The drama surrounding the whole SOPA and PIPA bills was kind of fun to see play out. It was like the
corporate interests legislators who were behind the bills had absolutely no idea that their proposals might have unintended consequences: ones that would generate a firestorm of passion. Between the website blackouts and the avalanche of phone calls and emails that inundated congressional offices, it appears that some eyes have finally been opened.
And then, shortly after the day of the blackout, the Feds swoop in to shut down the file-sharing site MegaUpload. Uh…so what, exactly, did we need those new laws for? And was MegaUpload set up to make money off of film and music piracy? Maybe, but those answers are almost beside the point.
First, let’s talk about more unintended consequence. Several other filesharing sites immediately freaked out and began to delete files and/or suspend services. What this means is not that food has been put back on the table of
corporate executive wronged artists. No. Instead, a huge amount of interesting, rare, and perfectly legal content has gone missing. There are a surprising amount of music bloggers, libraries, and archivists who curate the unknown, making it available to the public. The point is love of the music, not money. Do the RIAA-backed major labels care about such things? Nah! I used to frequent a site that made available vinyl rips of old easy-listening and Exotica records, all of which were out of print. There were no ads on the site, so it was purely music fans digging for treasure. They were taken down by one of the copyright holders. Sadly, the major label that owned some of the rights had absolutely zero interest in re-issueing the material. Pathetic.
Now please, don’t get me wrong here. I’m kind of uncomfortable with the idea that everything should be “free.” It’s not. Artists (and sometimes labels, though modern technology and crowd-funding is — thankfully — making that less common) spend a lot of time and money putting together a recording. So the idea of not paying for it just because that’s a possibility? I’m sorry kids, that just doesn’t seem right to me.
On the other hand, the industry discussions of monetary loss seem to equate full opportunity cost to each download. They then take that cost and multiply it by a fudge factor (which is created from such super-incredibly-reliable data such as survey results….no, I’m not kidding), resulting in eye-poppingly huge numbers. Millions! Hundreds of millions!! Hundreds of billions!!!
Oh puhleeze. Here, I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. Sure, people aren’t buying music like they used to. But no amount of scorched earth policy — which is really hurting other areas of the art world — will put that genie back. In the meantime, you will spend millions of dollars on all manner of legal activity. That’s money from which you will never, ever see a return.
So why not spend it on trying to boost your profits by doing what you used to do: facilitate the making of art? Fire some of your accountants, consultants, and lawyers and bring in people who actually care about music. Do you actually know any of those people? I’m serious.