This story about the RIAA and the MPAA fighting back against piracy includes some quotes that piss me off so much that I have to vent my spleen to the world about it. Maybe some of you presently reading this will forward the lesson to others.
Just to warn you, this is not going to be an exhaustive indictment of the RIAA, the MPAA, or any of the various guilty parties involved. Both of those organizations are behaving stupidly about this whole issue, but that isn’t the subject of this post. I’m saving that for another time.
On to the retarded quotes:
And some teen pirates say adults just don’t understand.
“Maybe they don’t understand that teenagers work minimum-wage jobs, so why should we buy a CD with two songs we like on it when we can burn it for free?” said 15-year-old Melissa of Boca Raton, Fla., who downloads songs, music videos and movies a few times a month.
Or this lovely gem:
“The generation before us had to pay for music,” said recent college grad Joshua, 24, of New York City. “Now you have no reason to purchase the music or movie in physical form. Everything is digital.”
Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.
Now pay attention, class.
Let’s start with young Melissa, who seems to be under the impression that the fact that she doesn’t have very much money somehow entitles her to steal something she doesn’t want to pay for.
Irrelevant, girl. Irrelevant.
First of all, I’m sure Melissa can afford to buy the CDs if she wants to. After all, she’s 15, so if she has a job, the money is 100% disposable on luxury goods.
But more important is the principle here. That music is owned by someone. She does not have the rights to its disposal. In downloaded unauthorized copies of this music, she is taking something that doesn’t belong to her without paying for it. In other words, she is stealing. This is theft, period.
The wealth of the record company is not relevant. Her paucity is not relevant. How badly she wants the music is not relevant. The ease of stealing it is not relevant. Her personal dislike of the recording industry and/or any of its employees is not relevant.
Now let’s talk about Joshua, who is old enough to know better. Let’s take his statements one by one.
“The generation before us had to pay for music.”
A stupid remark since it’s not true. Ever heard of radio, boy?
“Now you have no reason to purchase the music or movie in physical form. Everything is digital.”
This is even more idiotic. But the fact that anyone would utter it seriously forces me to examine the obvious mental deficiency that causes it.
We exist in a physical world. Therefore everything in it is physical in nature, in some way or another. What is a compact disc, or a cassette tape, or a record? It is a physical storage medium for a physical stream of data. This is essentially no different from a digital computer file. An MP3 can be copied directly onto a CD, for Pete’s sake.
The information stored on a vinyl record is digital in nature, when one gets right down to it. The word “digital” has come to assume a meaning that is not entirely accurate. That is, digital vs. analog, when talking about the audio/video industry.
But a record is merely a single spiral groove that has the music encoded on it through the complex combination of bumps and ridges inside that groove. The needle reads these changes and the device reproduces the music encoded therein. Actually, this is remarkably like a CD in principle.
A cassette is a spooled magnetic tape that, again, records data in an elemental form. In this case, as variances in the magnetic medium that can be decoded by an appropriate device.
But the body of data itself, the stream of information, is a commercial property. Now, this gets complicated when you get down at this level, and try to talk about “how much has to be there for it to be copyrightable, and how much has to be stolen to qualify as theft of the copyrighted material”. That’s a question I won’t try to answer here.
But in the case of, say, an MP3, a digital music file, the storage medium merely changes from a tape or CD to the disk drive in your computer, or the memory card in your iPod or other MP3 playback device. Therefore the music is in a physical form in the same sense that a CD or a cassette is a physical form.
Don’t believe me? Try deleting the music file and see if you can still play it.
Joshua has, in his brief comments, demonstrated a lack of comprehension of so many basic notions of material physics and property rights that he needs to be robbed regularly to see if he likes how it feels to have stuff taken from him without compensation and without his permission.
This really is a simple concept. Why is music and movie piracy so wrong? It’s theft. But in case that argument is too difficult to grasp, let’s try this:
Let’s suppose you’re a talented musician, and you like writing and recording your own music. You intend to do this as your sole activity in life, i.e., your profession. You need to get paid, right? Good will doesn’t put food on the table.
Let’s say you cut a CD and put it up for sale on the internet. People like it and start buying copies. Life is good.
Then someone copies one of your CDs, and puts the music up on kazaa for free download to anyone who cares to take it. How does that make you feel? Is it fair? You aren’t getting paid. Someone is stealing the product of your labors. After a while, sales of your CD start to go down, because people discover they can take it without paying on kazaa. You start to go hungry, can’t pay your electric bill, and get evicted from your apartment because you can’t make money anymore.
Do you have any incentive to write more music and make another CD, when you know what will happen? Of course not. Why the hell should you bother, when everyone will just steal it and you’ll get nothing?
Thus the world loses a talented artist, and you go back to flipping burgers or sitting in an office to pay the bills.
Communism has a similar effect, if I may be allowed to digress slightly. People are forced to produce, but the fruits of their labor don’t belong to them. Anyone can take whatever they want. So why bother producing if some schmuck is just going to come along and take it from you? If the government forces you to keep producing, you have no desire or incentive to make things of good quality, so craftsmanship suffers, and creativity disappears.