I woke this morning to the news that the FBI has taken down the filesharing site Megaupload, due to piracy/copyright infringement claims.
Firstly, let me state that as an artist I am vehemently opposed to copyright infringement and piracy. I have found my own work on illegal download sites, and it’s not pleasant.
I don’t agree with the argument that people who steal first will then pay for it later. In this case they can’t anyway: that particular album isn’t available as a download and the CD’s are out of stock.
I also don’t agree with the idea that it’s ‘getting your stuff out there’. It’s up to me who gets to hear my music for nothing. I have no band, so don’t gig, so there is nothing to promote but the recorded work itself, and if someone shares it without my permission, they are literally taking money out of my pocket.
Whilst I agree with copyright laws, they do little, if anything, to help the ‘smaller’ artists, or indeed any artists. As any research into Spotify will show you, it’s the big record companies that end up making all the money.
When I first started making music, demos were copied onto cassette tape and posted out to record labels. This was an expensive business, and there was talk at the time of placing a levy on blank cassette tapes (i.e. price them out of the market) to stop piracy. In effect, the people who would have been most hurt by this were struggling musicians.
A few years ago, the copy protection software on CD albums would take out people’s operating systems if they attempted to play it in a computer. Fair enough if someone is intending to run off illegal copies, but what about musicians who need the music on their computer because they have to learn a song, or record a cover version? They certainly don’t need their computer to be out of action when they’re in the middle of a job.
I use Megaupload for storing and sharing music and sound files that I have created for myself and others. I do session work in my home studio and upload the files so the clients can download them. I also use Megaupload to get my own music to my record label.
The files I have up on Megaupload are confidential, pre-release material intended only for the recipient’s use. Surely the FBI must be breaking the law by accessing, deleting, or blocking these files.
As always, the innocent are punished, and the professional pirates will just find a way around it as they always do. Piracy hurts artists, but so does this heavy-handed approach of penalising legitimate users for sharing their own work.
Many people equate the term ‘artist’ with ‘rich and famous’ when in reality the majority of people working in all areas of the arts barely scrape a living. Stealing their work takes food out of their mouths, but so does destroying their work in the hope of catching a few wrongdoers. Not so much breaking a butterfly upon a wheel as setting off a nuclear bomb to kill a handful of ants.