Illegal Download, You Say? Kids Smirk, Musicians Shudder

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuck that CD into your back pocket and walk out of the store? No way. Click your mouse a few times and acquire that same CD illegally? Sure.

This is the dichotomy recently studied by Twila Wingrove and Vicky Weisz, a pair of University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers who found students voice strong objection to outright shoplifting, but are less certain when it comes to illegal downloads.

Most of the 200 students who participated in the study, which appears in the new issue of the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, did not feel that illegal downloading violates their moral instincts.

For the classical music world, which constitutes approximately three percent of music sales in the U.S., this is not a good sign.

“We’re really concerned with illegal downloading, and I’ve been really frustrated with the lack of regulations,” commented William Brittelle, a classically trained musician and a founder of New Amsterdam Records. “When you’re dealing with our kind of artists, the difference between selling 1,000 and 2,000 is a huge difference.”

Digital copyright regulations in the U.S. are governed by USC Title 17, which provides copyright guidelines, and section 2319 of Title 18, which lists penalties for criminal infringement of a copyright. But enforcing what’s on the books is the sticking point.

So Brittelle and his co-founders Judd Greenstein and Sarah Kirkland Snider have let their website lead their four-year-old label, creating a space in which artists upload their work, provide sample tracks and, once hooked, offer direct sales though which artists receive 80 percent of the profits.

“The message we’re trying to send is not necessarily information wants to be free,” Brittelle said. “It’s more the free model and the premium model. We believe in our product enough that we’re willing to give a free sample.”

New Amsterdam now represents 22 artists (including Q2 host Nadia Sirota).

Rebecca Jean Rossi, an Eastman-trained musician who teaches classical piano in New York, hopes the current generation that can’t remember a time before the Internet will find a way to drive profits back to artists.

“I was born in 1985, when music was almost immediately available on the internet,” Rossi said. “I’d like to believe that there is some money somewhere related to this content that can be put more effectively toward the artists that make it,” she said.

For Brittelle, it’s a war of attrition. “We don’t really go out and search for [evidence of illegal downloads] because when we find it, we realize there’s not much we can do about it,” he said.

“It's not like we’re thinking, ‘Oh, cool, people like our album and so they’re stealing it,’ Brittelle said. “There’s nothing we can do.”


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Comments [5]

Silversalty from Brooklyn

A couple of recent news items - not really recent stories, but this sort of news never gets into the mainstream, public dialog.

A Trove of Historic Jazz Recordings has Found a Home in Harlem, But You Can’t Hear Them



Lessig: Copyright isn't just hurting creativity: it's killing science (video)


Lawrence Lessig is an attorney who presented the case a few years ago before the US Supreme Court against the seemingly ever expanding term for copyright. Somehow he believed that using the logic of a justice's prior legal rulings in other cases could have some value in preventing further copyright term expansion - the US Constitution refers to copyright as being for "limited" times. Naively Lessig ignored the fact that the Supreme Court had long since shown itself to be a political body rather than one concerned with legal arguments and, sorry if you hear me laughing, justice.

Apr. 26 2011 08:04 PM
Silversalty from Brooklyn Brooklyn Brooklyn Broo

I'm not sure what this post means? Oh, I've got an idea but the question "Do you think it's illegal to avoid paying for music you download?" doesn't make sense. If the music is under copyright and not specifically made available for free ("as in beer" as it's known) then it's illegal, as our current laws stand.

Is it unethical? Should it be illegal? Those are questions with substance. But it's definitely illegal.

A few points. Much is made of the evil, evil, evil of copying. Yes copying. You can't "steal" something that's virtual. You can copy it. Much is made of the fallacy that intellectual property and real property are equivalent. Well, when there's a quart of milk that can be multiplied millions upon millions of times and people can get these quarts of milk and other essentials of life with trivial effort, then maybe intellectual and real property will be equivalent. In the mean time, if I take a quart of milk from a supermarket without paying for it, that quart of milk is no longer available for someone who might really need it for a child. You know, something like the mountains of food that were destroyed by growers during the depression in an attempt to keep prices up (as depicted in the Grapes of Wrath, that commie rag).

Did you know that the VCR is to the motion picture industry as a woman alone is to the Boston strangler? That was a quote from Jack Valenti to congress. The VCR!! How many billions of dollars has the VCR and its successor, the DVD brought to the motion picture industry?

So don't follow the mantra about "pirates" and lone women. It's bull. If there's a pirate in the publishing industry, it's the publishers.

As for the punishments for illegal downloading, they're not trivial. Think in terms of tens of thousands of dollars for each song. And it's more a case of making a song available for others to download, as happens automatically on P2P (peer-to-peer/BitTorrent) systems. Many are broken financially when targeted by the various publishers. Many settle even when innocent due to the costs of legal defense. Some call that practice extortion.

As for the cut the artists get, there are too many stories I've read about how little the artists receive, if anything. I remember one famous recording artist (forgot who - possibly David Bowie) describing a tour Bruce Springsteen did a few years ago. This artist said Springsteen probably made more in that tour of a few weeks then he'd made in his entire recording career. Springsteen! Probably amongst the few artists that gets a real take on his recording efforts.

But I'm thrilled to know that Irving Berlin has an incentive to create more wonderful music like "God Bless America" until somewhere around 2070 (assuming the copyright term isn't further extended). Ignore the fact that he's dead.

Oh, and if virtual property and real property are the same, why not have a property tax for virtual property?

Apr. 22 2011 10:58 PM

There was an article I saw in some British press that while of course illegal music downloads are just that, illegal, those who do it also in fact do buy and pay for ten times more music than those who do no illegal downloading.

The point is always the music.

I buy always in .mp3 at Amazon. I buy mostly in the New Music scene, or alt-classical or whatever it is called these days, on Innova, New Amsterdam, the music featured on Q2; also Jazz that I hear on WBGO and WPRB. Honestly, what I buy is so inexpensive it feels like stealing.

Apr. 22 2011 10:26 PM
Listener from NJ

When music is downloaded for free, it's the music publisher who takes most of the loss - unless I'm wrong that the artist gets only a small part of the price. And I DO think the artist should be paid for his/her talent.

But I'm not worried about the publishers -- these mostly big multinational conglomerates have been getting more in taxpayer subsidies via the tax code than anyone could ever "pirate" in fees. In all likelihood, they owe US.

Apr. 22 2011 07:15 PM
Steve from White Plains

Stealing is stealing is stealing. The cost is a secondary consideration. The law recognizes this also. It distinguishes between grand larceny and petty larceny, with penalties based on value. This is as it should be. You wouldn't expect to spend more time in stir for say, joyriding as you would for say, knocking over a bank.

Apr. 21 2011 01:46 PM

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