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The Music Piracy Debate Marches On

image from cache2.allpostersimages.com Earlier this week, Hypebot asked readers if they were over the whole "music piracy" thing, and somewhat surprisingly a resounding "NO" echoed through the comments. I say "surprisingly" because you surprise and delight us every day with your comments. While music piracy is certainly an important topic that we would never stop writing about, it's always good to check in and seek your opinions. And if your comments, rallying, and blog posts are any indication, the music piracy debate marches on, which it should.

Piracy is an important topic that's key to understanding the plight of the record industry in the digital age. But, one reader, who I respect, commented that it surprises them to still read about music piracy on Hypebot, so I decided to ask you if you felt the same. (You didn't.) Thus, Hypebot will keep investigating and prodding into music piracy. At this point, the music piracy debate encompasses egos and involves anyone willing to intellectually (but mostly emotionally) stone another writer to death. No one wins. It is just a matter of who is willing to wield the largest (or most irrational) argument and stick with it. Given that this is the Internet, discussions about music piracy shift wildly from chilling intellectualism to all-caps and personal attacks. Even I had to resist flame-warring with Wired for declaring, "the age of music piracy is officially over." But, in the past, even I have accused journalists of oversimplification and even insinuated that one knew less about the debate than a high-school student. Nonetheless, it is worth highlighting the comments readers wrote to inspire us to continue the music piracy debate.

(The following comments are edited for length and clarity.)

Jake said...

I can only hope this 'debate' does not die. If we allow those that 'support piracy' to dominate the discussion (which, unfortunately has been the case), arguably the most important 'product' our species makes will continue to suffer…

I for one am deeply concerned that the art of music will continue to be marginalized… If you have 10$ where will you spend it? If you spend it on specialty coffees and not at an indie music shop (online or in your community), we will have cities littered with corporate coffee shops and those that dedicate their lives to music manning the machines, which is already happening.

Cjay said...

As an emerging singer/songwriter, I have struggled with and tried not to think of this too much for it scares me. On the one hand, the technology that we have now is great for exposure… but then comes the question that causes me fear....

Is it actually possible to make a living as an artist anymore and in the near future? The very technology that could help me create a groundswell in more than one area could also be the things that keep me working at a cafe. Will we return to where artists and musicians can barely exist on their income as in the early 1900's when they were nearly 'lower class'? If so, then what?

BerkleeBrianJ said...

To ignore music piracy is to say that music has no value, intrinsic or monetary.

It also ignores all aspects of intellectual property laws. Music piracy is a symptom - it's a symptom of technology out-pacing business and legislature.

It's a symptom of a changing market, and a changing consumer mind-set.

I would argue that music piracy is the driver of all music business innovation we have seen in the past 10 years! Yes, it is incumbent on the Government to address the legal implications, but it is up to us as a music community to make piracy undesirable and obsolete.

Benji Rogers said...

The problem is one of apathy, not piracy. Pirates are just not emotionally invested in the music they consume. I use the word "consume" deliberately. It seems to me that "Consumers" are the ones pirating the music and not the fans. The industry needs to realize the difference and so do most artists.

T. D. said...

Just because the piracy battle hasn't been won yet doesn't mean it's a fruitless fight. The "industry" has adopted many new technologies that make piracy less appealing without destroying the economies of recorded music, while also turning their focus to punishing the assholes who profit from making that music available (via ads on their sites, etc.) but avoiding prosecution of individual consumers.

Despite taking a few bad detours (DRM, mass litigation, ad-supported free services, paid on-demand services, etc.), we've come a long way over 10+ years.

All of these individual piracy topics have been very important and helped shape where we are today. If the piracy issue had been purely linear then the conversation would be stale.

However, the evolution is (and continues to be) far too dynamic to ignore.

RobbertvOoijen said...

Music piracy has been a widely discussed subject in the world of music and technology, especially during the last decade.

Today, music piracy still is one of the bigger issues in new media and it is often used as an example to learn from for other fields that fail to innovate.

Music piracy is one of the biggest debates in the tech world and we should continue this debate. Here are some reasons why this debate is still relevant in 2011. While many of the purely anti-piracy people probably won't agree…

I am convinced of the innovating forces of (music) piracy…

Many pirate services are a useful source for market insight (think of Napster), piracy helps in establishing new markets (think of English radio pirates in the 1960s), and services that are initially associated with piracy often evolve into legitimate and influential businesses (think of YouTube). Do you want to miss coverage about the next Grooveshark, YouTube, or Napster? Not writing about piracy will only further bias the anti-piracy sentiment of the debate.

During the past decades, anti-piracy associations such as the RIAA have grown and so have their budgets for lobbying and influencing people via marketing campaigns. The RIAA for example spend $90 million on lobbying in the past decade. Competing against such a big marketing machine that often gives a very biased view on the music piracy debate is very hard, but necessary.


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