Social Question

Facade's avatar

Is the government taking music piracy too seriously?

Asked by Facade (22907points) August 24th, 2009

I stumbled upon this article. You don’t have to read everything to get the gist of it.
Have they gone too far with fining for downloading music?

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32 Answers

cbloom8's avatar

Absolutely! They’re really serious because they could loose billions of potential dollars, but they really blow it out of proportion, especially when the people they catch don’t do much downloading at all.

Sarcasm's avatar

I’d say, given that your standard legit song is $.99 to download from amazon, itunes, etc. there’s absolutely no justification in the entire world to make someone pay $83,000 per song.
I totally agree that there should be a fine. But I think unless you have thousands of “stolen” albums, it shouldn’t be above a few hundred dollars. That is to say, given the case linked in the original post of 24 songs, the guy should pay the $24 for the songs, and then an additional $200 or so.

The record companies have to understand that your average person (like a person who works for a record label) doesn’t have 2 million dollars lying around.
I think I remember hearing a statistic a while back that the standard person will earn $1,000,000 in their lifetime. I have no idea what the standard person makes per year so I really don’t know if that’s even remotely true

hex's avatar

Perhaps the question should be rephrased as “Are lobbyists taking music piracy too seriously?”

Vincentt's avatar

There’s an extremely strong lobby. Also, a lot of people pay up a lot because they settle (like, without conviction). This case wasn’t a set fine, though. Also, I’d think the fine for child abduction would just be part of the punishment, but I don’t feel like checking.

drdoombot's avatar

The music lobby is killing the music industry. And I say let them. There are so few good new acts out there, they might as well pull the plug on the whole thing. There’s enough old good music to last me a lifetime.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

It’s not like I’ll ever get caught anyway

marinelife's avatar

In general, the music industry took a foot-dragging, Neanderthal approach to dealing in an ahead-of-the-curve way with new technology.

That does not excuse stealing which is what piracy by any other name is.

@Sarcasm Let’s turn around your argument. If the songs could be had for 99 cents each, then why should someone steal them?

I am OK with the fines. I am tired of people attempting to justify theft.

jaketheripper's avatar

I’m tired of people equating it with theft. It’s just not the same thing. Theft means that something was taken and that there is a tangible loss which is not the case with piracy.

Facade's avatar

@jaketheripper I agree. I don’t do it, but I don’t knock anyone who does.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

I think music should be free, man.
Cause you can’t like own notes and lyrics, man.

Sarcasm's avatar

@Marina I strongly disagree that it is piracy (and/or stealing). I’m not trying to justify it, but I want you to pick a different terminology.
Stealing is, you have an apple. I take that apple. You no longer have an apple and have gotten nothing in exchange for it.
Piracy is, you have a boat. I take that boat. You are all forced to walk the plank and sleep in Davey Jones’ locker.
If I download a song, does anyone in the world magically no longer have the song? No. There are more copies of that song. It’s like letting a friend copy your answers on a test. You are no worse off, but they are better off as far as that test goes, at least, not so much their educational worth.
(And again, I want to say that I don’t think it’s right at all to “pirate” music, but calling it “stealing” or “pirating” is just like calling every Democrat out there a “dirty commie”.)

Now onto the point you actually addressed at me. Why would someone “steal” a 99-cent song? Well, one reason being that you can’t find the album anywhere legitimately without paying a bonus $20 on an import on a CD or you can’t find the album you want on the iTunes/Amazon/whatever libraries (There are also some bands that get screwed by iTunes getting barely anything from the purchases). Another being that they don’t have to worry about DRM. Or they just want to “Screw the Man, man.” because “Fatcat corporates don’t deserve my money, man” and it “should all go to the bands themselves, dude”. Record labels, at least for quite a while, really screw bands out of a huge portion of their money one of the reasons Trent Reznor dumped them.

And the reason that’s staring us in the face the most, it’s cheaper. The chances of you getting caught are very slim. $.99 is nothing, but if you’ve got a library with a thousand, two thousand songs, it’s pricey.

Zuma's avatar

I think it is the music industry that are the real thieves. There is absolutely no justification for having a copyright ownership period of 125 years. The idea of a copyright is to allow the author of a piece of intellectual property sufficient time to profit from his labor before it passes into the public domain, not own it in perpetuity. What happens with these absurdly lengthy copyright periods is that all of our popular culture becomes the private property of corporations.

It doesn’t even benefit the original author. Michael Jackson owned the copyrights to the Beatles’ songs. They were reduced to a commodity, held for the profit of a private investor, rather than allowing them to pass into the public domain in any reasonable time frame where ordinary people could use them in creative ways.

It used to be people made up their own songs, played instruments and sang their own songs. This smothers all of that creativity in the cradle insofar as it stifles innovation and makes us dependent on corporations who, in an artificially impoverished folk culture can then engineer our tastes because there is no homegrown culture to compete with.

The copyright period started out at 10 years, but the music industry went to congress, threw some money around and got it extended to 90 years with provisions to extend it to 125 years. If the song is over 10 years old, I say its already yours, you have a right to take it, especially since it is no loss to them (considering you wouldn’t have bought it at the artificially high monopoly price they are selling it for).

Vincentt's avatar

It’s not theft, it’s copyright infringement. That doesn’t make it right, but the distinction is important.

Zuma's avatar

@Sarcasm Plus the 99 cent download is crappy quality compared to the bitrate on CDs.

MrItty's avatar

No one was fined “2 million dollars for downloading 24 songs” I hate when the “music should be free” folks try to claim that BS. They were not fined for downloading the song. They were fined for making god-knows-how-many copies of the song and making those copies freely available for other people to download, via file-sharing networks.

Theft of a piece of work is theft. Those who try to claim otherwise piss me off too. If a plummer comes to your house and fixes your pipes and you don’t pay him, you’ve still stolen from him, even though nothing “tangible” is missing.

You don’t get to decide what services and products you’re willing to pay for. The people who spend the time, money, and effort to produce those products get to set the price. Your options are 1) agree to that price and pay it or 2) disagree with the price and do without the product. Setting your own price and obtaining it through means other than the owner of the product/service has allowed is theft.

Sarcasm's avatar

@MrItty The problem with your analogy is.. With copies of mp3 files, no additional work is done by the musical artist. Doesn’t matter if one person buys your song or a million, it still took you exactly the same amount of work to create that.
With a plumber, he has to work at every house to get paid.

If a thousand people purchase your song, and then somehow it gets leaked to be downloaded illegally by another thousand, you have still done absolutely 0 more work.

MrItty's avatar

@Sarcasm you are still benefitting from the hard work, time, and effort that went in to what I have produced, without compensating me. I produce the work, I get to determine the compensation, not you.

Vincentt's avatar

@MrItty True, but that doesn’t mean it should be called stealing.

hex's avatar

What makes a large distinction with music (or movies, games or ebooks or any other downloadable, rip-able content) is that what you are paying for is the “experience,” the unique incorporation of the “art” into your life.

Is viewing a classic painting in a free museum whenever you want the same as “owning” it? At what point does the artist’s or designer’s rights stop and the public’s start?

I think that, in general, the vast majority of content that is pirated/copied/shared/stolen is done so without regarding its affect on society, the originator, the artist or the government. It is that way, in my opinion, because many may consider themselves entitled to it if they are smart enough to obtain it. Before the internet, if you knew the right people, I’m sure a lot of music/movies were obtained quasi-illegally. Now, technology has made it simplistic. It’s easy to find “the right people.”

When posted speed limits are constantly ignored on a particular road, the government, given enough public outcry/accidents/deaths, will respond the only way it can: catch the ones it can and penalize them with fines and/or jail time. What else can it do? It can’t physically force you to slow down (at least not in a “free” society), it can’t, in most cases, prevent the actual “illegal” action.

So, back to the question of government involvement being too serious; perhaps yes, but it’s only because it cannot really do anything else to prevent the act of sharing. If art/information/content can be mass produced, someone, somewhere can duplicate it in some fashion, albeit at a possibly smaller scale. What else can government do? What do we want them to do?

If I watch a movie at a friend’s house, and that friend purchased the movie, am I not “stealing” from someone? What if it was a CD? Should I be charged (monetarily or morally) for that action? What if I take the CD or movie and watch it/listen to it for the next two weeks? Am I infringing/stealing? Should government watch us that closely for something that roughly equates to stealing an experience?

Zuma's avatar

“At what point does the artist’s or designer’s rights stop and the public’s start?”

Originally, it was 10 years, which is plenty of time to profit from a hit song or movie. But typically, the artist does not own his work, some corporation does. Why on earth should a company still be able to charge $18 for a CD of an album that was made in the 1960s? They have a monopoly on that work and we pay monopoly prices because of it.

The only reason the don’t watch us more closely is because they don’t have enough prison space. Should they find some economical way to put people on house arrest (where they are only allowed to travel to and from work) they may very well watch us more closely, especially those who have offended once before. It’s not so far fetched as it sounds. We no longer make much as a country. Think how many jobs it would create, one half of the population monitoring the ankle bracelets of the other.

hex's avatar

@MrItty is right, he can determine the compensation, however, I think he is overlooking another option the potential consumer has, besides paying or not paying, they can opt to borrow it temporarily from a friend and return it/delete it if they don’t want to “own” it. How can the government/lobbyists/artists/corporations prevent that?

If I happen to know a plumber that I can convince to do the repair work for free, I’m ahead of the curve, I’m winning, saving money. Do we want the government/lobbyists/artists/corporations/plumber’s unions to be able to fine me/jail me because I convinced the plumber to do the work for free?

hex's avatar

The soul of this country was forfeit the day that we decided to let corporations have the same (or more) rights as an individual.

@MontyZuma, I think I like the idea of house arrest for casual offenders. Perhaps that will be the catalyst for them to get off their buttocks and reinvent America, cast off the ankle bracelets of the old dominion. We need a quiet revolution of the mind, a mass infection of intelligent thought.

MrItty's avatar

@hex that analogy doesn’t come close to holding. If you enter an agreement with the Plumber to do your repairs for free, good for you. Similarly, if you find content-producer willing to give away their product for free, good for you! One that springs to mind immediately and recently is Weird Al Yankovic. He’s released three of his four latest tracks, free, on YouTube. No one at all is claiming anyone would be in the wrong to distribute these songs.

Copyright Infringement happens when the consumer decides on his own, without any agreement by the content-producer, to distribute and make available the content-producer’s labor. There was no agreement there, no meeting of the minds. One party unilaterally acted against the will and right of the other.

MrItty's avatar

@Vincentt yes, it does mean it should be called stealing. The word “steal” has multiple definitions. One of them pertains to physical objects being removed from one’s posession. Another pertains to the appropriation of rights/works/ideas without compensation, acknowledgement, or rights.

Zuma's avatar

@hex “I think I like the idea of house arrest for casual offenders.” Be careful what you wish for, intellectual property stealer.

@MrItty I think we are all clear on the concept of stealing. What is at issue is the legitimacy of a corporation paying off Congress to obtain the right to own huge tracts or our popular culture—in perpetuity. Isn’t that stealing from a culture?

Then, having privatized popular culture, does a corporation have the right to restrain commerce so that it may engineer popular tastes in such a way as to restrain creativity in the arts and music, and essentially holding a monopoly on works of art for which it charges monopoly rents?

Are we such craven lickspittles that we can not take back what has been stolen from us?

MrItty's avatar

@MontyZuma Maybe you are, but clearly the person I was replying to was not.

nayeight's avatar

Uggghhhh. I had anywhere from 12–1500 songs on my iTunes. I’d say half were burned on my computer from CDs that I BOUGHT over the years. About 300–400 were bought on iTunes and the rest were “pirated” or whatever. My hard drive died 2 months ago, naturally I was devastated. I couldn’t retrieve anything and didn’t back up anything either. I still have most of the CDs I bought that were on there but iTunes does not let you redownload the music that you paid for. I kept receipts of every song and spoke to customer service about it but they refused. So my options were to re-purchase all the songs I lost (it even says you’ve already purchased this song would you like to purchase it again?) or just “pirate” them. I didn’t repurchase them. In fact, “pirating” is so quick and easy these days that I didn’t even take the time to burn the CDs I have. I just got whatever songs/albums I had from online. Once I get my library back to the way it was I’ll probably still purchase new music, I just wasn’t paying hundreds of dollars for something I already bought.

Zuma's avatar

@nayeight If you paid for the right to those songs you are not “pirating” anything, you are simply using the service as a backup device. Save your receipts or your download logs. Even if you don’t have them, the company you bought them from should have a record of your downloads, which you should be able to subpoena in the unlikely event someone questions you. You are warranted to have a good faith belief that the company you bought them from is keeping such records, since they are responsible for passing on the royalty. If they don’t have a record of your downloads, they they are in much bigger trouble than you are.

MrItty's avatar

@nayeight I’m with @MontyZuma on this one. Downloading copies of something you already own is not, to me, theft/piracy/stealing/copyright-infringement/whatever. Apple’s idiotic policy of “you can’t redownload” makes no sense to me, and I can’t see how making a backup of your own purchased music could be a violation of law nor copyright.

Vincentt's avatar

@MrItty If I were to assume that definition of stealing, than the word stealing has lost much of its power to me. Really, the category of stealing where you deprive someone of something is worse, morally, to me, than the category where you do not reward somebody for something. I would not pay for music itself, so there’s nothing to gain here for the artist.

Then again, when it comes to the case referenced here, i.e. where someone was uploading actively distributing someone else’s work, I think it’s a different case. Perhaps not quite as bad as the former category of stealing, but at least way worse than the latter.

And I still prefer referring to copyright infringement and stealing rather than naming it both stealing.

marinelife's avatar

@sarcasm You are splitting hairs. There is nothing in the definition of those words that says that in order to be stolen something has to disappear.

Stealing and piracy are taking the fruit of another’s labor without compensating the person who owns the rights to the creation.

Nowhere is written that you are entitled to whatever you can take by any means. That is the definition of anarchy, whether you take it by brute force or by technology.

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