I am surprised at various discussions and commentary I’ve heard recently on the subject of sharing music. Today there was the rather high profile case of a woman in the US who got a $200k+ fine for making 24 songs available on a file sharing site (for more info see here and here). A couple of days ago on local radio there was a some chap who sounded like he might be an ‘entertainment commentator’ or similar (I wasn’t concentrating until after the fact). He said something like ‘I don’t know any of my friends who buys music anymore – they just copy it’ – not ‘who buys CD’s any more’ note – he clearly meant electronic purchase like itunes as well. It may have been a sweeping statement, but I know folks who declare that they download all they want as well. What really surprised me though was the matter of fact way he said it – no shame, no careful positioning or apology.
Stealing is stealing, however you dress it up
This troubles me quite a bit. This isn’t theft as I think it is historically (and possibly legally) defined since that requires that you deprive the ability of another person to use the item. But, in any reasonable context, givingtaking something tofrom someone that theyyou would otherwise have to buy sure looks like theft. You can try and dress it up by talking about gouging by record companies, new technology or most erroneously ‘failing business models’ – but if it was applied to something like groceries then it would be seen as stealing, and I simply don’t see why it is any different.
Digital Rights (mis)Management
I feel it is a pity that the opportunity that DRM should have allowed seems to have been fumbled. It could have been a vendor neutral framework that allowed a thriving new area of business. It could have allowed me to validate a load of my music to any device via the internet, and allowed continued use even in the event that the supplier went bust. It could have removed coding issues by allowing me to download or record the music(/film/book etc.) in any format I want. It could have allowed open-source players to securely comply, rather than be forced to circumvent. It could have allowed dis-intermediation of people who weren’t adding value (e.g. record companies for established artists). It feels like it has done none of these things well, and some not at all. It is a pity, but it does nothing to excuse the theft as so many seem to think.
Edit – one sentence had survived a couple of years back to front!