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A New Take on Music Piracy

I read a theory** out there that states it's not only because of the music industry "executives" that file-trading networks have blossomed but also because of the artists themselves.

With the amount of inferior music (Britney Spears, N'Sync, etc.) out there comes the desire to rebel against the system.

If the musicians become better there may be more incentive to actually buy the music instead of copying or burning it for free. What do you think?


Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Sounds pretty pretentious to me.  What's probably closer to the truth is that it was easy to get mp3s and there was no perceived risk of being caught so it didn't really seem like stealing.  Although I don't want to try and attribute a single motive to the actions of a diverse group of people, I can't imagine a lot of people downloading mp3s and thinking "I'm only doing this to stick it to the man!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Similarly, I also can't imagine many people thinking "This music sucks so bad, I'm going to go to the trouble of finding and downloading a pirated copy, and listen to it over and over.  That'll show em!"

Even if this were true, it is still no excuse.  If the music is bad, don't listen to it.  Just because a product is bad (or overpriced) doesn't entitle you to steal it.

Mike McNertney
Wednesday, December 11, 2002

1. What's the point of stealing music you don't like? Isn't that just totally lame - stealing stuff you hate? Shouldn't we say that someone stealing stuff they don't like is totally lame? Hom stupid can you geh. if you're going to go to the trouble of illegally stealing something wouldn't it make more sense to steal something you like? Unless you are reallly really stupid, I mean. After all, really dumb people are unpredictable and will do just about damn near anything and they don't need to have a reason.

Ed the Millwright
Wednesday, December 11, 2002

If I don't like something enough to buy, I don't like it enough to steal either. Seems simple to me.

Robert Moir
Wednesday, December 11, 2002

I will pay more for some songs than others. For example, I found a rare live bootleg CD on Ebay of one of my favorite bands. However, I'm not ready to pay $30 for it without having seen and heard it. However, I would pay $20-30 in a store for the same rare CD if I could see and hear it before paying.

So presumably some people like a song, but not enough to pay $0.01 for it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

>> So presumably some people like a song, but not enough to pay $0.01 for it.

Some people might like a song enoguh to pay $30 for it, but given the choice of paying $30 or $0.01, they prefer the latter.

The observation that they paid $0.01 tells us nothing about the maximum they are prepared to pay.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

actually, the thing that irks me most about the issue of paying for music, is paying for the same music over and over.

"Back in the day" I had over $1000 of 12" vinyl LP's (youngsters on this group, just bear with me; you don't have to know what they are--my teenager doesn't either :). OK, then we went to CD's. Fine, much better quality sound (please let's not start an analog vs. digital religious war here -- they sounded better to **me**). I paid basically as much for the freakin' CD as I paid for the album.

Now, Ozzy, Roger Plant, and friends did not generally go back into the studio to re-record "Paranoid" or "Black Dog" to go onto CD; presumably the original tracks stored on tapes were re-mixed and ultimately burned onto CDs. So, there was work done and some value added over just copying from LP straight to CD, but not nearly what was done to originally record the music.

Now come mp3's. Damn. All we're doing, on a per-song basis, is to basically change the storage medium on which the music sits. What I do not want, is to pay --yet again-- the same price for a song on mp3 that I've already owned once on vinyl, another time on CD.

Somehow (and making this reasonably secure and generally fair might not be trivial), if I'm going to pay $15 for an LP, then buy the CD of the same music, I don't want to pay another $15, nor would I want to pay yet another $15 for the same selection of songs as mp3's. If I'm getting a song on mp3 I never had before, then fine, I'd pay full price for it no matter how the hell long ago it was recorded.

Like I said - I have no idea how such a system could be monitored, unless it was via some sort of exchange system -- e.g. turn in your vinyl "Black Sabbath" album and only pay 20% of the cost of the same album on CD, for example. It being difficult/impossible, though, still doesn't stop me from getting irritated by having to pay for nothing more than changing music media.

It would not surprise me if similar motives contributed to napster's popularity.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

This is the entire modus operandi of companies which exist to exploit ownership of intellectual property. Legally, they can control when and under what circumstances their material is copied. This is how they make money. If they were not able to control this, they would simply be a distribution business - as with, say, Linux. You would decide if you'd rather pay $10 to the record company for a nice packaged CD, or just copy your friend's CD for $0.10. Since the majority of people would decide on the latter, the potential profit of the record business would be only a fraction of what it is with that legal protection, and there would be a lot less record companies. One or two companies might be quite successful this way, but the ecosystem would be in no way big enough to support the number that currently exist.

Just because it's been easy to copy vinyl to tape, CD to tape, vinyl to CD, and lately CD to MP3, doesn't mean it is always going to remain so. Technology now exists to make it very, very hard to use material in any way that the copyright owner doesn't specifically approve of, and the record companies have bought the legal framework to compel technology companies - whose instinct is always to give the customer what they want, which is copying technology - to play ball.

Put it this way - if the record companies could charge you every time you listen to a track on an album, they would wish to do so. And the time when they *can* do so is rapidly approaching. As consumers, your only choice is to pay up, or break the law. Since the 'new' laws such as DMCA are criminal rather than civil, breaking them will place you in more theoretical peril that would have been the case before, since now you can go to jail.

Given that most consumers want to be able to do things that the record companies believe - correctly from a legal perspective - that they should be able to make money on for free, it's inevitable that there will be tension around this issue.

The reasons for music piracy are simple - people would rather get something for free than pay for it. That stands to reason. The two groups - the people, and the record companies - are in direct opposition over a fundamental principle. Ultimately, such diametric opposition can only be resolved by the elimination or comprehensive defeat of one side by the other. Right now, I would back the record companies to win this one. Which is sad.

Neil Hewitt
Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Neil - if the record companies "eliminate or comprehensively defeat" their customers then they do the same to themselves (it just takes a little longer). Since the introduction of their "copy protection" on CDs I have not bought a single CD (copy protected or otherwise).

Thursday, December 12, 2002

"Ultimately, such diametric opposition can only be resolved by the elimination or comprehensive defeat of one side by the other. Right now, I would back the record companies to win this one. Which is sad."

Actually, that doesn't resolve the conflict, but merely temporarily eliminates it. To truely resolve the conflict, one has to take a step back and look at the goals both parties are trying to achieve, then determine how either or both parties can adjust those goals to remove the conflict.

When you do this, you often realise that there are plenty of ways to have both parties achieve their goals without the need for conflict.

For the music business, some of the goals of both parties have been mentioned here already.

Practical geezer
Thursday, December 12, 2002

I think there is a lot in what the original poster says.

When there is a new CD come out that I'm really going to like I'll go out and buy it with enthusiasm. But that happens less and less these days. Basically there is hardly any good new music being released any more.

So I'd be much more tempted to just download the odd mp3 which I might just listen to a couple of times rather than buy a whole CD where there is one track which is kind of ok but not good.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Aw gaaawd. Here we go again.
All the weasels out with flag waving reasons as to why it is "not realy" stealing, and why they are "entiteled" to get it for free.

Listen up boneheads:
There is no "monopoly" on music. There might be one company holding the rights on Britney songs, but there is loads of other noise out there that is truly "free". Your choice. Don't try to justify theft. There is no universal right to Ms. Spears, nor is there a need for one.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, December 12, 2002

I don't think that the author tried to justify theft, but merely explain why it happens so naturally.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Hmm.  Pay $18 for a CD with 2 good tracks.  That is just an amazingly stupid way to accumulate music.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Hmm, I should maybe say something more substantive.  This is an interesting topic for an IT community, but at least we have the outlet of free software.  Without that, piracy rates would be much huger.

Also, /. just mentioned a practical O'Reilly article on the subject, which is much more nuanced than I could be in a discussion board post.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

I think these two articles present a good view of why I laothe the music industry and could care less about their supposed "demise":

If the music industry gets their way we will all be forking up a nickel each time we playa tune. I for one find this disturbing and continue to support indie artist. I have no problem paying for music. Renting it on the other hand I have a problem with. The whole idea of ownership is being replaced with service industries and long term financing. You don't really own anything anymore.

Ian Stallings
Thursday, December 12, 2002

I tell you what this is going to, this is COMMUNISM! thats what it is!

Still, I think that what the author ment to say is that there is very little anyone can do to empose anything on us, and that we "pirate" (make our choices) subliminaly.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

The point many musicians are making is in fact that they get a very small proportion of  the money you fork out for a CD.

Most of the money you pay for the CD goes to the distribution chain, then to corporate salries and profits, and then to payola to radio DJ's.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, December 12, 2002

"The point many musicians are making is in fact that they get a very small proportion of  the money you fork out for a CD."

And exactly why is this relevant?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, December 13, 2002

My comment is relevant because if you go to the beginning of the thread, you will find the original poster saying he had heard that many musicians would survive, or actually welcome, the demise of the present music industry, because it would return them control of their work, at present in the hands of big business.

Stephen Jones
Friday, December 13, 2002

I find it humorous that some people seem to think that because they don't like the price or quality of a product then they are entitled to steal it.

I'll agree with the poster that complained of paying multiple times for a change in media, however.

But..many of you are effectively saying "I don't like the price of this. It's too high. And I don't like that those evil record companies are getting too rich, so I'm going to steal it and my reasoning makes it OK."

Talk about self-righteous!!

I wonder how many of you have walked into a Porsche dealership and just decided to take that new 911 off the lot for free because:

* You don't think it's worth the price they ask
* You really want it though.
* You don't like the fact that some German exec is getting rich.

Stealing is stealing. At least have enough guts to admit it. Rationalizing it only makes you sound pathetic.

Do I have MP3's of music that I don't have the CD for? Absolutely I do! Is it stealing? Absolutely it is! Am I going to torture logic to justify my actions? No, because doing that is just stupid. I can admit I'm a thief.

Can you?

Another burned out programmer
Friday, December 13, 2002

Weird, of all places, to have my article discussed here.

I wasn’t trying to justify stealing. I was referring more to the psychology of the music/software thief. I was talking about why people steal so freely and don't feel guilty about it, not about if it’s right or wrong.

In a way I was offering my view to the music and software corporations.
You guys steal although you know its wrong. I was just offering my opinion on the why.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

it's not stealing. it's called infringment. read what the supream court has said about calling it theft.

tired of the RIAA
Saturday, December 14, 2002

Of course it is stealing, I'm not going to wimp out on that one. The problem is that the P2P community aren't the only ones playing fast and loose with the law. The recording industry seems to have declared war on fair use.,4057,5612429%255E1702,00.html

So what options do I have, but civil disobedience through rampant piracy/theft/infringement?

Oh.. and for a nice take on the big picture business model, check out:

Geoff in Vancouver BC
Saturday, December 14, 2002

An interesting article on the "community" attributes of Napster :

One of its conclusions :

'... the Napster Community has nearly collapsed, thanks to the introduction of filters to reduce the transfer of copyrighted music. (...) Once there are no free music resources, then the members leave for other Napster-like applications. And they leave as easily as they came. The "core" of few thousand idealistic users cannot really compete with a crowd of "free riders."'

Attending the wake
Monday, December 16, 2002

Everything is a matter of perspective. And the point is rather moot. Regardless whether it is thievery or not, from a moral or legal standpoint, the "piracy" won't end.
Some odd decades ago the "same" discussion was held regarding the cassette tape. All of a sudden people could copy songs off the radio and friends LP:s, and the recording industry went berserk. Finally a small generic royalty fee was added to the price of a cassette tape. The recording industry adapted and survived. Most likely they will adapt again, and find smarter ways of making money of music. Quality of music overall probably won't go up , if anything, it will probably become even more homogenized. The mainstream charts will anyway. The major stumbling block is probably the fact that you won't be able to make as much money of a single album anymore. It will take some innovative thinking. Something that the recording industry is not used too. But hey.. even some companies survived.. through much tougher times and with a lot less business savvy.
I personally think that the recording industry is NOT especially worried over the decline in sales. They are not stupid after all, they have business analysts etc etc and know that a lot of their market is beeing swept up by other markets, just because people only have so much money (games, dvds, electronic gatgets etc). But the discussion whether it is piracy or not, is great for marketing purposes and for getting free publicity regarding the fact that the major labels ARE infact creating their own services. And for guilt tripping some people into thinking "poor artists that don't get paid". Don't kid yourselves. Artists do get paid, even though it is a FRACTION of what the label makes.

There. How's that for saying a lot about nothing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

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