The Question Of Piracy

Here is another thing that really riles me.

As declared by the esteemed RIAA and it’s sister concern here in Canada, downloading music is illegal. Their argument centers within the idea that music created by artists is copyrighted and owned by RIAA and it’s affiliates. How this situation came about, I will leave it to the experts to
decipher. But I still have a hard time understanding how the artists sometimes have to thank a company for letting them use the lyrics even though the artist has written them.

Anyway, here is my justification for downloading music. Keep in mind that I listen to mostly Indie artists and classic rock.

First of all, I agree with the fact that downloading music is definitely detrimental to the artists. By downloading an album from the Internet free of charge, you are denying actual money flowing to the creators of the music you enjoy. But the cold hard reality is that barring the U2s, the Bob Dylans and The Pink Floyds, most of the artists do not really see much money from the sales of their albums, let alone their singles. The reason are multitude but one really stands out.

The cost of the album is built is such a way that new or not so well known artists will see only a small part of return from the actual sale of the album. After the distribution and copyright costs are stripped, the artist may see only 10 cents to a dollar in return. So, if I download an album without paying, I am actually stealing only a small part of what the artist should actually be getting. I know I am the kettle calling the pot black but excuse me, the pot is WAAAAY blacker than I am. RIAA should first restructure it’s finances before it starts to make examples of people like me. Moreover, the more RIAA tries the go on the offensive and attack people, more innovative ways will come to surface for people to share music. They are fighting a losing battle.

Another aspect of “buying” an album that I fail to comprehend is the multiple formats that I have had to purchase for the same album.

E.g. Dark Side Of The Moon is a must have album in everyone’s collection. The first time my dad brought the album it was in an LP format. After a few years with the advent of walkman and tape recorders, we purchased a cassette format of the album. After a few years we purchased a CD player and, of course, we purchased Dark Side Of The Moon CD. After I moved out of the house, I could not take the CD with me as my mom and dad listened to it every now and then. In those days (early 90’s) CD writers were not the norm that they are now. Since I was a big fan of the album, I too eventually paid money for another CD.

So, for those keeping count, we paid 4 times for the same album. So at this stage if I loose my CD or it is destroyed somehow, what am I supposed to do? Pay for the album again? No fucking way!!! Especially now that DRM is the norm on legitimate music, there would be no way for me to put the album on my iPod, on my CD for my car, on my computer at work and on my lap top. Sorry, there is no way I am going to pay more money for this album.

As for my justification for downloading albums that I have not paid for, here it is :

Let me take the example of Sonic Youth. I had heard of this band before but after looking at the price of each CD (at around USD 25 per CD), there was no way I was going to “try” to sample and then decide. They have released more than a dozen CD over the course of 25 odd years. At USD 25 each we are looking at around USD 300 for all their work. No, thank you.

Recently I came across and downloaded all the albums of Sonic Youth with the expectation that I will probably like a few numbers and discard the rest. But their music just blew me away. And, GASP, I did not pay a cent for any of the songs that I have come to love and listen to number of times during any given time frame. So, I stole a large amount of money from the band.

Well….errrr…..No. That’s not the way I think of it….although a jury might think of it as stealing.

As I explained earlier, Sonic Youth would have seen very little of the money I paid for the music. But after listening to the full arsenal of the most amazing music, what they have gained is a fan. A fan who is willing to spend the CAD 100 required for their concerts (the band would see a larger part of the dollar from a concert rather than a sale of their album), a fan who has willing to buy their books, their art and other merchandise that they sell (and yes, I have bought a few items). And I don’t feel so bad about it because this how the bands really make their money.

But the strangle hold that the RIAA and it’s affiliates has over them, they really have no choice in how they would like their music to reach their fans.

Here are some links to go through :

1) The Problem With Music – By Steve Albini
2) Courtney Love Does Math – Courtney Love
3) The Internet Debacle – Janis Ian

One thought on “The Question Of Piracy

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