The Evils of Downloading

Occasionally I listed to the Kidd Kraddick show in the morning. As much as I love Walton and Johnson, I just needed a break from the heaviness. Unfortunately W & J are the only decent DJs/ Talk Show on the radio. So I listen to the country stations for the music, and then when the Djs start talking I change the station, from time to time landing on the Kidd show. I’m not exactly a fan. They’re affable. And they can be entertaining depending on the day. And I like Big Al, so it works out as long as I don’t listen to them steadily.

Today they had Kelly Rowland on (formerly of Destiny’s Child, currently a solo R & B artist). I actually listened to most of the interview because Rowland seemed to be a decent, down to Earth guest and they all seemed to be having a good time. And then it took a turn for the worse. Rowland asked the leader, Kidd, what he thought of the state of the music industry. And he proceeds to go on what felt like a prepared speech from the music industry about how people need to understand that they’re stealing from artists. I had to shut the radio off. Shut the fuck up, you ass-kissing prick.

That just annoys the shit out of me. Not that he’s entirely wrong, but because that’s the lines that the corporations give you in order to invalidate anyone else’s argument. There are a lot of issues with new media and technology like downloading and burning (both music and DVD’s) which have yet to be resolved.
Downloading is most certainly stealing. No argument around it. Is burning? That’s up for debate. If I buy a cd or DVD and my friend wants to try it because they’re not necessarily big fans, is that theft? No, it’s not. It’s my property, and if I want to give my friend a copy, I purchased it. It isn’t preventing a sale, because in most cases, they aren’t going to buy it one way or the other. At the least, they would just borrow it from me and give it back. And in actuality money is still being spent, because we have to buy software and CDs/ DVDs in order to make the copies.

And looking at it honestly, the new mediums and tricks are irrelevant to the argument. There is no difference between downloading a song now and recording it on the radio back when I was a kid. NO DIFFERENCE. At least not fundamentally. It is a thousand times easier and faster to download. Back then you had to wait by the radio for hours with your finger on the button for the DJ to play the song, and hope that you started recording before the song was too far along, praying that the DJ wouldn’t talk over it, or worse sing along with it. And the same goes for movies. We used to record movies on VHS. We’d rent them and copy them, or use a friend’s copy. For fuck’s sake… THEY SOLD BLANK TAPES AT BLOCKBUSTER/ VIDEO PLUS! Are you going to tell me that Kidd Kraddick never did any of those things? Or that he considers them immoral? Bullshit. It didn’t destroy the entertainment industry then, and it isn’t destroying it now.

The key factors for any consumer is cost vs. value. When I was a kid, recording music off the radio, it was because there was a song I like. Maybe I needed to save up my allowance so I could buy a $9.99 cassette tape. Or maybe I simply realized that the musician in question put out crap and I only wanted the one song. Often the case was the former, but most of the time it was the latter. That’s the worse thing about the music industry. They put out more shit than a manure factory, and they expect you to pay top dollar for it, even though new mediums are cheaper than ever to produce. There are an abundance of artists like the Dixie Chicks out there. In the late 90s I bought the Dixie Chicks’ first two CDs based on the strength of their singles. And you know what? I got ripped off! I spent 18 bucks per CD, and they were both gigantic pieces of shit. You know why? Because the DC’s, like most artists, produce four good songs on every album to get you to buy it, and then make a bunch of half-assed songs as filler. By then, you’ve already spent the money though. But you still like them! Maybe it was fluke. So you buy the second CD. And there they are at the end of the tracks, laughing at you. Fooled you twice, dipshit! So if all they’re going to do is sell singles, why should I buy the album? Should I spend a dollar fifty per song on legal downloading? No, because then you’re still spending top dollar and you don’t even have the physical evidence of the purchase. And as for DVDs, again, it comes down to price. Are you telling me that a DVD which cost 37 cents to make is worth 55 times that amount? Bullshit. My favorite show is Babylon 5, yet I still don’t own a copy of any of the seasons, because Warner Brothers deems the value of it to be 80 dollars per season. THATS ALMOST AS MUCH FOR THE DVD’S AS IT WAS FOR THE DVD PLAYER!!! And yet I still own about a thousand dollars worth of DVDs. Most of it is from Television season box sets. It’s an addiction of mine. Some of them were as a result of watching a friend’s burned copy of one of the discs. That’s right!!!!!! The corporations made money off of a burned DVD!!!! They made a lot of money off of it, from me alone. And when I see a great movie in theatres, I buy the DVD. When I hear a great artist on the radio, one that hasn’t burned me in the past, I buy the CD. But when the corporations put out shitty music and movies, fuck you, I work for a living. THEY DON’T.

It isn’t about the value of intellectual property for a corporation, it’s about greed. And you can’t argue otherwise. For proof, look at the recent Writer’s Guild Strike. How many times were CEO’s caught on tape saying how the future of entertainment is the internet, and then did a 180 and said there’s no money in downloaded content when the WGA wanted a fair cut of their own intellectual property? It’s bullshit. It’s about greed. For instance, I was reading about one of the people sued for downloading off of Napster years ago. The recording industry, featuring more musical acts than any music festival, went after ordinary people. KIDS! One of them was a single mother of two, struggling to survive and put food on her kids’ table. They sued her for something like forty thousand dollars, for what probably amounted to 200 dollars worth of music (probably a lot less). That’s 200 times the actual value, a 2000 percent profit. If you asked them why they did it, they’d probably say it was a moral victory or a warning to other downloaders. Well guess what? There’s nothing moral about setting a woman and her children into poverty over a couple of songs. And the amount of downloading has only increased over the years. The irony is that one of the spearheads of the trials was Lars Ulrich of Metallica. It’s a well known fact that Metallica used to encourage their fans to bring recording devices to their shows, so they could record the music. It’s one of the reasons they first got so popular. So what happened? They got greedy. They turned into a bunch of rich assholes who cared more about their own pathetic, worthless lives than the kids who put them in that position. They sided with corporations who never cared at all.

If the entertainment industry wants to slow the rise of illegal downloading and burning, then they need to stop suing children, college students and single parents. They need to start putting out good music, and good movies. And most of all, lower the cost of legal downloads. Work with companies like iTunes (which by the way, regardless of the existence of companies like Limewire, still make an ungodly amount of money) to lower the cost to the consumer. Maybe make single songs 75 cents and television episodes 2 dollars. People will still buy CDs and DVDs or whatever physical medium comes next. That isn’t going to change. You want the people to stop stealing from you? Well you stop stealing from them first.

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