Random Musings on Music Piracy

Jerry Lucky Commentary June 2008

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2008 All Rights Reserved


A while back, I came across an article from the Washington Post written by Marc Fisher that said despite more than 20,000 (thatís 20,000) lawsuits filed against

music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather buying CDís from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline

of the record album or rise of digital music sharing.


I hate to be the one to break it to the industry types, but it would appear to my eyes that ďthe small feline has been released from the cloth receptacle.Ē You know what I mean? The catís out of the bag, man. Now I still wonder? Do these music industry people just not get it? Or do they get it but canít face the fact they screwed up. Truth is they had it good for a long time. They had good run. But instead of changing their business model to adapt to the changing technological environment theyíve opted to sue their customers. Personally Iím not sure how that makes sense, but theyíre getting pretty strict about it. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says on its website; ďIf you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, youíre stealing. Youíre breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.Ē And they mean it!


Where this whole issue gets a little murky, and it has been murky since the advent of personal recording devices, is when you make a copy of a CD that you bought. The RIAA even calls this act potentially illegal, but they wonít get involved as long as you donít give a copy away. This as Iím sure weíve all heard, is exactly what people do. In that same Washington Post article it quoted a Los Angeles Times poll that said 69% of teenagers surveyed said they thought it was legal to copy a CD they own and give it to a friend. Hmmm, seems to me we might have a slight interpretation problem here. None the less the industry says it intends to keep suing people until they understand.


So what does this have to do with the world of progressive rock? Well itís a matter of math. Itís one thing if people illegally download a song from an artist that sells hundred of thousands or millions of copies. Itís another thing when you download a song from an artist that sells only hundreds or at best thousands of copies. Donít get me wrong, theyíre both ILLEAGLE, but my point here is about the degree of damage inflicted.


Recently Nick Barrett of Pendragon has been quite vocal on his blog about the specific damage done to his bandís income because of illegal copying and sharing of their music; damage that if it continues has the potential of pulling the plug on the band. Seems to me the ďfansĒ who are doing this downloading may not be aware of the consequences of their actions, because I donít think theyíd be doing this to purposely put the band out of business. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. But whether they know it or not thatís exactly what theyíre doing and they should smarten up and STOP IT!


The consequences of this oh-so-selfish-me-age we live in, where itís all about my needs or itís only about my concerns or itís my money or my problem, is that it isnít just about youÖbecause you donít live in a vacuum. Sorry about thatÖbut it needed to be said. Now where was I?


Oh yeah, on a very much related issue I was speaking with the head of a progressive rock music label recently and he was explaining his own issues with the problem of illegal downloading and copying. The issue being that he was finding copies of whole CDís posted on the web in ADVANCE of the release date. Now that means some low-life who received a promo copy must have put it there. Now I challenge those who do that to explain to me; how are you helping the artist? In the progressive rock world where a top selling artist sells upwards of maybe 5000 copies at best, how are you helping that artist see a return on their investment let alone reward them for their efforts. Sorry mate, youíre not helping. In fact you are contributing to their demise. What I wonder about is how someone can be so selfish that they donít get that.


So whatís to be done? While Iíll be one of the first in line to suggest that the idea of 99 cents a song for musical downloading is still outrageous and arbitrary (who sees most of that money anyway?) I donít see illegal downloading as the solution anymore than I see the value of speeding just because you disagree with the speed limit. Donít be deluded, thatís not civil disobedience, thatís just selfishly breaking the law. And for fans of progressive rock, the artists we admire deserve better from us. Look, there are many avenues open to us to help change the system, if as I believe it needs fixing, but taking the law into our own hands, so to speak, isnít one of them.


Support the artists, talk to them, buy the CDs from reputable stores or better yet from the artists themselves. Talk to the music labels about changing the way they do business. Send letters, emails whatever. But most of all think about the consequences of your actions. Free downloading isnít the answer because whether you like it or notÖitís not just about you. At least thatís what I think.


Jerry Lucky