Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Online Piracy: Good, Bad, or Both?

Which side are you on??

 I think that it is pretty safe to say the most of us in this class would not categorize music piracy, as defined by the downloading and/or sharing of the "Intellectual Property" of Recording Artists, as  falling under a legitimate principle of  the Fair Use of copyrighted material.  As we have learned throughout this course, in order for an individual to use copyrighted material legally without providing compensation to the "creator," the existing work must be used in such a manner that transforms it creatively from its original form into an entirely new work with a new intent and/or purpose.  Simply downloading a song from a file sharing website does not seem to fit this qualification.  But does this mean that recording artists who are having their songs pirated in such a way run the risk of "going out of business", shall we say, and should all music sharing sites be banned henceforth from cyberspace?   Clearly there are those who generally don't see a problem with file sharing music (usually the public) and then there are those who are ardently opposed to it (the Metallica's of the Industry).  As we learned in earlier weeks, Lawrence Lessig refers to Intellectual Property as being different than tangible property, such as land etc., and therefore cannot be "protected" in the same manner as such property.  This, I believe, is how the Fair Use clause of copyright infringement came to be.   I agree that stealing music is wrong but I don't know how detrimental it actually is to an artist's career in this day in age.

In his chapter on Piracy that we have read this week, he notes that "it has long been the recording industry's practice to blame technology for any drop in sales."  Online piracy of music can no doubt cost the industry and artists some lost revenue sales but is online piracy really the doomsday scenario for artists that some make it out to be?  Isn't it possible that the drop in CD sales can  be attributed to other factors that have nothing to do with the desire to end a recording artist's career?  What about the fact that not enough artists are producing decent music that people will be willing to spend their hard earned money on? Or what about the recent, and current, recessions that have occurred during the last decade; couldn't that be another reason why people are more willing to file share a few songs from a favorite artist for free rather than spend money on an entire CD that might only have one or two songs that they like? Lessig mentions that "how harmful [online piracy] is to the industry is hard to calculate."  I think any analyst would be hard pressed to find one distinct cause of a drop in CD sales and find one artist whose career ended solely because they didn't sell enough CD's. 

A recording artist's career is multi-faceted and album sales have now become only a part of a much more diverse career.  I don't think a single artist makes there living on songs alone.  Rick Carnes in his article Has Music Piracy Killed the "Recording Artist?" notes that, "today's music artist is focused on image and brand development because the money is made on ticket sales for live shows."  In addition to concerts however, many artists have expanded their brand image to include other industries as a way of generating revenue.  Just take a look at Taylor Swift, Russel Simmons, Justin Timberlake and Brittney Spears, to name only a small few.  Each of these artists have found many other lucrative ventures including production companies, book deals, acting and fashion careers, and even their own fragrance lines.  Whenever I hear a complaint about online piracy threatening an artist's career, I know that the concern generally comes from the record companies and not the artists themselves-at least the well-known artists anyway.   

Recording Artists and musicians are entertainers.  Sure we want them to sing us a song, but we also want to be entertained.  I think many of the artists themselves have realized that in order to be successful you have to be able to entertain on many levels.  It would seem that the record companies, however, haven't gotten this message.  The need to spend less time fighting the future and start thinking of creative ways to adapt to our new society.


1 comment:

  1. Dudee your final sentence is phenominal.. It's a really cool one. So maybe music piracy is not as evil as video games.. and your view on how artists get money from concerts, it really make sense. Thanks, and at least I don't feel THAT bad now, still, I'm stopping video game downloads :D