Copyright Communist Pirates

Arr, Matey.

Some fun recently at BoingBoing over the latest missive from Bill Gates, equating those who favour a different view of Intellectual Property law with communists. Some of the resulting imagery can be seen above.

Personally, I prefer a bit of leeway in copyright law, else I wouldn’t have been able to experience some new music via the peer-to-peer networks. I’ve recently discovered some new indie bands I never would have heard of through the regular channels. Better than simply hearing about the name of some apparently cool band, I was actually able to sample some of their music, just like listening to the radio, only I got to choose the tunes I wanted to try out. I’ve now added them to my list of albums to buy and to seek out their back catalog as well. That’s how I buy music.

See, I’m too busy doing other things, and I’m probably too old now, let’s face it, to be up with all the hip new tunes. Top 40 is starting to sound like Young People’s Music and I’ve thought most of it is crap for most of my life. Then again, Sturgeon’s Law applies to indie music too, and a lot of that is crap. Certainly some of the songs I’ve recently downloaded and listened to have been deleted halfway through the first hearing. Think of this as the modern analogy to changing channels as soon as a hated song comes on the radio. “ARGH! Not Achy Breaky Heart! Anything but that!”

Strictly speaking, what I’ve just done, i.e.: downloading music, is illegal; but because I see it in terms of a radio analogy, I don’t see it as all that bad. I’ve now added new albums to my list of things to buy, not that Miles Davis really counts as new. It would have been really hard for me to discover these tunes by relying on the radio or looking for CDs in HMV. I can’t do a context search in HMV, but I can with peer-to-peer. If I could now click a link and listen to 30 second extracts of each track on the same album as the tune I just trialled, the same as I can if I go into the record store in person, that would be great. If I could also click “I love it. I’ll buy it” and get charged $17 instead of $30, that’d be awesome.

So, media companies, for $DEITY’s sake, get a clue and stop trying to maintain the status quo. Make life easier for your customers and they’ll continue to throw obscene amounts of money at you, only you won’t have to maintain as much infrastructure, so you’ll actually make more profit, if such a thing is possible. Artists! Throw off the media company shackles and start running your own websites with download for a fee capability. $2 a track or whatever is cost effective. You’ll make tons more money than the big record deal with hidden accounting tricks. I’d love to be able to throw some money directly at you guys, since I’ve got no idea how I can otherwise pay Tenacious D for a bootleg recording of ‘Spiderman’. How exactly am I supposed to mail a cheque to an unknown location in a completely different currency? Make it easy for me to pay you and I will.

Either the media companies lot will get a clue and continue make serious money, which is probably even odds at the moment (though it’s shortening, and not in your favour) or they’ll just get phased out of existence by the new way of doing things. I just hope I get to keep finding great new music in a way I haven’t enjoyed, well, ever.

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