Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Modern Day Robin Hood & His Merry Thieves

I don’t understand the debate about illegal downloading. Simply because it is illegal. People who say "music should be free" are full of shit (or stupid hippies). If someone creates a product (and, yes, music and art are products) they should be able to profit from it. Why is that so hard to understand? Downloading is simply stealing. Metallica weren’t assholes, they were just protecting their business interests.

I’m not against fair use. If I buy a CD, I should be able to load it onto any number of devices, computers or car stereos. I own it and under fair use I should be able to use it all I want for personal use. And I even think I should be able to make a copy for a friend or two, in the hopes that they may become fans and eventually purchase the music.

However, peer-to-peer networks are sharing with millions of your "closest friends" with no intention of ever buying the actual product. How anyone can justify this is beyond me. I know the cat is out of the bag or the milk has been spilt or whatever, but that doesn’t make it right.

Now, on the other hand, I have no problem with trading live recordings or outtakes. If the artist hasn’t released the product as a legitimate release, then they are up for grabs. Of course, many artists support this opinion and often encourage live taping. But that being said, despite my extensive collection of Nirvana "bootlegs" I had no problem forking over the cash to buy the legitimate With The Lights Out boxset (even though I could have compiled a much better set).

In fact, this is a list of some of my favorite "bootlegs" from my collection:

1. Nirvana – Paramount Theatre (10-31-91)
2. Jeff Tweedy - Lounge Ax Chicago, IL (2/28/99)
3. Tom Waits – Alice (original recordings)
4. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos
5. GBV - Lounge Ax, Chicago, IL (4/5/95)
6. Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin Companion Disc
7. Beach Boys – Smile
8. The Clash – Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg
9. Nirvana – Outcesticide series
10. Liz Phair – Complete Girlysound Demos

My point is steal if you want to but don’t act like you are Robin Hood.

Now, here are the ten latest songs my iPod has played trying to steal my attention:

1. "A Box for Black Paul" by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
2. "Fawn" by Tom Waits
3. "Viva Las Vegas" by Dead Kennedys
4. "Swear" by Tim Scott
5. "We Will Become Silhouettes" by Postal Service
6. "I Get Wild/Wild Gravity" by Talking Heads
7. "Three or Four" by the New Pornographers
8. "There You Are" by the Flaming Lips
9. "Wishful Thinking" by Wilco
10. "Take a Look at the Guy" by Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds


Blogger buddy clear eyes said...

As your argument--can I call it that?--progresses, you demonstrate the slippery slope involved. I agree that musicians should be paid for the work that they do and for the songs they create. However, I disagree that all downloading of commercially available recordings is stealing. Since the demise of the LP and the rise of non-single "singles" (unless you count NOW comps), music geeks have good reason to be suspicious of CDs costing 18$ plus tax.

I have, in the past for instance, downloaded a couple of tracks from an artist I read about to check the CD out, e.g. Sufjan Stevens. If I like the songs, I go out and buy the CD. If I disliked the tracks, like most of those crappy iTunes singles of the week, I give it a listen or two and then dump it from my computer. Am I theiving?

Back to where I started this post. The argument is tricky because much is based on intent. Is the intent to circumvent the purchase of the CD and ensure that artists don't get paid? For some, sure I suppose it is... I don't know anyone like that personally, but then I don't live with a teenage daughter whose only really known digital. However, for many, it's not really different than making a tape for a friend, even if that friend is not physically, traditionally located in your circle.

Where do we draw the boundries? What demarcates fair use and what is theft? The cases in court show that the wrangling for definitions is not as easy as you'd have it be.

8:37 PM  

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