Here's an issue close to my heart. Where would I be without bands like The Avalanches and DJ Shadow? Or projects like Everynone? Or my hopeless addiction, Tumblr, where thousands of users "reblog" and collate the work of others on a daily basis?
As Lawrence Lessig outlines, piracy is difficult to measure. There are many different kinds, each with different possible economic effects, and it's so widespread that it's hard to statistically analyze. The RIAA's overconfidence in projecting and generalizing statistics (which, to me, seem dubious) about piracy speaks volumes: the traditional recording industry is a dying beast, a decrepit gorilla struggling to hang on, and it will do anything it can to survive. This has really fogged the debate about piracy, which is extremely complex, and shouldn't be treated so one-sidedly. Let's not forget the RIAA's ridiculously disproportionate, life-ruining lawsuits, or the scary footage of the anti-piracy speaker in RiP: A Remix Manifesto. I'm not sure to what degree artists are being hurt by piracy, but as Lessig says, some kinds of piracy serve as advertisement and are commercially beneficial. The more I learn, the less sure I feel about my own position. This issue may just take time and evolution to really figure out. In the meantime, I remain adamant that the RIAA needs to scale back its despicable life-wrecking tactics. That's no good for anybody. I encourage all of you to be aware of purchases that profit the RIAA, and to avoid supporting them.
I do agree with the RIAA in one respect, though: we need "legal alternatives," and good ones. iTunes is a pretty successful example of convenience, low barrier to entry, and a vast selection leading to the legal consumption of music. Netflix is a great example for film. Steam is a great example for games. These services have adapted to the changing expectations of the age of instant content. They are often more convenient than pirating, and thus customers have flocked to them. Perhaps we're entering an age where people will pay for organized, streamlined content delivery services instead of the direct content itself.
So, I want artists to get paid. Legally. But it strains me to see the aforementioned bands, Girl Talk, and other passionate artists struggling with the legality of sampling. That is, in my mind, hurtful to the progression of culture. The segment about Brazil's remix culture in RiP: A Remix Manifesto made me feel like we're almost ungrateful for all of this amazing technology we have. The ability to record ourselves engaging in our richest forms of expression, or merely experiencing our daily lives, and to share those recordings is incredible. To keep those beautiful creations to ourselves seems so artistically stagnant and inhibiting toward the promise of that technology. In contrast, the segment on Brazil showed a culture that realizes the joy of giving culture as well as receiving it, and the enrichment that is born when the two collide. We'd do well to learn from that attitude. And if you agree, don't hesitate to reblog.