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techsploitation: infringement justification

via Arguing With Signposts:

I like to violate copyright everyday.

That sentence, and the fact that the article is from Alternet, should tell you right away where this is going.

I only steal from the rich. Once I copied a Mountain Goats CD, because I loved it so much and couldn't find it anywhere. As soon as I did, I bought that CD and about five more by the same band. That was a situation where I was sure the artist, who works through an independent label, would actually get my money. I don't have that same feeling about creators whose work is owned by giant media conglomerates. And frankly, I really don't care if Danny Elfman never sees the money he might have made if I hadn't copied that Oingo Boingo CD. He's rich enough as it is.

Only a person who wants to justify not paying for creative works would think that every musician who is not on an indie label is rich. Sure, the CEOs of the label might be rich, but I doubt very much that a band like The Ataris, who are on Columbia Records (a division of Sony Music) are what the author would define as rich, or someone like Jade Anderson, also on the major label, is rolling in money.

Do I download music? Yes. Once in a while I'll get the itch to hear an old song and I'll open up Kaaza and swipe it from someone. I don't, however, download whole CDs for my listening pleasure because, frankly, there's something creepy about that. Not to mention that I feel a CD is of little use to me without the cover art, the liner notes and whatever else may come with the CD.

I like to pay bands, big or small, for their efforts. They spend the time writing, producing and recording the songs and I pay 15 dollars a pop to say thank you. I would sure hate like hell to put that much effort into my own work and not get paid for it. Why should musicians or software makers or film producers be any different?

The author continues:

When I was a kid, I cried while reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, the dystopian novel about a future where books are illegal. I can remember big, hot tears rolling down my face during the scene in which the evil authorities are burning books. Bradbury describes each one as if it were human: Alice from Alice in Wonderland screams in agony; Shakespeare's characters weep as they are reduced to ash. I know it's sentimental of me, but I think of creative works as if they were somehow human, as if they had lives of their own many lives, playing out in strange, unknowable ways inside each mind that absorbs them. And when I see art and music and writing and movies and TV shows forbidden to me by draconian copyright laws, I don't think about legal documents full of tidy little justifications of property law. I see living beings in chains. I see Mickey Mouse, who has tried to escape again, burned by the lash. I hear Marilyn Monroe, imprisoned by her copyrighted image, howling to get free.

How touching. I weep for her, really. In fact, I pity her. Because she doesn't realize the irony of her statement. Instead of seeing Mickey Mouse chained to draconian laws, she shouuld instead see artists chained to the knowledge that their live's works are being passed around for free and they are getting nothing in return for all that work.

I've never been one for pussyfooting around when it comes to liberating what some corporation or mogul calls "private property." I don't really give a shit about capitalism. I think it's a scam. Rich guys who own everything trade stocks, and the rest of us, who own the vast majority of nothing, watch welfare wither away. If we make something beautiful and try to make a living by selling it, we can't own it. My beautiful thing will be the property of some company that has slapped a cover on it.

So, in her world, everything should be free. Books, records, movies, paintings, they should all be unleashed on the world by their respective artists without a care or concern whether that artist gets paid for his work. The author seems to think of creative arts as one would corn feed in a hippie commune. Share, share, that's fair.

Life is not a communal affair. We don't exist in a world of from each according to his abilities, to each according to their needs. Nor should we. There would be no incentive to work or to create if we thought we were just going to be handed our basic needs by those who are able to do more than us.

Just because one can write or create music does not mean he needs to distribute the results of those talents without expecting to be rewarded in some way. And the artist is not the only person involved in the creative process. There are producers and engineers and typesetters and customer service clerks that need to be paid for their part. It is wholly naive to believe that downloading a CD instead of buying means you are sticking it to the man. In the end you are also sticking it to every man and woman who works behind the scenes to make sure that art gets produced and put out to the public.

I don't care if my file-sharing cripples the economy. I want to rebel against the property holders, the people who took away our beautiful things and called them commodities. Until culture belongs to all of us equally, I will continue to infringe.

Nobody took them away from you, dear. They are still right there, on the shelves in stores, waiting for you to part with a few dollars to purchase them. You may think capitalism is a scam, but it is capitalism that feeds and clothes our children, capitalism that gives you the computer you use to download music, capitalism that makes the world go round.

You work, you get paid, you spend money on commodities. For some people, their work is making those commodities. I'm sure you don't expect to get your clothes or dining room furniture or handbag for free, why should music be any different? Why stop at movies or songs? Why not go out and scream at how unfair it is that you have to pay to read a newspaper or watch a ballet performance?

If only the author of the article would feel as much angst for musicians and other artists as she feels for the crying Alice in Farenheit 451. Obviously she sees Mickey Mouse and other fictional characters as living beings in chains, but she does not see the people behind the music she downloads and the software she cracks as human beings at all. If she did, she would not be justifying stealing from them.

Side note: As Bryan at AWS pointed out, the piece by Ms. Newitz is copyrighted:

2003 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction by Syndication Service only.


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Yeah, I hate having to steal a line from InstaPundit, but I really could not think of anything snarky to say about michele's comments in connection with the moral dilemma associated with downloading CDs free off the internet.... [Read More]


Ms. Newitz writes a weekly column for the hyperleftie San Francisco Bay Guardian. Somehow I doubt she does this for free. In fact, the entire rag is pretty funny -- they despise capitalism, yet more than 50% of the surface area of the paper is covered in advertisements.

I've actually met the woman, and she is a complete raving loon, even by San Francisco standards. She just can't stand to see anyone make money, in particular, she can't stand to see me make money -- after all, I'm a San Francisco lesbian, right? I should be fighting the power and bringing down the state, right? I should hate the government and all for-profit corporations, and work in militant coalition for a socialist, matriarchal social order!

She's a resonably good writer, in my opinion. Shame she's such an utter twit.

Heh. Mickey Mouse in chains.



I have yet to hear a convincing argument for why music downloads are OK. All I get are:

"The record companies are greedy!" Yeah, that's the system. You don't like it, move to Cuba.

"The record-company contracts rip off the artists!" Then the artists shouldn't have signed them. It takes two to make a contract.

"Lars Ulrich is a jerk!" Probably true, but irrelevant.


I download tons of music, including full albums.

But the fact that this leftist hippie idiot thinks it's a good idea makes me feel extremely dirty.

The line about her article being copyrighted says it all. The rules apply for my own creations... just not for anyone else's.

I don't download music or movies, but I do download shareware, and occasionally use the shareware without making payments to the author. But the majority of the time, I make the payment, or contact the author to ask whether a smaller payment would be acceptable.

As a software author, I think WWJD (the "J" is for "Jack") if someone tried stealing my work. And I try to follow those principles.

As an aside, the council for anti-piracy indicated in its latest report that piracy has begun to fall (as a percentage of sales). I think it's because of newly added anti-piracy measures - certainly not because the public has become more conscious of the economic pain caused by their acts of theft - and as much as I hate the idea of adding anti-piracy measures to my software (which will increase my cost, and therefore my selling price), there may come a time when I have to do it. It's really a shame that things have come to this.

A thief is a thief is a thief. This stupid woman, Ms. Newitz, is nothing more than a thief. The P2P networks allow her to hide her thievery. IF she feels so strongly about her position she should be going into media stores and liberating the goods for all to take. She should be a shoplifter at least. Certainly she defends shoplifting and supports it. She is clearly a communist. She does not have the slightest grasp on economics.

She is nothing more than a thief and I hope she is on the RIAA's list of people to sue.

I am so relieved that the RIAA has finally taken the step to sue individuals who share large numbers of files. I They should have done it sooner.

Copyright law fair use allows me to purchase a music CD. I can make copies of that CD and give those copies to all my brothers, sisters, mom, dad, grandparents, as well as give copies to all my close friends and close work associates. But as soon as I give a copy to a stranger then I have broken the law and should be busted! Fair Use is very very generous. But P2P anonymous file sharers are anti-capitalists. They are communists and socialists... And thieves.

I have been baffled for years by the attitude of IP thieves. The basic thinking seems to be "it's easy and convenient, so I don't want to hear it's illegal." I ranted on it here last year.

I understand your arguments about this issue, but I still have to point out that CDs are outrageously overpriced.

And consumers want portable music media these days for their MP3 players, PDAs, etc. So, the music industry should come around and provide that for its customers.

This is a case where both sides are wrong.

The record industry has no claim to purity in this debate - they were CONVICTED of orchestrating a massive price-fixing scheme. Their anti-competitive maintenance of absurdly high CD prices is the engine behind illegal music downloading. Trusts are not legal or tolerated in a healthy capitalist system.

However, the anti-capitalism folks are also horribly wrong. Being in a band is hard work, and people deserve to be rewarded for their labor. We have ample evidence showing that socialism as a form of large-scale economic organization simply does not work. Wanting to have stuff without paying for it is the goal of every common thief.

Since both groups are highly disingenuous about their real motives and not to be trusted, in my opinion we really need both of them to balance each other out. Let the RIAA prosecute some of the worst abusers, and let the possibility of downloading help keep CD prices down to a somewhat reasonable level.

Of course the best solution would be for the Feds to vigorously enforce our existing anti-trust laws, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one...

CDs are overpriced, as has been pointed out. Most of the money that consumers pay for major-label CDs won't go to the artists making the music. Artists with huge sales numbers profit from their CD sales, others don't (still talking about the majors.)

Whoever this lady is sounds irritating, and she's certainly making herself a good tarket for people on your side of the fence. So I'm not arguing in her support.

In fact I don't download much music at all. At some time in the past I used Napster, later some of the others, but I haven't done that for at least a year. I subscribe to e-music, 10 bucks a month for unlimited downloads of whatever they've got (including 1 Mountain Goats album, Tallahasee.) I've got a bigger CD/record/cassette collection than anyone I know. I don't get involved in this battle for anything to do with self-justification.

Have you read what Janis Ian has to say? I know this is old news, and chances are you've seen it... here's the link in case:

Basically she's making a lot of good points from the perspective of a recording artist who doesn't agree with the RIAA. There are a lot more of us where she came from. My main problem (if it can be narrowed down to just one) is that RIAA is spearheading a propaganda-filled publicity campaign that really makes no sense; and they act as if they're speaking for musicians. They aren't.

The RIAA has done a lot of things, and tried and failed to do even more, that basically ignore the fact that there are a LOT of musicians who have nothing to do with them. Things such as putting taxes on blank tapes that supposedly go to recording artists in order to offset the losses that will surely be caused when all of these cassettes are used for what MUST be their only purpose, that being the pirating of music that their members hold a copyright on. No worry about those of us using cassettes in four-track machines to record our own works, and then the other cassettes we'll use to distribute that work on; no worry about those who make mixed tapes for their own use, or copies of their own CDs for their own use. Then there was the issue with online radio stations. The RIAA wanted money from them, from every one, for the privelege of broadcasting music online. Nevermind the stations who play solely independant music, all sent to them by musicians who really make music because they want people to actually HEAR it. (Thankfully the RIAA didn't get their way on that one, and an exception was made before the law passed; regardless, the stations that do have to pay the tax, and so pay the RIAA, still play music by artists not represented by the RIAA. They pay the tax for every song they play.)

These older issues were fought over exactly the same issues as the one we're talking about now. RIAA wants to shut down file trading sites, criminalize people who've got a boatload of mp3s up for distribution, regardless of any consideration that THEY DON'T REPRESENT EVERYONE WHOSE MUSIC IS AVAILABLE ONLINE. They're not looking out for the interest of musicians, they're being greedy. And "greedy" is still allowed to be a derogatory term, even if those who use it are most frequently pigeonholed as communists.

It turns out that there are a lot of people who, like you, don't download copyrighted music for free and think they're done with their responsibility to the artist. People who buy the CDs that contain the things they've downloaded that they really enjoy. Just as their are people, have ALWAYS been people, who buy singles or (today) entire CDs because there's a song they've heard on the radio that they enjoy. No doubt they could hear it every day. They could tape it off the radio. They could digitally record it off of digital radio. But that's not what happens; they buy the single, or the CD.

The thing about music as commodity is that people DO buy it. People pay money to see bands live; pay money for records; pay money to download music. The only way they can decide what they want to spend their money on, decide which songs out of the countless songs available they'd like to have available for themselves, is by HEARING the music. MP3s, downloading - it's a new, more democratic, easier way for people to hear music. And for the idiot major labels who've got their heads too far up their asses to understand this, it SHOULD be a way for them to get free advertising. They're not interested in shutting down file sharing because they're losing money to it; they're interested in shaping the distribution of music to fit the mold that will lead to their getting the most money they possibly can out of it. (Which in and of itself is short-sighted, see http://www.livejournal.com/users/udmguitarist/34821.html#cutid1)

The RIAA and the major label conglomerates who say they're representing artists are not. Yes, artists SHOULDN'T sign these contracts that screw them out of the possibility of seeing profits from their work, screw them out of ever owning their own material, put them at the mercy of fickle label executives who can, if they so choose, refuse to release an album containing work that the artist very personally created (thusly also precluding any possibility of anyone else releasing the material); they shouldn't sign these contracts but they do, for various (to me mostly unacceptable) reasons. What would happen to the stranglehold the majors, and the RIAA, have on the distribution of music if artists would figure out that they don't need the big guns to distribute their music anymore? If artists realize that the cost structure is tilted WAY in the wrong direction, and start working with smaller labels who actually give the artists money when they sell their CDs? THIS is what these giants are afraid of.

Some of us would really love to see RIAA shut the hell up. They've got a lot of money behind them, though, and as long as people are listening and congress falls for their BS that's not going to happen. And as long as they're not going to shut up, I'm not either; regardless of whether some people somehow think this has anything to do with justification for stealing.

And the commenter who talked about "fair use" meaning it's okay to make copies for other members of the family -- that's untrue.

Link for other info: http://www.eff.org/ (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

I'm sure you don't expect to get your clothes or dining room furniture or handbag for free, why should music be any different?

That's the problem: she certainly does expect to get these things for free. Or rather, in her ideal world, she would get them for free. And the first commenter here only convinces me more that this is her mindset.

Maybe I'm different from the normal P2P user and I know I'll still be accused of stealing but I use P2P as a method to sample music. My friends recommend a band, it sounds interesting, I download their big songs or maybe all of them. I listen to it for a few days and, if I like them, I'll buy the CD. Otherwise I get rid of the mp3...most of the rips are horrible quality anyways. In the past six months I've bought 20 CDs...yet I have over 4800 mp3. Granted, there's about a 100 on there that I've downloaded illegally...I won't deny that. Some CDs just aren't worth buying in their entirety for one good song...and I know its a bad excuse. The rest though, I have paid legally for. P2P allows me to weed out the horrible crap that most bands put out and buy the good stuff. Because of P2P I've bought The Ataris, Yellowcard, Jars of Clay, Sarah Brightman, Flaw, Filter, Finch...need I go on? Its far better than the radio and better than reviews.

I despise the record companies but I'll still buy CDs, often used though. I feel bad for not always paying up front but I have also realized that almost no bands see sales from CDs. Instead, I go to their concerts. THAT gets expensive, but its worth it. Buying merchandise and seeing shows is the best way to support a band.

I agree with you entirely, but I think we're a dying breed. I usually only download if it's one song here and there, or else I'll download a whole CD (very rarely), fully intending to buy it when I can find it or afford it. I'd just rather have a nice copy with cover art and liner notes and everything, not to mention the whole stealing-from-starving-musicians thing.

When I say this to people, though, they all tell me I'm an idiot and it's much better to download entire CDs and even movies not yet in the theater for free. They don't seem to grasp that it's just wrong.

I'm with you michele.

I may download a song or 2, but if i like it enough, I BUY the album er... cd... I'm showing my age.

The record industry gouges the consumer, it's true; but I'd rather BUY a Jayhawks or a Jay Farrar CD and know that some of the money actually goes to the creators than download the whole cd and cheat the creator just to spite the record label.

I'm happy to buy cd's. I just hate spending 20 bucks on 2 good songs and 18 tracks worth of filler. If I had a mac, I'd be happy as a clam downloading songs for a buck a pop as well.

I agree that the artists need to be paid...and paid well. It's the labels and the Riaa that need to take a reality break.

I'm intrigued by Newitz's choice of example -- stealing Oingo Boingo CDs.

Sure, Danny Elfman's rich. But he's rich largely because he's written the scores and themes for approximately 100 movies and TV shows. Oingo Boingo was, and more or less still is, very popular in California. Most of the rest of the planet is only marginally aware of their existance -- they are perhaps remembered as "that band that did 'Weird Science'" or maybe even "that band that that composer guy used to be in". So using them as an example of "big label" bands is weird, to say the least.

I doubt that Leon Schneiderman, Sam Phipps, and Dale Turner (the horn section) got filthy rich off the band. Or Johnny Hernandez, the drummer. These are all guys who in all probability got some decent money, but who probably still look forward to their cut of the album sales.

Those would be the album sales that Ms. Newitz doesn't want to happen.

The artists are fighting back. Aimee Mann releases her own albums now, and as she is fond of saying, "Now I get $8 a CD instead of 16 cents." Yes, she sells less copies without a big company behind her for promo and distribution, but as she points out, she can sell 7,000 copies and make more than she ever did when she was with a major. But what about the loss of listeners to her music? No problem--she's okay with downloading her music. If you like it, buy the CD. She still comes out ahead in the end.
Now that's one smart lady.
I hear Matthew Sweet is going to give it a try later this year with his (previously Japan-only) album "Kimi ga suki - Life."
More power to the artists...it's a beautiful thing.

This column should win an award for Worst Signal-To-Noise Ratio Ever. It's not just the RIAA/P2P stuff -- she gets everything wrong:
I don't really give a shit about capitalism. I think it's a scam. Rich guys who own everything trade stocks, and the rest of us, who own the vast majority of nothing, watch welfare wither away.
Lady, the vast majority of stocks are owned by 401(k) funds and other retirement programs (not the least of which is CALPERS, as she should know) which make it possible for the middle class to put something away for the future. Much of the rest is owned by insurance companies.

there has been a radical change in technology that has made existing copyright law useless--this is a fact, no matter what everyone feels about sides.

Music copying has existed for almost as long as there's been recorded music--and before that there was copying of written music.

But this time things have expanded to include the entire publishing and entertainment industries. Books, films, music, television--and a whole lot of other information can be had for less--or for free--from the net.

And, with just a minimal effort, the 'theft' is untraceable.

Therefore, the 'intellectual property' laws and statutes must figure out a way to be profitable despite this theft...or die.

That is capitalism.

Laws that seek to artificially extend the life of present copyright law are not. They are a reationary response to an ever changing technological world. They are, at their core, unenforceable.

Busting pirate CD operations in some third world cesspool is one thing--when millions of people can upload music and share that music with others you can't bust those millions--particularly when those 'millions' refers to 'millions per day'.

Rather than trying to prop up an outmoded system, a new paradigm needs to be created. One in which the profit is not tied to something as fragile as product exclusivity.

I have to admit I'm surprised at how many people agree that pirating music is wrong, but still think it's ok to download a few songs illegally now an then. If it's stealing it's stealing whether it's one song or an entire CD. It's not ok to shoplift a little merchandise from a clothing store as long as I don't take an entire suit. To me, this is the same thing.

I download music.
I use it to sample the songs I will NEVER hear on contemporary American radio.
I buy CDs if I like what I hear.
And if I can find it.
Because artists deserve to eat and put gas in their cars - whether they're hugely popular or trying to get their stuff noticed.
I would gladly join a paid download service if I could see the file lists before joining.
And if they had rare, live, demo or b-side releases by my favorite artists. That is primarily what I download now - old stuff I can't find or new stuff I'll never hear.

I wish the music industry would actually listen to the public for once. I do believe Aimee Mann has it right.

I think ... We are all entitled to think. I know some of us use P2P wrongly if there is such a thing. I also know some of us get bored think of a word to describe a feeling ..... and BAMM .... a thousand songs are there to help you describe your thoughts in someone elses words. Why because someone else was thinking like you at some point in time and had the talent to put it into words. Whats more is that you never heard of ten of those people who put it perfectly and now you have. I have always had an extensive music taste so I don't know every artist who does a style of music that I migh like. I feel lucky when I am in tat mood that they told me all about and now I have a new artist that I may have never have heard of before. I listen to a few of their tracks and if I love the way they pile their words on a beat or medley, they just sold me and everyone I know a new record because we all share what we hear and like what we share..... isn't that why someone hooked us up with a way to do it?