Guess What? Copying Still Isn't Stealing
from the just-saying dept
Every time you think we’re done seeing totally ridiculous arguments about file sharing, the old really silly ones pop back up. Musician Logan Lynn has written a pretty silly rant on Huffington Post entitled Guess What? Stealing Is Still Wrong. And, indeed, it is. But nowhere in the article does he actually discuss stealing. He discusses infringement. In silly black and white terms that assumes that every single download is absolutely a lost sale, that no one who downloads ever gives him any money and that his biggest fans are criminals. Crazy stuff.
The music industry has been ravaged by the digital age, the primary culprit being illegal file sharing on websites with practically zero regulation. The past two decades have been something of a Wild West on ye olde Interwebs. No rules, no accountability. By the time the music industry reacted to what was happening, it was too late.
Almost nothing in this paragraph is true. It’s a nice fiction that the RIAA/MPAA have been telling the world, but it’s simply wrong. The music industry? Growing. Zero regulation? Try 15 anti-piracy laws passed in the last 30 years. No accountability? Should I list out the tens of thousands of lawsuits that copyright holders have filed against those who were file sharing? If you can’t get the basics right, it’s kinda difficult to take your complaints seriously.
While performing at and attending the CMJ music conference in New York City in fall 2009, I learned that at that time, 91 percent of all new music was downloaded illegally over the Internet instead of purchased. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Record stores are closing, music rags are shutting down, and the glory days of rock and roll are over…
Actually the popular stat at the time was 95%, and it was bogus. And, there’s a lot of evidence that the number has actually been dropping, not rising. Record stores closed because they sold CDs which are increasingly obsolete. Music rags are shutting down because music blogs are running rings around them online. The glory days of rock and roll were never quite as glorious as you think…
which I actually don’t give even half a shit about. In fact, I’m glad the music industry got destroyed. It was fucked-up anyway, so who cares? Poor (filthy rich) record executives making hundreds of millions of dollars on the backs of artists. Boo-hoo. I’m crying for you. Really. I am.
It sure seems like you’re complaining.
What pisses me off is having over 91 percent of my personal intellectual property stolen, often before it even has the chance to be finished and released to the world. As a professional musician, a lot of time, hard work, and money goes into making a record. As an independent musician, that money comes directly out of my own pocket. Being a starving artist honestly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anymore, people, and getting ripped-off has always sucked.
You didn’t have 91% of your intellectual property “stolen.” First of all, the number — whatever it is — was a general number across the entire global market. That doesn’t mean it’s the same for all artists. This is basic stats. Second, if tons of people are downloading your works it’s because they like your music and that’s a good thing and then there are all sorts of ways to get paid.
Even when I was on a major label, I got totally screwed because so much money was put into the recording, printing, PR, and distribution side that trying to recoup from consumer sales based on that 9 percent of people obtaining the album legally was almost impossible. Everyone had the record months before it came out anyway, because of file sharing. The week before it was released, one site that posted download counts on files reported over 18,000 illegal downloads of my record before my lawyer had them take the file down. That alone comes out to $180,000 — for my songs — of which I saw $0. My record deal was a 90/10 split at the time, but guess what 90 percent of $0 is? You guessed it! Still $0.
First of all, the “numbers” posted on those sites are usually made up, not real. Second, assuming that every one of those 18,000 people would have paid $10 for the album is simply delusional. Some of them might have. Others might have downloaded first and then decided to buy later. Others might have downloaded, and then told 20 of their closest friends how awesome you are and told them to go buy your album. Or go see a live show. The assumption that this is $180,000 gone is simple fantasy.
Think of it this way: if you were a painter and were putting the finishing touches on your pieces for a show, wouldn’t you be upset if someone broke into your studio, took your unfinished paintings, and hung them in their public gallery without your permission? Let’s say you had some finished work hanging for sale in your own space, but every time someone saw something they liked, they removed it from the wall, tucked it under their arm, and left without paying for it? What if 100 people came to your show opening and 91 of them decided to steal one of your paintings off the wall? Then what? Paint faster to keep up with the demand?
Think of this way: if you were a painter and were putting the finishing touches on your pieces for a show, wouldn’t it be awesome to find out that thousands of people were so eager to find out about your works that they were clamoring for copies online? Let’s say you had some finished work hanging for sale in your own space, but every time someone saw something they liked, they made a copy and told a bunch of others about it — and then paid you to do more paintings? What if 100 people came to your show and 91 of them liked you so much they decided to make copies and find out more about you and how they could support your future work? Then what? Things would be pretty good, right?
I know this is the part where all the kids and hipsters start to roll their eyes and say things like, “You just don’t get it, grandpa,” and, “It’s freedom of speech,” but I don’t actually believe that stealing my intellectual property is your constitutional right. Sorry, everybody.
If you’re going to mock those who are arguing against you, it helps to actually understand their argument. The free speech argument is not that infringement is free speech. It’s that ridiculous laws like SOPA create massive collateral damage that do serious harm to free speech.
Next time you hear a song you like, I encourage you to purchase it instead of stealing it. Supporting independent musicians just feels better than robbing us of our livelihood. I promise! Hell, you could even go to your favorite local record store, buy a CD, and look at the cover art for hours. You know, for old times’ sake.
Next time you have a fan come to your site, I encourage you to offer them proactive reasons to buy instead of just demanding that they hand over cash. Treating your fans as fans and giving them lots of ways to support you just feels better than treating your biggest fans as criminals. I promise! Hell, you could even offer up cool products and bundles, or try a name your own price offering, or any number of other cool new ideas. You know, for modern times’ sake.