January 21st, 2012

Uh oh, he’s blogging. What happened?

I wrote this thing on Twitter this morning about the MegaUpload shutdown, and it’s gotten some crazy traction on the old internet. In addition, I’ve just done a couple of interviews for NPR on the subject, and I think I may have said some crazy, provocative things. There are many comments and questions out there already with more to come, and rather than have a bunch of separate discussions on a bunch of different social media platforms, I thought I would put some of my thoughts here.

First of all, I was being sarcastic. I did not see an uptick in sales because one piracy site got shut down, nor do I expect to.

Second, this was a tweet, so it was <=140 characters of ha ha, and not designed to be a thorough discussion of all the issues. I recognize these things are complicated. Obviously none of us knows the complete truth, but I'm guessing that the people who ran MegaUpload were knowingly profiting from the unauthorized download of other people's intellectual property (including mine). Probably they were making a lot of money that way. That's certainly illegal, and it doesn't exactly give them the moral high ground either. In fact, it's kind of a dick move. Essentially, they did bad things and they got in trouble for it. Here are the issues that, for me, make this complicated. Along with all the illegal stuff happening on MegaUpload was some amount of completely legal stuff. People used MegaUpload to send large files around. Some number of those files were personal files owned by the people sending them. I have no idea what the ratio was, and probably it would be impossible to figure that out with any certainty, but let's stipulate that it was a very large percentage of illegal activity, and only a very tiny percentage of the users were there for anything other than downloading content that they didn't buy. Still, today that tiny percentage had something taken away from them, without warning, maybe just a service they liked using, but maybe a piece of digital media that belonged to them - if they uploaded something and didn't keep a copy, that thing is now gone. Them's the breaks I guess, but in evaluating whether this shutdown was a net positive for us humans, you have to take that into account. Even some of the illegal usage was likely the kind of activity that approaches what I consider to be victimless piracy: people downloading stuff they already bought but lost, people downloading stuff they missed on TV and couldn't find on Netflix or iTunes, people downloading stuff they didn't like and regretted watching or hearing and never would have bought anyway, people downloading a Jonathan Coulton album (oh let's say, Artificial Heart, the new Jonathan Coulton album, which is an awesome Jonathan Coulton album called Artificial Heart) and loving it so much that in a year they decide to buy a ticket to a Jonathan Coulton show and walk up to the merch table and hand me $20. I know not everyone will think all of those things are victimless crimes, and even I can admit that some of them maybe kinda sorta have victims, but my point is that you can’t easily say that every illegal download is a lost sale, because it’s a lot more complicated than that. So when you evaluate the “damage” that a site like MegaUpload is causing, you have to think about these things too. The grand jury indictment against them says they’ve caused $500 million in damages to copyright owners. Given the complexity of actual usage on a site like MegaUpload, how can they possibly know that?

The real question in my mind these days, and what I was trying to get at with my little tweet, is: how much does piracy really hurt content creators (specifically, me)? Professional smart person Tim O’Reilly posted something that made me think about this question again in regards to SOPA/PIPA. He points out that any proponent of SOPA/PIPA starts with the assumption that all this piracy is causing great harm to lots of people and companies. Here’s his pull quote, taken from a recent statement about SOPA issued by the White House:

Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders.

Is it really as dire as all that? It’s an emergency is it? Tim points out that he and a lot of other content creators have been happily coexisting with piracy all this time, and I’m certainly one of them. Make good stuff, then make it easy for people to buy it. There’s your anti-piracy plan. The big content companies are TERRIBLE at doing both of these things, so it’s no wonder they’re not doing so well in the current environment. And right now everyone’s fighting to control distribution channels, which is why I can’t watch Star Wars on Netflix or iTunes. It’s fine if you want to have that fight, but don’t yell and scream about how you’re losing business to piracy when your stuff isn’t even available in the box I have on top of my TV. A lot of us have figured out how to do this.

So if you can stand me sounding a little crazy, listen: where is the proof that piracy causes economic harm to anyone? Looking at the music business, yes profits have gone down ever since Napster, but has anyone effectively demonstrated the causal link between that and piracy? There are many alternate theories (people buying songs and not whole albums, music sucking more, niches and indie acts becoming more viable, etc.). The Swiss government did a study and determined that unauthorized downloading (which 1/3 of their citizens do) does not create any loss in revenue for the entertainment industry. I remember but am now too lazy to find links to other studies that say the same thing. I can’t think of any study I’ve seen that demonstrates the opposite. If there is one, please point me to it. So I have a lot of trouble with the idea that the federal government is directing resources toward an ultimately ineffective game of piracy whack-a-mole (with some unknown amount of collateral damage to law-abiding citizens), when we are not even sure that piracy is a problem.

And if you can stand me sounding even crazier, here is this: making money from art is not a human right. It so happens that technological and societal blahbity bloos have conspired to create a situation where selling songs about monkeys and robots is a viable business, but for most of human history people have NOT paid for art. I don’t want this to happen again, and I would be very sad if this came to pass, but it’s not up to me to decide. We are constantly demonstrating through our actions what we believe to be the norms for acquiring and consuming content. Right now a lot of us think that it’s OK to download stuff through illegal sites under certain circumstances, and a lot of us think it’s totally fine to use those things to make videos and put them on YouTube even though YouTube profits from it. That’s not ME saying that, that’s US saying that – we’re a nation of pirates and infringers. Based on our behavior, you would not be wrong to deduce that some of us think funny videos on YouTube are more important than honoring intellectual property rights. This kind of thing has happened before. Entire industries rise and fall as the world changes and our priorities shift. Sorry.

I believe in copyright. I benefit from it. I don’t want it to go away. I love that we have laws and people to enforce them. But if I had to give up one thing, if I had to choose between copyright and the wild west, semi-lawless, innovation-fest that is the internet? I’ll take the internet every time.

Now you may comment. I’m going to watch this thread and respond when I can, and we’re going to have a nice discussion. We’re not going to have fights and call each other names, and if you’re a jerk, I’m going to delete the jerky things you say. (And if you infringe on my copyright I’m going to send federal agents to your home and throw your computers IN THE GARBAGE.)

442 responses to “MegaUpload”

  1. Angel says:

    I know that may sound a bit anarchistic, but I really DO want the music industry to die.
    I have to clarify – that’s not a hormonal teenage rant against The Big Man.
    When I say ‘music industry’ I mean this heavy and expensive system, developed in order to facilitate the distribution of the material objects that cotain intelectual product to the people this intelectual product is addressed for.

    I just think that the relationship between the author and the recipient of the his creation could be (with the internet) and should be (through the internet) much more intimate than now. I always try to pay for the stuff I download and even if I can’t say that all the music I’ve listened and the movies I’ve watched are legally obtained, I assure you – it’s not due to lack of will.
    I want, I need to show support to the people, who make me happy and I want to help them have a good life, because that’s the bargain – they help me, I help them. We’re all happy. So I gladly pay what I can to the painter (for example) – for the frame, the canvas, the oil, the brushes. Also, he painted, instead of making money any other way, so I pay him for the time it took to work the masterpiece, and I pay him out of respect. What I don’t need nowadays is a salesman to bring the painting to my home. I don’t want to pay for this service, because I don’t need it.
    Basically the ‘Distribution of Intellectual Goods Industry’ is just an overgrown infrastructure that’s rapidly becoming obsolete. There’will always be recordings, studios and concerts and for these things we’ll always have to pay. I prefer to pay the author directly.
    And that’s why at the end when the Industry dies the piracy will become a negligible nuisance – it is my opinion that criminal intent you will find only in people who have an easy choice between illegal and legal download (I think everybody here agrees with that) and what’s most important – most of them don’t steal from the authors, but from the middle man. I know, it makes them sound naive and stupid and also victims of misunderstanding, but I still think it’s correct – most people download illegal content, not having in mind that they steel it from the author, but doing it to mess with that big shiny rich corporation whose only line of profit it making you pay for stuff. People steal movies from Hollywood, not from the actors, they deny profit to Amazon and iTunes, not to the singers and so on. At least I think that’s the case as far as intent is concerned.

    I don’t want stand on the side of piracy, I just think ‘piracy’ is dangerously misinterpreted term and we should build our system by redefining the terms first.

    Steam was mentioned multiple times, the direct access to the albums of JoCo also was mentioned – that’s the real stuff that should interest us, because that’s, well… the first glimpse of what’s to come. In a medium of free dissemination of information there’s no other way.

    And while I may be warried for the collateral damage and unnecessary casualties of the paradigm shift in the so called “Entertainment Industry”, I’m not really worried about the long term future. Attempts, such as SOPA and PIPA and similar, will hurt many people, but will hurt the overall cilture as much as, well… let’s say it seems to me as futile as an attempt to make the air smell of roses only over one country, but not over the rest of the world.

    P.S. OK, last words – extreem freedom vs. extreme control? (I hate extreems, but things are what they are). I DO KNOW that people are esentially good and given the opoortunity they do the right thing. The same applies to piracy.
    With a good incentive you can turn extreme freedom to a prosperous relationship.
    But once you give extreme control, you can never get it back without paying severe costs. And doing that would be plain stupid.
    So – freedom.
    P.S.S. OK, last last words – the MegaUpload being taken down is… to put it gently – arrogant overkill. The cure for common cold is not an amputation. All the more when the diagnose is still debatable. Such acts must be discouoraged!

  2. Jay says:

    “Mr. Coulton, I have never purchased your music before, but after reading this I immediately purchased Artificial Heart (with two clicks at Amazon). Bravo.”

    Sucker! :-)

  3. Ilca says:

    Higher price -> less people affords it -> more piracy
    Lower price -> more people affords it -> less piracy

    That’s a simple rule of market that a lot of people seem to forget. Of course, there are other factors, but this is the main source of variability.

  4. liza says:

    i live in asia and a lot of the stuff that i want to read, view or listen to don’t get here. i tried buying online but my country is not acceptable to american or european retailers so i am left with no other option but to download illegally (or wait until someone travels there and even then i can’t watch movies because of the region) and i had the money to pay but the powers that be deemed my money not good enough so in effect, it is the music/film/book industry themselves that pushes piracy to otherwise law abiding citizens.

  5. RobinH says:

    Well said!

    And as a user of MegaUpLoad who used it to send files with lots of boring photos and video of industrial equipment to customers (because they were too large to be emailed), and video (that I shot) of steam locomotives for my train-mad nephews…thanks for mentioning us legal users who now have to find another option.

  6. stage1 says:

    @ Squirrel

    “The United States can not pass a law that is effective outside its borders. Likewise, the US can not pass a law that makes things illegal if they are performed outside the US, and they can’t take down websites that arent in the US.”

    R U American, by any chance?! America does this all the time. How? Simple. It leans on people. It has a supposedly bi-lateral fast track extradition treaty with the UK, for example. Using this treaty, the US LEA (any of them) can pick up the phone and have a UK citizen dragged off the street and sent to the US, and don’t have to provide any evidence that a crime was committed. It may even be that they did something that isn’t even a crime in the UK. No matter. The treaty has never been ratified by the US congress, so it currently operates in one direction only. And will continue to do so, no doubt.

    It operates like this against anything it doesn’t like, all over the world. It regularly gets foreign porn sites it doesn’t like taken down, just by leaning on the government concerned.

  7. TravisZ says:

    The MegaUpLoad situation reminds me a lot of when entertainment industry got up in arms about VCRs and how they were going to cause a lot of piracy. If I remember correctly, the Supreme Court ruled that the lawful uses out-weighed the unlawful ones.

  8. stenar says:

    “Make good stuff, then make it easy for people to buy it.” This is an exact quote of Steve Jobs.

  9. charlotte says:

    My main problem with piracy, specifically music piracy, is the indirect effect it ultimately has (or will have) on the music industry. Because people are not buying the music that it costs record companies to record and produce, record companies have less money. This means record companies are gradually becoming less likely to take risks on interesting and new artists/bands and, instead, just taking the commercial mainstream stuff that is almost guaranteed to sell. So, music piracy will most likely impede the growth of many new bands in the future. And that sucks.
    And as well as that, the fact that music is becoming a thing that is thought of by many as “free”, it could totally change the way music is appreciated. Instead of buying an album and getting your moneys worth by listening to it closely and enjoying it wholly, people will download songs here or there all the time, and won’t feel the need to give them much attention. Music won’t be special anymore because it’ll be so easily accessible.

  10. Rob W says:

    Love your comments. I’m not a great writer so I will attempt to get the point across. Though I agree that the internet should be free and unhindered by government and laws, IP rights are getting trampled. IP rights that are digitally created and transferred are at the highest risk. The internet isn’t free. (A-D-D Moment – shoot its not free because you pay a monthly fee to access it unless you Wifi it at the local hot spot – which the store your in does to attract business thereby you are actually paying for it through the purchase of coffee or whatnot ) Granted business models are becoming archaic and need to be overhauled when it comes to the music industry…but when a “label” spends tens of thousands to millions of dollars to make that IP record and the artists who wrote that IP doesn’t pay outright for the production of that IP if stolen (pirated for those who can’t call themselves thieves)… who loses? Not the artist. The real loser – the producer of the IP for mass consumption. So the people who work at that the music label, computer software company, or -pick a product brainchilded by joe shmo, loses their jobs or lifesavings when the sales of that IP product doesn’t come in. Was there a study on that? Yep. It’s called the unemployment line. The music world over the past 8 years has “let go” thousands of employees due to lost sales or decreased sales . Shoot with iTunes lowering the cost of singles from $3.99 to .99 and albums from $16.99 to $9.99 that alone hurt. Then there was Napster and now Spotify. The Spotify service is underwritten by advertising thereby allowing Spotify to pay royalty rights to the label that made the IP product and the artist. (granted its .0000000001 cent per play) See here’s my take on music and all IP rights (computer software, graphics, games, movies, pictures, animations) – Just because the mode of distribution has changed doesn’t give people the right to steal. If I walked into any store and removed any article out of that store without paying and get caught…its called theft. Star Wars, Metallica, ACDC, APPLE , and Microsoft keep VERY tight hold on their IP.
    On the web we poo poo it and say that’s ok…your just pirating. May I give you a modern analogy?
    Joe Paterno was seen as one of the greatest football coaches but due to him not reporting a repeating child molester to the cops his legacy is tarnished. Whether he reported it to the factuality or not is irrelevant. That is another debate entirely. His character and ethics weren’t high enough. What are we saying about our culture when we say to each other steal away. Its nothing . You won’t get caught and better off it hurts no-one. Joe didn’t hurt anyone. In fact there wasn’t a technical study on the effects of him hurting anyone. He wasn’t the molester. But now he’s on the trial of public opinion even after he’s dead for another man’s crimes. Aren’t we saying the same thing when we O.K. internet theft? Better yet do it ourselves? Now for those of us who give degrees on the severity of crimes I say hold up. Anyone hurting another person is hurting that persons freedom. In a true free society the abridgement of someone else freedoms is totally wrong. Murder, molestation, theft, assault..the list goes on. In other words a crime is a crime.
    Now for music in general let me weigh in on the new business model. Labels can’t continue the present course of business without 360 degree deals. Artists found out the easy way – on the backs of the theft and the industry getting screwed. See when the music is given away free the people go see them in concert and pay $30-250 dollars a ticket to go see. Then drop $20-100 on a shirt at the concert. Shoot there’s even concession sharing. The artist got paid and never cared about the album sales as that money wasn’t “attainable” so the outward appearance is always coming from the artist that it’s ok to steal the music because you’ll come see me at my shows. The labels didn’t tap into that. They do now. You’ll start seeing and hearing more 360 deals. The labels are chalking that up to marketing costs. They even “leak” out a song now and then for the “pirates” before an album release. Or better yet product 2 albums one acoustic and the other the fully produced one and give the acoustic one for free when you purchase the other one..until they both are pirated. You’ll also start seeing less and less music from them as the control gets tighter and tighter.
    Lets talk about art… If I sat down in a dentist chair and had a cavity filled with gold, got up after a splendid job from this craftsman and told him, “Thanks! I appreciate your artistic work on my jaw but I’m entitled to this.” Then walked out of his/her office and didn’t pay, you’d think I was crazy. Intellectual property and hard work in our world needs to be paid for or the plumber, the secretary, the car mechanic and the musician doesn’t have a chance. The internet doesn’t nor shouldn’t give us the right to steal. It gives us the right to FREELY exchange ideas. That means your own ideas to someone else without getting it stolen. If you want to share it do that. But others aren’t entitled to the right to “share” it for you. Jonathan, artists were commissioned. The artwork that adorns the chapels in Rome were paid for. The statues were paid for. How doesn’t matter, what matters is the artists were paid. Even Mozart was paid by the King. Handels “Messiah” was commissioned and given to the King who STOOD when he heard it. Jonathan help people understand that just because you want something doesn’t mean you’re entitled to have it. Work for it. Earn money and pay for it honestly. Give it as a gift if you own it but to tell people it’s ok to skirt the honest way to get something challenges me to say is the character of our society that degraded that we will even say that it is ok to do something we know is wrong because it feels good? When we agree that we have an “entitlement right” to steal at others expense means we will eventually go backwards in our society. We aren’t there yet thank the maker but lets not flirt with it either and chalk it up to –its ok to be a Pirate.

  11. Dalroc says:

    I agree that charging money for art is in direct conflict with human history, but keeps in line with what we know about human nature. Museums, Libraries, Galleries, and other centers of culture and learning charge entrance fees all the time, yet we didn’t protest those because we could see that the institution charging the money NEEDED that money to stay open.
    Modern music labels do need an income to continue doing their job, but how much that amount is and how much higher their profits are are the difference we need to account for.

  12. Evan says:

    @RobW I’m not going to bother getting into an intellectual debate about this, but I will point out the thing in your argument that I am certain is false — you’re still completely ignoring the fact that most pirates would not be willing to buy the products regardless and thus the sales aren’t THAT affected, and the pirates that WOULD have bought the product are probably still going to buy it. It’s not taking away sales because those sales would’ve never existed.
    And really, considering the sheer amount of people that would pirate an album but wouldn’t buy it, it’s good advertising. It creates legitimate fans that would come to shows and buy actual albums and support the artists regardless. It’s as Jonathan said, MAKE GOOD STUFF, AND PEOPLE WILL BUY IT. The only people bothered by piracy are the ones that are trying to make money by mass-producing complete and utter shit that no one would’ve bought anyway.

    also I’m getting increasingly more and more annoyed with people that regard piracy as theft whereas one person getting an album and letting his friends copy it ISN’T theft, and then pirating books is theft (i.e. a bunch of people reading one purchased copy of a book) but libraries somehow aren’t.
    Just because it’s digital doesn’t make it a crime.

  13. Richard says:

    It seems that much of the comments on this thread share a common thought. Media distributers need to find some other means of monetizing the distribution of their artist’s works. 15 years ago the public generally accepted the fact that $15 – $20 for a CD was justified by the enourmous costs of mass producing the CD and packaging as well as the production and mastering costs involved in recording the original work. Today much of the duplication costs that a record label would normally spend on reproduction and distribution are irrelevent with the advent of digital distribution and P2P file sharing. Since most musicians make the bulk of their returns from concert and merchandise sales, this only serves to increase thier revenue due to the wider exposure they get from a freely distributed recording of their work. The record companies should take this into consideration and perhaps rethink their CD production estimates to account for the increase in digital distribution channels.

    I may even go so far as to say that the iTunes model is quickly becomming obsolete with services like Spotify allowing ad supported on demand streaming providing the instant gratification we expect from a free and open internet and the royalty fees music companies expect. When the cassette recorder came out the RIAA negotiated with manufacturers (after a lengthy court battle) to collect a small fee from every recorder that was supposed to help defray the costs of battling copyright infringement. I don’t agree that the same sort of fees should be imposed on internet access or the hardware that supports file sharing, but it means that the recording industry was at least open to monetizing the distribution channels in creative ways even if they didn’t have control over them.

    The same sort of things could be done with the motion picture / TV broadcast industries and will only get easier as bandwidth increases and broadband connections become more and more commonplace. We’ve already seen the game industry move to a more centralized digitial distribution model with one-time or subscription based payment options. So there are certainly ways of offering content with distributive control without resorting to draconian methods or poorly written legislation.

    The bottom line is, the entertainment industry as a whole need to take another look at their core distribution models and figure out ways of monetizing the introduction of content and not the distribution of it.

  14. To those like @Rob W and @charlotte who claim that piracy will be the death of us all, I give you bandcamp:

    Go here:

    A few months ago, we began tracking the starting point of every sale that happens on Bandcamp. In the course of looking at the data (which we’re using to help us plan out what to do next), we’ve noticed something awesome: every day, fans are buying music that they specifically set out to get for free.

    For example, just this morning someone paid $10 for an album after Googling “lelia broussard torrent.” A bit later, a fan plunked down $17 after searching for “murder by death, skeletons in the closet, mediafire.” Then a $15 sale came in from the search “maimouna youssef the blooming hulkshare.” Then a fan made a $12 purchase after clicking a link on music torrent tracker What.CD. Then someone spent $10 after following a link on The Pirate Bay, next to the plea “They sell their album as a download on their website. You can even choose your format (mp3, ogg, flac, etc). Cmon, support this awesome band!”

    Also here:

    On Bandcamp, albums outsell tracks 2 to 1. Put another way, 66% of paid downloads on Bandcamp are for albums, compared to only about 6% for the greater Nielsen-reporting world. So why the disparity between what we’re seeing, and what iTunes and Amazon are experiencing?

    Bandcamp sets their site up similarly to how Jonathan Coulton’s music store site is set up: You can stream the album from start to finish, the artist has control over cost (such as set price, free, or name your price with any minimum, including $0), the artist also has control over licensing (i.e. Creative Commons licensing, such as the BY-NC 3.0 CC license JoCo has for all his work (so nobody is actually “pirating” his work)) and you can download the song or album in any format you wish, including lossless ones like FLAC or Apple Lossless. Also, the money goes directly to the artist; bandcamp just adds 15% of a purchase to an accumulated balance and if a purchase is less than or equal to the balance, Bandcamp takes the amount of the purchase. Which I find extremely fair.

    In other words, if you give people an attractive alternative like bandcamp, people will buy music. The facts don’t bear out your fears, it turns out.

  15. mcwhite says:

    Big record companies are fighting to prove that their still relevant. The problem is that they’re using the same formulas to try and churn out major stars and they’re getting upset when no one’s interested in buying the crap they produce.

    With the advancement of technology, smaller bands can put out songs they recorded on their own without needing the financial backing and support that comes with being signed to a label. Look at all the bands that started on MySpace and are experiencing success and gaining popularity.

    The comedian Louis CK decided to produce a DVD/show on his own instead of using a major distribution company and offer it for sale on his website for $5. You can read the whole experiment and the results (last update he hit $1 MILLION in sales) here:
    Other people have taken the same approach and had success, such as Radiohead. These successes are examples of the Jobs’ quote in effect. Two popular artists put out a quality product, made it easily accessible to the public, and made the price point low enough that people would choose to purchase it directly from them instead of jumping through the hoops to pirate it.

  16. Does this make contracts obsolete? The owners of megaupload had a contract with their users that clearly outlined the users responsibility. It the same as a contract between a recording company and an artist or a contract between a resellers and a recording company. If I open a store and start selling duplicated copies of a dvd I was under contract to sell only legal copies should the recording company be arrested for not ensuring that illegal copies were not being sold.

    Megaupload provided shelf space and gave the users of that shelf space a strict contract to abide by and now the entertainment business wants to charge them for someone else’s crimes.

    Every day record companies ‘knowingly’ allow ‘others’ to make money from artists copyright protected work and large amounts of money change hands. The artist has little say in the matter as they signed their rights away in the small print within a ‘promise of fame’ front loaded CONTRACT!

    What this does show us is just how much money these entertainment companies make while they plead poverty to the starving artists who are told that: “It all went back into promotions”. And yet nobody is ever arrested in such a dramatic fashion or charge with such stupid crimes as money laundering to hide the real facts.

    A fair trial is what is needed here and a lot of ‘entertainment business’ crimes should be brought to the surface as evidence to teach the entertainment industry that the spoils of deceit are not their exclusive property and that from now on they may have to SHARE!

  17. Kange says:

    if i dont like 13 songs on your 14 song album, why would i pay 14 bucks for it, when you made the music available in individual songs where i can pay only a dollar instead for that single song..? thats where your loss of sales are goin…

  18. Millie says:

    What about artists’ rights to cover the costs of the work they create and make a decent income from it? I support the idea of freedom on the internet (within reason) – but don’t take away artists’ freedom to choose whether they make an income or not?

    I accept you can make and distribute music for next to nothing but what about films? You need a shed load of money up front to even attempt to make one – and if you can’t make that money back, how are you going to keep on making films?

    Lastly, the internet is not currently a totally free and open place – and quite rightly. We want and expect the authorities to police it when it comes to child porn for instance or people grooming children online. Sites and social networks set up for these purposes are taken down straight away. It’s easy for the authorities to find them (without taking down a whole load of legit sites) and remove them – and makes the web a better place to be. Copyright theft is illegal and unfair – so what’s the problem with taking down sites that endorse or enable this activity?

  19. Ilverin says:

    Music is already being given away in China: Piracy is not a threat

    This came about because of piracy. “Western” music studios had been unable to gain ground against competition and piracy, so they decided to GIVE their music away in a partnership with google.

    The internet is a very efficient way to transmit information, such as music. It doesn’t cost google very much money to give away the music. In fact, theoretically, every Chinese person could download from

    The payment for the music comes in the form of advertisements on google’s website.

    If the RIAA and associated music studios have already decided to give away music in China, what does that say about the threat piracy? With piracy, there is no victim. Numbers being thrown around include $500 billion, but the Swiss government conducted a study suggesting that piracy did not affect entertainment spending. New pirates spent the same amount of money on entertainment as they did before they pirated.

    The “content industry” (which does not represent ALL content, especially with the advent of the internet) raised the same arguments against the VCR and the DVR. Their arguments now are no more true than they are then. Leave the internet alone. We need to at least consider following the Swiss government and decriminalizing piracy.

  20. Terry says:

    I respectfully disagree with charlotte:

    “This means record companies are gradually becoming less likely to take risks on interesting and new artists/bands and, instead, just taking the commercial mainstream stuff that is almost guaranteed to sell.”

    Over the past 40 years, record companies haven’t taken many risks anyway. They may sign an interesting band, but usually they give them a meager advance and very little support. If they just happened to have a breakout hit, they’d get more support… but something like 80% of the bands getting signed each year get dropped after 1 record. At least that’s how it was in the 80s and 90s. They’ve always made their money on “safe” bets.


    “So, music piracy will most likely impede the growth of many new bands in the future. And that sucks.”

    I think the exact opposite is possible, and very likely. So often in the past, a band’s goal was to “make it”, which meant get a record contract from a major label. Of course, getting signed was just one hurdle. As I pointed out before, unless they went Gold and had a huge hit, they were probably going to be dropped… and they still owed the record company their advance. So it’s a longshot to “make it” even after you’ve been signed.

    Now, a good band can see real profits using only the internet. You can get great sounding recordings at an almost nothing price, and sell your goods at many cheap or free sites. The difference is, you may not make the national scene… but there are MANY musicians who make a good living at music, and aren’t known outside of their region. Plus, there are countless wonderful bands who DO get nationally known BECAUSE of the way memes spread on the internet. All that, and you’re not in debt to a record company.

    And financially, if you self-produce and distribute your album… you get almost all of that back to you. Sell 10,000 copies at $10? You make almost $100k! Sell that many for a major label, and you’re a horrible disappointment. Plus, while it’s just conjecture, I imagine people are less likely to pirate music from smaller bands… because they seem more “real”. If I see the bass player at the corner cafe all the time, I’d personally feel bad torrenting his band’s last album. Lady Gaga? Not so much.

    “And as well as that, the fact that music is becoming a thing that is thought of by many as “free”, it could totally change the way music is appreciated. Instead of buying an album and getting your moneys worth by listening to it closely and enjoying it wholly, people will download songs here or there all the time, and won’t feel the need to give them much attention. Music won’t be special anymore because it’ll be so easily accessible.”

    Oh contraire. Music is part of the human soul, and will always be special. This kind of argument has been made at least since recorded music began, and possibly before. When 78s became popular, musicians fretted that music was now a commodity, and no one would go see a musician playing live. And remember, these were single song albums… so it’s kind of coming full circle. Of course, that didn’t happen…

    People will always love music. And there will always be certain people who obsess over music, no matter what form factor it comes in.

  21. Fritz says:

    The Megaupload case is about more than simply piracy. Megaupload was making serious money from the encouragement and financial reward from illegal distribution of high value intellectual property not owned by them for their internet customers. This is nothing more than grand larceny and the profiteering associated with grand larceny on a massive scale. It is quite apparent that the principal intent of this company was to profit from other people’s work and hopefully minimize or hide that fact to the general public and law enforcement. Stealing is always stealing whether it’s intellectual property or something from the grocery store. There is no difference. It’s simply theft. Whatever one associates morally with the crime of theft is entirely individual, but suffice to say that law enforcement has legislated penal laws to deal with this type of behavior. Megaupload could have done the right thing and worked with content providers but they chose to conspire for selfish and self serving interests. All you need to do is look at the license plates on their luxury vehicles to know who they truly are.

  22. Elihu Aran says:

    I’m sorry JoCo. I did infringe on your copyright a few times for a few of the not-free songs you have. I did so years and years ago to see what this Coulton guy was all about, musically.

    I had just finished Portal, and had heard your name thrown about here and there, but never really looked for your stuff. Then I heard Still Alive. After that, I downloaded all the free songs on your Songs page, and listened to the others.

    As the years passed, I took a liking to some of the songs that required money, which I pirated. I then resolved that when I got money, I’d throw it at your face and then some, and buy all the albums on the Songs page.

    Then more time passed, and I had a job, and I continued to steal. Then Artificial Heart came out. I promptly bought Level 4 because of that complete works of JoCo thingamabob that was described. The T-shirts also helped, too. I will now be buying all of your future albums, even if you “sell out” or “go mainstream” or whatever those hipsters are talking about.

    Thank you JoCo for changing me from my pirate ways.

  23. Richard says:

    The only reason MegaUpload was targeted in my opinion was because of the ease with which other sites could scrape thier download links. MegaUpload was providing a file storage and sharing service with the expressed intent that the files shared did not constitute a vilation of any local or international law. They complied as quickly as possible to DMCA takedown notices, after determining the legitimacy of the notice, but their service was so easy to use/abuse that as soon as one set of content was taken down, it was put right back up again under a new user.

    This is a clear case of shooting the messenger. The real persons liable for the infringement, if any, are not MegaUpload but the users that abused the service against MegaUpload’s EULA. I have a feeling though that those at MegaUpload didn’t simply want to roll over for the RIAA/MPAA every time they complained about somthing without offering proof, so the associations decided to whine to a higher authority.

  24. Erik says:

    I’m a bit late to the party on this discussion, but I’d like to point out something interesting about the literature on this topic.

    About a year ago, I did a master’s thesis on estimating how much revenue is lost due to piracy. I found the academic literature on this has more or less failed to properly design a study that estimates the relationship between piracy and revenue loss. Your results are more or less determined by how you design your study.

    Also interestingly, you’ll notice that the anti piracy rhetoric today is roughly the same as it was 8-10 years ago. This is especially problematic as works published in the early 2000’s appear to show significantly more negative impacts of piracy than those published since 2007 or so. In effect, it appears as if the increased knowledge about piracy, alternative methods of purchasing, and general culture of supporting artists may be having a large effect that wasn’t there just a decade ago.

    The internet makes it easier to pirate content, but it also brings us closer to the artists that make that content. Most Alice Cooper fans probably never said to themselves: “I like Alice Cooper and I want him to do well, so I’ll buy his album.” But people say that all the time about current artists like JoCo.

    Is it a net positive? Maybe, maybe not. But I suspect the effect is much smaller than many anti-piracy advocates like to argue. And, when you divide that net loss (if it indeed exists) by the actual success rate that any legislation would have in stopping piracy (which I guarantee you is far lower than 100%), the actual impact that a company can have on reclaiming revenue “lost” to piracy is probably minimal. On the other hand, forming a better bond with your customers seems to indisputably help you make more money.

    (Apologies for not citing any of the studies referenced. I no longer have JSTOR access to find these articles… which leads into a separate rant entirely)

  25. Scott says:

    There a several reasons why I became a Level 4 participant. The part of this essay explaining your opinion on how the music biz should work is one of those reasons.

    Rock on.

  26. Josh says:

    But think of all the poor people who lose money when you pirate something! The poor, poor, incredibly rich already people! Rupert “arsehole event horizon” Murdoch, et al.

    I like to think that anyone with enough cultural taste is going to have at least some morals when downloading music whose creators genuinely deserve to get paid for what they do (you, for instance), and so wouldn’t pirate stuff like that. I know I don’t pirate music unless I actually like it. Or I pirate it and buy it later. Frankly, most “musicians” these days don’t deserve to be paid.

  27. Aeshir says:

    >I believe in copyright. I benefit from it. I don’t want it to go away. I love that we have laws
    >and people to enforce them. But if I had to give up one thing, if I had to choose between
    >copyright and the wild west, semi-lawless, innovation-fest that is the internet? I’ll take
    >the internet every time.

    Been saying this for years.

    Great post, Jonathan.

  28. Don says:

    I for one have never pirated or illegally downloaded anything from the Internet. But, when I was younger, I would tape music from friends’ collections. We’d make mix tapes for each other. Because I taped They Might Be Giants’s first album, I became a lifelong fan, buying almost all subsequent albums when they came out, going to shows, buying t-shirts. Also, my fandom of R.E.M., Echo and the Bunnymen, the Smiths, and others was encouraged by trading songs. To me, while there are flagrant abuses, some piracy is an extension of that for this generation. But, for others like me who are still uncomfortable with the idea, there are now so many myriad sources of discovery. For example, without Thing a Week, or a free promotional copy of The Areas Of My Expertise, I would have never heard of this young up-and-comer, Johnny Coco, I think? Something like that. There are new music blogs, free singles, preview tracks, and so on. And, still, friends’ recommendations. So, while I can see where people are coming from, and essentially did the same in my youth (with hissy, hissy copies) I still don’t pirate.

  29. Wisdom wants to be free…liberated, shared, honored. I have a Jesusy perspective on this, but as a professional musician (and who has many musician friends) I agree with Jonathan. Policing creative content actually smothers creativity. Do we need to care for one another, honor one another’s creativity…sure. But we may need to reconsider our copyright laws as they presently stand.

  30. ::follows link from friend on G+::

    ::first thought… oooh, new albumn… purchases::

    second thought:

    Why is the music industry like running for president? For some reason the independents seem to be the ones getting it right, and nobody listens to them :-(

  31. Oh, and addendum…

    Pirated some of your music fairly early on when I first heard about you. Purchased all of it (including what I’d already pirated) later… and as mentioned in my previous post, still purchasing away.

  32. JimmerSD says:

    I agree with your perspective here Jonathan.

    I don’t think is is reasonable for a business to assign an arbitrary value to an item based on prices they were able to demand when they had complete monopoly control of the market.

    And then when the market changes to break their distribution monopoly, to assert that they are somehow losing money because people, who never would have bought their products in the first place at onerously inflated prices, still aren’t buying their products.

    Yeah, the whole concept sounds just as stupid when I read it out loud.

    This has nothing to do with piracy and everything to do with control. The content distribution industry has lost the ability to control the entire market and like petulant children are holding their collective breath until they get their way.

    The old adage applies here “Adapt or die”.

    The internet was successful at deflecting SOPA/PIPA now they have to turn their attention to ACTA.

  33. Hellcat says:

    Once again, Joco you are teh awesome!

  34. Rob says:

    I’d like to point out that I am in a very strange minority by today’s standards.

    At least I think I am. It’s hard to tell. I may be in a silent majority that I’ve instantly excluded myself from by speaking about it.

    Basically, I don’t own a credit card and piracy has made me spend more money on music than I did before internet piracy existed.

    I’m 30. When I was about 14, I was buying music tapes. They were touch and go and I spent my money quite frugally.

    I initially bought “safe music”.

    Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was the one risky album that I bought that really made me love music and I bought it because a friend of mine had recorded a few of the Smashing Pumpkins’ songs from the radio.


    And I was hooked on them.

    Due to damage and lending without return, I’ve actually bought that album on tape and CD about seven times.

    As the internet got more and more widespread I listened to more and more songs from bands that I would never have heard of otherwise and that’s where I found some of my favourite music.

    I found out that I had a passionate love for Bob Dylan’s music when I found his lesser known songs and B-sides and soon bought his collection.

    The internet is also where I found bands and singers that I otherwise would have never heard of, like Blinktwice4y, Katie Micucci, OK GO, Songstowearpantsto, Mustard, Ronald Jenkees, and, of course, Jonathan Coulton.

    My point is that, for every x amount of music that I listen to on Youtube or download illegally, I buy y amount of music that I like based on what I’ve heard.

    If I listen to fifty free songs to find a band that I like, it doesn’t mean that the industry has lost out on fifty songs (x) worth of money. It means that they’ve gained some money that they wouldn’t have otherwise on y.

    On a side-note, I’m quite drunk right now and I apologize for any inconsistencies. I should also shamefully admit that I’ve never bought any of your music because I’ve never had a chance to without a credit card.

    If you come to Galway in Ireland then I’ll go to your show and buy your CD.

    I will also force my friends to go through persuasion and Ak-47s.


  35. Michael says:

    I too used Megaupload for sending files between friends, and during my spate of Half-Life 2 modding we all used it to swap files (updates to our WIP mod, funny videos, design document updates, etc.) because it was convenient and well-suited to the purpose.

  36. Josh says:

    I didn’t use MegaUpload, but I have used other sites in the past. I’ve downloaded music and movies, both legally and illegally; and I’ll admit, I’ve probably done more of the latter than the former.

    But that has also led me to discovering new artists, games, etc. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on CDs, t-shirts, concerts, apparel, and other things put out by people whose work I discovered by downloading some songs for free over the internet. I’d say I’ve probably spent more money on things I would’ve never known about had I not had the ability to first experience them for free. Things that I may have overlooked in a store due to their cost have opened their experience up to me, helping me realize that this person (or these persons) are deserving of my hard-earned money.

    I discovered two of my favorite bands by downloading some of their songs; I’ve seen them in concert every time they’ve come around. I’ve bought their entire CD collections, over 20+ years of material from each group.

    At this point, I feel like if I continue, I’ll just repeat myself over and over. I do want to say that while I have spend a lot of money on things that I originally came across for free, I am not saying that I did nothing wrong. But this is the kind of complication that starts to come up. It’s like killing somebody to save your (or someone else’s) life. That doesn’t make killing in and of itself right, but in context, that is the right thing to do if there are no other means by which to stop the attacker. I shouldn’t have downloaded that music for free, but it has led me to spend more money on things than I would have otherwise.

  37. I think part of the problem is that the industry has bloated to a point that it involves lots of employees and investors who are made redundant by the internet.

    40 years ago, if you made a record, you went to a professional studio, used a producer and an engineer or two, then a factory had to make copies of the album, people had to design and produce packaging, people had to distribute it, and people had to sell the records in shops. Once videos came along, film makers and camera crew and whatnot became a part of the mix.

    Now, almost anyone can record at home, put it online themselves, make it available for download, make their own video, and basically run the show themselves. Musicians have varying degrees of success with this, but professional production, distribution, packaging, and brick-and-mortar sales are ll pretty mch irrelevant, and will only become mores in the years ahead.

    The industry is not trying to protect artists. Artists can look out for themselves. The industry is looking out for all the people who don’t make music, but used to have a job getting it from the artist to you. Now, I feel for these people; they’re mostly, I’m sure, honest folks who just need a living. It’s sad that the internet is making their job redundant. But that does not justify the crippling of the internet.

  38. Karmakin says:

    The problem is a lack of understanding on how the micro and the macro markets fit together. A good easy way to look at it is that there’s X dollars for entertainment in our society, more or less, and it’s going to be spent one way or the other. As such, even if you could eliminate piracy tomorrow, it doesn’t increase X one bit. And as increasing X seems to be the motive behind all this anti-piracy stuff, it simply doesn’t make sense.

    Now, piracy CAN theoretically hurt on a micro level. Say for example if music is easier to pirate than say a movie (which is generally true), then it might encourage people to pay for their movies and to pirate their music. However, I think this effect is way overblown. The music industry at large about a decade ago made a decision to treat their products like interchangeable, disposable widgets as that’s what they thought would make them the most money. Turns out that we want the strong cultural emotional ties and that we don’t want disposable widgets.

    Go figure.

    To be honest, where the music industry went wrong is killing the brand-new webradio market with entirely unfair standard licensing fees. The fact that we all don’t have Wi-Fi webradio receivers in our house, quite frankly is the biggest blunder they could have possibly made. A much much bigger factor than piracy.

    Piracy is simply not a problem. It may be, one day, if everybody decides en masse to stop spending their entertainment dollars. But right now? Not even close.

  39. Ottavia says:

    Excellently put!

  40. Medusa says:

    Interesting article, I’m curios about your music now.
    Couple of observations from an IT guy:

    1 – Computers manipulate, duplicate, and transmit arbitrary data in more-or-less arbitrary ways. You can’t really stop copying without either convincing every human being on the planet to play along, or denying everyone the ability to use a computer unsupervised. That’s what SOPA et al. really amounts to: Does “I own a copyright” mean “I get to supervise everyone on the planet?”

    2 – Whether artists can make a really good living even in the face of piracy is an empirical question. I haven’t done the research, but I would like to note that Lady Gaga, U2, Janis Joplin et. all don’t actually own any copyrights. Sony and Warner and their ilk do, and their business was not creating anything. It was distribution. Distribution is going to be free, from now until computers go away. Does it really make sense to try and enforce a distribution monopoly across the entire planet, at the costs noted above? Is it really impossible to imagine that if you had a millions fans who desperately wanted more of your work, you could turn that into a six-figure income without all this overhead? (The Kardashians seem to be doing just fine without producing anything even remotely creative or valuable.) What do profits look like for artists who *actually retain their copyrights*?

  41. FREEDOM says:

    Oh pleeezzzzeee.. give it a break.

    The business of entertainment itself is filled with rampant piracy so who are we trying to kid?

    Take the music and movie industry for example, when a song is produced first the song’s lyrics must be thought out or inspired as an idea which is subsequently penned on paper or in the movie industry’s case as an original idea leading to an actual movie script to be written which is the only true or genuine intellectual work of it’s kind that exists.

    Once the original or authentic idea is thought or penned a musical lyric, note or a movie into an actual script everything massed produced after that fact amounts to nothing more than a copy, a backup or massed produced copies of copies legally sanctioned for commercial entertainment industry which circumvents the fact that what they are selling is an actual copy based on an original idea and at that a mass produced copy.. . this is the truest form of real piracy slating for masses or produced as backups to be sold in stores worldwide yet the industry would have one believe that their copies are genuine works which they are selling when in reality the genuine script, lyric or original is safely stored and well out of harms way while the public gets the legally sanctioned copy which is still and will never amount to anything more than a copy and this my friends is the double standard… legally sanctioned piracy at its finest.

    It is this form of piracy which is most prevalent and which has a stranglehold on the business world and which truly dominates worldwide rather than small fry’s such as the “Megaupload” scandal or others as the big bad wolf would have you believe that it he whom is being victimized by crying rape while it continues to rape the unsuspecting public of their hard earned money.

    When “Mel Gibson In The Passion Of Christ” ran away in the first week crying all the way to the bank with over 300 million not counting the final tally it made after the smoke cleared did it hurt the industry or Mel that a select amount of people shared and viewed the movie in their homes as opposed to really making money off of it “NO”.

    Even those whom supposedly illegally did make money off of it, did it really hurt sales “NO” or at least not from the apparent calculated grosses being reported, the truth is the industry itself is the biggest pirate out their duping the public at large with mostly garbage and pointing the finger when their junk does fly off the shelves but when big hits or genuinely decent stuff is produced they bank pretty damn well regardless of the people whom share files or of the so called piracy by those segments of small fry’s out their whom might be making a buck of their own.

    The biggest pirate is the commercial industry itself who rapes the public at large with everything from junk to genuinely good productions charging excessive prices or has anyone not really noticed the cost of going to a movie theater lately let alone the prices on all those supposedly legal copies being sold at large or in stores worldwide.

    The double standard is absolutely horrendous and stinks to high hell which isn’t to say that “Megaupload” is a saint especially if some of the charges are true but even this number and all of the would be’s like “Megaupload” amount to little unto or before the vast coffers & deep pockets of those whom maintain a true stranglehold on the industry with their legally sanctioned piracy which is still piracy by any other name while being no better as they still rape the public and in a far more damaging manner than any of the would be’s.

    I could care less about “Megaupload” nor the would be’s like them as this is not about any of them but the truth is we are living in a world where the strong consume the weak which is clearly the case here as the industry cries rape while in duplicity doing the same and far worse as its onslaught and stranglehold grows ever encompassing.

    Uncle Sam and the constitution itself has long been replaced with wolves, crooks and corruption having grown beyond itself and ever reaching constantly under the guise of the constitution in what well surpasses boundries and large business giants follow the in the same pattern of corruption so my heart isn’t exactly bleeding for the industry in as much as as do not condone piracy in any form.. there are far greater evils out there already among our midst and the double standard is simply disgusting from any standpoint.

    The small fry’s would best be suited to adapt to the ever growing reach of intrusive if not invasive forces while learning from it and creating new venue’s to counter the abuse of unwarranted power and greed before all the things which most hold dear yet take for granted are finally stripped from under us all.

  42. Dr. Comics says:

    This may be the first nuanced and thoughtful thing I’ve heard said about the Megaupload issue. Well done, sir! Somewhere between the MPAA and the Pirate Party, there has to be some sanity.

    “It’s going to be the future soon.” – me, ripping off some guy whose music I found online.

    P.S. Just bought Artificial Heart, and I’m listening to it right now. :)

  43. Felipe says:

    Pirates ? I believe pirates are those vicious guys that surprise you, rob everything, set your boat on fire and just go away. At a criminal level pirates are worst then nazis.
    I don’t like to be called pirate because a share some culture in my community.

    So, this hole anti-piracy, megaupload think is a stunt. It’s not for me and you, is for the media, and for the regular Joe. It’s a way to create a context to justify laws and regulations that has the only objective to protect money of big corporations.

    I completely agree with the post author, but I also think that he, and almost everybody, is missing the point.

    The real concern is about how the corporations rule the world, how they can protect their money manipulating government and law, and above all, how they can manufacture consent among everybody and make a illusion of a democratic process.

    That’s not the case just for the internet/piracy matter. That’s true too for health care, environment issues and everything that matters.

  44. Iay says:

    Why is copyright piracy such a big issue? Seriously Microsoft, Apple, Netflix and Steam are some of the most profitable business on the face of the earth and getting richer by the second. I understand the need to have IP rights and monetary reward for artists and supporting staff but it seems like this is more profit margins for business’s.

    I’m not an American but you can see that economically this is not the biggest issue facing the USA or even the rest of the world. When company’s focus on profits rather than a viable and sustanable business model two things happen, one, competition steps in and does it better and cheaper than you. In the case of digital IP people have worked out how to get it for free, but the problem also exists in your manufacturing, administrative and commercial creativity. India and China are taking more of your jobs than digital piracy.

    The second thing that happens is that your customers get disenchanted and look for other options, again free digital material is a better option than paying for it. People still buy candy from petrol stations at a higher price than a supermarket, why? because the convience it offers justifies the purchase. Online it is a level playing field. Joco even your site offers your songs cheaper than Itunes by $0.69 for something you are only charging a dollar for! Does Itunes really do anything amazing to justify that extra $0.69?

    Anyway US Government and big business you won’t and can’t win this fight. And the way you are trying to win means you should not. Be adaptive and be useful and worthwhile and people will come back. Cry moan and put people in courts and see how well that goes for you.

    By the way Joco big fan, bought the Best Concern Ever and will probably buy Artificial heart soon. Thanks for a stage to ramble and good luck to you!

  45. vxicepickxv says:

    The music industry, in terms of major production labels is going to die a horrible, horrible death. The sooner the better. It is up to folks like us to find the modern individuals and bands who are the best, and promte them, and make sure their stuff gets sold.

    I will admit to pirating a few things here and there. It’s stuff that isn’t available anymore, through any legal means. Old albums that had individual runs in the thousands, and wasn’t ever released in a new format, old shows that haven’t been run in ages, nor ever released to a new medium.

    I have also used Megaupload before. It’s a great site for leaving things like mods for games up, because the server profits are all from advertisements. Can anyone else think of a better place to put 5GB of Oblivion mods for easy access?

  46. I have a cassette tape, well-worn but still working, with Linda Ronstadt’s “Heart Like A Wheel” on side A and Rita Coolidge’s “Anytime… Anywhere” on side B.

    The tape was dubbed from each album’s LP, quite a few years ago, by my dad and his brother — my dad passed along the tape to me because I enjoyed the music so much. Thing is, he and my uncle used to copy a whole lot of albums like that — because as teenagers, they could afford to pool their allowance money and buy a single LP and a blank cassette, but they wouldn’t have been able to cash in for two records. Besides — how would they listen to the music during their regular two- and three-hour drives down the highway? Anyway, specifically because they knew they could easily “pirate” the album, they spent money to purchase it.

    I tracked down and bought a vinyl copy of “Anytime… Anywhere” not long ago, because I love the sound of the record, and because I wanted to own an original copy of the music I so often play. At the time, it hadn’t been released on CD (although later it was put out with another album) and I bought the record so that I could take the Line Out from my turntable and feed it to my PC — to make a copy of the music I spent money on, because that meant sticking a handful of mp3s on a portable media player and listening while I walk or ride public transit. Specifically because I knew I could “pirate” the album, I spent money on it.

    I had a copy of the album that I ripped from vinyl stored on MegaUpload. I kept it there because I was worried after having a couple of hard drives crash and losing lots of irreplaceable data, and it seemed like a decent enough place to store something that has a whole lot of sentimental value to me, and would mean some time-consuming work to replace. That album sat next to a few video tutorials I had created, little instructional bits about how to accomplish certain tasks in a handful of different software programs.

    So — yeah, I was using MU to “host illegal content.” I suppose it’s possible that someone out there downloaded some music from a 1970’s female singer-songwriter, what with the web spiders crawling filehosting sites and harvesting links. And maybe someone also grabbed one or more of my awkward, fumbling attempts at teaching someone how to use computer programs. If someone did snag that copy of Coolidge’s album, I wouldn’t be surprised; she made good music, but at least when I was trying to hunt it down, that particular good music was damn hard to buy.

    If you make good stuff, but you don’t make it easy to buy… people are going to copy it instead. Even if you make your good stuff easy to buy, some people will copy it anyway; when my dad and my uncle bought their copies of those albums, they were easy to buy. Today’s music industry would claim that they “lost a sale” of each of those albums, that they lost money because someone has a full copy of the album without buying it for every person (in this limited example) who did spend their cash on it. Problem is, it doesn’t work that way. Still, almost 40 years later, I’m doing the same thing as my parents’ generation… except apparently now it’s criminal.

  47. DC Wornock says:

    First copyrights should expire after 7 years. Long term copyrights that last much longer than the life time of the artist or writer serve little if any benefit to the artist or creator and is harmful to society.

    Someone wanted to make a follow-up movie of “Roman Holiday.” I was after Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) was Queen and the Joe Bradley (Joe Bradley) was a big time reporter in New York and their son and daughter met and fell in love. Because I expecially like Audrey Hepburn and loved the move”Roman Holiday,” I would have paid to have seen that movie. However, because of copyright issues the movie was never made. The long term copyright didn’t benefit anyone and harmed society by preventing a movie that I and many other would have paid to have seen.

    I don’t know how much copyright issues have to do with the MegaUpload case but to a great extent it is about government control of the internet. Mainstream media and the government are one and the same. The government lies to the public and uses mainstream media to tell their lies. The internet reveals some of the government lies and powerful people in control of the government hate that. Therefore, the want to control the media.

    MegaUpload did nothing wrong. They never advertised and sold copyright material. I remember going on line and looking for movies to watch at MegaUpload and didn’t find any. Therefore, if available, they were not easy to find. The entire case against MegaUpload is a pack of lies so the government can have more excuses to control the internet to prevent the truth about their lies.

  48. zander says:

    A fan of mine sent me more than 60 classic jazz albums he ripped via MegaUpload. I wanted to be delighted but I was appalled and he was stripping the archives bare as the site was corralled….thievery is stealing no matter how cool the shit you steal is!

  49. animatrinity says:

    there’s one thing that i keep asking people, and all i get in return are blank stares: who needs more money; the rich people making the album, or the poor people buying the album. i think, instead of panicking about unevolved rules, we should all take a minute, and collectively look up the word ‘incentive’. i’m not paying my favourite musicians to be greedy, so what’s my incentive for buying their album again? stop being assholes, and make something worth buying.

    i haven’t even heard of you before, but just because you said some of the things i’ve been saying, i’m going to buy your album… someday… whenever i can afford it. even if i don’t like it.

    greedy rich people forget about poor people way too often.

  50. Actually, protection of material rights from art is a human right, it is in Article 27 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    However, note that doesn’t mean there is only one way, the exclusive right to make copies, to protect those rights. That’s in my opinion the greatest flaw of todays intellectual property regime. It is in everyone’s interest that copies flow freely, but that payment information should follow. So, you’re right, it is not clear that piracy really deprives artists, except for certain unfortunate cases, of their material rights.

    Also note Article 27 (1), which says that

    “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”

    This right of the people is infringed on a grand scale. We have no right anymore to participate in cultural life, we have no right to enjoy arts, and scientific advancements never progress outside of the lab (as a scientists, this worries me every day).