Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I like music. I like a lot of different types of music. If you could see my record collection your first thought might be that I am a music snob. I was once accused of that by an old girlfriend when she realised I didn't have any Supertramp records. I am not a music snob but I do have limits and that relationship didn't work out for some reason.
Do you remember Napster? I mean when it first came into existence and not what passes for Napster these days. I can remember searching it to find all sorts of obscure tracks that I did not have a hope in hell finding through other means at the time. Stuff like Robert Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End and all manner of obscure Dub, Reggae, Electro etc. There are many articles about how Napster revolutionised the music industry so I wont labour the point. Once Napster was closed down other P2P clients filled the gap: gnutella, kazaa, edonkey and soulseek to name a few (I am deliberately ignoring bit torrent for the time being as it is a different beast) Within a certain generation P2P became a very normal way of consuming music.
Reasons not to download music without paying for it
It was around 2000 / 2001 I think. I was organising a live music / club event in Newcastle and I was trying to book some talent. I went down to London to meet a few people and sort out dates and fees etc. I was really struck by what one person said. They were / are a very talented musician signed to one of the coolest record labels around then and now. The subject of soulseek came up. They had been logging in and watching how many times their tracks were being downloaded and were in a state of shock. I figured that even if they got a few pence for each downloaded track then they could have given up their less than glamourous day job to write even more and better music for us all to listen to. So when hit with this thought which is kind of hard to argue against I decided that downloading an artists track without paying them (unless they have either agreed to this fact or have been dead for long enough not to care (see open music archive)) was difficult moral territory (specially the good ones).
The Digital economy bill. A bill designed to safeguard the wealth of in my opinion 'Large content producers'. It is fine, they can stay rich if they want, that's the free world for you. I am not going to go into the detailed wrongs and rights of this bill. If you are so inclined you can do the research yourself. But you should make yourself aware of the dangerous amount of power it awards the secretary of state to redefine copyright laws and the penalties if you fail to follow these. Also there is a certain delicious irony in having Peter Madleson champion a three strike policy, I mean what strike is he on now?
So how are they going to manage this situation? How are they going to ensure we are not illegally downloading music? By monitoring EVERYTHING we do online silly. Deep packet inspection with supposed anonymisation protocols.... Phorm.... facebook's constantly changing privacy settings. Take your pick. How many of you out there would like to do something about this bill? how many people want their internet use constantly monitored (and slowed down) just in case you are downloading a God awful Lilly Allen track? Well the first thing you can do is stop downloading music you haven't paid for! As good old Bob Dylan put it "But to live outside the law, you must be honest". To fight such an abhorrent law that is in many ways a wolf in sheep's clothing (just in case you didn't realise, I doubt Peter Mandleson could give a damn if you don't pay for Lilly Allen tracks) Then you must first be squeaky clean. You must be on a morally higher ground than them (not hard in the case of our Mandy).
Music downloads are generally over priced. Also I don't care what you say mp3's sound bloody awful. If we the generation of cheeky downloaders got our spending power behind our obscure taste in music them maybe we could apply enough pressure on the moguls to provide higher standards at better prices. OK so strike 3 is a bit short and unnecessary in comparison to strike 2, but I like things to be in 3's (like Mandy)
That's my take on the current state of music, copyright and morality. My choices and opinions only.
Did I ever download a tune I shouldn't have? Of course not Officer....
Would I ever do it now? No.
Image of skull taken from wikimedia : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skull_and_crossbones.png#file