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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

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.


Peanut Gallery

1  Rick wrote:

I'm surprised at those numbers and agree with you, not a good sign. I too have downloaded music, also from usenet, but with the rare exception of OOP music, I have gone and bought the CD if I liked the music, if I didn't like it, then I dumped the files. I don't know about others, but a downloaded MP3 doesn't have the quality in my opinion, or my equipment isn't good enough, when compared to a CD. I think the Black Crowes are brilliant for taking this approach. Good for them, wish I liked their music.

Comment by Rick · 08/01/2003 08:51 AM
2  Matt McIrvin wrote:

1. Keep in mind that college-age people, as far as I can tell, don't typically care about the morality of stealing anything, as long as they can get away with it and the victim can be construed as faceless. You should have heard the conversations I had back in the day about the morality of stealing milk crates to use as bookshelves. Heck, people in my dormitory would get drunk and steal road signs, which could actually have killed somebody. Getting them to pay for music is probably a lost cause. Now, the 30-to-49 market you could probably work on. 2. The rumors about artists getting paid nothing for iTunes sales (originating from bands who refuse to participate) are baffling to me, because I've heard other artists who do participate saying they like it because it makes money for them. Total cognitive dissonance here, and I'm trying to figure out what the deal is. BuyMusic.com, on the other hand, seems to be run by total morons, based on everything I've heard. Nothing would surprise me at this point. Emusic.com seems to be trying to drum up subscription interest by offering a free trial period, by the way. Hope it works for them, since the customers I've talked to seem to like them.

3  Noah wrote:

This morning I had an e-mail from the latest in a very long string of complainers about the rightclick-disabling script I use on my site, to deter casual theft of my photos. The argument always seems to be, "But I can still steal your work with X method or Y program, so why are you bothering?" By this logic, I suppose I shouldn't bother to lock my apartment whenever I leave it, either; after all, anyone who really wanted to *could* still break in and steal from us, probably with no more than a hairpin or a brick. If someone wants my stuff badly enough, and it's easy enough for them to take, then who am I to think I have any right to stand in their way? -sigh-. (On the next version of my site, I'm going to just give in and put watermarks on all the web versions of my photos. I'd always thought that, between the two methods of theft deterrent, the script was the lesser of two evils - but enough people have complained about, and circumvented, the script that I'm throwing up my hands.)

4  Adam wrote:

People will take anything they can get for free. It's as simple as that. They also feel very productive when they can do something like burning their own CD. To many college age kids, the idea of getting an album for free and popping it on to a CD is the greatest thing since the premiere of Friends. They hold no regard for the artists who make the music, as they are considered rock stars, and therefore must be rich enough to afford one person getting their album for free. What they don't realize is that it isn't just one person, and many musicians don't make near the amount of money these kids think they make. The unfortunate consequence is that artists suffer, music as a whole suffers, and downloaders brag to their friends that they got a new record without having to pay for it. Personally, I'd like to know that musicians I support are getting paid, and who wants an album without the artwork anyway?

5  rturner wrote:

Just a theory, but it wasn't too many years ago that companies became multi-million dollar successes (at least on paper) by selling free stuff on the internet, a-la-yahoo. And all the newbies ran online to get all the free software, free porn, games and music. Hey, it's a theory; what might stop it is serious repurcusions, i.e. RIAA lawsuits, trojans & virii on porn and game sites, etc., etc. I think there's an incredible pent-up demand to actually buy music over the net, but from what I've seen, nobody has really tapped into it yet. I tried out the Rhapsody pay-by-the-month service, but I found very limited selection, and you could only play the music on your pc, not burn it. Then there was that buymusic.com (?) site you mentioned that only sold to Microsoft users. I'm not sure how good their selection was. I checked out that Imusic site, but the selection wasn't too good there, either and you had to have a MAC. At this point, my best workaround has been to listen to some promos on Amazon and decide whether to buy the cd. I'd still rather hunt & peck for downloads at $1 a pop or so, IF THERE WAS ANYTHING TO HUNT & PECK FOR!!! Does anyone want my money out there? Please, get some of the GOOD music on there and keep a full database. Yes, you'll make money, and so will the artists.

Comment by rturner · 08/01/2003 06:38 PM
6  Matt McIrvin wrote:

OK, having looked into it some more, I can understand where that Korn guy's comment about iTMS not paying artists is coming from, though it's a bit exaggerated. The deal is that Apple wants to deal with labels, not artists. They're paying the label 65 cents on a 99-cent download, and the rest is up to the label. Now, the major players seem to have basically transplanted their deals from the world of CDs to iTunes. Which means that after everyone's been paid off, the artist gets a few pennies. (There's some indication that Vivendi Universal and Warner are a little better than the rest.) Some of them even pay lower royalties for singles than for albums, which begins to make me understand why folks like Radiohead make artistic noises about protecting the album format. So iTunes is just another way to screw creators, right? Well, not necessarily. They started out with the Big Five, but they're apparently starting to put up indie-label artists, and they give those people essentially the same degree of exposure as everyone else (except possibly for the big front-page promotions). In particular, they're starting to distribute people who sell through CDBaby, which will apparently serve as middleman for anyone who actually has a CD, and if I'm reading their material correctly, artists distributing through them likely stand to make a significant chunk of that 65-cent cut. Much better.

7  Matt McIrvin wrote:

To follow up on what rturner said about the demand side: There's a feeling that all these pay services are doomed because you can't compete with free if people don't have moral objections. But there's more to it than that. I've heard the argument made that there are considerable transaction costs associated with finding MP3s that you want through the illegal download world, and pay services can compete by making transactions easier. Having actually used the iTunes Music Store (I'm tremendously impressed by how easy and transparent it is), I can see the point. For kids the comparison probably won't sound advantageous because they don't value their time very highly in monetary terms. For affluent grownups it may, so that's the clientele you shoot for. I've also been hearing some good things about emusic.com, which was one of the first MP3 subscription services. Their catalog tends to run toward the small and quirky, if that's your thing, and their licensing restrictions are even less onerous than Apple's-- unlimited personal burning and portable player use. But they're only worth your while if you're going to download more than about 10 tracks a month.

8  PhotoDude wrote:

Matt: “Keep in mind that college-age people, as far as I can tell, don't typically care about the morality of stealing anything...” But, Matt, the article says “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.” That means by the age of fifty, less than a quarter have “wised up.” It's not just college kids. The polls makes it clear there was little if any variation by gender or race, and age groups only varied 21% from top to bottom. “...as long as they can get away with it and the victim can be construed as faceless.” I think this is a key component. When people are asked if they care about copyright, I'm willing to bet the first thing that comes to their mind is copyright held by a Faceless Corporation. It's only companies like Disney and Sony that own copyrights, correct? What is closer to the truth is that corporations don't create copyrights, they merely control them after they are created. Individuals create copyrights (or small groups of them, i.e., a band). That is a lost point in this debate. And thanks for the tips on your experiences with the various services. I haven't had much luck, myself. iTunes doesn't like my operating system, and BuyMusic.com doesn't like my browser. Maybe one of these days I'll meet their standards, at least close enough that they'll be willing to accept my money. But right now, I feel the same way I do about the restaurant that opened across the street from me. Their Grand Opening sign did not have one word of English on it, so I assumed they didn't want my business. Noah, I truly empathize with your frustration. I don't use the right click script, but I do use .htaccess to block other sites from accessing my images (bandwidth theft is a real problem for photo sites). Unfortunately, some programs, like AddSubtract, alter the referring URL the browser sends, and as a result, they see no images when they visit my site. I get e-mail about it. I kindly explain why it is happening, why I imposed that script, and tell them that turning off that software will solve the problem. I get back replies that would scorch your ears, claiming their right to privacy (using that software) trumps my right to control my images (and my site) in that manner. Then I suddenly don't feel so bad about the fact they can't see my images.

9  Matt McIrvin wrote:

Yep... I'd really like to see somebody open up a *good* a la carte download service for Windows users, if only because my wife uses a Windows PC and an off-brand browser and likes music. But one does not yet exist. Fortunately about five or six companies are trying to jump into the fray at once; I have a feeling that your wish is going to be granted within the next 12 months or so, after which there is going to be a monstrous shakeout, because the market can't support that many.

10  PhotoDude wrote:

“...the market can't support that many.” Well, I'll agree the market can't support that many all trying to do exactly the same thing. As I understand it, these services currently each offer something in the range of 100,000 songs. I don't know if it is all “current” music, or if it includes previous releases. But even if we just look at the past decade, 100,000 songs is a marginal fraction of the music produced. Selling music online won't really take off until the available inventory gets closer to approaching that of your average bricks-and-mortar music store. Right now, these services are taking a mass appeal approach, and on those terms, only a few will last. But if it were me, I'd start up something like BluesMusic.com, and try to set up an inventory of 100,000 blues songs for sale. You could do the same thing for any popular genre of music; jazz, country, classical, rap, soul, etc. You would steal a fair chunk of thunder that way, as these other sites might have 100,000 songs, but only 5,000 of them are blues. What blues fan is going to shop there, when BluesMusic.com has 20 times that many songs? In addition, what blues fan is going to hunt and peck through Kazaa or Usenet files, spending an hour to find maybe a thousand blues songs in 50 different places, when there's 100 times that amount in one place? Until we have niche marketing like that, I think there is a real ceiling on how successful the whole concept will be. But once that level of choice is available to the consumer, the dam will burst. It is truly a pity the industry can't see this, as they are the only force that can make that happen. It is no different than the fact the movie industry fought tooth and nail against VCR's and videotapes in the early 80's, claiming they would destroy the industry. Instead, once they realized they couldn't effectively stop the medium, they quickly figured out a way to reap additional billions from their products in after market sales ... movies on tape, for sale or rent. The fact the RIAA has their head in the sand only encourages people to keep downloading and ignore copyright. Because it's the Gang of Five, the Evil RIAA SueBots, who now represents copyright in the consumer's mind. Not the artist who created the music they've downloaded, burned, loved, played, even sang along to, dozens of times. They like that guy. They just don't want to have to pay to hear what he does.

11  rturner wrote:

"But if it were me, I'd start up something like BluesMusic.com, and try to set up an inventory of 100,000 blues songs for sale. You could do the same thing for any popular genre of music; jazz, country, classical, rap, soul, etc." This is what needs to happen, but I'm really curious as to the economics or math involved. IOW, what does one have to do to sell music online? Not that I'd want to do it, but I'm curious. Because so far, I've been spotting trends. I checked out emusic.com and it, like Rhapsody, had very limited offerings. It's like all the listings, or at least the ones I checked, were all kind of like the cds you can always find in the record store when you're actually really looking for that one cd. So, if you haven't heard much Coltrane, they have My Favorite Things and Lush Life, but no A Love Supreme. Miles Davis? Yeah, lots of Miles, but no Kind of Blue. I'm telling you, there's a for-pay market out there for the right complete databases. And to follow up on something Matt said, there are "considerable transaction costs" already, and mounting. Forget about any moral arguments. If you have half a brain, it's risky as hell to run kazaa or whatever the latest napster is. I'll never forget that night my partner's "critter" was up late on the computer. The next day I come down and it's been shut down by Norton AV. Down in the systray I saw a little kazaa icon that he'd forgotten to close. (no, he doesn't use my machine any more). My sister's kids go wild with kazaa and whatever and their year-old computer had "gotten so slow" that they took it in for repair. I don't know how much spyware, trojans and virii it was infected with. And there was recently a thread in a Comcast users forum where a woman literally lost control of her computer for two months as a trojan took over, something her kids downloaded. I don't know why she didn't just disconnect it, but it took 2 months to get a Comcast service person to switch her IP address and regain control of her own machine. And I just set up a personal mail server on a linux box and the very first day there were intrusion attempts by .cn and .ru domains. There's no way I would ever open up ports for any kind of file sharing. I'm willing to pay, and I love music, but I can't really find any unless I just buy a damned cd.

Comment by rturner · 08/02/2003 02:40 AM
12  Matt McIrvin wrote:

Yeah, my wife's unimpressed with the lack of depth in the catalogs of these services, too, in the classical section. They've typically got as many recordings of all the Top Ten canonical composers as you'd like, but she wants, say, 19th-century English wind band music, and there won't be any more of that than you could find at Sam Goody at the mall.

13  Brian wrote:

I don't think it's that no one's worried about copyright. I think it's that everyone knows that most of the money lost in downloading rather than buying is lost by the Evil Labels. If I download a CD, I've "ripped off" someone for, say, $18. Except about half that (for ease of math) is the record store's markup, and since I didn't go into their store, I don't owe them nuthin'. So now I've ripped off $9. Except most of that is transport and manufacture of the CD itself, jewel box, inserts, art, etc., which I also didn't get, so I didn't rip anyone off for that. Advertising budgets? Label's corporate overhead? I have little sympathy. Pretty soon we're down to, at the most charitable, a buck or two ripped off from the respect-worthy artist, and five or six bucks from the record-label bastards, and the rest is costs I didn't actually cause anyone to incur. It's the somewhat ridiculous argument that since the exploited artist is underpaid by the label anyway, it's better to deny them a few cents in the process of not giving the label a few dollars. Add in other rationalizations like, "But I want just this song, not the whole album," or "It's out of print" or "I already paid for it years ago on LP/tape, and just want a digital copy -- that's like taping your LPs for the car stereo, way back when ..." and one can muddy the issue to one's satisfaction.

Comment by Brian · 08/06/2003 11:04 PM
14  Greg wrote:

RT: "So, if you haven't heard much Coltrane, they have My Favorite Things and Lush Life, but no A Love Supreme. Miles Davis? Yeah, lots of Miles, but no Kind of Blue." RT, I just checked Rhapsody - it has both A Love Supreme and Kind of Blue, available for downloading at 79 cents per track. Which doesn't mean Rhapsody's always going to have every exact thing you want, in every genre. But with something like 300,000 streaming tracks available now, and 100,000 or so burnable tracks available, it's not a bad start. Many people say they won't pay for music until there's a service with the depth/breadth of Napster/Kazaa, with tracks going for a nickel a piece or whatever. But a legal version of that service will never simply appear overnight - it will only come if people give up kazaa and start using the admittedly imperfect current services. it's just like ISP service - as more users sign up, prices will drop and available content will increase. But anyone refusing to pay because the artists aren't getting a fair cut is kidding himself, because it's very unlikely the artists are ever going to earn any more per album/track than they're earning now. If people were willing to pay artists directly, it might be a different story, but paying artists directly pretty much means higher prices and less convenience - i.e., when the services evolve to the point where you can get unlimited downloading for $20 a month, why are you going to pay $10 for a single album or $1 for a single track? It's possible that some established artists with very devoted followings could successfully charge their fans directly, but even so, they'll probably be farming out all the work that goes with that to various middlemen - most musicians want to play music, not maintain their websites, process transactions, do radio promotion, etc.

15  Matt McIrvin wrote:

I've seen some anecdotal evidence that at least a few people with Macs are using the iTunes store to "legitimize" their collections of illegally gotten music, even at substantial cost. They see it as amnesty. I wouldn't bet on enormous numbers of people doing this, but some will. (Granted, I saw this on Macintosh-user Web sites, and vocal Mac users are a little weird and cultish, so it may not generalize well.)

16  Tim Windsor wrote:

(Granted, I saw this on Macintosh-user Web sites, and vocal Mac users are a little weird and cultish, so it may not generalize well.) Well, if by that you mean being honest and willing to exchange real money for real value, then yeah. Fact is, iTunes is a transforming experience for music. You really can buy just that 'one song' you want. And everything you download comes in in a few short minutes, unlike on rickety p2p systems. I've downloaded unlicensed music in the past, but my collection of 'legitimate' music outweighs it by a factor of thousands adn thousands of songs. Long before iTunes came along, I would often preview music through download (a necessary evil in these days of highly-formatted radio playlists) and, if I liked what I heard, I'd buy the CD. Now, I don't even have to purchase the whole thing, but only those songs I really want in the first place. It's been a godsend in backfilling catalog from artists missing from my collection. If Apple can get its act together quickly and get iTunes for Windows out there, I believe a lot of people are going to change the way they consume music.

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