liberty punk "the irony of the information age is that it's given new respectability to uninformed opinion."
Monday, June 30, 2003
Much Ado About Sharing
First, check out Ben Weasel's follow-up to his post about music file-sharing.
Next, read what his pal Dr. Frank recently said about it.
Then, take a gander at the comments under this post over at Right-Thinking. It gets pretty hairy, what with libertarians and capitalists defending music sharing ('Sharing?' Lions and tigers and communism, oh my!) on the grounds that the RIAA is unconstitutional, and others simply saying 'I don't give a fuck, I will continue to steal music.'
There's a lot that just doesn't seem to click. I'm reading a lot of "yeah, theft is theft, but in this case it's okay because the RIAA is using outdated business models," and "how can we be expected to pay our hard-earned money for all this new music... it just sucks so bad!" (I believe Ben said something to the effect of "then why do you want to listen to it badly enough to bother downloading it?")
In my mind, the more that is said about this, the more time people spend discussing it at length and debating the business practices of the Big Five record companies, the further and further we roam from the principled issue at the core of this whole thing: Theft. Something is produced by someone and then enjoyed by someone else without compensation or even mutual agreement. Do we abandon our principles in order to 'show the RIAA who's boss?' I don't see why we should.
UPDATE: I had some time to read the discussion at Right-Thinking again, paying closer attention this time, and I have to say that I'm pretty fucking disappointed at the inability of normally rational people to grasp the simple concept of theft. They either don't understand that it is that simple, or they admit that it certainly is stealing, but that it's somehow justified because the big labels don't pay their artists enough. Two points:
1) Yes, the big record labels are sneaky ripoff wonder-wizards who churn out summer after summer of lame shit-bands. These big labels are also either too stupid or too nervous to work with the next new generation of technology.
2) If somebody uses their mind and their physical effort to produce something that previously didn't exist, and then someone else comes along and copies or takes that product without the consent of the product's creator, that is stealing.
What's so tough about this? The "what if I let someone borrow my car... that's different" argument is not relevant. The "big labels are mean" argument is not relevant. The "all new music sucks" argument is not relevant. The "musicians are rich, they don't need all the money" argument is not relevant. The "everybody does it, it's so easy" argument is not relevant.
The bottom line is that people are making a product, which costs money, and that this product is being stolen and illegally (and unethically, too, if you don't think that the current laws are "correct" in this case) distributed on a grand scale to other people, all without the consent of the person or people who created said product.
If I put a lot of my time, money, creativity, etc. into making an album and releasing it for sale on CD in hopes of getting some money back to pay for the equipment I'd used, the studio time, etc., and then I found out that only one person bought it and then shared it with five thousand others, I'd be fucking pissed, because I was clearly cheated. So would you, and don't even insult me by pretending otherwise.
Theft is theft. That is what we're talking about. Rationalize it however you want, bring up as many "eeeevil corporation" bullshits as you like, and all you're doing is skirting happily around the principled fucking issue here.
If you acknowledge this but simply don't care, then for clarity's sake, just say so. Just don't huff and puff like you're some kind of towering bastion of morality and ethics if I happen to draw a black mask and ski cap on your picture in the yearbook, okay champ?