By Vexen Crabtree 2012
The amount of music and film downloaded illegally off of the internet far outstrips the amount that is properly bought from shops and copyright owners. A form of mass-delusion has taken over two generations now, where theft is rationalized, justified and accepted, based on some rather poor arguments. It is simply the truth that wishful thinking and selfishness make people blind to the truth: downloading and copying music and films without paying for it is illegal and, even, immoral. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states "everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author"1.
Tough luck. If you can't afford something, you can't have it. If it is essential to your survival (like warmth, food, shelter) then that's a different matter. But music and film are luxuries, for entertainment, not essential staples. People do not have a right to the products of other's work. You have to pay for it. If it is priced too high, then, that does not mean it becomes acceptable to steal it.
Because we don't like the way they work does not give us right to try and harm them unless they're actually doing something wrong. Enforcing freer arts through criminal means is no less problematic than the music companies themselves. The fundamental fact is that music and film media are luxuries, and not a right, so it is hard to see how there can be a moral argument for trying to force them to reduce prices. The ulterior motive is selfishness, not altruism towards the music industry. If the point was to do what is best for bands and artists, then, the solution is to pay for their CDs properly.
There is no right to try out music or films before buying them. Many publishers do put out some tracks so that you can sample bands. Another good way is to buy music compilations and pick up bands you like from those.
The argument that music-downloaders are trying out music while deciding if they want to buy it is undermined by the sheer quantity of music that is downloaded and listened to repeatedly without any attempt to go back and legitimately pay for what has been taken.
The music industry has become dominated by churned-out pop music, shallow and formulaic, with no depth, little variety, and very little genuine artistry.
The solution is not to download what you want, for free.
As masses of music is downloaded, the music industry and individual bands have no idea about what is popular and what people like. By buying albums and singles (or downloading free ones legitimately given out by publishers) you are improving the music industry by giving it direction. The less people buy, the less the music industry can produce anything but the most banal mass-selling mass-market predictable middle-of-the-road material. In order to get sales, they have to popularize. That is the result of illegal downloads: the loss of quality in mainstream music.
Keep swapping personal, not via large scale music and film swapping software. Don't download loads of albums, select individual tracks and use them as a test of whether you want to buy the albums or not. Don't give away your music; just give away small scale samplers and compilation so others might choose to buy it, too. Never allow anonymous access to mass downloads.
Just because you can get it from the Internet doesn't mean you should. Downloading and copying music and films that you haven't paid for, is not only illegal, but immoral. Producers - of anything - have a right to charge other people for their work. Only selfishness and wishful thinking makes people think otherwise. Aside from harming industry and artists, you simply do not have a right to copy other's art or music just because you like it and/or think it is too expensive. It is thinly disguised childishness to say that "I have a right to download my music" before you've even paid for it. Given the volumes and volumes that people tend to download, all the arguments that people are trying it out before buying it are obviously false. None of you are tricking anyone. Get honest, people.
(1948) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations website has a full copy of this document here: www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml (accessed 2014 May 14).