Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution
Subject:   Nonsense
Date:   2002-12-13 08:29:10
From:   anonymous2
His arguments mainly apply only to undiscovered artists that have nothing to lose because they're starving anyway. I'm all for using the net in order to increase distribution of music, and to make different formats more easily available. But copyrighted material cannot be distributed by third parties for free without the permission of the owner. Especially in this medium, where the material can be so easily mass distributed.

To argue that this "MAY shave a few % points off of sales" is the author's way of justifying it. It's simply not true. For example, I received burned CD copies from my friend that contain new and old material from bands we both like. I have real demand for these, and would probably get around to buying legitimate copies of them. Now I don't have to and the artists have lost out.

His comparison of free airway TV broacasts to cable and satellite TV is invalid. The reason is that the QUALITY of the product received via these methods is not comparable. Nor is the number of channels you can tune in via air vs. cable media (ie, the QUANTITY of the products differs too). But for digitized music, the quality of the freely given away product (stolen, if it's copyrighted) and that of the legitimately purchased (regardless of the medium: tower records vs. downloaded) copy are identical. The former is comparing walnuts to apples, the latter apples to apples. Furthermore, the TV programming is paid for local and national advertising sales, so it can be broadcast for free. You're actually paying the cable company to aggregate channels and distribute signals with high fidelity. So his argument that pay services replace free services does not apply when the product is identical. No one pays if they don't have to. The demand is VERY high at a price of nothing.

The author also conveniently fails to mention the frequency distribution relating the number of downloaded (or burned/shared) copies of CDs vs. the popularity of the artist. It stands to reason that the more popular the artist, the more illegal copies will be downloaded/distributed, and the more financial loss they (or whoever owns the rights) will experience. His idea that the free distrubition will increase volume only applies to starving artists. Those that are doing well do not need any additional exposure, and thier volume cannot increase to any significant extent. I guarentee that even if his daughter is not downloading Brittany Spears (sp?), the masses are. That's the definition of popular music (ie, it's popular).

His "customers want to do the right thing" argument is rediculous. How many people would choose to pay for something that they can get for free if they know that law enforcement is nonexistent. What is this "legitimate alternative, at a fair price" he mentions? Let me suggest one. The artists/record companies set up their own on-line distribution. They already have it, and there is still mass copying/piracy. His poll is also heavily sample-biased. The customer survey almost exclusively included people who downloaded it (and the key) and of course THEY wanted to do the right thing. Also, since it was key-protected, they had no real easy means of obtaining access to their copy without asking someone else to break the law (perhaps the person they got their copy from). Napster and others have no such hurdle. You download the stuff and you can run it unimpeded. No special unencryption, etc. required.

My point is simple. The owners of private property must be paid for their product, regardless of the medium. If they voluntarily give it away, that's their right. But the decision must be theirs, not some third-party who decides without their consent. How would you feel if you were selling a commercially valuable software package (and you did this for a living) and someone bought a copy and placed the code up on his website for all to download free of charge? Or maybe 10% of the copies were paid for and all others out there were copied and distributed among users for free? The way free markets work is that genuine demand is met by supply. If the users wanted/needed to accomplish what your software could do for them, why shouldn't you be compensated? If you wanted to give it away, that's cool. But no one should be able to steal your blood and sweat and give it away without your permission.

It doesn't matter if you are physically missing something (like a car) or not. Your creativity and effort (literally your time) has been stolen. The time it takes you to produce enough work to purchase another car and the time it takes to be compensated for the same dollar value for your software are identical. When someone steals from you like that, it is equivalent to them imposing a devaluation of your time. What used to earn you $200/hr now gets you $175/hr. Is that right?

Also, in the private sector, when a product is freely given away (ie, not a promotional venture or a product dependent on another one to work; the other one being purchaseable for a non-zero sum), it implies something about its quality, namely that it is of poor quality. Sure, I can come and perform for you at the Carnegie Hall for free, but I probably won't be as good as a professional musician that you pay. If you have value for the quality of the musical experience, you'll probably go with the pro for some payment. If you don't like the price structure, don't buy the product. If it's not worth to you what they're asking for it, don't buy it. If enough people think as you do (and act on it) it will put downward pressure on prices and/or cause format changes (eg, from whole CDs to single songs).

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  1. Nonsense
    2003-07-28 19:28:06  anonymous2 [View]

  2. Nonsense
    2002-12-13 12:54:30  anonymous2 [View]

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