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:
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.