Good Musicians

A relatively new ‘Pirate Party’ has emerged out of Sweden in the last few years. This party, founded in Sweden, and currently under the leadership of Rick Falkvinge has gained some momentum having landed a seat in the European Parliament. However, what’s really on their agenda?

So far, the key men from the Pirate movement have used arguments about how you cannot stop new technology from emerging, and to some extent, I agree. Rick Falkvinge explains how new technology traditionally replaces dying industry. Here’s their sketch:

“Well, not too long ago in my country of Sweden, men used to go out and cut ice and deliver it to the people and get paid to keep people’s food cold. Suddenly, the refrigerator came along. People did not need their ice to be delivered anymore. The Ice deliverers went out of business and were replaced by fridges.”he claims.

Well, that’s a fine analogy, except, it doesn’t really apply to P2p does it? You see, the refrigerator may have replaced ice deliveryman, however, the refrigerator did not share other people’s work in order to freeze the ice or cool the food. Yes, the refrigerator caused a shift in the economy and put the ice men out of business. The ‘fridge’ was the ‘new’ technology. But, people used the same food on the ice as they did with the fridge and they still paid for both the food and the fridge and even the ice deliveryman.

Music, Film, TV, media is like the food in the fridge. It is not as if the food disappeared just because there was a change in technology. I mean, people still buy food and refrigerators in Sweden, right? Music, which has fueled the use of new technology, has been created through hard work. People are still paying for food. But, with p2p, they aren’t paying for music.

Now, you might say that music has always been the ‘software’ that helped sell the ‘hardware’. In the past, records meant people had to buy record players, cassettes sold tape players and on for sometime now this applied to cd players (made by companies who owned the software (music), dvd players, ipods, computers and now it ultimately applies to world wide web access. At the end of the day, you have Creators who help sell the ‘hardware’, it is mainly access to creative content that has assisted in selling you broadband. Why do you think broadband has expanded so rapidly?

Falkvinge thinks that we need to ‘sacrifice’ a sector of our culture and industry in order to safeguard civil liberties. However, that kind of attitude is exactly what will fuel the fire underneath Big Business and Government ‘bonding’ that has taken place over the past year.

It is this whole ‘share’ word that the p2p community keeps using that is not ringing true. The last time I checked my dictionary the word ‘Share’ meant giving part of something you own to someone and as a result, you no longer have that part or ‘share’.

P2p users are not ‘sharing’ culture. Sharing is when you give someone a portion of something and once you give it, you no longer have that portion. End of. P2p users don’t share. P2p users ‘duplicate’. They ‘copy’. (Isn’t that why they are so hung up about copyright control?) They believe they have the right to copy whatever they want from whomever they want worldwide. Likewise, P2p users do not do anything ‘cultural’ during this duplication process. It is their PC’s that are doing the ‘copying’and they don’t need to know anything about the people that they are supposedly sharing the contents of their PC’s with.

Copying whereby everyone EXCEPT the creators are getting value and compensation is wrong. So far, nobody on the planet can truly come up with a justifiable argument for why ISPs, websites, users, or anyone else should all receive a benefit from using someone else’s work while the creators who have made those works are being oppressed.

P2p is an amazing form of distribution. But, still, the results and benefits of the technology remain imbalanced. The creators are being exploited to the benefit of the consumer, the ISPs, and the website owners.

The Pirate Party and a good portion of the P2p community somehow believe that artists and musicians should not be compensated or make a living from their work. (I realize that not all file-sharers feel this way; however, there is a great movement from this sector proclaiming that artists should not make a living from their music outside of gigging and perhaps t-shirt sales.) In fact, many will deliberately misinterpret Lawrence Lessig’s book ‘Free Culture’ to promote this viewpoint even though Lessig clearly states “A free culture is not a culture without property; it is not a culture in which artists don’t get paid. A culture without property, or in which creators cannot get paid, is anarchy, not freedom.”

So, how do you claim ‘free culture’, anti-censorship, pro- civil rights, anarchy and the oppression of an entire sector of the culture and economy all under one Pirate flag?

The head of the Pirate Party stating that artists don’t have a right to earn a living from their music. Musician’s study and hone their craft for years. Just because technology can duplicate their works doesn’t mean that a solution should not be found that compensates for this injustice. The technology is P2p, the technology is Internet. Music is music. It has not changed. It is still of huge importance in our culture. The mp3 + P2p or any other content delivery system + Broadband is simply a combination of a relatively new format for music with a new distribution system and new ‘hardware’. Music is like the software that sells the hardware. Music has not changed, only the format. We were keeping food cold whether it was on ice or in a fridge. Still food.

An ISP provider today generally can supply your phone, TV and Internet. A Provider like Virgin Media or Sky has to pay the creators of the television programs money to give you access to watch them down the same digital pipe that supplies your Internet. Yet, they don’t pay any of the creators of the Internet content a single penny. In a highly competitive TV world, if they were only to show programs they acquired for nothing rather than the premium content programs they have to buy to attract subscribers, then the subscribers would all signed up to their competition, would not they? Although music is premium content on the Internet, they are allowed to circumvent the free distribution of music whilst making huge profits from the traffic it produces. Come on, look at the margins that telecom companies are making and with the projected expansion of broadband, it would not be hard to generate money to be distributed to artists.

At the moment, the Pirate Party indirectly stands for the oppression of the artistic community.

How could p2p, the Internet, social media and the apathetic masses really help out here? Thanks to the Pirate movement and their radical stance about oppressing the artistic community rather than suggesting a solution and the RIAA taking a radical stance against new forms of distribution rather than embracing it from the onset, we are left with an apathetic majority of people who will be effected by the new laws which are being formed through a joint-venture between the Government, The Telecom corporations, and The Big Industry that everyone claims ripped them off all these years. These new laws will ultimately invade your privacy unless the apathetic majority wakes up and begins to look at potential solutions.

Solutions:

If we don’t try to come to a compromise that suits everyone, government is going to march in and that’ll be the end of it.

1) The Internet needs a Compulsory global license for Music to enable websites to calculate their margins and contributions for the use of music and other media would become more standardized, which essentially reduces costs, and create a fair playing field.

2) A levy on the ISPs needs to be introduced. The Internet needs to be levied at its access points. Telecom companies are your Internet passport. They are the gateway between you and the media on the Internet. Telecoms are expanding rapidly even during a global recession. The telecoms generate huge revenues and turn over massive profits. They are selling connections and bandwidth based on the premise that people want to access culture. A weighted percentage of their profits should be allocated to the compensation of the creators of the media that people are accessing (copying). This would allow a passage of ‘free culture’ on the Internet whereby piracy could become obsolete. This levy could be introduced without raising the cost of Broadband to the end user.

3) Government subsidies: The government wants to see jobs being created. As the impact that a levy on the ISPs and a compulsory license for music on the Internet would essentially help create a cultural expansion on-line, so would the impact on job creation and artistic development. This would help free up government resources into the regeneration of music at the grass roots level rather than the mass seizure of resources that has been wasted on fighting piracy.