On Stealing what I Already Own
Ars Technica recently posted an article regarding the testimony of Jennifer Pariser, who is the head of litigation for Sony (check out the full text here). One of the questions during the trial was about making a copy of a song for personal use. Ms. Pariser answered, “When an individual makes a copy of a song himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.”
Jennifer’s response is just another example of the huge disconnect between the big record companies and their consumers.
The only reason anyone would want to “make a copy” of a song (aside from online file-sharing, which is a totally different matter) is for uses of a song that can’t currently or conveniently be accomplished with the song in CD form. My iPod doesn’t play CDs, so possessing the song in CD format means I can’t play it while I work out, while in the car (via my car’s iPod link), playing Xbox, on my Apple TV, etc. 99.9% of the music I own I pay for, and I love having the option to use the music however I want to. If I want to make a home movie and use some of my music as part of its soundtrack, I should be able to. If I want to have “My Humps” play anytime someone calls me, I should be able to (and I absolutely do!) I have over 6100 songs in our [mine and Amber’s] music library; practically all either ripped from CDs we bought or purchased through online music stores. Why shouldn’t I be able to use those songs in personal ways that augment my lifestyle?
If Sony BMG had their way, they would receive some sort of compensation anytime a consumer like me wanted to use music on a different device.
When it comes down to it, the real problem has to do with the falling profits of the existing record companies and their almost maniacal scramble attempting to generate the ridiculous amounts of money of their former glory days. The time is fast approaching (and is, in some ways, already here) where any artist can access the powerful distribution mechanisms previously only available to large record companies. Online stores, social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook, online radio, and the overall prevalence of the Internet as a whole are opening doors and leveling the playing field for all artists regardless of their record company.
That leaves large players like Sony BMG out in the cold as they are become less and less relevant. Granted: online file-sharing sites have hurt their sales, but not to the degree that they want to believe. The truth is that they set their expectations far too high in terms of future profits and failed to see the dramatic change the Internet has had and will continue to have on their core business.
Regardless of what the big record companies might say, the music business is not decreasing. There are more bands, and better artists, than there have ever been. And, with the proliferation of cheaper recording and distribution mediums, consumers have better access to their favorite music than they’ve ever had. The key here is to jump on board with technology instead of fighting a losing battle against it.
Look, I understand that we all have to eat. However, making money on the backs of other people just because you think you should be able to is wrong. Can you imagine how different our lives might be without being able to use music fairly? Can you imagine how different it would be if you had to buy a license to play a song in your car, your home, your office? Holding that boom-box up on the front lawn of your favorite squeeze wouldn’t seem such a good idea if you had to buy a license to “play a recorded medium in a public place” now would it.
I believe that most reasonable people see this line of thinking as absurd and immoral. I encourage those in the record companies to spend less time trying to sue their customers for playing their music and more time finding ways to change their business model that coincide with today’s technological economy. In short, get with the program!