Everyone who is ok with stealing/downloading/pirating/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for free the recorded works of artists should know this already. I’m going to address 10 reasons that I hear regularly, not tied to overthrow of laws and government or complete selfishness/dickishness towards the artist. But just for fun, I’ve included some of those non-starter reasons that freehadists tend to use, disingenuously of course.
Some reasons I find to not be legitimate:
1. something about copyright
– If your beef is legitimately about copyright, you should never be paying for any entertainment or viewing any media, since it’s all copyrighted and the system is corrupt. You can’t use most computers or software either, since most of those have software that fall under copyright. The few UNIX-based operating systems that are free still operate under copyright, even if they are free to use on personal computers. However, they are only free to use because the creator said so. If the creator chose not to make it free, that is their prerogative, and that is part of copyright too. You anti-copyrighters still on board?
2. something about blah blah blah evil record labels
– iTunes and other digital download services give artists 8 to 11 cents per track on average, earning a higher percentage if the entire album sells. I’m sure many believe that the ideal is where the artist makes the majority of the profit and the distributor and record label fight over whatever’s left of the scraps, and I would agree. However, 10% of a sale may not seem like a lot, but when you’re trying to feed your family, it can mean everything. And on top of this, you’re punishing the artist for something the record label supposedly did. The artist may not get the percentage of a sale that you believe to be fair, but not giving them anything is plain theft.
3. all information is or should be free
– Copyright is meant to reward creativity and inventiveness. The way you do that is by preventing people from stealing or profiting from their creativity, or to punish them if they do, the reasoning being that if every creation you made was immediately stolen and people could do whatever they wanted with it with no repercussions, there would be less professional creators, because professionals need to get paid. If the expectation is that your work will be immediately stolen and you won’t make any money off of it, that places a chilling effect on your wanting to produce creative works. Not to say that creativity would cease, it will just ensure that it is mostly/only amateurs that are. If you think Justin Bieber is a no-talent hack, just think how bad it would be if he had to write his own songs.
4. it’s not my fault copying is so easy, if you don’t want it stolen, don’t make it so convenient
– This is one of the worst justifications (and let’s face it, they are all justifications, not reasons). The argument is, essentially, that media companies have made it too easy to steal. TOO EASY TO STEAL!!! Imagine the scenario where someone who steals your bike off your front lawn trying to defend their actions by saying you didn’t lock it up well enough. They would be laughed out of court and straight to jail.
5. musicians make their money off live shows
– Only the top tier of musicians can even tour, given the costs. Therefore, all the rest of the tiers of musicians, your local bands, your regional bands, any act that hasn’t gone national in some way, are no longer allowed to make money off their creations? Could you imagine that situation for actors? “Hey, you only get paid for going out on the road and doing the performance from the movie over and over in a live setting. The work you did when you created the movie, that was filmed and recorded, should be free because actors should make their money off live performances, not recordings of performances.” The essence of the argument is that the very thing that persuades people to buy tickets to an artist’s show is suddenly without intrinsic value and should be free.
6. we’re not stealing anything…they’re just files
– Let’s explore this one. The software program Photoshop is just a “file.” Is it ok to pirate that? What if it was a book you wrote that was published in digital format? OK to consume it for free, and then distribute it for free without your permission? Especially when it’s your source of income? Didn’t think so. The situation is almost exactly as if you told a visual artist that they couldn’t sell a print of a work of art they’ve made. I guess the logic being that as soon as you make a copy of the original, it’s not pirating anymore, because they still have the original. But in the case of an artist, an exact copy of a thing doesn’t mean that the copies don’t have worth. In that case, they can make innumerable copies, but they still have a right to charge for the copies they make.
7. nothing is lost — therefore it’s not stealing
– This is the “no harm is done” argument. It’s not wrong because the original file (from wherever it was taken/borrowed from) is still there. It wasn’t “stolen” in the traditional sense. True, but this is misdirection and misleading. Your intellectual property rights extend to whatever medium they reside in. Therefore, if the artist’s choice is to get paid for their work, then it is stealing when you don’t pay the artist for that work, simple as that. The artist (or label or other organization who represents the artist) says it costs a certain amount of money; you are saying, I want this, but it’s not worth anything, so I’m going to consume it for free. Question. How can it possibly not be worth anything if you want it? You don’t get a free coke at the store just because you think it should be free. You want it, coke has a price, you pay for it or don’t. Just because a file is digital and not in some uncopiable analog format doesn’t mean that the rules no longer apply. Also, here’s a blog that addresses the “it’s not stealing” straw man argument.
8. i don’t have any money
– Yes you do. You may not have the money to buy ALL the recorded works you are stealing, but you can certainly pay for some of them. Even if it’s just a handful of songs a month. If $10 is really out of your budget and you are so bad off that any paid entertainment is out of the question, then I genuinely feel badly for you. However, most of the music piracy happens over home internet connections (which are paid for). If you can afford an internet connection, you can clearly afford to buy music. And you are essentially giving the ISP money instead of the artist whose work you appreciate. Is that what you want?
9. DRM doesn’t work, etc
– This one’s pretty easy. The main purveyor of music to the US is iTunes, although other services are increasing, such as Spotify and Pandora. They dropped DRM on their files a while back, as did most of the other music stores. Now, you can move and copy files from any device to any other device. If you buy them from iTunes, you can use their cloud storage to download that file to any device you have. DRM is simply not a valid excuse anymore, the record labels have seemingly come around to that bit of knowledge.
10. not easy enough to access, not offered in the format I want, etc
– How about this: can you demand to have an entertainment product in any format you want? Sure. But chances are, you’re going to get the product in either physical or streaming format. You don’t have a right to expect that you could get that music in 8-track, MiniDisc, or some other obscure/outdated format. Same goes for digital formats…you can’t really buy the full 24/96 wave files, because the highest resolution generally offered is 16/44.1. Again, as a consumer, if you want a music product, you have to buy it from people who sell them, and you have to buy it on whatever format they desire. Yes, it may not be ideal that you can’t buy music in whatever format you want, but there are plenty of options now. You can listen in your home, mobile, anywhere basically, and it’s super convenient and easy. iTunes and Amazon have one click buying. Other music stores have similarly easy buying. In fact, it’s so easy now, it’s probably faster and easier to find it on a legal service than to go through all the hoops you need to torrent it or download it from an internet locker.
I’ll close with a quote from Trent Reznor:
“I know that what we’re doing flies in the face of the Kickstarter Amanda-Palmer-Start-a-Revolution thing, which is fine for her, but I’m not super-comfortable with the idea of Ziggy Stardust shaking his cup for scraps. I’m not saying offering things for free or pay-what-you-can is wrong. I’m saying my personal feeling is that my album’s not a dime. It’s not a buck. I made it as well as I could, and it costs 10 bucks, or go fuck yourself.” — Trent Reznor