Fri. Aug 01, 2003
It's Official: Downloaders Don't Care About Copyright
It’s Official: Downloaders Don’t Care About Copyright – I find this a particularly depressing bit of information. Though it shouldn’t surprise me.
“Two-thirds of Internet users who download music don’t care whether they’re violating copyright laws, according to a new survey that highlights the uphill enforcement battle facing the recording industry [...] The survey said younger Americans, ages 18 to 29, were least worried about copyrights, with 72 percent saying they weren’t concerned. It said 61 percent of Americans who were 30 to 49 years old were similarly unconcerned. Full-time students were the least concerned with violating copyright, with 82 percent saying they were not worried.”
“Pew researchers said differences between men and women, blacks, whites and Hispanics and between income groups were not statistically significant when measuring copyright concerns.”
Then I won’t feel guilty about generalizing. As someone who makes their living solely from their copyrighted creations, I have to say, two thirds to three quarters of you make me wonder why I bother putting pictures on the web at all. Since you have no respect for copyrighted works, why should I place them online for your viewing enjoyment? I know, I know, simply out of the goodness of my heart. But I don’t shop anywhere that accepts that form of payment. Do you?
If I was a musician, it would surely make me reconsider my career, given the future these figures paint: 2/3 to 3/4 of people, across a wide range of ages, don’t have enough respect for your creations to pay a buck for them. Saying they don’t care about copyright is the same as saying they don’t think musicians deserve their money. But, golly, they can’t wait for your next CD … to be bootlegged. They love the music.
This palpable disrespect shown to artists who create the things you enjoy is mind boggling to me. “Gosh, I love your work, here’s a kick in the nuts.”
And just like many who played the stock market in the late 90’s getting 30-50% gains each year, downloaders think this Utopia will go one forever. But, just like the market, this Bubble’s Gonna Burst.
Not just from a slew of suits by the RIAA (more on that below). But from industry adjustments to this “new reality.” For one, you’ll see a continuation of the contracting number of CD releases. Less bands will get a chance at the major labels, because they will be swinging for home runs, given the risk in this new declining sales environment. They’ll be pushing for the next Britney Spears, the next Celine Dion, the next Backstreet Boys. The next Packaged Pap. It’ll sure be fun downloading them, eh?
In addition, I think you’ll see more artists, new and old, moving to distributing their music via the Internet … for money, via their own web sites. They’ll opt out of the traditional industry as it further decays, they’ll offer their fans some form of a taste to download, and then sell direct to the consumer. Still, this seemingly simple techno-feat will require considerable capital for a band to record the music (no, you can’t really do it all with a Mac and a Mic), and then design, build, and serve the site to sell the tunes. Both tasks are five figure enterprises. So, despite the seeming ease of this concept, the barrier of entry will likely be only a little lower than it is with the record labels.
But the whole process can, and does, work. Here’s one tale of my own disposable income. The whole world talks about peer-2-peer file sharing via programs like Kazaa, but what little downloading I’ve done has been in Usenet newsgroups. Some bands actually allow and encourage their fans to record their live concerts, and share the recordings with others. Not profit from them, share.
A couple of years ago, I came across one of those recordings of a show by the Black Crowes, with special guest Jimmy Page. It was of poor quality, as most fan-made concert bootlegs are, but underneath the muddy crappy sound, you could hear some power chord magic on the stage. Though the recording was hardly of a quality worth downloading, nevermind burning to a CD, it made me think, “Boy Howdy, if they released a real CD of those shows, I’d pony up on the spot.”
A couple of months later, I hear about a Black Crowes web site … selling those recordings I’d wished for. There were about 20 songs, and you could buy four or six or ten or all 20 via download, or just have them send you the double CD for $25 (the option I chose).
To my way of thinking, it’s “The Way It Should Be.” Picky music consumer downloads artist authorized songs on the Internet, hears something they like (or doesn’t, and moves on to other tunage), and is allowed to purchase the music ala carte directly from the artist’s site. Motivation plus accessibility equals profit.
It is a pity the RIAA, or as I refer to them, the Gang of Five, can’t get their head out of the sand and consider a similar model. They can’t even pretend they’ve tried, even by proxy. I hear disturbing rumors about how artists are making next to nothing … or nothing … for each of their songs sold on iTunes. And I also hear of more than one artist who says their music is being sold without their permission (and certainly profit participation) on BuyMusic.com (which has also been savaged for its inaccessibility).
This is just more middlemen making money.
But rather than “engage and embrace” the fact they’ve got a vast new distribution channel and tens of millions of eager potential customers, they’ve chosen to sue those potential customers, by the hundreds. So far.
It’s rather disconcerting to watch five corporations representing a multibillion dollar industry run a hose from the tail pipe of their car and seal up the windows. One wants to intervene before they get in and start the engine. But their Big Lawyers will stop you. However, sometimes another multibillion dollar industry tries to step in and stop the madness, with their own Big Lawyers. That garage is probably going to be a mess.
So we have a customer base than has very recently come to believe that The Product should be free, and don’t care about the copyrights on the music and other creations they clearly enjoy. We have a distribution network monopolized by five companies who insist on continuing to ship only boxes to docks, not electrons to homes. In fact, they are trying to sue those who deal in electrons out of business. And finally, on top of this totally dysfunctional business, we have the one entity everyone brushes off as unworthy even of consideration.
The Manufacturer. Without the Manufacturer, the distribution network can only ship empty boxes. Without the Manufacturer, the customer base will find the quality of free stuff has declined radically.
The Internet has changed a lot of things, and that will surely continue. But many of the old things remain true, like “You Get What You Pay For.” The day is soon coming when, one way or another, that will be exactly true of “free music.”
Copyright is indeed about law, and money, but it is also about respect. Simple respect not only for the creative work of someone else, but for their feelings, wishes, and economic well being at your hands.
There’s a lot of writing on the Internet about the lack of respect portions of American society show the world, or the lack of respect our government shows it citizens, and much of it was written while a CD of “free music” was being burned in the background.
Show some respect for the artists who provide you with aural (and visual) enjoyment. Learn about copyright, and how it wasn’t placed in the US Constitution just for Big MegaCorps, it was placed there for individuals, like you. And me.
And pray that whatever the outcome of the Gang of Five’s suicide attempt in the garage proves to be, it isn’t too messy to clean up. Bands need that space to rehearse.