Breaking Butterflies

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.

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By SJB

4 comments on “Breaking Butterflies

  1. “…that particular album isn’t available as a download and the CD’s are out of stock.”

    one paragraph later…

    “…if someone shares it without my permission, they are literally taking money out of my pocket.”

    which is it, now?

    • It’s both. There’s more than one album. The first quote refers to an album that is currently (but not permanently) unavailable and was put on various illegal download sites. The second paragraph refers to other works. It’s my choice how my works are distributed. What’s the problem with that?

  2. This is off at a bit of a tangent but I think it is an example of why illegal downloading goes on to a certain extent. I understand there are possibly reasons to do with record companies but as a fan of artists from all over the world, it annoys me that I have to go through hoops to buy material legally from sites such as iTunes. To use the Japanese iTunes store for example you have to buy a Japanese iTunes gift card somehow, then set up a second iTunes account (pretending to have a Japanese address) before you can buy tracks. In that case the artist still gets paid although technically it’s illegal. I just don’t get it.

    YMO have managed to work out a worldwide deal so that you can buy their albums in any iTunes store and Amazon etc. That’s the way to go, no excuse for illegal downloads.

    The other thing that gets me riled up is when great albums are out of print and people want to buy them! I don’t get approached about Japan but I do get enquiries about the guys solo work and its frustrating to have to tell people to keep watching eBay etc as that’s the only way to find certain albums. Have you seen how much “Indigo Falls” and “-ism” are selling for now? They need to be available again. Why can’t all back catalogue be available for legal download?

    Final point, I do get very very annoyed when people ask for copied of or share supposed “rare” albums that are still in print and available to order if people bothered to look.

    • iTunes is a pain in general. I hardly ever use the store. Indigo Falls will be available for download eventually, it’s just a matter of us getting round to it. I think that sometimes old stuff can’t be made available due to the difficulty of ascertaining ownership. I did a song for an ad once that had had to be recreated due to the fact that they couldn’t trace the singer and under French law her permission, and not just that of the label/publisher, etc., had to be obtained before they could use the track.

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