Music Piracy is Not Theft. It’s Piracy.

Piracy is not theft.

My basic philosophy on piracy can be pretty well summed up by the above picture that I found in this post’s amazing comment thread.

However, this doesn’t mean that just because piracy isn’t theft, it’s morally justifiable. If the content creator/owner is cool with it and expresses that viewpoint publicly, then the pirate is not doing anything morally wrong. Copy, share, and remix your heart out. If the content creator/owner is not okay with piracy and has expressed that publicly, then the pirate has done something morally wrong.

If you are a content creator/owner who isn’t okay with piracy, I have but one word for you: Why?

Why are you upset that people care enough about your music to want to upload it to the web and share it with as many people as humanly possible? They are doing your promotional work for you! Sure, you may see less digital sales of your music, but you will be getting much more exposure in the process, and there is a much greater likelihood that more people will start showing up at your gigs, or ending up on your official website where they can interact with you and buy whatever higher margin items you are offerring.

Getting government involved in music piracy just isn’t worth the trouble, the lobbying, or the tax dollars. The last thing this world needs is more government. There are much larger issues in the world that need attention. Instead of being smug about it, I think that embracing piracy as an opportunity rather than a threat is a much more productive philosophy.

Thoughts?

  • http://twitter.com/MicControl MicControl.com

    Great questions Chris, it’s something Ive always felt was a bit ridiculous too. Many bands have THRIVED on their music being shared and or ‘pirated’ – one great example of a semi-recent band is Dispatch who leveraged Napster and ended up being one of the most successful independent acts in history (fyi they have recently announced a new tour, and still being completely independent have gone to sellout a 3 night run at Red Rocks… damn impressive if you ask me). And honestly, the same can go for blogging too – Ive never ONCE cared if my articles were republished, redistributed, etc. etc. as long as the content is properly attributed, you are essentially leveraging other people’s networks to expand your own reach.

    Great question (and I love that pic, nice find!)

  • Anonymous

    It’s a tough one. I don’t know about ‘embracing’ piracy … but I do agree that it’s pointless to get too worked up about it. Recent studies have shown that most piracy involves movies rather than music anyway.

    I’m not sure about the ‘exposure’ argument either … so many artists are releasing free material that there’s a glut of it. Plus it’s so easy to hear streamed music these days … it doesn’t have to be downloaded to be heard.

    Personally, I favour the idea of educating people about the costs of creating recorded music of high quality, so that increasing numbers of people are happy to actually buy their music – directly from the artist, wherever possible.

  • http://twitter.com/helenaustin helenaustin

    Nicely put…

    Obviously I would prefer people buy my music but there is a small part of me that enjoys seeing people pirating my music through Google alerts. ( and no one has ever broken into my home to steal my CDs!)

    It doesn’t cost me anything, as these people would probably never have bought my music anyway, but they are still listening to it and passing it on which is never a bad thing. I make music so people will listen.

  • http://twitter.com/mike_venti Mike Venti

    Personally, I’ve always just treated recorded music with a kind of “free culture” mentality.

    The act of listening to music isn’t the product. It’s the act of putting that music onto a tangible medium (vinyl, CD) and selling that. Or selling the live show and merch that goes along with it. Or the endless other monetizing opportunities that can be made available to musicians.

    Every songwriter in history is borrowing and refining elements from the songwriters that came before them. Some more-so than others (think Led Zeppelin). To view something as intangible as a melody or song as medium to “pirate” seems ridiculous to me.

    In my opinion, the music itself is a part of culture which should be shared and spread, so that it may influence others and in turn create more music.

    …And in my own experiences, I’ve had a lot more opportunities as a musician by giving the music away and monetizing in other areas.

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  • http://www.fraudinvestigationservices.org.uk Fraud Investigation Services

    Stop piracy! It is unfair to stole on producers and the men who had worked for a certain media just for profits. Every year billion dollars are wasted just because of piracy, please let us promote the fight against it.

  • Pezcore

    Sharing the music is great for exposure, but how is an artist supposed to repay the expense of an album that costs thousands of dollars? Touring? That costs additional money when you’re already in the hole. The fact is, bands have to keep digging deeper and deeper into their own pockets to even attempt to see a dollar in return for their hard work.

    These artists have made playing music a career- devoting time to being in a band over taking up a regular 9-5 job in their hometown. They get in debt through studio time, a producer, album design, printing, and marketing efforts. To support the album, they have to hit the road, which in turn puts them further in debt. Sure fans might buy Cds, posters and shirts (which cost even more money to create), but sometimes that only covers the cost of gas ($4 a gallon these days) and each member’s food for the day. Ever tried driving through the midwest? That’s a lot of driving time to play a show with few venues equal to New York, Los Angeles, or your hometown.

  • Roy Walter

    You are redefining the word piracy. One definition is “the unauthorized reproduction or use of a copyrighted book,recording, television program, patented invention,trademarked product, etc.” and no others vary greatly from this. The key is “unauthorized”. I also agree that free distribution is a wonderful thing, but that doesn’t mean I can tell artists, labels or anyone else how they should run their business. What you’re saying here is that we should first make an unauthorized copy against the will of the owner, then justify it by redefining what piracy is to suit our needs. There are many amazing artists who don’t tour, so by saying they should let you copy their music so more people show up at gigs just doesn’t work. The premium product here is music, not a lousy tee shirt.

    There are tons of great artists who are making a good living producing amazing music and either giving it away free or at very reasonable prices (some-pay-what-you-like). They have broken out of the traditional label model and deserve our business / attention.

  • Huge

    Strictly speaking, copying music files and sharing them with friends, etc, is NOT piracy, either. This is a point that US copyright law makes brutally clear: copying for personal use, while sometimes illegal is NOT a criminal act and is NOT piracy. Copying CDs or MP3s and selling them for commercial benefit – THAT’s piracy and it’s not acceptible in any way, shape or form.

    As a muso, I’m totally cool with that. I’m ecstatic that people want to copy and share my music – thanks! – but if you wanna sell it without sharing the proceeds with me, I’m pissed.

    I also feel really bad when the two get mixed up and the important difference is lost, which is what the Powers-that-be try to do so people will feel guilty. That’s just poor use of the language …

    Cheers,
    Huge

  • That dude

    I couldn’t agree more. I actually come from the standpoint that there is nothing at all wrong, morally or otherwise, with music “piracy”.

    As a professional musician, I am well aware of the harsh reality that us less commercial musicians make most of our money through gigs and touring. Even if we did sell records, the revenue generated from such would be woefully insignificant. Anyway, it’s the record company that makes most of the money, not the band/artist. The RIAA has demonized the harmless act of sharing music by labelling it “piracy” and “theft” and other such nonsense. The media has sensationalised this to the point of mania.

    Furthermore, it is incredibly annoying to see multi-million dollar acts such as Metallica bitching because some poor kid with no money downloaded their music. That is disgusting to say the least.. How could you possibly be that stingy when you’re worth that much? People who are anal-retentive on something as trivial as music sharing show that they care more for money than for music.

    Anyway, CDs are knowingly overpriced.. I myself prefer the CD format but I have all the empathy in the world for people who “pirate” music.

  • D. Duran

    From an ethical standpoint, I believe an artist has every right to be angry and seek legal action when their recordings are unwillingly sold for profit or bootlegged by a shady record label. It’s the intellectual property of the artist, who typically writes and composes their own songs. Not to mention, the artist has developed their own way of performing a song, which is documented within the recording.  In 2011, a judge ruled in favor of singer Paul Collins, whose  rock group The Beat lost substantial revenue from a series of unauthorized bootleg recordings released by an underground record label. The recordings were unknowingly engineered during The Beat’s tours with The Police, Eddie Money and The Cure. Although the label argued that the recordings were tracked and mixed by an independent investor during the 1970s and 1980s, Collins was awarded an unspecified amount of damages. Collins was granted permission to digitally re-master and officially release the live recordings. In response to backlash and negative publicity from fans accusing him of being greedy, Collins attempted to make a public statement about piracy. In 2012, Collins made the recordings available to everyone as free MP3 download tracks to fans worldwide.Some fans might argue that Metallica was selfish to target Napster for illegally offering their music as MP3s. In all fairness, not everyone victimized by piracy are platinum-selling, wealthy artists in the caliber of Metallica. Paul Collins had just as much right to take legal action, but he turned the negative situation into a positive one by publicly releasing the pirated material as free downloads to his fans. Case in point, not all rock stars are selfish or “only in it for the money.” Musicians have a right to be paid for their intellectual property. 

  • Leon Steinberg

    With regards to music piracy and from an ethical standpoint, I believe an artist has every right to be angry and seek legal action when their recordings are unwillingly sold for profit or bootlegged by a shady record label or download site. It’s the intellectual property of the artist, who typically writes and composes their own songs. Not to mention, the artist has developed their own way of performing a song, which is documented within the recording.  

    In 2011, a judge ruled in favor of singer Paul Collins, whose  rock group The Beat lost substantial revenue from a series of unauthorized bootleg recordings released by an underground record label. The recordings were unknowingly engineered during The Beat’s tours with The Police, Eddie Money and The Cure. Although the label argued that the recordings were tracked and mixed by an independent investor during the 1970s and 1980s, Collins was unaware of these dealings and was awarded an unspecified amount of damages. Collins was granted permission to digitally re-master and officially release the live recordings. In response to backlash and negative publicity from fans accusing him of being greedy, Collins attempted to make a public statement about piracy. In 2012, Collins made the recordings available to everyone as free MP3 download tracks to fans worldwide.

    Some fans might argue that Metallica was selfish to target Napster for illegally offering their music as MP3s. In all fairness, not everyone victimized by piracy are platinum-selling, wealthy artists in the caliber of Metallica. Paul Collins had just as much right to take legal action, but he turned the negative situation into a positive one by publicly releasing the pirated material as free downloads to his fans. Case in point, not all rock stars are selfish or “only in it for the money.” Musicians have a right to be paid for their intellectual property. People who support music piracy only think about themselves. If a musician isn’t being paid for their work, how are they supposed to continue recording, writing, performing and touring? Musicians aren’t slaves and if they aren’t making enough money to function, then they might choose a different career path that doesn’t involve making music.  

  • Shnsjsjdndn

    Piracy is the markets way of balancing itself out. The record industry is finally getting what they deserve for years of high prices and bad music. If they want to make more money they need to adapt and come out with a model that’s more economically viable. The average person doesn’t have the money to pay $10 for a movie and $15 for every cd they might want to listen to. I don’t have a problem paying an artist but I’m not going to pay an executive riding in a private jet. Sorry.