Blame It On RIAA


The recording industry will still likely prevail in its case against her, but bravo to "nycfashiongirl" for putting up enough of a fight to force the Recording Industry Association of America to reveal some of its sources and methods for fingering downloaders.

NEXT: Room for Two

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  1. Yeah, “bravo.” Anything to Fight The Man. Anything in the battle against people who want to protect their intellectual property. Go, go, go. Whee.

  2. If they wanted to protect their intellectual property they would’ve been working on a secure DRM system 5 years ago and putting their song catalogs online. What they’re fighting for now is to protect their buggywhip factory.

  3. They stoled our precioussssss! We hates the RIAA!

  4. Demonize RIAA all you want, but nycfashiongirl is a thief and a liar. Period.

  5. Demonize nycfashiongirl all you want, but the RIAA represents theives and liars. Period.

  6. Whew! Good thing we dispensed with the need for a trial, or a jury viewing and weighing the evidence, or any nasty inconveniences like that! Anon@3:27 has settled the entire thing!

    The RIAA accused “nycfashiongirl” of offering more than 900 songs by the Rolling Stones, U2, Michael Jackson (news) and others for illegal download . . .

    Oh, won’t someone please end the suffering of U2 and the Rolling Stones?! I can find you hundreds of people in small bands who wish to the gods someone would please, please share their songs over the Internet and build them some audience. And I seriously doubt that U2 cares nearly as much as their label does whether an extra few thousand people download their platinum-selling, Grammy-winning records.

  7. RIAA can try as they may, but going after ISPs to identify individual file sharers and hitting them with lawsuits is the least likely way to succeed in their objectives. (I’m assuming that RIAA exists to help record labels make money).

    Do owners of intellectual property have a right to protect their property? Yes. Does anyone else have an obligation to protect that property for the owner? No.

    The other problem is that for every nycfashiongirl, there are dozens of users outside of the US and the jurisdiction of the US Code Copyright laws. This is an exercise doomed to failure…

  8. Russ,

    The government has an obligation to protect everyone’s property, even if they’re rich rock stars.

    Maybe it’s doomed to failure, maybe it’s not. But stealing music is against the law. Look at the price difference between a music CD and a blank CD. That’s the value of the material on the album. If you take it without paying for it, that’s stealing.

    On the other hand, some of these lawsuits are out of whack. If the crime is equivalent to shoplifting, the punishment should be equilvalent too.

  9. The question is, is the value of enforcement of copyright laws worth the invasion of privacy that the RIAA engages in? Why should the RIAA be held to a lower burden of proof than the federal government when requesting information? Who the hell gives the RIAA the right to look into my computer and mess with MY property because they suspect that I am violating copyright law?

  10. Anon 0409:

    Against the LAW? AGAINST THE LAW??!!! Oh, horrors! Oh, my goodness gracious, oh, dearie me! I’m wetting my pants right now at the very IDEA of the precious, sacred LAW being violated!

    Well, FUCK the law! I wipe my ASS on the filthy, stinking law!

  11. Actually anon, it’s NOT clear that the government has an obligation to protect everyone’s property all the time when that property is merely “intellectual.” That’s the point of the debate as I see it. We can all agree that if you take a CD from your local record store it’s stealing. But if you do pay for it, it’s not clear exactly what it is that you just paid for.

  12. “That’s the value of the material on the album. ”

    Not quite. That is the value the seller is placing on the album. The value the MARKET places on it may be something else. Seeing that people are trying to download the songs for a lower price, perhaps the value placed on the material by the seller is too high.

    You can argue that “free” is the only value that downloaders are placing on the material, but that’s only a guess, there may be a price point above free they are willing to pay; this likely is different for each buyer.

    The marketing of the material is an expense the sellers may want to recoup, but it is likely that few of the listeners or buyers place any value on the marketing at all.

  13. Its not really equivalent to shoplifting, since in shoplifting, an actual cost (inventory shrinkage) is imposed. Here it is merely reduced commercial demand.

    If these companies think protecting their intellectual property is so important, why are they selling master digital copies in WalMart for $12?

    When I buy a CD, exactly what rights did I get? Can I now download those songs?

  14. Look, I realize this is a slippery slope argument…but half the reason that music download is so pervasive, and supported so heavily even by those who are of the libertarian/conservative persuasion is that the price of music (with the exception of services like e-bay) is MUCH, much higher than the value received from it. I’m sure the point has already been made….but it makes no sense whatsoever to pay 17 bucks for a CD with 12 songs, of which you only want 5 lets say.

    On top of this, technology has already marched on, the .wav format of CD audio is already being replaced with MP3 players in both home audio and car stereo. Not only are you paying 10 bucks or more for a CD that has only a few wanted songs, but you’re also paying for a medium that is woefully inadequate compared to what you *could* be using. MP3 music CD’s can hold upwards of 150 songs on them, all at CD quality.

    Like I said, this argument is slippery, however now places like the RIAA have to not only try to honestly compete with the internets price point (by making legal downloads cheap and diverse) but they also have to compete with the fact that computer users can make music compilations that could contain 15 whole album’s on one disc. Then again this all comes back to the argument that the RIAA is not so much fighting a legal/economic battle, so much as a technological battle. Sorry, but even for a staunch capitalist such as myself, an inefficient monopolistic company losing a few percent of its profit margin seems less important than the fact that they are trying to sue a potential competitor (which is also superior) out of existence.

    P.S. Sorry for such a long rant.

  15. Anon @ 4:09,

    “The government has an obligation to protect everyone’s property, even if they’re rich rock stars.”

    I’m not at all against the artists here, and their financial situation is entirely irrelevant. But their rights to their music creates no obligation on ISPs who are no more a party to file-sharing than Chevron is to drunk-driving.

    “That’s the value of the material on the album. If you take it without paying for it, that’s stealing.

    If someone walks out of a music store with a CD, the store can easily establish the value of the damage done. However, in IP cases nobody has actually lost any physical property. The music store still has the CD on the shelf. Trying to quantify “lost revenue” is purely speculative.

  16. I’m proud of my new Senator, the seemingly corporate-GOP, Norm Coleman, for looking at this RIAA crap with a very skeptical eye. Could be that he’s just hip enough to have downloaded a couple of Dylan songs off Kazaa or whatever and realized he could go to jail.

    Funny, college students around here seemed to hate him (for running against Wellstone, I guess), but now he may be the only guy working to keep their precious mp3s flowing for free without much for legal repercussions. Wellstone would have pulled the RIAA line like everyone else, and Mondale would have been absolutely clueless.

    If you’re drinking this weekend, raise a toast to Coleman.

  17. I would have never bought most of the worthless crap I download. It just keeps me from taping the decent top 40 hits off the radio or from having to waste hours in record stores previewing albums.

  18. It is not an accident that the RIAA has to engage in invasion of privacy to protect its “intellectual property”- it is a natural consequence of the proposition that property rights extend to ideas. How can you possibly stop people from exchanging information without invading their privacy?

    I also think that Russ’ point about the lack of a quantifiable loss in intellectual property cases cannot be emphasized enough. Supporters of the RIAA seem to take for granted that the industry has some inherent right to profit whenever anyone listens to music.

    Bottom line, the fact is that the RIAA is on the wrong side of the technology revolution, and the reactionary attempts of it and its allies to regulate the flow of data are doomed to fail. In a couple of deacdes these laws will be obsolete, regardless of the merits.

  19. Is it just me, or are the record companies missing something here?

    Matt W. has a point the record labels seem to be fighting an efficient distribution network for it’s product rather than incorporating it into their business model.

    Why would nycfashiongirl, college student, or anyone else give away music for free when they themselves could make a buck by selling it. The article seems to be making a point that nycfashiongirl had a library of 900 songs. Compare that to what Sam Goody has in it’s store at any given point in time.

    Would it be possible for the record companies to in effect license someone who has one of their songs to sell it on their behalf and split part of the proceeds? Granted you have issuses of complilance, but you have that right now anyway.

    Heck, cut out both middlepersons and have a record label site where you can by any single song off of the site for whatever price they can get for that song.

    Shadow Hunter

  20. Just because it’s easy to steal songs doesn’t mean it’s right to steal them.

  21. That’s begging the question whether it IS stealing.

  22. Anon @ 6:43,

    “Just because it’s easy to steal songs doesn’t mean it’s right to steal them.”

    I’m still waiting for a solid argument that giving data to someone for free constitutes stealing from someone who would like to have sold the data to that person.

    If you were selling propriatory data, then one could make the case that the value stolen was equal to the price received. But by giving it away, you’re demonstrating that the value is zero.

  23. I wonder if any studies have been done to see if online file trading has affected the shoplifting of CDs at all. I worked in a bookstore that had a music section back when Napster was just being thought up and we had a pretty big problem with people shoplifting.

  24. Well, when I made my initial post, I figured this would happen. And sure enough, here we are six hours later, and this thread is plump with anti-RIAA, anti-copyright, pro-infringement commentary.

    Notice how the posts that speak out against copyright infringement are typically quick and short? (This won’t be one of them.) E.g.: “Just because it’s easy to steal songs doesn’t mean it’s right to steal them.” That’s because the case against copyright infringement is easy. It’s simple and uncomplicated.

    The posts on the other side of the issue are, of course, long and complex. That’s because they’re filled with red herrings, logical contortions and irrelevant tangents (typically, in the form of long-winded marketing advice to record labels from armchair Hollywood consultants). They get all wrapped up in technology, legal hair-splitting and “distribution models.”

    For some reason, they’re out to complicate what is a very simple issue. So it’s hard to escape the conclusion that all the talk about technology and legalities and distribution models and economics really comes down to one thing: I want to keep getting free music, dammit.

    That’s a shame, because the issue IS simple: Copyright infringement is wrong. File-sharing copyrighted materials is infringement. File-sharing copyrighted materials is wrong.

    The real gems are posts like the one by “Matt W” above. He misuses words such as “monopolistic.” He makes mistakes regarding the technology (“MP3 music … CD quality”). He stumbles on basic economics (“the price is much, much higher than the value…”). He uses moral rationalizations better fit for teen chat rooms (only five “good” songs on a CD). He calls himself a “capitalist,” yet declares piracy a “competitor” — a “superior” one, at that. And finally he declares that the hypothetical existence of this “competitor” is more “important” than the right of a legitimate company to control the property it legitimately owns.

    Out in his main post, Jeff Taylor — writing for Reason magazine, which used to respect property rights — says bravo to someone fighting the RIAA. Why bravo? Well, bravo because she has “forced” the association to “reveal” “sources and methods” for fingering downloaders. Because if it’s the RIAA, it must be shady and worthy of contempt. It is not a legitimate business legitimately defending its property.

    And most important, thank goodness for our heroine, nycfashiongirl, who if nothing else has forced the revelation of these “sources and methods.” Because it’s not like the RIAA simply went on Kazaa, found copyrighted material that belongs to one of its members, and clicked “DOWNLOAD.”

    No, it can’t be that simple, because keeping things simple would mean keeping things at the level of Copyright Infringement Is Wrong. And that would mean — eek — no more free music.

    Shew. Yeah, I guess these posts do get long when dealing with that kind of head-spinning hogwash.

  25. jeff,

    And all the pro-copyright arguments boil down to “copyrights really ARE property, even though unlike other forms of property they require massive surveillance to prevent people voluntarily exchanging information. And unlike other forms of property, they can’t be defended by direct occupation, but require invading other people’s space to control what they do with THEIR OWN property.”

    Even the defenders of intellectual property rights, in traditional legal theory (Blackstone, for instance) did not recognize copyrights and patents as property under natural law, but only an artificial form of property conferred by the state through positive law. In other words, it is expedient for the state to pretend that they are property for certain purposes.

    If you like simple and short, how’s this:

    Intellectual “property” ain’t property a-tall. Intellectual property is theft. Period.

  26. A song is “property”?

    What, if I start singing “Complicated” in my car while driving to work, does that mean I’m stealing from Avril Levigne and woe is me when the RIAA nazis decide to seize my computer, car and radio for daring to infringe upon her “intellectual property” rights?

    This is the war on drugs again, with people claiming they own the bits that are on your property and have the right to tell you what to do with your property. The war on drugs wasn’t initially about seizing your cash in your car (when it was suddenly impounded & declared to be “drug money”) but the push to fight that battle against people breaking that law devolved into that situation. We’re seeing similar tactics with the war on “copyright infringement”.

  27. Jeff, well first off…you seem intent upon getting on your moral high horse to aggrandize. And despite you poo-pooing the points I made, you really did fail to address what I was wrong about. First, MP3 music (as long as it is 128kbps) is CD quality, as its small file size is achieved through compression and the elimination of ambient silence. I know that seems a minor technical point, however its critical because I have yet to see any legal sales of MP3 CD’s through retailers or production labels, and it is vastly superior in quantity.

    Second, the price is higher than its value, I have yet to see one artist release the same album through multiple labels, have you? Being as the artist uses one producer to market their music, you will always have to pay whatever the producer asks for (in first run music, granted you can get used music on the cheap from auctions, but I presume we’re keeping this discussion to major retail markets) Hey, sorry you didn’t get the context, but that is what I was referring to when I said that music labels are monopolies, you have alternative artists from different labels you can listen to, but only the one if you have a particular album you want to buy. Because of this, if you want to listen to a recently released song, you are forced to pay the flat price, there is no competition, no price wars. You seem to think the fact that albums typically are mostly filler music that few want to listen to is a non-issue, or at least so minor that its not worth mentioning.

    However from those i’ve talked to (and from personal experience) that is one of the MAIN reasons to pirate music, the ability to create personal compilations suited to your taste. I would say first, that the music industry could VERY easily address this particular issue by creating a service, possibly in the form of kiosks in places like Best Buy, so that customers could select their own songs to put on a CD out of a large archive, of which they pay a given price for each song…you only want one or two recent releases, you only pay for those few (and the CD charge), a comparable internet service (like an updated iTunes) could also complement it.

    Now, as to your sneering at my suggestion that P2P networks are a superior competitor…can you tell me where i’m at fault? P2P networks are an infastructure, a method of retreiving data, the fact that the frequently used for pirating doesn’t change the fact that their ease of use and selectibility make them far preferrable to getting a single static selection of songs to choose from. Only recently has the RIAA and MPAA shifted their approach from trying to shut down multipurpose services to an even more hairbrained effort to offer up a few users as sacrificial lambs. The few legal P2P sites that have opened typically offer condensed choices, at still-high prices, that have copy protections so that they can’t be inter-converted to other formats, so even if you’re inclined to use them, you’ll be getting an inferior file than if you went the illegal and free route. So I guess it boils down to this, I really dislike the RIAA because its not even willing to adapt to a system that has every advantage over its current system, and now its whining because they can’t understand why people won’t buy their inferior product. Oh, and to your final “point” about my post, yes, I do support technology above intellectual property rights…i’m an extropian so that goes without saying, i’m not putting that forward as a policy but to me tech development trumps most everything, call that hypocritical if you like.

  28. Kevin, does this mean that I can purchase a compendium of your collected thoughts at my local retailer, scan it and then distribute (allow it to be downloaded) it on the web? Where is the impetus for publication in that scenario? The RIAA are a bunch of scumbags, but the “free downloads for all” crowd are merely standing on their shoulders to stay out of the muck.

  29. To all those people who think that there is nothing wrong with downloading, can I borrow your car for a few hours, or your lawn mower, maybe that new BBQ? I’ll give them back when I’m done.

  30. *sigh* does no one comprehend the difference between a finite and infinite resource…if I “borrow” your car for a few hours, thats a few hours you are unable to drive. The same argument can’t be made with digital media.

  31. good for her. you go girl, stand up for what you beeive in!

  32. Let me join Kevin in the short-and-sweetness: property is such because it is scarce. Given that it is scarce, it makes sense to follow a general rule of “whoever found it/altered it/made it something else owns it originally”. IP is based entirely on jumping to the second conclusion without bothering to check on the first one.

    More stunning information: one can not believe in the legitimacy of copyright and still feel compunction when one does not provide money in exchange for music one enjoys. One can think that someone who’s sharing hundreds of albums in their entirety with the world is simultaneously A) infringing upon absolutely no one’s rights and B) a thoughtless jackass.

  33. Homer–Well, if you can arrange to “borrow” them in such a way that I retain possession and full use of them at the same time you do, then you can have them for as long as you want. Welcome from the outlands of specious analogies to the fair city of the difference between physical objects and information!

  34. So the creator of music ( or any other IP ) automatically gives up the right to benefit from his/her creation? That’s crap. The creator of a song deserves to benefit from the creation of that song based on it’s popularity. If it’s a good tune he/she should reap the rewards, and likewise if it tanks. What the downloaders want is to say thanks a lot, great track, but go screw yourself if you think I’m giving the artist dime one. Again, the RIAA deserve all the criticism they get for being heavy handed, backward looking technophobes. But downloaders are simply thieves. Petty thieves perhaps, but thieves nonetheless. Just because you can take something, does not mean that you should. To think otherwise is self-delusion.

  35. “…can I borrow your car for a few hours, or your lawn mower, maybe that new BBQ?”

    As long as you can figure out a way that my usage isn’t affected at all by your borrowing of them, even if you chose not to return them, sure. Hell, you seem like a nice person, I’ll just let you borrow the Weber. Oh wait, if I do that then Weber can subpoena Kingston to figure out if you’re using briquets that you don’t own a grill for… Yep, intellectual property and physical property are exactly the same.

  36. Man, did that point get beat to a bloody pulp.

  37. Wow, Jeff, your criticisms really went to the heart of the argument. No, really. I’m so hurt. Next time we play a show, I’ll let the audience know that some ego-laden dilettante on the Internet thinks we suck, so they should hate us too. I’m sure they’ll begin booing and asking for their money back on cue.

    Do you have anything more substantive to say, or was that the extent of your music-crit, too-cool credibility?

    As for Music United, you’ll note that the extent of their involvement in this is limited to Public Service Announcements rather than lawsuits. Surely if this is a matter of intellectual property protection, it should be the artists and writers and their respective performing rights organizations who should be spearheading these initiatives, and not the RIAA, right? But they aren’t, for what should be obvious reasons, but which I’m certain I’ll have to explain to you, because you don’t appear to be very good at extrapolating information.

    Second, Music United is misguided to the extent that they make no attempt — indeed, deliberately and dishonestly attempt to conflate — music downloading, which is one thing, and piracy, which is the illegal copying, distribution and sale of recorded music. The “sale” is a crucial part of piracy — without it, there is none.

    They’re also misguided because if they imagine that their support of these Constitutionally suspect RIAA methods will gain them one additional cent per unit from their respective labels, they’ve really swallowed the Kool-Aid.

  38. And I just looooove the number of hip-hop artists represented at Music United. If ever there was an entire industry dedicated to the idea of using other artists’ work without acknowledging or paying for it, it’s them. Anyone care to recap the history of sample clearance?

  39. To the defenders of copywright/intellectual property in general:

    Perhaps we file ‘stealers’ don’t feel it’s wrong because it’s not harming anyone, in the sense that we’re not depriving anyone of their property by copying it. This is not a new feeling based on ‘digital’ technology and the internet – we didn’t feel guilty taping it off of the radio or copying friend’s tapes and records with cassette tapes ten years ago either.

    Perhaps we are cutting into someone’s ability to make money, and in that sense we are ‘harming’ them. However, last time I checked, no one had a ‘right’ to a certain economic gain from creating something. If I build a lemonade stand across the street from the kid who had the only stand in town, and I cut his profits in half (based on a fixed number of customers and no net change in demand due to pricing inflexibility), I have ‘damaged’ his ability to make money. We free market types call that ‘competition’.

    Even most defenders of intellectual property recognize it’s artificial nature (vs. real property where scarcity is an issue), but defend it on pragmatic grounds that it is necessary to motivate creation of knowledge and art. “Why would people create, without guarantee of payment?” is the typical argument. However there are a lot of examples of people making money without the benefit of copywright protection. Scientists, mathematicians and pure researchers all manage to earn a living even though their work isn’t protectable. Science itself is dependent upon openness and exchange of information anyway. I know the government funds a lot of this, but private sources do as well, through direct corporate contributions, private educational organizations, trusts, etc.

    For intellectual property to be useful, it still needs a physical manifestation. Thus, many books are published on non copy-wrighted works, at a profit, because people still desire to have a physical copy (think of the number of Bibles sold each year, for example). Some degree of scarscity, however small, still exists. What downloading has done has created very low distribution costs, but there are costs nonetheless. I do think people would be willing to pay for secure, fast, guaranteed quality downloads direct from the artist in question, if the cost is low enough to compete with the trouble of searching for it on P2P networks and dealing with bad quality, incorrect songs (not everything is labelled accurately), and unavailablity at certains times of the day.

    Musicians have need to be worried about these developements, but there are still economic incentives for the creation of music in a P2P evironment. One must look at history, and remember that when recordings first came into existence, many musicians were up in arms against them because it was no longer necessary to pay live performers to hear music! How far we have come that musicians now are more dependent on recordings than live music. That said, as a musician myself I know a little bit about the recording industry. It is generally acknowledged that the biggest benefit of radio airplay and selling CDs is getting people to show up for concerts. That is one of the biggest money generators for musicians. That won’t change even if people get ALL their music for free. Sure, the really big players make a lot of money off of record sales too, but the odds are so far stacked in favor of recording companies (you need them more than they need you, as any individual act) that you have to sell A LOT of CD’s before you ever see any money. Usually over a million, for most major labels. This is partly a result of the economics of promoting bands, many of which don’t make any money. Each artist is a risk to the company and they need to make enough money off of the few that hit it big to pay for the hundreds that don’t. What I think a lot of folks have hit on already is that the technology of P2P and web-based direct artist marketing has kind of cut the record companies, and their traditional business model, out of the loop. Instead of fading into history like the ‘buggy whip’ makers of yesteryear, they are trying to use a questionable legal concept to ensure their necessity and monopoly.

  40. Do I really come across as a high-schooler?

    I’d been buying music for years before I could steal it, and had to break my stealing after I graduated from college and lost my network connection. I know my buying patterns well enough. I would have never bought a Kelly Clarkson CD or its equivalent.

    I remember when Garth Brooks railed against buying used CDs. “It’s stealing from artists.” I kept buying them. I still buy plenty of used CDs. Many of those are promos. So, even when I buy, I’m stealing. I just can’t win.

    I ask myself, do I want to reward this artist’s craft, ensuring more of his product? If so, I buy. If not, I don’t. Would I care if Kelly Clarkson never released anything more in her life? No, so I steal. If her fans do care, they should buy her album. I make rational economic decisions with my purchasing/stealing decisions. If you disagree, please let me know how.

  41. A good point hit on by Phil, above, is that intellectual property has actually hindered a lot of innovation, because of the need to get permission and/or pay the creator. All I can say is, it’s a good thing no one copywrited the blues scale, or the I-IV-V chord progression, the circle of fifths, hell, the 12 tone scale even. Good thing no one copywrited the individual words of the English Language when they invented them. We’d still be paying royalties to the families of centuries-dead Anglos just to be having this discussion.

    Another thing: If all physical manifestations of a work owe something to the author, will I be sued someday for the hundreds of songs recorded in my head? That counts as a physical manifestation of a copywrited work. I can listen to them any time I want, and hell, I can even share them with others by humming or singing a tune. Call it the low tech P2P network.

  42. Jim, your post meanders around doing lots of dry theorizing about the nature of intellectual property, with lots of complicated proposals, etc.


    Unfortunately, you skipped over the easiest part of all, and it wouldn’t have required you to write all dem long paragrufs:


    It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. OK?


    If you infringe my copyright, I will be taking you to court. OK? That’s my legal and moral prerogative. The things I create, the original ideas my brain comes up with, are M-I-N-E.


    They are M-I-N-E. Not yours. Keep your hands, keep your “digital media,” keep your myopic view of history, out of my creations. I will choose how I want them distributed.


    I’m talking to you here eye to eye, guy to guy, all right? I’m looking you in the eye. I’m hoping you can look me back and tell me you won’t be stealing my stuff anymore, because it doesn’t belong to you.

    Will you do that?

    When you take things from me, things I created in good faith — a good-faith understanding that society would provide copyright to protect my investment of time and energy … when you take things from me, that is the part where I really stop giving a shit about your theories on “scarcity” or your amateur-hour analysis of record-industry economics.


    It doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that. OK? All the long-winded posts in the world won’t make this issue any more complex than it actually is — which is not very at all.

    Do you get it?

  43. Jim,
    Which copyrights are yours? (What do you record as?) I want to steal from you. If I don’t like your product, I won’t listen, so what’s the harm? If I like your product, you have one more fan than you did, and I may buy copies (though maybe used copies) or see you in concert. Where would be the harm to you there? Do you not want people to listen to your music? (I can understand that, I’ve made some horrible stuff myself.)

  44. excuse me, I meant to plead jeff for ID, not Jim.

  45. Wouldn’t most of the great music in the world exist with or without the incentive of big bucks through CD sales? What happened to Ars Gratia Artis?

  46. jeff, the copyright contract’s already been rewritten in an unconstitutional manner. What else would you call the change in duration of copyright (Forget the nebulous concept of IP, this revolves around copyright) from 14 years with a possible extension to life of the artist plus 70 years or 95 years for corporate works? The really galling part of this was the retroactive nature of the extension – how in the hell does that “promote the progress of science and useful arts” Is this at all “limited times”?

    Which isn’t to say I don’t realize the difficulty of rewarding creators without copyright. The only other proposals so far have been either foolish -voluntary reimbursement of authors as promoted through tipping jars, or inefficiently statist- compulsory licensing backed up with proportional reimbursement, although this one already exists due to “piracy” taxes on digital media. My big fear is that with copyright remaining as is, DRM will become compulsory, and that’s a bad idea. Other people really shouldn’t have more control over your computer than you do.

  47. Jeff,

    I never made any complicated proposals. All the complications are a result of trying to defend the ridiculous concept of intellectual property. My point is ideas cannot be ‘owned’ in any meaningful sense, IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE. You seem to like simplicity so I’ll stick with that.

    If you want your ideas to remain yours alone, you’ll just have to keep them in your head.

    If you ‘take’ my ideas, songs, whatever, I might be legally able to sue you, but morally I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Neither do you.

  48. For all the arguments I’ve seen above, I’ve noticed that several people have questioned the motives of the defenders of file swapping, and insinuated that ‘complicated’ arguments are needed to justify what they view as a simple case of theft. I have yet to see an actual refutation of the notion that ideas cannot be properly considered property to be owned. Of course you can make a very simple argument by not actually arguing anything, and just asserting it to be true.

  49. If you disagree with the law, get it changed. The web is not Nottingham, and file-swappers are not Robin Hood.
    Alex, you’re kidding right? Even back as far as Mozart, money (through direct payment, or patrons) has always been a part of music. After all, other than money, and to get girls, why bother?

  50. I believe the real issue has been lost here…


  51. Is it illegal to steal mp3s if I own the LP or cassette and just want it on CD? Would the property-rights people say it’s wrong?

  52. I also think you band sucks, Phil. Sorry.

  53. Hey, as an artist producing music, I think it’s perfectly OK for people to copy / trade (aka “steal”) my music. It actually has a positive effect on the notoriety of a band, much like touring.
    Then the market comes into action: if it’s a known band (rolling stones) there are millions of mp3 to download. If it’s a small band (ie: mine), maybe you got the first album as mp3, but you’ll have a hard time finding the 2nd one, so maybe you’ll buy this one.

    Note: ‘true’ artists don’t care about money (aka: System of a Down, NOFX, Robbie Williams)
    Yeah, I’m off the point, and this is not objective.

    What I see (from and artistic point of view) is that I have never had such a good opportunity to discover music that since CD burning/file sharing has become widespread, and I still buy a hellavulot discs.

    rock on…

  54. I wonder what John Lennon’s stance would be?

    There’s nothing you can think that can’t be thought, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung, nothing you can know that isn’t known…

    Of course, maybe I should be more concerned about what Michael Jackson’s or Yoko’s stance is.

  55. Steven Crane: Seek professional help now. Do not drive yourself there. We will never speak of this again.

  56. Which church has the copyright to God? Seems to me a lot of ’em are expecting a few bucks every time you wanna praise Him.

  57. Hi there. I’m from the RIAA. We’ve decided that file-swappers are correct re: Intellectual Property Rights. In keeping with that decision, we, as a group, have decided that we no longer believe in “Real” Property Rights. Kindly close your door while one of our representatives takes your car over to Lars Ullrich’s house. Thank you and have a nice day.

  58. Let me add this:

    I’ll say the RIAA is hell-bent on making sure that the music INDUSTRY keeps making money, not that the ARTISTS get correctly paid for their production.
    And, as has been pointed out, the technology has caugt up, and they’ll not change that.

  59. mouchon: So does this mean that all the artists you mentioned have signed over their royalties to charities? What about the money from their recording contracts? If you play a gig, do you do it gratis? If so, a friend of mine has a party coming up. If not, then give your head a shake. Or maybe not, something else may come loose.

  60. Here’s the bottom line: Most people have an innate sense that things that are wrong are also things that require effort or risk pain on their own part. In file-sharing, they see something that is easy to do and is pain-free. Thus they fail to grasp, on a sheer emotional level, that it is wrong.

    I’m not talking simply about people who are ignorant of the law. I’m including all sorts of intellectually smart people — including many of those who write here at Reason, which has apparently decided that it will take a pro-filesharing stance.

    In fact, of course, copyright infringement is just as wrong in 2003 as it ever was before. But what we have now is copyright infringement that’s easy to do — and so we are now stuck with this endless, droning post-facto conversation about why this brand of copyright infringement is OK, or should be OK, based on tortured justifications 1a, 1b, 1c … all the way through 16,754x, 16,754y and 16,754z.

    For the past four years, since the rise of Napster, it’s been like watching the raw mechanics of human thought in motion. And frankly, it’s been kind of disgusting.

  61. nm156,

    Go ahead, man, knock yourself out. It’s all available on the web for free, anyway.

    The market incentive for being the first to create something is the monopoly premium you get during the time it takes others to enter the market. You keep it secret until you’re actually ready to put it on the market, and then recoup your expenses up front and fast. After that, you try to stay ahead of the competition through quality, by putting out new editions with an “author’s foreword” or extra material on the CD, and play on “name brand” loyalty to the original artist.

    “If you don’t like the law, get it changed”???!!
    What are you, some kind of Republican?


    Once again, an IP defender has cluelessly stumbled across the key difference between intellectual “property” and real property, without even recognizing it. Your car is property because it is a tangible item that, by the very fact of possessing, occupying or using, you prevent another person from using. To defend your ownership, you only have to remain in direct possession and resist attempts to dispossess you. The very fact of physical possession is incompatible with simultaneous possession by a would-be thief.

    With so-called IP, on the other hand, you have to invade the actual, physical property of other people and prevent them from configuring a series of ones and zeros in a particular pattern, because you claim a legal monopoly on the right to put zeros and ones in that pattern.

    So a better analogy would be if you built a car exactly like mine from your own materials, on your own driveway, with your own labor, and were prosecuted for “stealing” from me.

  62. Sorry to hear it, E.I.D. Guess you’re not in our target audience. Enjoy listening to whatever you do like.

  63. Do you have anything more substantive to say, or was that the extent of your music-crit, too-cool credibility?

    Well, if you’re really asking…

    The band’s visual presentation falls short — not a good thing in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. The bass player is a perfect example of this. Though he’s clad in a colorful, unbuttoned shirt that seems to be asserting “I’m fun and casual,” his actual demeanor — grim and serious — mitigates the intended effect.

    Back to the music… “A Girl” is the closest the band comes to stumbling onto a hook. Unfortunately, after stumbling, it continues tripping all the way out the window. Like a child who accidentally discovers something that makes grown-ups say “How cute,” the band proceeds to quickly run a good thing into the ground. Hint: A “hook” works best when it’s used sparingly, a melodic device that relieves tension. Beating it to the point where it’s no longer pleasant to be around does not help this happen.

    On “Push” there’s little to say except that this band’s rhythm section would be well advised to actually learn a song’s changes before subjecting it to an audience — and certainly before committing it to tape for the rest of the world to snicker at.

    I can go on…

  64. I thought of something while stealing music last night: Will the RIAA sue you if all you have are bootleg live recordings? What if I own the studio albums they came from? Or had concert tickets to the performance? Or the import bootleg album that they’re ripped from?

    Or mp3’s of last night’s MVA performances?

  65. In all of these cases you would be infringing a publishing right, but most likely not a sound recording right. So, yes, you could be sued by someone, if not the RIAA — just as you can be sued any time you violate anybody’s copyright.

    Glad it’s all such a gleeful little escapade for you, though. You’re one of the idiots who doesn’t grasp why this stuff even exists for you to listen to in the first place.

    And funny — I thought the VMAs were last night.

  66. So the creator of music ( or any other IP ) automatically gives up the right to benefit from his/her creation? That’s crap. The creator of a song deserves to benefit from the creation of that song based on it’s popularity.

    This is a canard that needs to be nipped in the bud. You’ll note that, except for a few very notable and very misguided exceptions, the creators of music — i.e., artists — are not in this fight. The RIAA is, on behalf of record labels, who “create” nothing, but merely record and distribute.

    Furthermore, the creator of something does not have the right, let alone the ability, to profit from every iteration of his or her creation. Would you support allowing BMI and ASCAP to send private security to extract license fees from people who play CDs at parties?

    Homer sez: My point was that, unlike my TV namesake, why should I be allowed to “borrow” something you worked for, with no intention of giving it back.

    But that’s simply stupid. You don’t intend to give music back if you buy it, either. This may, in fact, be the dumbest analogy I’ve ever seen, and I don’t just mean on the Internet.

    amr: They probably will. The RIAA has long operated under the delusion that they are entitled to profit from things that aren’t even for sale.

  67. Yes, downloading copyrighted music is illegal. But in pursuit of illegal downloaders, the RIAA and the music industry are advocating solutions that are constitutionally suspect, dangerous to freedom and out of proportion to the crime.

    I think the drug war analogy is apt.

  68. Oh, and to prove to everyone’s satisfaction that I am not a hypocrite, here is a link to some live audio recorded at my current band’s debut gig. Please, share it with people, especially people in the DC Metro area who might want to come to shows.

  69. You’ll note that, except for a few very notable and very misguided exceptions, the creators of music — i.e., artists — are not in this fight.

    We’ll have to figure out a working definition of the word “few” in this context (start with Music United, get back to me, and we can hash out our terminology). But I am curious what makes them “misguided”? Wait — sorry — “very misguided”?

    Oh, and to prove to everyone’s satisfaction that I am not a hypocrite

    I don’t recall that possibility being put on the table in this discussion. In other words, you’re using this opportunity not to “prove” anything regarding hypocrisy, which hasn’t been mentioned, but rather to engage in ham-handed hype for your band of off-key middle-aged No Doubt lite wannabes.

    However, now that you mention it, I’m sure your legions of fans are wondering: During that one part in the middle of “Midnight Sun,” what the hell is that horrific sound? Oh, wait … hold on … Got it… It’s an actual guitar solo. Tell your lead guitarist that lead parts should have some harmonic and rhythmic connection, no matter how tenuous, to the foundation underneath. Also, generally speaking, an instrumental break should have some relationship to rest of a song’s arrangement — not pasted into the middle of a number simply because the guys need to do something with this “cool part” they “jammed on” while they were “rehearsing.”

    (Additionally: Singers are typically advised to sing in key. Harmony singers too.)

    Thanks for the “music”! I’m sure your copyrights are safe!

  70. How come I don’t hear about authors and publishers bitching about their books being available in libraries? You have to admit the music selection at most libraries is pathetically small.

    I think a lot of people treat music the same way as books. They listen to a song for a few months, then they’re done with it and they’ve pretty much discarded it. The only thing is with Cd’s, records, and tapes is that there is some physical artifact that is a little difficult to just put in the trash. With a computer file, deleting does not have the same effect.

    I’ve downloaded albums from the net. I’ve also read full comic books at the newsstand. In nearly every case, if I liked the material I eventually purchased it. If I didn’t like it, I was glad I didn’t waste the money. In some cases I didn’t purchase but would have if the price was lower.

    Case in point: I would like to hear the new Jeff Beck album. I always find his music interesting, though I don’t always like it, especially of late. But it’s always worth checking out anyway. But how often are you gonna hear Jeff Beck on the radio anymore? I’ve been disappointed enough to know that with Jeff, I’m gonna listen before I buy. How the hell am I gonna do that? Downloading files is basically the only practical way, 30 second snippets off the web doesn’t cut it for me.

    I looked at The Jeff Beck tracks are priced higher than any other artist I’ve seen. Even his old stuff, which can be purchased at a CD store for 8 bucks per album costs over 10 bucks per album to download! That’s just stupid. So… Jeff still hasn’t got my money yet, and I don’t have any of his new stuff. That’s how the market works, but if he or his label weren’t so paranoid about somebody downloading a song or two to give it a listen, he probably would a few bucks of mine.

  71. Jeff said, re: Me
    You’re one of the idiots who doesn’t grasp why this stuff even exists for you to listen to in the first place.

    Actually, I know exactly why it exists. I was stealing cLOUDDEAD bootlegs. Whenever any of these guys are in town, I see them in concert. Anything any of them releases on CD (no vinyl), I buy.

    I was wondering about the bootlegs I have of the Eels: live on the radio. Could the RIAA get me for those? I treat the eels the same way I treat cLOUDDEAD. I do my share for the artists who I wish to see continue producing music.

    I don’t feel such a responsibility for the odd Trick Daddy, Bob Dylan, or Kelly Clarkson track that I want to listen to but would never buy when there’s more Eels or cLOUDDEAD stuff to buy instead.

    To the artists I care about yet steal lots of stuff from: I’ll buy it when you release it in the U.S. on compact disc. I’ll steal the rest.

  72. My point was that, unlike my TV namesake, why should I be allowed to “borrow” something you worked for, with no intention of giving it back. Like the artist, you will have worked for something, only to see others derive the benefit/pleasure. Is that more clear?

  73. does no one comprehend the difference between a finite and infinite resource.

    Actually, Matt, I have no doubt most of us comprehend the difference. That’s why copyright exists in the first place — to assign the legal characteristics of tangible property to something we (society) recognize is intangible and infinitely reproducible.

    And what does “digital media” have to do with anything? Boom — this is precisely the point where the problem is created in these arguments, and why they drone on and on instead of being simple. It’s because people like you think there’s something special about computers and digital formats and the year 2003. On the level of law and morality, there’s not.

    Here, let’s tweak your post a bit and try this on for size:

    if I “borrow” your car for a few hours, thats a few hours you are unable to drive. The same argument can’t be made about the books I reproduce with this printing press here.

    See, there’s nothing unique about “digital media.” Reproduction technology has existed for years; yet its mere existence has not negated copyright laws, which is what you’re demanding because of the mere existence of digital media. You’re treating this moment in history as somehow unique, and you want to allow one particular tech development to overhaul a long, strong system of intellectual property protection.

    But that’s what The People want, you say? OK, then, I’ll make a deal with you: You can overhaul copyright law at noon tomorrow. But until then, for the next 12 hours, you won’t mock the RIAA or any other group rightfully seeking to protect its interests under the current system, and in fact you will applaud them for doing something that is both legally and morally right.


    What bugs me more than anything about the pro-filesharing argument, I think, is this idea that because Person Y has decided (“rationalized” is a better word, usually) that copyright law is not to his liking, that he will infringe the rights of Person Z.

    Thing is, Person Z invested time, energy and resources into creating something under a good-faith understanding with society: that copyright protection would exist to protect his investment. And here comes the file-sharing crowd, essentially saying out of the blue, “Um, oh yeah, we’re nullifying that agreement. Sorry you invested your time because you thought we had agreed to something via our laws. But hey — thanks for the tunes, dude.”

  74. Jeff, sing it loud brother, they didn’t hear you in the back.

  75. Matt W…

    128 kbps is NOT CD quality. Some would still argue that even 256 kbps is not acceptible. The compression algorithms are not perfect, and they do discard elements that are noticible. 128 kbps is OK for the casual listener, but audiophiles tend to find an absence of differences only with encoding rates of 256 or 320 kpbs.

    As for the claim that only one manufacturer sells Metallica records means that they are a monopoly, well only one manufacturer sells Doritos. Does that make Frito Lay a monopoly? Are they a monopoly only if I’m a Dorito addict?

    And the fact that the music companies don’t distribute music the way you might want them to? Tough. Don’t buy it then. That’s not justification for theft. Maybe someday they will come to agree with your distribution ideas. But in the meantime you’ll have to be happy with that 1 oz bag of Doritos, because they aren’t selling them by the chip.

  76. I do my share for the artists who I wish to see continue producing music.

    …. I don’t feel such a responsibility for the odd Trick Daddy, Bob Dylan, or Kelly Clarkson track that I want to listen to but would never buy

    Attention, adults on this thread: Read the above quote, and note: THIS IS WHAT YOU DO NOT WANT TO SOUND LIKE! This is how you DO NOT want to come off!

    Yet that’s exactly how you sound when you support file-sharing. It makes you appear immature and naive, just like this high-school student.

    This is the crowd you’re aligning yourself with in the name of supporting file-“sharing.” Is that what you want?

    amr, please keep spouting. you’re like a walking PSA.

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