A bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came

Dec 30 2007 Published by under Free Culture, Politics, Rant

I refer, of course, to the executives, lawyers, and so-called thinkers behind and among the RIAA. They've been making noises about this for a while, but finally they've gotten around to trying to hold somebody legally liable for making a copy of a CD for their own personal use (that is, not even to distribute, but just for convenience of listening). I mean, heck, I've done this myself, and despite my ideological concerns, I've gone out of my way to avoid violating even some too-extreme interpretations of copyright law. How many of us haven't? And if you think about it, it is impossible to make any use whatsoever of the music on a CD without making at least a transient copy of it, be it just in the soundwaves in the air between the speaker and your ear, or in the nerve impulses in your brain. Where does this extreme overreaching self-righteous behavior come from? Well, from fear, obviously. Amidst all their talks about educating kids about the morality of "stealing" and "protecting artists," somewhere they recognize that large music publishing companies are fundamentally obsolete given modern technology, and like any frightened and unintelligent animal whose cornered, they're lashing out viciously in any direction they think they can hit.

The mistake many of the rest of us make is by taking them seriously enough to allow them to hurt us rather than just dying off along with the dinosaurs and buggy whip manufacturers and piano roll sellers.

The world has moved on. Technology is no longer such that for musicians to communicate their music to the world at large, they require the resources of a large music publishing company. Alas, the publishing companies do not want to give up the power that yesterday's technology granted them. Rather than trying to figure out how to best fit into the modern world, they are trying to criminalize modern technology.

I know a lot of musicians (and writers, and such) get huffy when people make arguments like the one I make, saying that I'm just "rationalizing stealing." My response is this: we are asking the wrong question. The question we should be asking is not how do we protect intellectual property? Rather, we should be asking how can we insure that musicians and authors and artists are able to be paid and make a living producing the creations we value? The rhetoric, lawsuits, and luddism that we are seeing today in those who support the music industry's utterly crazy crusade are results of limitations on thinking provided by asking the first question. The first question presupposes an answer to the second question that made sense in an earlier era, but that does not made sense in the modern digital era.

Rather than adapt, the RIAA seems to be going ever further into rectal defilade, ever further down the path of trying to outlaw the flexibility and individual empowerment provided by digital technology in favor of granting their member companies stifling control over anything anybody does with music.

I am sad that our government puts up with this. I am sad that so many creative people think that somehow the crusade of the RIAA is really doing them any good in the long run. I am sad that there are people out there who seem to think that it's at all a reasonable opinion that there is justification in what the RIAA is doing.

2 responses so far

  • SLC says:

    Apparently the WP article is seriously in error. The issue is about illegal downloading, not copying a CD to a computer hard disk.

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/12/30/riaa-not-suing-over-cd-ripping-still-kinda-being-jerks-about-it/

    However, apparently, the position of the RIAA is that copying tracks from a CD to a hard drive is also a no no, unless the format used is the same as is used on the CD. Thus their position apparently is that copying tracks from a standard CD to a hard drive and converting the format to mp3 is illegal. Well as Shakespeare said, the law is an ass and first kill all the lawyers.

  • Oddball says:

    The thing that really makes my blood boil is that all this is coming up because of new technology. It used to be assumed that folks would buy a LP of an album and then copy it over either to reel to reel or cassette tape for actual consumption. The courts decided in the early 80's that taping TV shows for later viewing was perfectly legal because the broadcast was paid for either by the advertisers or cable subscriptions and there was no agreement that the consumption had to be done at time of broadcast. (the suit was against VCR manufacturers for including the record feature)

    For some reason, you change the tech from records and tapes to CD's, DVD's, and hard drives and all of a sudden everyone is screaming "Oh my god! This is brand new and we don't know what to do!" Well, except the record execs who see this as a chance to win lost battles and strangle the end user just a little bit more.

    Oh, and there's also the bit where there have been many great TV shows and albums that wouldn't have survived if not for someone's home recording or bootleg tape.