While this argument is thoughtful and well-said, it misses a key point. Record labels contracts washed away the artists rights the day they were signed. And that goes back to the 40s and 50s.
The artists may own the songs that they write (and now get paid 9 cents a copy -- half of which goes to their publisher) but very, very few own the sound recording copyrights. That's how Sony got away with paying the Bay City Rollers a total of $250,000 (their original advance), sold 70 million copies of their albums and never paid them another dime for more than 40 years (they "lost" the original contract, so they "didn't know how to break it up" among the members and, as a result just kept it all). I heard a few years ago that they band was finally taking Sony to court, but no news ever came out about the outcome.
Roger McGuinn testified before Congress that he never made a dime off of anything The Byrds did. The only album Merle Haggard ever actually profited from was an independent jazz release. Motown artists were paid $50 a song. One of the best-documented accounts is on Janis Ian's website, detailing how she still owes money from a contract in the late 60s or early 70s, and she doesn't have the right to sell her own early work because her former record label refuses to sell her old albums. She can't even buy copies of her own records to resell. These are just a few stories off the top of my head, but there are thousands of them, all just as despicable.
Sure, there are a few like McCartney, Springsteen and the Rolling Stones that can still fill a stadium -- and they are still making a comfortable living -- but for every one of those there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other artists that sold millions and millions of albums who will continue to play clubs and the Indian casino circuit until they die, just to pay their rent. They can't afford to retire because they never got paid for selling any records and never will.
While things have changed a little in the last decade (bands breaking away from their labels and becoming independent), current standard operating procedure is that you still never receive any money from recordings after your advance and if you do, you should fire your agent for failing to negotiate properly. If an artist actually gets to audit their record label (there's like a 7-year waiting period between audits) and finds that the label owes them money (which is the case 99.99% of the time), the label usually settles for 10 percent of the amount due, so they still keep 90 percent of what they were trying to skim in the first place.
In 2013, artists are supposed to start regaining the rights to material that is 35 years old, as the result of a law passed in 1976 which is just on the verge of actually coming into effect. The RIAA has already made it clear that they have no intention whatsoever of abiding by this law and will fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.
The greatest pirates the recording artists have ever seen (or will ever see) are the members of the RIAA.