A Response To The Digital Rights And Righteousness Post

FujifilmCD-R700MB52xSpool100 Christopher Fahey, the blogger behind Graphpaper gives a thoughtful response to my post on stealing (or not stealing, depending on your position) music. It’s a reply beneath that post, reprinted here because I think it makes some key points regarding digital rights.


I have an answer, of sorts: The very idea that you can even call a piece of music your own, as if you "own" it, is flawed and unnatural. Ownership of music is a phenomenon that didn’t exist a century ago, and is about to return to that condition. Ownership of music is a phenomenon tied inextricably to the now-dead 20th century industry of mass-producing physical objects on which music was recorded. The only reason we (both consumers and artists) even think that "owning" music is rational is because we’ve spent our lives under the influence of that weird industry.

When you write "Did we buy vinyl and CD’s all these years because we didn’t have other, cheaper means to gain "ownership?"", I think you put your finger right on it. The place to focus, then, is on how musicians can exist without selling recorded music. The answer lies, in part, in pre-20th century history, before music could be bought and sold.

It’s time to figure out how to charge for something else besides charging for the music itself. This is what Kelly’s article is really about.

Taking possession of someone else’s creative work and calling it your own is wrong.

I would agree with this only insofar as (a) taking credit as the work’s creator is wrong, and (b) using the music to sell your own product or service without the creator’s permission is wrong. Enjoying the product as an individual consumer, on your own terms without paying the creator money, however, is not wrong. The "deal" that you fear you are violating by downloading copyrighted music (the deal that the artist and the label owns the music and is selling not just the physical ability to listen to it, but the very right to listen to it was a false deal to begin with. All they were selling was the hard copy, not the intellectual property.

If an artist really wants to have strict economic control over their music, they must refuse to release it digitally or physically and must exclusively perform it live for audiences willing to pay for it. This is, of course, ridiculous if you interpret it literally. But for many artists, this is virtually how they survive, using their recorded music as a promotional tool for where the real money lies: live gigs, t-shirts and souvenirs, endorsements, appearances, and licensing of their music for other products and venues.

I’ve addressed this on my own blog, I hope you can check it out: http://tinyurl.com/2do3dg.

3 Comments A Response To The Digital Rights And Righteousness Post

  1. Ben S

    But for many artists, this is virtually how they survive, using their recorded music as a promotional tool for where the real money lies: live gigs, t-shirts and souvenirs, endorsements, appearances, and licensing of their music for other products and venues.
    Right on. As an artist and indie label owner (’02-’04), any real income came from shows and merchandise. CD’s were just a tool to get our music to listeners, who in turn would support us by paying for tickets and buying merchandise.

    Reply
  2. Rich Ziade

    I wonder if the days of the mega-artist: U2, Radiohead, Aerosmith, are over.
    With such massive decentralization, are the days of arena rock concerts over? (Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing).

    Reply

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