I wonder how many people actually stole Abbie Hoffman’s brilliantly marketed counter culture book. I bet quite a few people felt obligated to do it. The nature of the book seemed to demand it. Ultimately, the publisher who put the book in bookstores had no desire to see you steal it. Companies are in the business to make money. I have no problem with this. Making money allows my favorite artists to exist and produce.
I can’t tell you how much this blog has hurt my head trying to write it. This issue of creative rights in the digital world is very confusing. The problem for me is there is the law (often dictated by big business) and there is what I feel is right. This is where it gets tricky because what I feel is right and the law don’t always see eye to eye. Compound this with everyone having a different idea of what is right and the issue explodes into a giant mess.
I have been thinking a lot about musicians making money in the new world order of digital downloads. It is very important the practice of paying musicians money continues to exist. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. If people can’t eat, they can’t make music, or write, or draw. It is a career choice driven by passion but it is still a career.
I have always come down on the side of the artist but sometimes doing so leaves a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have had several artists I love say to their fans, I don’t care if you download my music without paying. Come to a concert. Buy a shirt. Support me in ways which puts money directly in my pocket. There is nothing wrong with saying this if you own your music. If, however, you signed a contract to allow a company to own your music, you have just broken the law.
I know music companies screw new artists a lot but sometimes they make them fabulously wealthy. It is the trade off most artists make in an attempt to gain a career. Where it can get really ugly is many new artists have ridiculously bad contracts and they become powerless to stop the music companies from crushing their careers.
Music companies wield the laws like a giant club. This is where the law starts going all gooey in my head because I support artists. If the music company no longer cares about promoting someone’s career I feel they should let the artist go. It’s what is right. They often don’t. They don’t care about what is right. They care about not looking bad and releasing an artist who than goes somewhere else to become huge sellers.
They are now stopping this artist from having a profession. You need music out there to sell concert tickets and shirts. I have been hoping for years for an implosion in the music industry. I think an industry where a lot of people are making enough money to be successful is better than one where a few make millions. The person who figures out how to help small independent artists do this is going to be a hero to many.
In the meantime, the laws say downloading music without permission of the rights owner is illegal. Distributing it is illegal. No matter what our favorite artists say. Everyday the issue of digital rights seems to get murkier and murkier with very few of them in favor of the artist or the consumer. It feels like a giant house of cards and at any moment someone is going to pull the bottom one out.