Tuesday, March 29, 2005

robbery or radio?

My last post apparently needs some clarification.

The recording industry could have treated the challenge of file sharing as the moral equivalent of radio. They could have found some way to profit from file sharing and made file sharing legal, just as it is legal to listen to music on the radio, and some of the resulting revenue finds its way back to the recording industry. Sometimes a few pennies of the radio advertising dollar even find their way back to the musicians.

Instead the record industry leads us to believe file sharing is the moral equivalent of shoplifting. They attempt to persuade courts to treat all shared media as stolen media.

Why do they do this? From what I have observed, the real issue is not about money. If record companies cared about artists getting their fair share, they would not have spent the last century stealing artists blind. The same goes for the way the film studios and the television networks have always treated their actors and crews.

Record companies, film studios, television networks, and everybody else in the entertainment industry could find ways to make money from files traded on the Internet, just like they found ways to make money from radio and television broadcasts. What they could not do in a world of legal file sharing is retain their centralized control of media outlets. They could not preserve their power to shape our culture to their own benefit.

That is the real issue raised by file sharing. What the media corporations clearly fear most is not theft, but the loss of control. They seek government protection for their privileged position, because they are no longer able or willing to secure it by providing us, their customers, with anything remotely close to what we really want.

These are some of the reasons I reject all claims that the recording industry holds any sort of moral high ground on this issue.


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