Song stealing suits commence

The RIAA has finally started suing major music thieves, starting with a few hundred people who’d each “shared” over a thousand tunes. One file thief’s reaction was typical:

Another defendant, Lisa Schamis of New York, said her Internet provider warned her two months ago that record industry lawyers had asked for her name and address, but she said she had no idea she might be sued. She acknowledged downloading ?lots? of music over file-sharing networks.

?This is ridiculous,? said Schamis, 26. ?People like me who did this, I didn?t understand it was illegal.?

?I can understand why the music industry is upset about this, but the fact that we had access to this as the public, I don?t think gives them the right to sue us. It?s wrong on their part,? said Schamis, who added she is unemployed and would be unable to pay any large fine or settlement.

OK, perhaps she was genuinely in the dark and didn’t know that what she was doing was wrong. Perhaps those of us who know better can help those who don’t understand this behavior by calling it by its name. So from now on, instead of calling it “file sharing” let’s call it “song stealing” the better to educate the masses. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Here’s a statement from songwriter Hugh Prestwood on song stealing:

Hugh Prestwood, number-one Country Music hit songwriter:
Dear File-sharers,

What is becoming increasingly clear is that the great majority of you truly feel no guilt about the “sharing” of what I have created and own — my music. You have lumped together many professions artists, songwriters, engineers, producers, publishers, etc. into one big ugly corporate caricature — a rich and corrupt industry that can be stolen from remorselessly. Additionally, in your “yes, Virginia, there is a free lunch” mentality, you have unthinkingly devalued songs to the extent that you perceive them as trifles something of little value to be partaken and enjoyed at no cost. Moreover, you have unfairly condemned me and my record industry peers for bringing the law to bear against you. In classic “blame the victim” reasoning, you lay the responsibility for my losses at my feet, saying, in essence, that the problem is not your theft, but rather my inability to prevent it.

Well, file-sharers, I righteously say “bull.” I, songwriter/publisher, labored for years to create those songs, and I really do legally own them. I not you — have the right to control what happens to them, a right your technology does not trump. You are dead wrong to simply give my songs away and undermine my only chance to profit from my creations. Don’t tell me that I should gracefully pardon your hand in my pocket. Don’t insinuate to me that, because your thievery is so facile, perhaps I should find some other way to make a living. Your “hobby” is taking the bread off my table, and I have every right to use any and all legal means possible to discourage your destructive practices.

Let us come together. You often love what I create, and I need to make a living. I have been trying for several years now to find a way for us both to be happy where you can easily acquire my songs and I can be justly rewarded for my creativity. Try as I might, however, thus far I have been unable to find a way to compete with “free”. You must help me.

First, you must wake up from your fantasy that songs should rightly be free, and that no one is being hurt by your theft. I and all my fellow songwriters (among others) are seeing our futures seriously threatened. Second, you must “raise your consciousness” to where you understand that a career in music is brutally serendipitous and difficult to maintain. The ability of artists and songwriters to have any kind of dependable, longer-term, income is entirely linked to their ability to control their copyrights. Without copyright protection, aspiring artists and songwriters had best not ever consider quitting their day jobs.

Finally, you must realize that in real life you really do get what you pay for. If you won’t pay for music, you will soon be receiving a product commensurate with your thriftiness. A society that doesn’t value a commodity enough to pay for it will soon see the creation and production of that commodity cease.

–Hugh Prestwood

2 thoughts on “Song stealing suits commence”

  1. So, Mr. Prestwood claims he owns and has the right to declare what may be done with his artistic work after it has left his head and become part of the mass conciousness.
    How, then does he propose to excersize his ownership? Music is not only spread over the internet – it is recorded from the radio, or from originals loaned by a friend. It is sung in the streets, halls, backyards, and bathrooms of the world and spreads like a computer virus – transmitted orally and received aurally.
    In this age, when recorded music is another form of information that can be stored indefinitely, and infinite copies made, if an ‘artist’ wishes to survive in his chosen field, he must learn to turn from hoarding his creations, and instead focus on developing his stage presence.
    Stage presence is the one thing that can’t be transmitted in the data stream.
    We’ll have to change our mindset. As information flow becomes more liberal, we have to stop thinking of songs as advertisement for albums. The music must instead be used to attract listeners to come to see you.
    It’s that, or communism, really – and as I understand it, you Yanks don’t fancy that notion.
    It’s funny to note that the electronic age is taking the art of musicmaking back closer to its source in live performance….

  2. I am so glad they are making an example of someone.After all what better way than to hang a few than to encourage this `facile thievery’. There should be a system where we can pay cash for every tune that sticks to mind or for every nugget of wisdom that one hear- for example, Mr Prescotts speech – esp the part `gracefully pardon your hand in my pocket’. I have suggested various solutions to artist friends of mine.Perhaps a chip imbedded that would make us pay the painter if we happen to enjoy his art …the possibilities are endless.

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