Screw The Artists

screw the artistsI received this comment from Tim for my post on lala.com – CD Trading For $1:

and let’s just screw the poor artist who made the music why not in this digital age everything is just free isn’t it? but eventually there will be a terrible price to pay and that will be the attenuation of art into the kind of britney spears like realm necessary to generate large enough sales that one can make money from….well, I’ve always bought books at used book stores. But I feel guilty about that and eventually will buy a new book by that author to make up for the way I’ve been screwing him. Well, artists do it for funsies anyway, don’t they? And why shouldn’t everything be free? Certainly all food should be free. And tvs, for real. And computers, or at least web access. In a perfect world, everything would just come to me when I wanted it and go away when I was done and I wouldn’t have to struggle or think about it. Party on people.

It’s interesting to see this comment because I feel I’m one of those artists that he is talking about, but my form is writing and I give my work away for free. While I can understand this point of view, I don’t agree with it. If I write a book and that book is legally sold, would I have a problem if someone gave that book to another person after they finished reading it without any money going to me? Personally I wouldn’t. Now if the book was illegally copied and distributed for free or someone claimed what I wrote to be their own and was making money off my work without my permission, I would probably take issue with it, but not in the above case.

I also disagree that the digital age has hurt artists. It has in fact helped the large majority of them. I can do my writing on my own without the need of a publisher and can earn a living. Musical artists can create their own website, get a following, sell their work directly and make a living where they could not do this before the digital era. That is not to say that it is easy – it still takes a lot of work. The opportunity, however, is open up to a much larger segment of artists than before the Internet existed.

That is not to say there aren’t abuses. They do exist. But I just don’t buy the line that the “poor artists are getting screwed” when a legally purchased CD, book, painting or whatever is traded, resold or given away once the person who purchased it is done with it.

8 thoughts on “Screw The Artists

  1. From lala.com’s site:

    “I’ll be the first to advocate that artists should make a lot more from each CD. ‘la la’ is taking the unprecedented action of giving artists 20% of our revenues from used CDs, no used record store or online site does this today.”

    Courtney Love, of all people, wrote an excellent article (around the time of Napster in 2000) about the state of the music industry, the internet and what counts as stealing from musicians. Don’t have the link sorry.

  2. I’ve never before heard the argument that buying, selling, or giving away used CDs, books, or DVDs is unethical and unfair to artists; I admit, it surprises me that people have that opinion. While I never have and never will stolen music or videos from artists, I also feel that the acceptability (and even desireability) of passing around used, legally purchased products is a basic tenant of capitalism– not to mention common sense.

  3. I think the idea that you can get paid indefinitely for something you produced once is really being abused here.

    An author wrote a book. It got printed. It’s a thing. Things can get bought and sold, used, new, whatever. As an author, you can’t expect to be paid every time that book of yours exchanges hands. It’s just ridiculous.

    The idea I spoke of earlier is really all about “licensing”, not “purchasing”, and it’s being abused. Coupled with the idea of “intended use”, it could be tuned into an unstoppable revenue-generating machine for the producers. Don’t break into that ink cartridge, it’s against intended use. Don’t sell that used book, it’s against licensing. Don’t copy that DVD you got from Nexflix, it’s stealing. Don’t say “Final Four”, those words are bought by ESPN.

    Tim, do you also feel guilty for buying USED CARS at USED CAR LOTS? Can you sleep at night knowing you’ve just ripped off poor car manufacturers?

  4. Let me play devil’s advocate here for a minute. There is a bit of difference between a book and a CD because when someone sells a CD, they have probably kept a copy of the music from the CD for themselves. So they still have the music, but have sold the original to someone else. Most people who sell a book don’t keep a copy of the book for themselves to use again and again.

  5. Maybe so, but the burden of making books/CDs/ink cartridges copy/tamper protective should lay on the shoulders of product makers.

    I had every single Metallica CD ever made, all bought. I also had mp3s ripped on my machine so I could listen to them in scramble. Then the CD album got jacked out of my crappy car. I’m left with mp3s only. True story.

    Should I be a good little boy and buy some more brand new CDs because of I don’t, I’ll be ripping the poor artists off? Or should I say “these CDs are mine, I paid good money for them, I do whatever I want with them”?

    People who paid for their intellectual property are not borrowing it, otherwise they would be on some sort of leasing contract with interest. They bought it, they are free to resell the originals, copy the originals for private use, etc.

    Are you also pissed that some Monet paintings are being bought and sold? Are people ripping off poor Monet’s estate?

  6. The whole point here is that once something enters the stream of commerce, it can be sold and resold indefinitely. The original artist received a percentage from the first sale, and s/he isn’t entitled to any further monies from subsequent sales. This is how it has been since mankind started bartering goods thousands of years ago. On the ohter hand, if you’re talking about the right to keep the original item and sell copies, or alternatively, keep a copy and sell the original, you’re taking money out of the artist’s pocket. Copyright law is quite clear that the author/artist (or copyright owner) owns the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the work, unless such rights are licensed away. In exchange for licensing such rights, the copyright owner receives a royalty.

  7. I don’t believe selling a copy while keeping the original is the same as selling the original while keeping a copy. One can be done once, one – indefinitely.

    We are hitting a dead end here, and it’s entitled “the ease of reproduction”. Everyone seems to be hung up on how fast and easy the reproduction can be facilitated. Sure it’s easy to make a perfect copy of a DVD movie – you just have to reauthor the disc to cut out all angles, menus, deleted scenes, commentaries, and other extras. Boom! The movie fits with slack on a 4.7Gb disc.

    It’s not so easy to copy a book. Photocopying/scanning it is very laborious, and I believe that’s exactly why we are not doing it more.

    I can sit down and handcopy a book, then sell the original. In the eyes of people who think they are “ripping poor artists off”, it’s exactly the same act in nature as making a copy of a DVD, then selling the original.

    Thus, the “ease of reproduction” is the only thing that’s prevending people to make copies of ANYTHING. It’s hard to copy a book, so it’s not that big of an issue.

    If someone invents a “car copier”, we’d be sitting here talking about a whole other set of licensing/ethical issues and “ripping off poor car manufacturers”.

    Fianlly, where would we be without people copying other people’s work? Heard of a little holy book passed down through generations via non-stop copying?

  8. I hate this entire discussion because people tend to get so worked up over it. Friends and I can argue for hours over this and never convince the other to budge at all.

    Why was this music issue not as big a deal when we were copying things onto tape from the radio and then giving that to all our friends to listen to? I don’t think that it is that bad to download songs to listen to yourself…it is another story if you are going to sell them after you download them. My general policy is that I can download songs, and if they are really good, I will buy the CD…the catch here is that there has to be more than just 2 songs that are worth having. The problem here is that CD prices are once again creeping up to about $17 and I think that is outrageous. I even think that $1 is too much to pay for a song download. The worst part is that I don’t even think that it is the artists really suffering…all these areguements are happening because of the labels losing out…not the artists themselves.

    On top of all of that…I don’t think that artists deserve most of the millions that they get now anyway. Maybe this is just the correction that is needed. While most of us strugle making well under $100,000 a year, these spoiled rich people are making millions. Just because that is what they are used to making in the past, maybe that isn’t what they need to continue making in the future. I wish all high-paid actors, musicians, athletes would take a pay correction because it is all getting out of hand.

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