This week’s blog is particularly tough to choose sides. First, I am a musician and was the singer/songwriter for an original Detroit rock band. Second, since the inception of P2P programs, I have been guilty of illegally downloading and sharing music. I remember sitting in my apartment sifting through thousands of songs via NAPSTER, attempting to better my music library. In his documentary Rip! A Remix Manifesto, Gaylor offers two sides in the issue of copyright; “copy-right,” and “copy-left.” Essentially, the musician or copyright holder vs. the public, and being a musician/downloader, I have to argue both sides of this issue.
Gaylor defends Girl Talk vigilantly in his documentary. He calls sampling an “instrument,” and any attempt to impede this action an obstruction of creativity. First, it must be noted that Girl Talk is not an artist or musician. I come from the old-school and believe sampling is not creativity, regardless of legality. Taking a pre-existing works and juxtaposing them to make a “new” composition is not artistic. These individuals do not possess musicianship, only the ability to count. To make matters worse, sampling is illegal without consent, payment to the copyright holder, or adhering to the proper channels. The Led Zeppelin example is a weak argument for their side because although "Whole Lotta Love" was initially credited to Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. In 1985, Willie Dixon sued Led Zeppelin, claiming that "Whole Lotta Love" was largely plagiarized from "You Need Love," written by Dixon and recorded by Muddy Waters. The case was settled out of court and recent Led Zeppelin releases have given songwriting credit for "Whole Lotta Love" to Willie Dixon along with all four members of Led Zeppelin. So, basically this counters their own argument in that if you sample, steal, borrow, you are ultimately breaking the law, and will face the consequences. “You can’t argue your creativity when it’s based on other people’s stuff,” Marybeth Peters (Register of Copyrights). The bottom line is this, you can argue morals, but you can’t argue law. Law is what must be accepted.
Now if you will allow me to be hypocritical for a paragraph. As mentioned, I am guilty of illegally downloading and sharing music. Do I feel guilty? Not at all! I should being a musician having released four CD’s (that have mysteriously showed up on Limewire). From my perspective as a musician I look at P2P as exposure, where signed musicians and record labels view it as criminal. Is there evidence of the music industry being hurt by piracy? According to Napster and Online Piracy, The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a music industry trade group, estimates that piracy of physical music products, cassettes, and compact discs costs the industry nearly $5 billion in sales worldwide every year. How does this affect me? It doesn’t. I have never been prosecuted, or sent a letter asking me to refrain from file sharing. Do we see benefits to artists as the result of piracy? Where do I stand on the RIAA's efforts to curb illegal downloading? I will attempt to answer both of these questions with a common scenario. Follow me, record labels release an artist’s single to radio roughly four weeks before the album is available to the public. The first single is usually the strongest track on the record and is purposely released first to drive sales. How many times after hearing that first single (60 times per day) have you gone to the store on release day to get that album, race home and have it end in disappointment? Meaning, you like the radio single, but the rest of the CD is garbage! Sound familiar? Now throw P2P in the mix, and instead of paying $15-$18 for a CD with one good song, we are able to download only the tunes we enjoy (for free). Maybe P2P will be a wake-up call for musicians and the RIAA. If musicians weren’t so interested in cashing in on one single, they can produce a CD of quality music. Yes, I realize you can download individual songs from iTunes and do the right thing, but why? Why not teach these individuals a lesson? A five billion dollar a year loss has to turn heads somewhere!