Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pirates of the Internet Waters

I recently had a conversation about music with one of my younger online friends.  Only 21, she knows a good tune when she hears it, and we share information about different artists we both may enjoy. 

The question of how many music files on our I-Pod's came up. I tell her I have about 500, all from the CD's I bought and ripped. (Yes, I one of the few who still buys CD's.)  She tells me she has over 5000.  Of course, I asked her how she procured them, and she tells me she downloaded them...

... for free. (Her words.)  I said. "You mean you downloaded them with out PAYING for the privilege"  The vernacular that many use is "piracy".

She doesn't think she did anything wrong. I, on the other hand, get particularly perturbed about the subject of piracy.

As a creative person who has made money of his work, (albeit, not very much)  I feel that an artist should get paid for their work. It doesn't matter if the work in question is physical or intangible (like music).  If you enjoy enough to download for keeps, then it is only fair to pay a nominal fee.

Pirates will try to make a case that an artist can't lose money on something they (the pirates) had no intention of buying in the first place. 

It goes like this: If one lacks the necessary funds to purchase say a CD, then  one would have to steal it to own it. That would be wrong. However, if they wanted a certain song, and they download a MP3, it is not wrong because it is a infinite reproducible intangible that can't be stolen because it is not a physical object. Therefore, in their eyes, the artist has lost nothing because it does not exist until one downloads it.

There are many who think along this line.

Then there are the ones that will concede it is wrong, but justify their actions because of the steps that are taken to stop piracy (DRM or Digital Rights Management, aka Digital Restriction Management) that may interfere their right of fair use.

Here is their argument:  It is within the right of fair use of the copyright law to take a CD one has legally purchased to rip the tracks to digital form onto their computer and then to synchronize the files to a portable digital player. (i.e. I-Pods, cell phones, and things of that ilk.)  DRM prevents the consumer from ripping the files to a computer, and, they contend, it sometimes causes the CD to malfunction and not play at all.  So, in their view, they will not support an industry that infringes their right as a consumer, so they will take what they feel that is owed to them.

There are many who think like this, too. Though I am not a fan of DRM on purchased CD's, it still does not justify illegally downloading files.

I am not a lawyer. I do understand the basics of the U.S. copyright law, however. The minute you create something, you own it until you sell that ownership to someone else. You could register that work of creativity with the U.S. Copyright Office, which gives you evidence in case of a lawsuit. However, people are allowed fair use of your work. What constitutes fair use is very vague and somewhat complicated, but it means that one may use the work in a way that is not commercially damaging to the owner.  Downloading for one's enjoyment without paying is not fair use.

What do you think?  Is it okay to download music and other works without paying because the artist will not be compensated anyway?  Are you a proponent of changing the law to allow this kind of behavior?  Or are you on the lines of that copyright is there to protect the artist and not having it would limit creative output?

For those who comment, I would ask if you would identify yourself as a creative artist if this applies to you. 

I am now off to listen to my legally downloaded music. 

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