Music theft and the Culture of Free.

Over the past several years I have read countless articles on the trend toward music being free and most, if not all, get it completely wrong. The prevailing point of view seems to be “you can’t legislate the weather”, meaning simply that free music is inevitable and we should just accept that fact and figure out how to operate in such a world. What a load. Here’s the situation as I see it:

1) Compression technology has enabled music files to be shrunk to a fraction of their uncompressed size with virtually no loss in fidelity.

2) The Internet has enabled people to “share” music with every single person on the damn planet.

3) Thanks to teensy file sizes and a ubiquitous way to “share”, music files can be copied nearly instantly and without inconveniencing either the sharer or the borrower in the least. (Remember, copying music used to be both real-time (a minute took a minute) and physical (you had to get up off your ass and DO something to share or get your music).

These three factors are why EVERYONE is sharing music but they do not make it okay to break the law. Personally, I think the law is valid in that I think people’s ideas should be protected. Now, if you CHOOSE to give your music away, great; but if you choose not to, that doesn’t make it okay for people to steal it just because they can. And fundamentally, that’s what this whole debate should be about: are we going to enforce our laws? If so, we should start. If not, we should not simply give into to Mob Rule; instead, we should figure out why we’re not enforcing the law and determine if the law is, in fact, enforceable and if not, how should it be changed so that it is.

And rule of law is a powerful force in our society, as it should be. Sadly, in what I call The Culture of Free, there is a new force in society that, for lack of a better phrase, I’ll call The rule of me. In other words, there are millions of people out there who think they should be able to have what they want. But they’re not going to walk into a bank and take money, too risky; music, however, is just so easy to steal and damnit I want it and I’m worth it and I’m owed it for all the sucky albums I bought so I’m going to take it. Intellectual types love to theorize on why this is not only okay, it’s healthy. To read some of their tortured tripe, you can click here for a post on why people engage in file sharing and why musicians can’t do anything about it, or here to read about why the founders of Pirate Bay are heroes. Go ahead, give these a read, take your time, then try to repeat what they said to a friend. Good luck. And that’s the problem. The arguments for throwing away decades of established law in the most advanced country in the history of the world (that would be the US, in case you’re not sure) in favor of a bunch of common thieves are just not any good. If they were, they wouldn’t be impossible to explain.

So this is where we stand: a bunch of people breaking the law (yours truly, too, on occasion) because technology has made it east to do so. Either we have principals and figure out how to write our laws and regulations so that they are enforceable or we just give in. From what I can see, we are giving in. Sad.