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Journal: On this whole piracy thing

Journal by Grape Shasta

What universal moral code is offended by making copies of electronic reproductions of music? People use these emotional terms "piracy" and "stealing" to describe copying music, but I find that absurd.

I think it is necessary to distinguish between the legal issue (breaking copyright law) and the moral issue (stealing, if that's what it is.) Noone is debating whether copying music is against the law, but I'm questioning why it's against the law.

I do believe in absolute right and wrong, and I think stealing is clearly wrong. But stealing involves removing something from another person's possession, such that they are somehow damaged. When someone downloads some Band X mp3's, nothing was taken from Band X.

What about Band X's ability to make money from those recordings? I don't think this is their inherent right, but rather it's a right given to them by rediculous copyright law.

If Band X wants to come to my town and perform, I'll be happy to pay for entry to their show. They're offering a service, and I choose to pay to receive it. But if they've already made a music recording, for whatever reason, and I have the opportunity to copy that recording, I don't see why I should not.

If I overhear a joke, I can retell it without stealing from anyone. If a conversation leads to a good idea, I can utilize that idea for personal gain without paying royalties to the other parties. If a contact helps me to find a job, that person is not entitled to a lein on my salary.

Those examples are all parallel to my computer learning how to reproduce a song, and then reproducing it for me to enjoy, without me being indebted to the originator of the song.

This is true, because intellectual property is no property at all. Ideas cannot be owned. If you don't want other people to use your ideas, keep them a secret. If you don't want people to copy your music, don't let it leak out into the public.

I agree with one observation I heard, that if copying music is the same as piracy, then crossing the street where there's no crosswalk is the same as setting fire to cars! It's simply a case of exaggeration to stir up emotions and to avoid a clear view of what's really going on.

Copyright law exists in order to encourage the creation of new products and creative works. I think that in a limited form, it may have its place. But I target music specifically, because the result of copyright law is worse music, not better. It has turned what should be artistic into a big money game.

With the current state of technology, anyone can be a recording artist with worldwide distribution. Without copyright law, musicians would record for the love of music. The truly gifted would rise to the top, become well known, and be able to support themselves from performances and other opportunities afforded by fame. If this means some huge company can't commandeer all the radio stations, record stores, and music television shows to make Britney Spears a sensation, I must say I won't be too sad.

I would support certain musician's rights. First, it seems reasonable that artists are properly credited for any public use of their works. If a modified form of their works is being used, that should be made clear as well. Also, perhaps artists could control for-profit uses of their works. I can copy freely, but only they can allow packaging and selling their works. I think many people would be willing to pay $4 or $5 for a nice Band X CD with artwork rather than trying to download it.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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