Sunday, August 12, 2007

Congratulations to us for killing the record industry

I read an article from Rolling Stone recently (found here: that makes me even more aware if how our generation seems to have lost a sense of right or wrong in terms of artistic copyright theft.

We all understand it's wrong to steal a sweater from a department store but due to years of conditioning from Napster, the Napster copy-offs, and now Youtube, we don't seem to feel the same way about stealing a song, TV episode or movie.

If we want a song, TV show, or movie we don't ask "how much does it cost? can i find it at a reasonable price?" but rather "how quickly can i download it?", "is it on youtube yet?", "why not?" I'm not sure what it is that has separated us from our moral radar in this particular sector of consumption but I think it's among our most important. I would really hate to see an inability for those in the arts (musicians, scriptwriters, and filmmakers) to be able to commercially succeed when their material is being diluted by the Internet and not being properly acquired. Do we just assume that recording artists are so rich that they won't know the difference? Maybe, it's that we've always felt that concerts is where musicians make most of their money anyway. I think with youtube showing us live concerts, that gets diluted as well. I care more about that than whether everyone who comes out of the Gap with a new sweater has paid for it.

And that's what's being affected. If we truly respect the artists who we're flocking to on you tube and whose songs or TV episodes we're downloading, I would hope that we would respect them enough to support their endeavours commercially. I am not saying I have never downloaded anything ever, but I do make it a point to buy a CD here or there.

I also understand Youtube's potential to promote certain causes and artists although I believe it's shaky ground. If you post an entire episode of a TV show than that's crossing the line, because you take away any incentive for someone to go to itunes and buy the episode for $1.99.

I think there's a lot of emphasis on how the record executives should deal with this crisis, but there's very little emphasis on how we as consumers take responsibility for ourselves, as if that's just a moot point.


Justine said...

You're very right that it's a two way street. It's not only the record company's faults, but our own that the industry is in effect collapsing onto itself.

At the same time, I'm not going to deny downloading a song or film once in a while... although I try to only do it in extreme situations when something is unavailable region 1 DVD, or is out of print for whatever reason. Even then, I can't help feeling somewhat guilty.

Back to the original point though, something needs to be done, although I'm hoping a shift will be made without people having to pay extreme fines or have to serve prison time (I was just reading yesterday someone suggesting, 10 years in prison for sharing files... which is more than a little extreme for my tastes). The introduction of streaming TV and movies, hopefully will cut down somewhat on illegal downloads, but I doubt it will eliminate the problem entirely.

The only solution I can see, with the help of streaming, is that the Internet becomes more and more like Television but with a more endless sense of choosing and picking what you want for a premium price, or perhaps nothing at all... at the expense of having to deal with commercials.

weepingsam said...

We all understand it's wrong to steal a sweater from a department store but due to years of conditioning from Napster, the Napster copy-offs, and now Youtube, we don't seem to feel the same way about stealing a song, TV episode or movie.

For the relatively simple reason that a song is not a sweater. It takes a certain amount of creative reasoning to believe that intellectual property is the same as physical property - and when the analogy gets stretched too far, it doesn't hold up any more. The connection between intellectual property and physical property has always depended on specific technology to embody intellectual property in physical form: when the technology that links them is replaced with technology that makes the link incidental, the old claims don't hold. Music no longer depends on the object, the recording, in ways it used to. Too bad if you love the objects, but there it is.

The technology is changing. The industries built on selling older technologies will have to find ways to make money using the new ones. It would probably happen sooner if record companies and the like worked on finding new revenue opportunities rather than trying to defend an increasingly obsolete model.

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