Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Problem With Piracy

We've all done it.  Downloading music and movies for free off the internet has become commonplace in this technological age and is a constant area of debate between fans and industry alike.  The desire to protect intellectual property has resulted in many counts of litigation and the proposition of some intense (and very scary) government regulation of the internet and the flow of information on it.  The introduction of Napster in the 90's virtually changed the face of how we share and consume media, giving us access to thousands of free songs and movies at a click.  As internet speeds increased with T1 and Cable, so did piracy, giving us the ability to do in seconds what used to take days (am I aging myself here?  I feel like I am).

The piracy debate seems to be an even more sensitive subject in the international Visual Kei community.  Not surprising when you are dealing with a (mostly) young fanbase and a sometimes prohibitively expensive product.  Given that Japan-made CDs and DVDs are more expensive from the start, once you factor in international shipping and exchange rates, it is not unusual to pay upwards of $100 for a single release.  Understandably, not everyone can afford these prices and many turn to piracy in order to get ahold of the music they love.

This argument has once again been brought to the forefront by the actions of heavy metal rockers, Nocturnal Bloodlust, concerning the uploading of tracks from their newest release, Desperate, to YouTube.  The band's official channel left a very harsh comment on one of the videos:  "Delete all of NOCTURNAL BLOODLUST songs immediately. you are violating copyright law. If you keep uploading our works illegally, we are going to sue you and we will stop selling CDs to overseas."  The response has been, as you would expect, quite mixed, but I've noticed a trend in the arguments that I have to say, as a writer and someone who also hopes to someday profit from my intellectual property, make me....well....angry.

The first and probably most common argument:  "If it wasn't for [insert your favorite file sharing vehicle here], I would have never known about [band] and now I'm a CD and merch buying FOOL!"  While this is probably true for a few loyal fans, this isn't the case for most.  I also feel the need to point out the difference between uploading a clip and uploading an ENTIRE RELEASE.  While I fully believe in vehicles like YouTube and their value as a free advertising tool, we all know how easy it is to steal audio and video from it.  When you upload full albums and videos to YouTube, you are essentially putting a "Take Me" sign on the artists' work.  And while a few pure souls like you may immediately say, "Holy shit, this is the bees knees!  I must go directly to CDJapan and purchase this amazing piece of art!" most won't because, let's face it, why would they.

"So, do they expect us to just drop hundreds of dollars on music we've never heard before?"  No, of course not.  Word of mouth is a very powerful advertising tool and artists use it to the fullest extent.  Many artists like Nocturnal Bloodlust have official YouTube channels that post clips and even full videos that you can view and share for free.  I am also fully behind the sharing of music among friends.  I think of it as the high-tech equivalent of trading cassette tapes (aging myself again).  Once again, I feel I must make the distinction between sharing with a few friends and sharing with MILLIONS OF USERS A MINUTE over the internet.  

"Well, I bought it, I should be able to do whatever I want with it."  WRONG!  Intellectual property is not a toaster.  When you purchase a CD or digital file, you are purchasing a LIMITED USE LICENSE to the work.  It is for private use only and not for broadcast or reproduction.  This is the argument that probably gets me the most worked up.  It would be like someone making photocopies of my book that I spent thousands of horrible, agonizing hours pouring my heart and soul into and was handing them out for free outside the bookstore.  And then telling me to be happy about it because none of those people would even know who I was if they weren't handing them out.  Well, they're also not buying my book and now I'm bankrupt.  Fuck you very much.

I'm not claiming any moral high ground here.  I don't think that file sharers are horrible, evil people plotting to destroy the music industry.  Like I said, we've all done it.  But, get real, folks.  A band is a business.  If people aren't buying records and merchandise, the business will fail and the music you love will cease to exist.  It doesn't matter how many people know your name if they're not buying your product.  So, next time you think about uploading a song or video of your favorite band in order to help get their name out, think about what you might be taking from them.  Think about sharing a single song instead of a whole release.  Or a clip instead of a whole PV or DVD.  Who knows, maybe it'll mean the difference between making it big and the dreaded 'd' word.

\m/ Long Live JRock \m/

~Kort Maguire