A Boring Reflection on Art, Rights and Laws
There’s no doubt about it — piracy is an increasingly discussed topic in the media these days especially in light of the recent Pirate Bay trials.
Today I want to focus on the specific topic of music piracy. A definition would be as good a way to start as any, so let’s take a shot at that. How do we define music piracy? It’s wrong to think of “pirating” as synonymous with “downloading” — the acquisition of music delivered via the internet does not necessarily imply anything against the law or against the wishes of an artist. There are subscription services and song-purchasing services and internet radio stations that all provide music through the internet, as well as the oft-condemned peer-to-peer methods. So there are ways of legally getting music from the internet. There are also ways of obtaining music that don’t use the internet, so we’re talking about something much bigger than just firing up Limewire.
So let’s start calling piracy by its other, less appealing name, copyright infringement. The idea of copyright law is pretty simple. Its job is to stop someone taking another person’s music (we’re just dealing with music today, remember) and using in a way that wasn’t intended, such as performing it yourself or selling it as your own work. The person who came up with that piece of music deserves to get the credit for doing so, and should be allowed to say who gets to hear it or use it.
Musicians who enjoy expressing themselves through their music will probably want people to listen to that music. If they didn’t, why bother playing it out loud, anywhere other than in their own minds? To that end, copying and distributing music to a large number of people would be beneficial to the musician’s aims. Their expression of whatever message they want to send will be heard by anyone and everyone who wants to hear it.
Music, of course, is an art form. As we all know, the appreciation of art is an entirely subjective matter. Some will love a piece of music, while others will consider it garbage. That’s fine, it’s to be expected. As humans, we’re a diverse bunch of creatures and we’re usually pretty happy about that.
But when an artist wants to charge money for their music, we start getting into trouble. The musician is veering off the course of wanting to express a message, heading for a collision with profit-making. It’s a safe bet to say that big musicians and related businesses (the RIAA, for example) who are outspoken against copyright infringement are outspoken because of their desire to make money.
When an artist or a record label or anyone else puts a price tag on a CD, aside from the negligible cost of the materials and manufacturing of the physical media itself, the artist is making the claim that a certain piece of music is worth a certain amount of money. That claim can’t really be challenged. Appreciation of art is subjective, so you can’t posssibly say with any objective reasoning what a piece of music is worth. Some people will consider the price of a CD in a music shop fair, while others will see it too high (and some may even think it’s too low). Enter: copyright law. If the artist wants to charge money for his or her work, it’s now against copyright law to distribute it for free. The artist hasn’t given permission for it to be handed out without charge.
If you don’t think a CD’s tracks are worth the price tag, it’s too bad for you; sorry. You don’t get to have the CD and listen to that music because you won’t pay what the artist is demanding of you.
Musical artists who are against distributing their music to people for a price that is agreed on by both the artist and the consumer (even if that price is free) must therefore be more concerned with making profits than they are with making music. They must be at a stage where if nobody bought any of their CDs or paid to see them in concert, they would stop making music.
Now imagine for a second that all commercial artists were in that mindset. Imagine they’d stop making music if nobody bought their CDs. Imagine then that everyone suddenly stops buying CDs. Would we still have music?
Of course we would. Plenty of artists make music for reasons other than profit. They’d be the ones left if the whole world stopped paying for music. It’s no great loss, if you think about it. The recording industry would hopefully go under, as it’s comprised of corporations built on greed, and we’d just be left with a world full of free music.
Greedy, profit-seeking artists don’t realise that we don’t need them; they need us. They need consumers so they can make a living off a glorified hobby. All their protests and bitching about copyright infringement are unfounded and wrought from pure greed. Not that I am preaching against greed — this would make me a notorious hypocrite. Problems arise when you throw a tantrum because you’re not getting your way, such as customers refusing to pay the arbitrarily-set price for music.
Making music is always going to be something that certain people love to do. There will always be those who do it for free without any expectation of a monetary reward. There will also be the wise artists who give consumers the choice about how much to pay. I am not unsympathetic towards musicians who want to make money with their music, but to me they differ very little from buskers playing music in a public place. If I am not enjoying the music, I can listen to it for as long as I want and not pay a thing. It’s unlikely to discourage the busker, and even if it did, it’d only discourage him or her from playing in public. They’d still practice playing if they enjoyed it, just like people who love to paint will still paint and people who love to write terrible, tedious, long articles on their websites will still continue to write. Even if it costs money and there’s absolutely no reward.
I am not suggesting that all music should be free and that copyright law is evil and should be abolished (as an aside, though, note that the UK’s copyright laws are archaic and in dire need of a reform). I am merely suggesting that those musicians who happen to, by chance, make music that appeals to a large audience should stop expecting said audience to lie down and accept arbitrarily set pricing when there are always going to be more fairly priced and free alternative sources of music to enjoy.
And because I’ve gone an entire post without a single curse word or immature rant, here’s a bit of exactly that:
Fuck the RIAA, those faggot cunt recording industry knobcocks. They should just fucking shut up about piracy and stop laying lawsuits down on people. They’re a bunch of fucking wanktards and should all have their faces ripped off and then be launched out of a catapult into a brick wall so they splatter like a water balloon brimming with ketchup. Cunts!!