and advertizing it costs money.

    The main reason why producing and advertising costs so much is because the people who write the checks and the people who cash the checks are the same people. Here, read this. []

    What do you think would happen if you had a manager and you told him, "Hey, we think these advertising costs are a bit much. I'd like to hit a few ad agencies on my own for quotes and see if I can find a better bargain." Do you think that would be met with, "Okay and jolly good! Let's try to save some money!" I'm betting not.

    The real issue here is the middlemen. They've had a fantastic time of it so far, haven't they? They lock down bands with contracts as the barrier of entry into a closed system. It's closed because they have lobbied for it to be closed. That's why it's closed. Then they set the rules for who gets paid and how much. Then they write checks to themselves in whatever amount pleases them. Then they have the audacity to claim they are "protecting the artists". Then finally in a move of unmitigated gall they complain about the ethical implications of people who try to avoid their protection racket!

    I'd love to pay the artists, but currently there isn't a legal way to do so without paying these parasites in the middle. And I think you'll find this to be a fairly popular idea. But the current system is so broken you can't sing Happy Birthday in public. Or how SoundExchange can collect royalties on songs they don't own. Even one you make up and stream yourself - they want royalties for that, and they are legally entitled to them.

    It's like telling someone saying how important it is to obey the law. And then realizing Emperor Palpatane is running things. Makes the ethics a little fuzzy.

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