Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


Who is Stealing from Whom?

I am a bit of stickler for intellectual property respect. That’s a trait, I am proud to say, I have passed on to my children. I glowed when one of them opted to buy the latest Phoenix Wright rather than play the pirated copy that his friend acquired. The Ace Attorney  himself would be proud too.

I get funny looks sometimes when I ask about fair use of stock photo images that I have bought (bought!) … and why would anyone pay $10 per month for Rhapsody when all the songs in the world are just sitting there for free on the internet waiting to be taken? The whole population of Malta (and China? and India?) thinks it a sign of mental illness to pay for anything that can be stolen for free.

As someone who makes a living from intellectual property, I feel a certain solidarity with people whose livelihoods are slowly leaching away into the pirate-infested deeps of the Internet. A couple of deep blemishes tarnish my otherwise squeaky-clean self-image though and I need the world to change a little to help me restore my faith in myself.

Firstly, don’t make it so damn difficult to comply with your rights and regulations. I’m not too good at dealing with bureaucracy. Make it easier for me to do the right thing. Maybe y’all could embed urls or licenses in digital images. Blogging software and browsers could do something smart with them like show attribution info and link back to the copyright owner.

Secondly, and this is the biggie, someone needs to clean up the cesspool in which sheet music swirls – and I am talking about the so-called legitimate sellers here, not the tab sites.

The tab sites are a soggy morass of pirated content with their gossamer-thin chemise of this is for private study only covering their shame.

And my shame.

But they are not the real criminals.

Every now and again, I decide I would feel so much better to pay for a piece of music  rather than download it for free but each time I see the price tag I conclude that the merchants are bigger pirates than the pirates are.

Five bucks for I Just Can’t Help Believing! How can they possibly justify that?

It reminds me of those third world markets where the shops have an outrageously marked-up price for locally-crafted kitsch when the exact same crap is on sale out in the street for a twentieth of the price. They can dismiss the vast majority of the market because one sucker keeps them in rice and beans for a month.

The market for sheet music is a sucker’s market. But, just as iTunes – despite the best efforts of the music industry sharks – made it easier to be moral than to sin, maybe someone out there can bring some sanity to the sheet music business.

Steve? Larry and Sergey? Jeff?

I read, the other day, that, compared to the software industry, the entire music business is relatively tiny. One of the tech titans could buy up the whole thing with spare change the way Russian billionaires buy up English football teams.

How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. – jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis?

Google Should Buy up the Music Industry

Sheet music on my Kindle or iPad? How awesome would that be? I’d be sending you 99c every couple of hours, Jeff. Just make it easy for me to do the right thing. I’ll pay.

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3 responses to Who is Stealing from Whom?

georgina April 23, 2011

I stopped reading at “Malta”:(

Stuart Thompson May 10, 2011

I’m a stickler for IP and copyright as well. However, I share your frustrations about how difficult some companies make it to do the right thing. I’ve bought a few stock photos for blogging and giving presentations, but have been frustrated to find so many others using the same images for free all over the web.

We’re nearing a dangerous inflection point with piracy where distributors face either going out of business or gouging their few remaining legal customers to keep them alive. Neither prospect is appealing. I work to evangelize the benefits of respecting copyright and IP amongst those I meet as I don’t know how else to tackle the problem.

I doubt Google will buy the music industry, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to run the same risks as Amazon. Sooner or later the music industry has to give. There are a finite number of people in the world available to purchase the wealth of music out there and the longer the system is a mess the more of that finite population gets an illegal copy from a friend. The music moguls have to move while the market still exists.

Kevin Lawrence May 10, 2011

Since I posted this, I came across this story – Righthaven sues Drudge – about a company that sues bloggers (not just well-known ones like Drudge) on behalf of newspapers when bloggers use their images without permission.

The whole IP bureacracy needs a serious overhaul, IMO. It would be so easy to use technology to embed copyright claims into images etc and have browsers (and other media players) do the right thing. It wouldn’t prevent dishonest users, but it would make it easier for honest users to stay honest.

They should get on that.

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