Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Real Issue Of Online Piracy and Illegal File-Sharing: Assholes

Debates about illegal file-sharing have been going on for quite some time now, and while there are many interesting perspectives on the issue, the one thing that continues to surprise me is that very few people seem to actually understand what the central matter being debated is. Time and again, arguments are made that miss the point, facts or statistics are presented that have no relevance, and ultimately discussions digress into personal opinions about artists, major labels, the industry, etc. I'd like to clear up much of this foolishness, so that moving forward we can all focus on the relevant issue at hand. Note that for the sake of simplicity, the following will focus on music piracy and artists, but obviously the points raised are equally applicable to movies, authors, etc.

Lets begin with the myth that piracy was born of a noble idea that everything should be free and accessible to everyone...this notion is not what drives piracy. On the contrary, piracy is primarily motivated by greed - it's a business, and apparently a very good one. Without getting into the specifics of how money is earned through advertising, subscription fees, encouraging additional piracy through revenue kickbacks, etc, the short of it all is that pirates are making money. There's nothing wrong with someone making money, but if they are making money by commandeering and exploiting my work, and not even sharing any of those earnings with me to boot, then it shouldn't be controversial to suggest their actions are less than admirable.

There also needs to be a distinction between those who facilitate piracy, and the general users that benefit from it. The latter is not the issue. There are individuals who illegally download music in virtue of simply having access to it, without any concrete conceptualization or clear understanding of the practice they are undertaking. There are also people with low incomes that sincerely cannot afford to purchase or acquire content in other manners, for whom file-sharing is a blessing. There are even those who utilize piracy as a means to preview a large breadth of content before subsequently legally purchasing the content they like. But all of those who benefit from piracy in these ways are irrelevant to the "piracy industry" itself, which only exists because assholes are making a living from it.

Just to clarify, for the purposes of this article, "asshole" refers to persons that distribute content that they do not own, for the express purpose of profiting from that distribution. If you buy a book and share or give that book to a friend, you are not an asshole. Same with a physical CD or digital download. To be clear, a violation of intellectual property rights is still occurring in such cases, however, it's an extremely weak violation (much like J-walking), and does not have a significant impact on anything. Sharing on a person-to-person level is more or less inconsequential to the livelihood of content owners. In contrast, it's the massive enterprise of sharing through file-sharing networks on a national and global scale that is at issue, and which does affect the livelihood of content owners.

Now, let's address 8 common arguments in favor of piracy that succeed in skirting the real issue:

1) "Piracy only effects millionaires and billionaires who are already filthy rich, and there is nothing morally objectionable about preventing these overly wealthy individuals and companies from continuing to profit from my hard-earned money." This is fascinating logic, but not very compelling. For one, I'm a little uncomfortable with the populace collectively deciding that Katy Perry has made enough money - at the end of the day, she made a product - if you want that product, buy it; if not, don't. If her content is so appealing that it turns her into a billionaire, good for Katy. Is this really so objectionable? Moreover, it's not just the content of established and successful artists that are being pirated - it's also up-and-coming artists and independent artists. Yes, the content of established artists is pirated the most from a quantitative standpoint, but this has no bearing on the fact that independent artists who don't have large streams of income are substantially affected by the pirating of their content.

2) "Artists are getting screwed by their labels anyway, so what does it matter if their music is pirated?" Well that's very nice that you have decided to stand up for artist exploitation at the hands of their respective labels by choosing to steal their content. I'd like to point out that this has no relevance to artists that are not affiliated with labels, nor does it have any bearing on the many major / indie label artists with very good deal structures in place. But even in cases where labels are screwing over their artists, if an artist chose to enter into a bad deal, that's their prerogative - why are you so concerned with their business decisions? And furthermore, do you realize that even if we suppose 100% of all major label artists have "bad deals", you're enabling of the piracy industry isn't combatting that - it's simply changing which group of assholes are making money (and at least in the former case, artists are making something from their work, even if scant).

3) "Piracy is the best thing that could ever happen to independent or up-and-coming artists….now their work is being exposed to way more people than it would otherwise have been." Maybe yes, maybe no. But shouldn't that decision rest with the artists and rights owners of the music? If they see the merit in your perspective, and choose to distribute their catalogue for free, so be it. However, if they disagree with your position, why should they be unable to manage their catalogue as they see fit? Moreover, plenty of artists' music is readily available through online streaming sites - my entire discography for example can be listened to in its entirety through my website and YouTube channel - so the issue is not about having free access to music, it's about having music illegally distributed in an exploitative capacity without artists' consent.

4) "Music and movies are grossly overpriced, and pirating such content amounts to an objection of those inflated prices." There are certainly cases where content is overpriced, and such cases are definitely irritating to all consumers. However, it is unfair to characterize the entire entertainment industry, or even a significant part of it, as being "grossly overpriced." $10 for a music album is not overpriced. Those who suggest otherwise either don't have an understanding of what goes into the making of this content, or simply don't appreciate what they're getting for their money. Either way, such ignorance is beyond my ability to remedy, but while such a deluded perspective can understandably lead to person-to-person file-sharing, it does not legitimize the global money-making business of the piracy industry. I hope we can agree on at least that much.

5) "Artists have an easy life - you can barely call what they do work. They are living the dream, and they shouldn't be entitled to such obscene income and a life of luxury. So who cares if their content is being pirated." I'll be sure to ask for your permission the next time I have to take a shit. But let me just point out to you that while there do exist individuals in every industry who have had some remarkable opportunities just fall into their lap, the majority of successful professionals, including artists and entertainers, have all worked extremely hard to get to where they are. It seems to me that the real source of your ire is the cultural / political / societal system that we are all born into…I sympathize with you…but don't take it out on artists, especially when it's art that stands the best chance of taking the edge off the absurdity of all that angers you, and the best chance of inspiring the change that your miserable soul yearns for.

6) "Piracy is not actually theft - it's an infringement of copyright, which is not the same thing." Yes, technically speaking, you are correct. But regardless of the legal nuance involved, I think we can all agree some form of theft is at work. Should the illegal file-sharing of music be treated equivalent to the stealing of a car? No. But that doesn't mean it's somehow acceptable to steal intellectual content. In the same way that we treat the physical theft of objects differently based on the value of the object in question - a DVD vs a Mercedes - so should we treat the theft of objects differently according to the nature of the object - physical vs digital vs intellectual property. But make no mistake…all occurrences of theft should be addressed in some manner.

7) "We're in a new modern age where unrestricted access to digital content is now a basic reality that the entertainment industry needs to accept and find a way to adapt to." Interesting…so taken to it's logical conclusion, I suppose the "theft" of all the digital money in your bank account is something you'll just have to get over and accept as a reality of modernity, right? After all, it's not physical money - just a bunch of zeros and ones on a computer screen, so perhaps we shouldn't even consider it "theft" in the first place. Right, I hear you - the theft of "digital" money is different from digital music, because digital money isn't copied…it's stolen, in the real and legal sense of that term. Uh huh - well when 50 thousand people "copy" Lady Gaga's record, who otherwise would have bought it, is that not an actual measurable and legitimate loss of income? Does that not qualify as theft in your expert opinion? We can debate how many individuals that illegally download music would otherwise buy it if left no other choice - but while it's impossible to know the answer, I think we can agree that some amount of individuals would legally purchase music if a free alternative did not exist…and when you consider the millions of people throughout the world downloading thousands of music and movie files, even if that number were as low as 10% it would amount to a significant loss of income to content owners.

8) "Copyright law is ridiculous in and of itself with terms lasting author's life + 70 years…there's no reason for ownership to last that long, and it's only purpose is to ensure labels keep profiting for years and years. It should last somewhere between 5 and 20 years max. So as far as I'm concerned, piracy is rectifying this obscenity." Ugh…where to begin. Start by reading points 1 and 2 above. Then explain to me why it is you feel I should be forced to relinquish ownership of something that I created with my own two hands. Then let me know what time you'll be home so I can stop by to take that Mercedes from you - I think you've owned it for long enough, don't you?

With all of that out of the way, what we are left with is that assholes are exploiting other people's work without their consent, and profiting from that exploitation.

Now, I cannot prevent you from being an asshole. Only you can do that. So if you choose to be an asshole, it is what it is. We can get into why one would make such a choice, and speculate as to the psychological and emotional underpinnings that lead to such a choice, and even look to other industries where assholes have succeeded in astounding the world with their assholiness (white collar criminals and those Wall Street fuckers come to mind)…in the end though, it doesn't matter. Just accept that there are assholes in the world.

So, given pirates' decisions to be assholes, what can I do? I can perhaps try to persuade them that their decision has consequences that effect other human beings, and hope that they're able to see beyond their own selfish perspective. But I'm not going to waste my time trying to converse with assholes, as it doesn't make for very enlightening conversation.

It seems to me the logical thing to do is to remove the ability of assholes to steal without impunity in the first place - not to remove their desire to do so - just the ability. Consider this: if one person comes into a bank and steals handfuls of cash, it is easy to stop that individual. But if hordes of assholes are storming banks across the country, stealing everyone's money, then it's not practical to stop them all, nor efficient to discuss their actions on an intellectual and philosophical level…but it is practical and efficient for banks to start securing their money within vaults, and in so doing, remove the ability of said assholes to steal it. It's not rocket science…we just need to apply the same principle to piracy.

Obviously, the literal concept of a bank vault is not applicable to illegal file-sharing. However, just like in the bank analogy, we can diagnose what allows pirates to do what they do, and then seek to undermine that. In the case of banks, allowing piles of cash to be publicly accessible leads to massive theft of that cash. In the case of piracy, the enterprise functions as a result of a simple distortion: the notion that file-sharing websites facilitate the transfer of digital content between other people, without directly participating in the content being transferred, and that as such, they have no control over if their users choose to upload and share content illegally, and are thus not responsible for any copyright infringement that occurs - all they can do is have such content removed once uploaded, provided the content owners inform them of such violations. This laughable perspective is what has allowed the piracy industry to flourish, for it is not feasible for content owners to scour through thousands of file-sharing websites to discover if their content is being illegally distributed, only to then have to submit claims to each website for each specific instance of copyright infringement…only to then have to repeat the process again and again week after week.

This is where new legislation comes into play. We need properly written legislation that enforces intellectual property rights without curtailing 1st amendment freedoms, and which holds piracy facilitators accountable instead of users. This should not be that difficult to put together folks…people simply have to agree on its necessity. Of course, if you happen to be an asshole, then you will want to oppose such measures.

I leave a detailed exploration of solutions for another time, but suffice it to say that if file-sharing companies / websites were simply responsible for policing the content whose distribution they facilitate (instead of the burden falling on the content owners - an impossible task), and there were effective consequences in place for the failure of such companies / websites to perform said responsibilities, then the entire piracy industry would go away pretty fucking quick. This is not to say that file-sharing would stop in total - just that the national and global business of file-sharing would.

Or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Feel free to enlighten me with your comments.


  1. Sorry for the oftop, but when will the new album about?

  2. Most of the time, this is how it happens to me:

  3. Great post Zack. #7 is the most salient point I see manifesting on a day-to-day basis. People have no qualms paying >$40 for a week of gas, or $20 per day for a meal that will provide 4 hours of satiety. Yet, an album for $10 or DVD for $20 which demonstrates an infinite replay value & immeasurable shelf life is overpriced - why, I ask others? Apparently because it's not a tangible, materialized item anymore. Vinyls? Of course. Tapes? Sure. CDs? Ok. But let it be an mp3, .mov, or something you can't physically grasp, and I guess the tactile reward is removed - as is one's conscience.

    I'm very interested to hear your ideas into solutions. When I see a graphic like this:

    You're absolutely right - a file-sharing website such as Megaupload before it shut down would never be able to filter through the sheer amount of content that exponentially explodes by the second. But where do you draw the line at where the asshole lies? Is there truly a clear distinction between the facilitator and benefactor? What do we do when the individual user is the pirate, utilizing the facilitator as a platform to continue encouraging privacy? The pseudo-altruistic component of those who encourage piracy in sharing files with other users certainly exists... again, the desire remains; how do we truly fully stop the ability? Every plausible scenario in my mind has a loophole or infringement on our freedoms when really dissected.

    Looking forward to your next post on where to go from here.

  4. @G… I think it's more straightforward than you realize. While it's not realistic to expect content owners to police file-sharing websites, I don't think the same can be said for the file-sharing websites themselves. Admittedly, I'm not a programmer or web developer, so I can't speak to technological capabilities or implementation, however, content identification technology is already present in YouTube (which scans everything uploaded, flags matching content from it's partners, and provides the content owner with the ability to remove the video from the site), along with other companies that track music use across broadcast TV. Even if it's not easily implemented at present, given the rate at which technology progresses, it can't be far off…and if it were a requirement, I imagine that would certainly expedite the development of such monitoring technology.

    But more to the point, even if we suppose effective policing of content by file-sharing websites is impossible for the sake of discussion, that would not be an argument for the right to distribute and profit off other people's work…it would rather be an argument that such websites should not be allowed to function. After all, I am unaware of any file-sharing websites that exist with purposes other than illegal file-sharing…if I'm mistaken, let me know.

    Regarding the distinction between facilitator and benefactor, what I'm really saying is that facilitators are the primary and only relevant benefactor, and the ones who drive the piracy industry in and of itself. While the general user is obviously a benefactor as well, they do not benefit in the same way. So perhaps it would have been clearer for me to have simply distinguished between facilitators and users. Facilitators are assholes. Users are opportunists. Of course, without users the facilitators can't do what they do…but in my view, it's not an effective strategy to prosecute users - it would be far more effective, and ethically compelling, to prosecute facilitators…then the rest falls into place via a domino effect.

  5. @G...(continued) While there certainly are "pseudo-altruistic" individuals that encourage piracy, as with the general user they are not facilitating the piracy industry. Greed is what is driving it - not philosophy - if file-sharing websites were not making good money off their efforts, they wouldn't be going through the trouble of building and maintaining their websites, nor would it the full time occupation of many. So as I see it, if you remove the major players through the enactment and enforcement of appropriate legislation, then the industry collapses…even if there remain scattered file-sharing sites here and there, and even if pirates resort to tactics of constantly changing the site domain name, or whatever, it still prevents major networks from ever getting a foothold to effectively function as a national / global business.

    Remember, it's not about preventing free access to music - it's about not allowing people's work to be exploited by 3rd party companies and businesses. If someone is running a business online, where they are earning revenue from the distribution of someone else's work, then having that action constitute a violation of the law and that company being subject to penalty and/or dissolution is not a violation of 1st amendment rights - but allowing it to continue is certainly a violation of rights!!!!

    So…the only question becomes: what if websites start appearing that facilitate file-sharing without having any financial benefit in the process - a truly "Robin Hood" system driven by the philosophical outlook of the facilitators? I highly doubt such a scenario would come to pass, but if it did, then it might get more tricky with respect to the issues of freedom and 1st amendment rights that you bring up…maybe. Of course, such sites would still be distributing content of which they do not have the right to distribute, so it would still be problematic, but I doubt such mythical sites would ever truly achieve the same presence as the current file-sharing sites, especially when the majority of music can already be accessed and listened to for free (which you would think should satisfy those "altruistic" pirates to begin with).

    1. @Zack - Thanks for the reply. I realized upon reading it that I subconsciously lumped a second argument into your own (more below).

      With regards to third-party profiting, I certainly agree that the solution is straightforward: simply push legislation into effect that prevents it, and file-sharing organizations enter the realm of Houdini. I do think there are some gains to be made with regards to the technology you mentioned - Facebook employs it as well, and it's often inaccurate and overbearing with regards to videos it flags or denies.

      Regarding the other point of contention I incidentally threw in to my mind: When I read your 8 argumentative bullets you debunked along with "Now, I cannot prevent you from being an asshole. Only you can do that", I thought about not only the profit of a third party, but also the deprivation of profit from the artist/original author. This is why I brought up the example of pseudoaltruism - while in principle it may not be as lacking in integrity as your fight against the facilitators (given there is a lack of financial benefit), it still exploits the artist and can have a substantial impact on the potential for monetary gain from one's creation.

      This may not be as significant a concern for you, given your focus does not appear to be financially motivated in the least - your Bandcamp, YouTube accounts and more than reasonable pricing state that within themselves. However, I can't fault other artists that have a reward in the form of the dollar as part of their aims; their composition should also be their gain if they choose. And in this vein, this is when I am unable to think about a better solution that would not only prevent exploitation of artist profit from a corporation/organization standpoint as you convey, but also preventing that same exploitation at the level of individual users who are simply choosing to refuse to pay for music.

      In either case, the artist is still winding up in the negative. While it may hold a bigger impact at the level of federal/international business, a loss is a loss and can nevertheless determine an artist's ability and reservoir to continue with their craft.

      So, yes: let's look to shut down piracy at the level of the Asshole that gains a notable profit as business, but let's also look at what to do about your next-door-neighbor that may not necessarily gain, but simply refuses out of bliss & disregard for the artist. Those 8 points also apply to him/her, and either way in the end, the artist loses.

    2. It's not the case that I'm uninterested in financially gaining from the work that I do….I very much am. However, I'm not interested in taking advantage of my audience, and I do feel that music should be accessible to everyone. As a result, I facilitate the streaming of my entire discography, and I set pricing on purchases according to what I think is fair and reasonable. Note that my feeling that music should be accessible to everyone results in an overlap with the pseudo-altruistic viewpoint you raise - however, where we differ is that I don't believe music should be owned by everyone. Furthermore, I don't believe that the method and nature of access and distribution should be determined by pirates (users or facilitators), but should rather be determined by the content owners…and so if a given artist does not wish for their music to be freely accessible, they should have the right and ability to make that determination.

      Also, it's not that I don't find the exploitation of artists at the level of the downloader disconcerting. I certainly do, however, I think it's ultimately inconsequential. By addressing the facilitators, you automatically address the downloaders, for where will the downloader go to illegally acquire content when the illegal file-sharing sites are no longer functioning? Even though my focus has been on the national / global facilitators, it remains the case that facilitators of less stature would also be threatened and eventually undermined once appropriate legislation and enforcement were underway.

  6. Nice piece. But I think you lose the intended audience when you suggest "I think we can agree that" or "I hope we can agree on at least that much."

    Many who feel they should get music for free simply don't agree and won't agree with such arguments. "Music should be free, it's in the air" is the justification, it has nothing to do with rational consideration of the concepts and laws involved. I don't have any answers, but by laying out the architecture of the piracy enterprises you've (hopefully) helped some people realize where the real issues are.

    1. I'm not sure who my "intended audience" is to be honest, but if the lines you reference were to lose them, it stands to reason they were lost long before getting to those statements. In any event, you raise a valid point in that many simply feel music should be free, without any justification - but keep in mind, those people are not the root source of the piracy industry…they are not the ones creating the infrastructure and earning a living off of it (and if they are, then they are full of shit). So while I respectfully disagree with their perspective, ultimately it's irrelevant to the necessary remedy anyway, and so of no real consequence.

  7. Also, what's needed is a major PSA (Public Service Announcement) campaign [You know, like the one's that make it sound totally NOT cool to litter, bully, smoke, or start forest fires, etc…] and basically re-teach people that stealing is not hip/cool! I'm working on getting a grant for this…be cool if ASCAP would get onboard!
    Digital file sharing can't ever be stopped, but if you could just shut down the main offenders; and make it a little harder to do…you could literally save the music industry.

    1. A major PSA might help, or it could very well hurt - all depends on how it's done and presented. But here again, a PSA cannot address the root source of the piracy industry, which is the piracy facilitators.

  8. What about Piracy Charges on people who already own content on a non digital format, and get it for free rather than buy it again and again? Or albums that have been out of print for 20 years and you download a digitized vinyl copy? Or perhaps soundboard recorded live shows that were never released? How about sharing of the last two I mentioned? Does doing those things make you an "asshole"?

    1. Not completely following each of your scenarios, but it's quite simple - if you are facilitating the distribution of content through the implementation of a website or network, and profiting from that distribution, then you are an asshole. If you are not facilitating it nor profiting from it, but are simply acquiring the content through existing mediums, then you are not an asshole in the way that I define that term.

  9. Fantastic post. I really think the best way out of this mess, for artists/publishers/owners of content is to establish some kind of "music charge" that gets tacked onto your internet/cable bill. As you point out perfectly, the BIG EVIL RECORD COMAPANIES have been replaced by Time-Warner, Google and YouTube, businesses that make billions by making other peoples property (content) available for "free," as they gratefully accept your monthly user-fees. For this reason, it seems we're embroiled in a trade-war ("who" profits, not "if") that some people (the "free-culture" "Netizens")are mistaking for a "revolution." These people have no problem with paying for internet access, or viewing the ads that run along side our work on YouTube. We're never going to convert these people or make them understand. I think the clearer case is "Hey, Big Corporation, your business-model is driven by our work. We want a piece of the pie." If you haven't read Robert Levine's book "Free Ride" I highly recommend you do so. It explains how other countries and economies are dealing with the problem...and it's working. Thanks again.

    1. You raise some intriguing points. I agree many file-sharing supporters are lost causes with respect to understanding the perspective of content owners, however, I don't think it's necessary for them to, in order to effectively undermine the business of piracy. While I think your "piece of the pie" solution is an interesting idea, personally speaking I'm not interested in getting a cut of advertising profits from illegal file-sharing….I'm interested in preventing businesses from being able to make money through advertising profits from illegal file-sharing. Some feel this is an unattainable goal, but I would beg to differ.

  10. Very good post. But I'll suggest that there are additional forces at play.

    Not long ago, it was very difficult to record music. And you had to, generally, achieve a certain quality in order to have the opportunity to record. So not very much was recorded. This retained the perceived value of music. These days, things are much different. We're bombarded with music everywhere... it's in television/movies/advertisements, it's a part of the retail experience, it's ringtones, it's video games... we're exposed to much more music, & thus our perception of how much music there is & our expectations of how much music we should have access to has changed. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the amount of music we're willing to spend on music stays the same, the pie slice becomes smaller for each artist/the perceived value of a song decreases. Furthermore, with digital recording technology, the amount of music recorded & released has exploded. Past a certain amount, pretty much all music is shit. Consequently, scarcity goes down & risk goes up. The perceived value of a song, again, plunges.

    A dramatic change has occurred over the last decade & a half in the way that we consume music. You don't buy a 160 gig iPod & not expect it to be full of music. But at 6mb per song & $1.29 per song, that's almost $35,000. (For comparison, a fairly large collection of 200 CDs at $15 per cd is $3,000.) Simply put, the music industry never made it practical for a consumer to legally use their iPod the way they expected to & therefore piracy took off. Consumers quite simply cannot reconcile their expectations with the current pricing structure, which is based on the old behavior.

    There are assholes. And there are people who make all of the arguments that you addressed. But I would argue that the typical file sharer is not vocal about it & would make none of these arguments. And I would argue that they wouldn't have a problem paying for music... they don't have a problem paying for iPods, iPhones, or Macbooks, but they can't pay $35,000 to fill their iPods.

    That's why I believe in Spotify. And that's why I pay for Spotify premium. But it could be too little too late, because the younger generation does not know what it's like to pay for music & they do not value it whatsoever (because they know pretty much anyone can record a record on an mbox). There has to be an added value to convert those consumers to paying subscribers, & the best weapon the industry has is Facebook integration, recommendations, playlist sharing, etc.

    1. Yes, advances in technology have made it easier to record music as well as distribute it via the internet, which for many has resulted in an increase in the amount of shitty music available to them. However, shitty songs are not a new phenomenon, nor a by-product of technology. There have been shitty songs since songwriting began. No one has ever been interested in purchasing what in their estimation is a shitty piece of music, and the fact that people have access to more shitty music doesn't change that fact. If anything, it should make the music of value more apparent.

      I don't see how you're pie analogy is applicable - if you think there is less music of value today, then it stands to reason you would be spending the same or less money on fewer artists….not the same money on more artists. ??? Furthermore, there is no risk involved in buying music anymore, as most of it can be legally streamed for free in one way or another….so no one should be getting surprised by shitty music - if it's on their iPod, it's because they chose to put it there.

      Regarding iPods and the expectation that they have to be full of music, what you're essentially saying is that consumers and listeners have a sense of entitlement. You are using this sense of entitlement to argue that the current pricing structure is unfair. I respectfully disagree. Their expectation is unfair - not the pricing. There is nothing unfair about $1.29 for a song. And spending $35,000 for 160 GB worth of songs is definitely insane, especially when you are of the belief that good music is a rarity….not sure how one goes about finding 26 thousand good songs, let alone finding the time to listen to all of them. So you're example is goofy and it's only a plausible scenario in virtue of the piracy culture, where users are downloading exorbitant amounts of files to increase their collection….not because they are intimately familiar with the content they are downloading, but because they have become obsessed with "having" everything. Even if we suppose there is a person who really does legitimately love and wish to own 26 thousand songs, A) they would not be acquiring it all in one purchase, B) if they value the music enough to own it, where is the justification for stealing it and in so doing asserting it isn't worth anything, C) they don't have to literally own it all, as a large portion of what they desire will already be accessible online through legal streaming, D) I want a Lamborghini but you won't find one in my garage.

      Finally, I'd like to point out this entire exchange succeeds in skirting the real issue. Whatever rationale, or lack thereof, in the users that illegally download music, and whatever the percentage of good music vs shitty music, has no relevance to the practice of individuals / companies profiting from the distribution of other individuals' / companies' content or products, which forms the foundation of the piracy industry. But it should be pointed out that if you compromise that foundation, then the tenants above who feel they are entitled to own 26 thousand shitty songs will all fall down with the rest of the house.

    2. It's not about 26,000 good songs that someone knows intimately. I was stating extremes to make points, you're going to have to extract practical applications from those numbers. But what we're getting into is how the perceived value of songs varies. Here's my personal perspective, which might offer a little more clarity...

      When I was younger, I bought a lot of compilations & a lot of greatest hits. One of the best music purchases I ever made was the Forrest Gump soundtrack. It was the first time I'd ever listened to Bob Dylan. So I went out & bought Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol 1. And I was satisfied with that. Each of those songs in their packaging were worth ~$1 each to me.

      Today, I don't want to settle for what someone else considers to be Dylan's greatest hits. I want to dig through all of the records & compile my own greatest hits list. I want to hear each recording of Quinn the Eskimo & decide which I prefer. And I may never listen to the other versions ever again. Maybe I want to hear the Witmark Demos, but I'm only going to keep coming back to the final recordings on the self-titled record. These songs might be worth $0.15 to me, based on the number of times I'm going to listen to them. I'm going to end up a set of 20 or so songs I keep coming back to, just the same. Only it would cost me hundreds of dollars more.

      Maybe I want to listen to Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back. But just once or twice. I'm not going to pay $1.29... I might pay a quarter for it something, I dunno. But that's not an option so I'd just end up downloading it & sticking it on my iPod. Maybe I get in a Miami Bass mood that I'm in for a week or so, & so I download 95 South & Tag Team & the 69 Boyz & whatever else... just for the nostalgia or the irony of it. Those songs aren't worth $1.29 to me.

      When I hear a good review about a new band, 10 years ago I might've gone out & bought the CD. Not now. No sir. People's tastes vary too much these days... one person might think Chris Carrabba spilling his guts is genius-grade material, someone else might think it's juvenile, amateurish crap. Consensus has disappeared. But I'll download it & check it out. Some of it may or may not end up on my iPod (truth be told, I don't own an iPod). Or I might be pleasantly surprised & I may go out & buy the whole record.

      So what you would find on my iPod aren't all songs that I'm going to stake my reputation on, it's not necessarily songs I'm going to become intimately familiar with. And it's not all songs I would've otherwise paid $0.99 for, nevermind $1.29. The current model does not address these kinds of variable values.

      Spotify does, it addresses it by giving a value per play. Whether it's the correct rate is up for debate, or whether everyone's getting the same rate remains to be seen, but this is the correct approach that addresses modern consumption habits. The "A song is worth $1.29 or $.99" model does not address this.

      So if you want get rid of file sharing websites... good luck with that, but if you did, hopefully all of that traffic would adopt Spotify. And we'd be that much closer to leaving this last-century model in the past.

    3. But I'll tell you one thing... Ronnie Milsap's self-titled record is a record I love, and it's not available digitally or physically on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, eMusic, or any other online store that isn't based out of Russia. Couldn't find an active torrent on any torrent trackers, public or private. It took me 2 hours to find a digital copy with an obscured file name on a MegaUpload-type site. A lot of file sharing exists because it has to. The industry will have to commit to current consumption trends if it wants to be around in any recognizable form in the future, major labels & independent artists, alike.

      And you don't have a Lamborghini in your garage because you can't have a Lamborghini in your garage. If a machine is invented that duplicates Lamborghinis for free, you can bet your ass that the value of a Lamborghini is going to plummet. And if Lamborghini doesn't recognize this & adjust it's business model accordingly... well, you might not have a Lamborghini in your garage, but I might have one in mine (at least I would if they weren't so terribly tacky).

    4. Given there is a lot of music you desire, but whose value you assess to be less than $1.29 or $.99, I understand why Spotify is appealing to you. However, such a perspective is not a justification for illegal file-sharing, but rather an argument in support of streaming services. In addition, the fact that MegaUpload was the only means through which to acquire a given artist doesn't justify the "piracy industry"….but it certainly explains why you utilized the service.

      There has never been consensus about what music is good, and there never will be. But there doesn't need to be consensus, least of all today when the majority of music is already streamed (and much of it streamed for free). You don't need a Spotify account to listen to, or evaluate, most music - you need a Spotify account if you want to be able to access an exorbitant amount of music instantaneously from one convenient location.

      While I can understand your support of Spotify, I fail to see why the model of paying for an item that you desire is an out-dated last-century model. You seem to be of the belief that because a digital copy of a song is not manufactured in a physical factory, and that it can be acquired remotely with unprecedented ease, that it no longer has any monetary value (or at least, it's monetary value has been significantly diminished). I don't see this to be the case at all. The only reason it has little or no monetary value is because assholes are facilitating it's theft. The purpose of my Lamborghini analogy was simply to point out that just because someone wants something doesn't mean they are entitled to it, nor does it give them a license to steal it. If a machine comes into existence that duplicates Lamborghinis for free, and that machine wasn't made by Lamborghini, then Lamborghini shouldn't adjust it's business model - it should stop the assholes that are facilitating the theft of their vehicles!

      The bottom line though is that a discussion of the mindset of the general consumer is separate from the discussion of the motivations of the piracy facilitators. Moreover, the mindset of the general consumer is only relevant as long as illegal file-sharing businesses are given a free pass to do what they do. So once you undermine the "piracy industry", you render the general user's opinions about piracy insignificant.

    5. So long as there have been networks, there has been piracy. There was piracy on newsgroups, on IRC, on AOL chatrooms, etc. Before there was advertising on the internet, there was piracy. There is piracy on networks & services that ACTIVELY AND AGGRESSIVELY try to stamp out piracy. Napster was just a rebranded IRC client... that Shawn Fanning made a dime off of it was probably a big surprise to everyone. So when the demand was made known, OF COURSE profiteers came out of the woodwork to capitalize on it, but it was already there. Perhaps they have accelerated it. But as long as the ability to share legal files exists, there is also the ability to share illegal files. And so taking down all of the "piracy facilitators" will only redirect traffic. The internet will literally have to be shut down & reconstructed in a completely different way in order for piracy to be stopped. The reason I gave you the Ronnie Milsap example was to prove this point... whenever the industry is not offering a legal way to satiate the demand of a music fan, music fans will use technology to meet one anothers' demands. And THAT'S why the mindset of the general consumer is not only significant, it is PARAMOUNT.

      Daniel Ek makes this argument all of the time... Spotify appeals to the mentality of the file sharer. The exploration, the ability to listen to a "disposable" song once or twice without having to make a full purchase, the portability, etc. Regardless of whether or not you think the pay structure is ideal, it's a model that prices music according to it's demand & satiates the varying values that different songs have to the modern consumer. If Spotify had launched in Napster's place, piracy would never have been a problem. (Of course the music industry would never have let that happen, even if turn-of-the-century technology had afforded us high quality streaming audio.) In most ways, Spotify is better than file sharing. But the problem is that so many people are set in their ways. They need to be convinced. And that will happen over time. And the profiteering piracy facilitators will gradually lose their influence (at least as far as music goes).

      That is the response to file sharing. It can not be stamped out, it must be defeated. It has to be bested. And Spotify is the only service currently equipped to do that.

    6. There was indeed piracy before it became profitable, but certainly not on the level of today. And it's my contention that once we remedy the "piracy industry", the same tools that allow us to do so will become applicable to non-profitable file-sharing networks. I'm not suggesting that every illegal file-sharing network across the planet will be, or can be, neutralized in total…but I am suggesting that appropriate legislation and enforcement can effectively reign piracy in (without requiring a reconstruction of the internet), and even more so if coupled with advances in monitoring technology. So piracy doesn't have to disappear altogether - it just needs to become untenable beyond a certain threshold.

      I agree that the mindset of the general consumer is important with respect to any business. But I don't think it's their mindset that ultimately allows piracy to flourish - rather, it's the complacency of the populace to allow individuals (profiteers or otherwise) to facilitate piracy. Yes, technology will always be utilized as much as possible to achieve what one desires, and to that end has served the general consumer quite well in the area of piracy. However, technology is not a wild animal out of control that exists unto itself…it's a reflection of the will of people, and it can be used in any number of ways, both to facilitate piracy and stifle it.

      I'm not pro or anti Spotify. But as long as there is rampant piracy, free theft will always reign supreme. I don't see streaming services as superior or inferior to a conventional pay structure - it's just a different model. It will appeal to some content owners and not to others, but it should be the choice of the content owner whether or not to embrace it (a determination primarily based on the deal structure between the rights owners and the streaming service, having nothing to do with the general consumer or the streaming model itself). If they don't embrace it, the consequence should be upset consumers not buying their music because they don't value it enough. But we should not be allowing consumers to steal music, and in so doing, leverage piracy as a means to force legitimate businesses into adopting streaming.

      It goes without saying that streaming is a superior alternative compared to piracy. But in my view, the future of the music industry does not rest upon a choice between piracy or streaming - it rests upon a choice between combatting piracy, or throwing up one's hands and giving up. If we look outside the music industry, we find crime in many different areas of society…but we don't just throw up our hands and say, "oh well". And despite the fact that it appears impossible to end all crime in total, this does not (and should not) prevent us from investing efforts toward reducing crime to the greatest degree possible. Piracy is no different.

    7. Very well put, but remedying the piracy industry is much more easily said than done. Enforcement technology is, by nature, reactive. And we've seen the evolution of file sharing, clear as day... centralized peer-to-peer sharing (Napster, AudioGalaxy) is shut down, decentralized peer-to-peer sharing (Kazaa, Limewire, etc) pops up. Decentralized peer-to-peer sharing is shut down, bit torrent pops up. And each time a new technology emerges, it becomes bigger than the last. I'd bet real money that there are technologies already developed that are waiting to take the place of bit torrent, should the need arise. It's not like there are just a handful of Kim Dotcoms that you can jail & eliminate the problem, if the case against Kim is even going to stand up to scrutiny. And eliminating hosted file sharing sites by itself isn't going to be easy, as encryption methods & naming conventions & so forth continue to evolve in response to enforcement efforts. But we've seen clearly that whenever the RIAA claims a victory over a piracy facilitator, traffic simply redirects to a new source and file sharing on the whole continues to grow (from publicity, if not the necessary iterating of the software). And that's not even touching on less popular methods of file sharing, both private & public, that are also in use around the web.

      So I have to disagree with your assessment of the plausibility of eliminating the industry of piracy... it's too multi-faceted, it evolves too quickly, and users are too used to adopting new technologies. Remedying the problem would require the relinquishing of personal liberties that citizens, judging by the SOPA backlash, are not willing to relinquish.

      And it would be awesome if morality & the letter of the law reigned supreme, but the music industry has never held itself to those standards. And of course that doesn't justify it, but it explains the apathy towards the situation. And the problem can't be approached without a sober realization of that.

      It's kind of like... oh, the village just got infested with a swarm of bees. We could either try & coexist & remodel our economy around honey, or we could try to lure them out the village somehow. But trying to stomp them out just exacerbates the problem & there is no guarantee of success. The infestation isn't fair, but that's life sometimes.

      I just think we'll yield much better results trying to convert file sharers to Spotify than trying to stomp out piracy. The up front payments that labels demand & don't share with artists is practically piracy in & of itself, leaving very sad rates for artists, signed & independent. I think that deserves some of our ire, & is going to keep us from solving the piracy problem any time in the near future.

    8. I guess I have more faith than you do, haha. Again, I don't think piracy needs to be stamped out completely, just reigned in, the way we reign in overall crime. You're assessment of the multifaceted nature of piracy is totally valid, but that just means there may need to be a multifaceted approach to efforts against it (efforts that include holding facilitators accountable).

      I think the idea that effectively combatting piracy involves the relinquishing of personal liberties is a delusion. As far as I can tell, this delusion is born of the belief that effective anti-piracy efforts would rest on stopping piracy before it starts, through some sort of big brother control of the internet…but I'm not suggesting piracy be stopped before it starts, let alone Orwellian scenarios - I'm simply suggesting piracy be stopped once it does start. Yes, this is a reactionary strategy, but it doesn't follow that reactionary strategies are ineffective a priori. I think it's just that our current reactionary strategies (or lack thereof) are ineffective. Pursuing reactionary strategies also doesn't mean they can't be equally inventive and evolving. And keep in mind, all of law enforcement is reactive. The irony is that those who argue that anti-piracy efforts will violate people's rights and freedoms are apparently content to allow piracy to continue to violate the rights of content owners.

      The problem with SOPA wasn't the initial motivation of the legislation - it was how the legislation was written. The answer isn't to conclude "it will never work" - the answer is to write appropriate legislation that doesn't leave room for adverse exploitation. Part of what compounds the problem is that anti-piracy camps are all over the map, and piracy supporters under the guise of liberty do a great job in smearing the issues and undermining a healthy discussion of how to proceed.

      Discussions of evil record labels and exploitative artist deals sidetrack the issue (see point # 2 in the article), and although it's common that they get referenced as having contributed to the flourishing of piracy, I find such arguments to be meritless and merely after-the-fact rationalizations. Regardless though, none of it justifies piracy and none of it has any bearing on where to go from here.

      Your bee analogy is very helpful, as I think it illustrates the difference between us. You see the infestation of bees as being out of control. I see the infestation as being unruly. And while your solution is to entice the bees with solution is to have the villagers put on bee suits and remove the bee hives from the village.

    9. I forgot to mention that they're mutant bees that evolve in real time according to methods we use to control them haha But maybe you're right, maybe we just have different perspectives.

      But that's just the interim, we're all going to inevitably end up on Spotify, anyhow ;)

    10. Haha...time will tell. Thanks for all of the insightful commentary.

    11. JonWayneCole, that's utter nonsense. If I install a big walk-in freezer in my house does that mean that I'm somehow "entitled" to have it filled with free food?

      No, it does not.

      If I'm so stupid as to purchase a storage device that there is no reasonable way that I'm going to be able to use it's not the responsibility of the world to fill it for me.

      The fact is that the tech industry has been encouraging piracy of content as an incentive for their customers to buy gadgets they they really don't need.

      It doesn't mean that content is overpriced. Contrary to what the tech pundits will tell you it still costs pretty much the same amount to produce an album of QUALITY music - i.e. music that people will actually want to listen to more than a few times - as it ever did; you can't make a great album on a computer in your bedroom without professional help and have something with any real appeal to a wide audience. The cost of making movies is only going up.

      So expecting prices to go down is unreasonable and unrealistic. The fact is that music is underpriced as it is - if you adjust the cost of a $5 album in 1965 to today's dollars it would cost somewhere between $35 and $50. A single song would figure out to between $3.50 and $5. Music prices need to INCREASE, not decrease to restore a decent return on investment.

  11. Oh, about your "swarm of bees" thing - the analogy doesn't hold.

    Bees, you see, are productive. Pirates are not, they are parasites.

    The operant analogy would be an infestation of rats.

    And you know what we do with an infestation of rats - we kill them.

    1. Butch Walker recorded the Marvelous 3's Hey! Album on a pro tools rig in his living room &... you can argue whether or not that qualifies as "wide audience" appeal, but it certainly hits the mark on quality. And this was in the early days of digital recording, when Pro Tools rigs were far less capable & much more expensive. A lot of people WANT records to cost as much as they used to, but they most certainly don't HAVE to. Making this argument that all records have to be big budget, studio recordings just shows that you believe that you hold all of the cards, when you don't.

      I'm with you on the fridge analogy, to a certain point... I don't think piracy is right, or that owning a lot of storage space is in any way a justification for violating copyright, I'm just making the argument that it has irreversibly shaped consumer behavior. And as hard as it would be for you to ever admit it, consumer behavior is a variable equal to if not MORE IMPORTANT than the laws of the land if your end desire is to make a the most profit that you can. But the end goal of the music industry seems to be to have people pay a certain price per song based on behavior that, judging from revenue reports, no long dominates. If I could sum up the problem in one sentence, that's it right there.

      You're making an EMOTIONAL argument that doesn't jive with your business objectives. If you really want things to turn around, you're going to have to stop classifying downloaders as pirates & look at them as MODERN MUSIC LISTENERS, who ARE productive, the industry just hasn't made any effort to monetize them. (It's actually done everything in it's power to alienate them.) The sooner you understand that, the better off you'll be. Then you'll understand my analogy.

      I'm not saying it's right, or that it's justified, I'm just saying it's a cold hard fact of life... consumer behavior as changed. And those who can't cope with the cold hard facts of life tend to fall to the wayside.

      I mean... how much did computers used to cost? And, adjusting for inflation, how much would that be today? A lot more than the $300 or so you would spend on a computer comparable to what the Hey! Album was recorded on (of course this is just an educated guess... but what you could get for $300 today is probably exponentially faster than what Butch used in 1998). Now do you REALLY think the price of digital music needs to go up?

    2. Just for context, here's a quote from Butch (who knows a thing or two about recording) on the subject...

      "I started using Pro Tools in the mid 90's. I went from ditching my two ADAT machines and scraping up to buy a used 16 bit, Nu-Bus Pro Tools rig with only 16 tracks of recording capability on it. As I recall, my girl helped me out with it! It was the former system from the RnB group Silk and still had a bunch of "Oh baby" vocals on the drive...

      I didn't know the first thing about Pro Tools at all, and I learned how to use it by trial and DAE error. Within a month I recorded my first hit song ever on it (Marvelous 3’s 'Freak of the Week'). The whole thing was recorded to 16 tracks, with one preamp, one microphone, the drums sub-mixed to stereo, and mixed in the box. That was top 5 radio. It changed my perspective on the 'big expensive studio' approach to recording. So needless to say, I have paid my girl back for that rig…"

    3. JWC: "
      You're making an EMOTIONAL argument that doesn't jive with your business objectives. If you really want things to turn around, you're going to have to stop classifying downloaders as pirates & look at them as MODERN MUSIC LISTENERS, who ARE productive, the industry just hasn't made any effort to monetize them."

      Nonsense. There is no way to "monetize" somebody who is unwilling to pay a fair price for a product.

      Somebody who actually VALUES my work (or anyone else's) will be willing to pay a fair price to see that the work continues. If someone isn't willing to do that they're not a customer and certainly not a real fan.

      I mean, get real - music is DRASTICALLY underpriced right now - the cost of an album in 1965 adjusted to 2012 dollars would be between $35-$50. One song would cost between $3.50 and $5. A song now costs less than a jumbo candy bar many brands of sugar water and it lasts much longer and won't rot your teeth or give you diabetes.

      Music prices need to rise, not fall. People value what they pay for.

      Don't talk to me about "monetizing" - people who don't want to pay are simply greedy bastards who want whatever they can grab. Looters and parasites. And it really doesn't matter what kind of excuses they make. Why should a musician who has spent years of unpaid hard work learning and developing his art and invested thousands of dollars in equipment make less that a burger flipper at Mickey D's, just because some freeloader feels entitled to free music?

      And many people who download PIRATED material aren't even real listeners. They just use it as audio wallpaper or even worse, just have it in their "collection".

      If somebody pays for my music, they're invested in actually LISTENING to it. Pirates aren't. I would rather have 1000 paid sales to people who listen and really like what I do than 10,000 downloads to people who treat my music as wallpaper.

      Piracy isn't "exposure" regardless of what the thieves try to claim.

    4. Drastically underpriced lol

      What's keeping you from pricing your songs @ $5/pop? I'd really like to see how fans respond to that.


    5. It seems the two of you are talking past each other. Current music costs are certainly not overpriced in and of themselves. However, in comparison to piracy where music is free, any price is overpriced. So the question of what constitutes a fair price for a song or album depends on what we (society) decide to do or not do about piracy. If we decide to accept piracy as an unchangeable fact of modern life, then it will become more and more prevalent, necessitating an adaptation to consumer practices, resulting in a continued undercutting of music prices and a very bleak future for artists (one which will probably result in a full commitment to streaming platforms eventually). But if we decide that piracy is not an unchangeable fact of modern life, and adopt policies to effectively and intelligently combat it, then piracy loses the leverage it currently has on the music industry, entitled consumers will come to terms with not being able to have everything they want for free, and content owners will price their music as they see fit. I'm hoping for the latter scenario.

    6. Zack

      I completely ADORE this article. This is a sensible and serious enquiry/proposition I put to you: I publish a quarterly 'zine'/'mag' as a part of our band 'package' and include anything artistically, musically in particular, relevant - I invite contributions from others. This includes reviews not only on our music but other peoples' aswell. I would really LOVE to include your article in the June issue. It is brilliantly and entertainingly written. Would you be happy for me to do so? The 'zine' is a freebie which is circulated to fans of our music. I can offer you another outlet for your musings! Please do let me know if you'd be happy for me to do that. e_mail:

      Happy to send you a copy if you wish to see what it is like beforehand.

      I look forward to hearing from you soon, hopefully in the affirmative. Best wishes

  12. I think one of the biggest issues with the pricing is one of supply and demand. When the only was to get music was through CDs tapes and vinyls the pricing mechanism was easy: you could price off what you needed to make more discs or tapes or sheets of vinyl. Consumers also had a rough idea of what these materials cost and therefore had a fair idea of what "overpriced" was. Now, because very few people aren't actually buying hard copies of anything, and because digital copies are basically free to make, the entire cost market has been turned on its head. Do we charge the same, even without physical materials? Do we charge less? If so, how much less? Thats the real question.

    1. Well, keep in mind that even when the physical CD market was booming, pricing was still varied to a certain degree, with CDs ranging on average from $12.99 to $16.99 depending on the artist and retail outlet in question. More to the point though, the cost of manufacturing was only one variable that contributed to the cost of the physical CD - other factors were the costs incurred from recording, mixing, mastering, etc. Moreover, there has always been a non-mathematical component to pricing, in the way of ascribing a cost to the creativity inherent in the product, which is ultimately the real thing being paid for.

      So with all of that said, the only thing that has changed from the era of CDs to digital downloads, is the removal of the single variable of manufacturing / packaging. But every other variable remains in place - recording, mixing, mastering being the primarily ones (but depending on the artist / band, also musician fees, producer fees, PR / marketing costs, etc). And of course, the inherent creativity (i.e. the song itself). So as I see it, the standard album download price of $10 is actually a very fair price point in comparison to it's physical CD counterpart.

  13. Digital content is easier to replicate and distribute which changes business models thats all. I understand the arguments in this post but still feel like your trying to force or impose on individuals. I wouldn't say Katey Perry should make less, but I also wouldn't say she should make more, neither case is my business though I feel it likely she stands to make more with the advance of tech being where it's at. Lady Gaga is an example of someone who embraced a model of business relying on her tours and so called piracy only increased her exposure. The distribution of the music and artist are things of value and if someone is uncomfortable with arrangements of bits on harddrives being replicated they shouldn't make ideas/movies/music or base their business plan on controlling it.

    These assholes are simply providing the distribution people want and no-one else was providing. Anybody can work with them instead of against but it's a choice of pissing off the old publishers right? I dispute the claim they are refusing to pay artists just by maintaining a file sharing service.

    Most of what I'm saying is trying to be convincing that there are other ways if we aren't afraid. But there is a basic moral question the answer of which can avoid a lot of pain: do we want to vilify people by calling them pirates and having governments shut them down as well as enforce the containment of words and ideas? I think there are better ways to think about IP, mainly that it should not exist and we should think about what enforcing it really looks like. It's a monopolist tool, not one for artists and creatives to wield.

    1. It seems to me that you have conflated a few things. Proponents of artist rights are not trying to force or impose anything on individuals - it's the other way around - individuals and piracy facilitators are imposing on artists and content owners. For an artist to charge a fee to a person who wishes to download a song is not to impose on them, as that person is not forced to buy it. However, for an artist to be forced to allow unrelated parties to distribute their content without their consent or approval is most definitely to impose on them.

      Regarding Katy Perry, what you or anyone think she should or should not make is of no consequence - the question is should people have the right to steal her music, distribute it globally without her consent, and make money off it to boot? Similarly, Lady Gaga's business model (or your impression of it) is irrelevant to the real issue here. If Lady Gaga chose to make her music available for free, it would have absolutely no impact on this discussion, other than to attest to the fact that content owners should have the right to run their business as they see fit.

      Regarding your 2nd paragraph, I'm not sure you fully comprehend the nature of assholes - there is no "working with them" - they make money by exploiting other people's creations, and that's where it ends. No profit sharing to be worked out, nor business strategy to formulate…and obviously, no right to force them to stop exploiting your creations. Where I come from that's not working together, that's getting jacked.

      Not sure what you're getting at with respect to "pissing off old publishers" - I don't have a publisher and I don't have a label, so all the evil record industry talk can go out the window - I independently run my own company and publish my own music. I have yet to get a request from an asshole wishing to "work" with me. But I have politely contacted many an asshole to no response.

      With respect to "assholes are simply providing the distribution people want and no one else was providing", yeah, people love free stuff. But just because people want free stuff doesn't mean suppliers should be forced to acquiesce. I would love a free automobile, and I'm sure I'm not alone - if I walk into a Honda dealership and demand they supply me with a free car, does their refusal make them profiteering demons? No. Does it follow that we should band together and raid the Honda dealership? No. And if we did start raiding dealerships across the globe, how long will it be until dealerships with quality cars started disappearing altogether? Of course, maybe the car manufacturers will continue to make automobiles because they're so passionate about it…you know, the "real" car makers that do it for the love and not the money…the ones who earn a living working 40 to 60 hours a week in an unrelated field but miraculously find the time to crank out automobiles in their spare time. I'll let you drive that car. In any event, stealing someone's stuff and giving it to the entire world doesn't make you a distributor - it simply makes you an asshole.

      This should be common sense: people have rights to the things they create...because they created it! Not sure why that is so hard to grasp for some, but I certainly understand why it's a nuisance to those who earn money through violating the rights of content creators. IP is not a monopolist tool, it's related to the right to property that all individuals and businesses possess. In contrast, a bunch of assholes undermining the self-determination of content owners is dictatorial.

    2. Lastly, no one supports governments shutting down words and ideas - to suggest that in response to this article or reasoned debate about anti-piracy issues is to twist words to fit a preconceived notion. It's very simple: either creators have rights to that which they create, or they don't. Given that you are of the belief that IP should not exist, we know where you stand. But let me give you some words of caution - it's all well and good to jump onto the internet anarchy bandwagon, but know you walk a slippery slope…today artists are being exploited and stripped of their rights, but tomorrow you might find yourself in those shoes when some new group of jack-offs decide you're not entitled to X / Y / Z, or that a new area of business no longer has the right to charge people for their products, or that no one has a right to privacy, or that you shouldn't be allowed to make a certain amount of money, etc. The delusional "Robin Hood" fantasy that supporters of piracy are immersed in is but a budding Orwellian dystopia.

  14. That is the real issue happening here. Im afraid its true, but we still have a choice.

  15. You are taught as an artist to register your work with congress. Well that's a joke. Every industry is suffering from the digitization of works. You can download 1000's of ebooks in minutes. Entire discographies of music artists are available at a couple clicks. 'Anyone can do it' software and hardware is becoming more popular. The 'pirate' sites and blogs are so good at what they do they often have legit fortune 5000 businesses advertising on them. Congress, the 80 year old fossils that they are, do nothing because they can barely grasp what a usb flash drive is for. The law seems to be in favor of those who peddle free copy written material. Its a recipe for disaster. People do not feel they need to pay for anything other than a hot movie ticket like the Avengers. The Arts are slowly just becoming 'the hobbies'. Bottom line, don't quit your day job.

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  17. Thanks for your perspective, Zack. You really changed my mind about the piracy debate.

  18. I agree with you that the people who make money off of copied content are the big issue in piracy. There are lots of alternatives to enjoy music legally, and it's sad that some people would rather support the "piracy industry" than legitimate sources. Plenty of artists provide their music for free through legal venues. The money that pirates are earning off of ad revenue is money that could have went to the artists themselves. That is the true loss.

  19. Hi. I realize this is an incredible necro-post but I only found out about you a couple of days ago.

    My thoughts on the piracy networks is that they are scummy. That being said... I am forced to admit that back in the 90's and early 2000's when Napster was all the rage, much of the music I now own was only discovered thanks to the piracy.

    Where I live didn't even have an HMV or similar store so finding anything that wasn't just Metallica or some other big name was almost zero. But thanks to the piracy I found a wide range of bands that I watched for and when able bought the albums. Sometimes 2 or 3 times. Still can't get over one of the Lacuna Coil albums where a song sounds like it has a scratch in it but that is literally how the song goes.

    However. I am also forced to admit that I am the rarity. Most pirates I knew didn't buy their product. Lived with a fellow renter who was of the opinion that so long as other people paid for music, games etc. he had a free license to just take it.

    In the end, while there is clearly a right and a wrong of it I find the topic very... difficult to judge. After all, without the network I would have never found the bands that make up half my collection.

    All that aside, thank you for your work. Your music is beautiful and your perspective both valued and appreciated.

    1. I agree it’s a nuanced topic. One thing is clear though - you are definitely NOT an asshole!

      Now I’m going to have to look up Lacuna Coil :)