Somebody Told Me Again (AKA Going Legit, Part 3)

Preface: it’s not necessary to review my earlier posts to understand tonight’s spew, but parts 1 and 2 are here and here if you’re so inclined to trudge through them.

A while back I decided to give up a life of petty theft and electronic burglary and behave like a respectable young(ish) man. I had amassed thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal software, operating systems, games, music and movies, and had downloaded enough patches and cracks to start my own plumbing company. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. I was a web developer, so I had the entire suite of Adobe products installed, plus the (then separate) Macromedia line, plus the commercial modelers and raytracers and development studios, plus all the operating systems my junk was running on, plus whatever else my greedy little heart desired.

But now I have a friend in Obama (he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me how little I own), and I’ve Changed.

OK, scratch that last. I gave up improv long ago, so there’s no longer any reason for me to pretend to be gay and/or socialist in public (or semi-public, as this blog seems to be). But forgive me, my three faithful readers and half dozen stumblers-upon, for I tend to wander. I did eventually amend my habits, though, and I’m happy to report that I’m in my 20th month of keeping them amended!

Anyway, so I’ve always been interested in the concepts of piracy, DRM, copyright law, etc., and because I’ve participated actively on both sides of the central issue, it’s something I’ve often given thought to. I came across something yesterday that piqued the interest of my inner technowonk, and I want to share it here: perspective and counter-perspective on the theft of music.

Essentially, what happened was that some dude blawged about music piracy a while back, and then someone else chimed in with some actual sense, and then the original dude posted a new entry about that, and then things started really getting out of hand. OK, actually he argued in his original post that there was a big difference between piracy and unauthorized duplication, and that, while one was big and bad and evil, the other other wasn’t so much a deal. To that I say, “Fart sandwiches.” Degrees of theft can’t be quantified, and no amount of rationalization can justify taking something from someone else without their permission. He argues that it’s going to be taken anyway, so nobody should fret over it too much. He argues that it spreads the artist’s notoriety, but doesn’t explain how popularizing a particular theft and encouraging more and more folks to steal from someone will help them pay the rent. Then (my favorite part!) he speculates that maybe, just maybe, people shouldn’t be forced to actually pay for things they can’t afford.

I was waiting for his logic to start expanding like J-Lo’s butt and encompass all things in life that aren’t free but might should be, but he disappointed me by not going there. Just think: if music is necessary to life, how much more so must the Big Mac be? What right does McDonald’s have to charge actual money for their stuff anyway, when there are people who can’t afford it? I think I should steal about 20,000 fish sandwiches and share them with friends and perfect strangers alike. Wouldn’t that expand their fan base? It would be fantastic for everybody, wouldn’t it? To be fair, though, that’s not a perfect analog since it takes actual effort to create each sandwich while music can just be copied. A better example might be sex, but I won’t really explore that option in depth. The saner of you get my meaning, though, so I can probably just wrap up this paragraph with my trademark lack of conclusion.

I’ve been following Worldwide Groove Corporation for a while, and it’s actually Ellen Tift, the mom of that particular mom-and-pop, that stoked the fires with her passionate rebuttal to the dude’s original post. I’m a huge fan of chillout (and have really always been an electronica kiddy at heart), and I’m currently head over heels in love with Chillodesiac Lounge (vol. 1). I hadn’t actually been on their site much before the butt hit the scuttle, but one of the comments on the dude’s entry mentioned a Killers remix that I had to go check out there. And… wow. What can I say? Other than that I’m now the proud owner of a kickin’ version of Somebody Told Me? You really, really should go check these folks out.

I have lots of music bidness friends and contacts, and most of them are quite outspoken with their anti-music-piracy messages. They know first-hand how damaging minor theft on a grand scale can be, and they wholeheartedly support the artists and authors in question. What’s interesting, though, is that several of them do trade unauthorized copies of other things – movies, video games, etc., and I always wonder how their rationalization process works when they do things like that. Oh well, at least they’re not stealing fish sandwiches…

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