Sound-copying technology and countermeasures, 1890-1978

Ed sez, "Here's an article from 1985 in the Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal about record piracy in the 19th century. Includes illustrations of three duplicators from the 19th century."

Record Piracy: The Attempts of the Sound Recording Industry to Protect Itself against Unauthorized Copying, 1890-1978 (PDF) (Thanks, Ed!)


  1. Goes to show that stealing now is no different than stealing then. Just b/c digital copying without buying is easy doesn’t make it ethical. The common law “unfair competition” application is just as valid today as it was then, even without 1978’s Sound Recording copyright provisions.

    I think of digital recordings as akin to modern stock holdings. These days, most people don’t own physical stock certificates, they have digitally authenticated information tying a certain “share” to a certain user account. It’s just ones and zeros, and the “share” itself would be trivial to copy. So why is it wrong to copy shares and take advantage of their value, either by voting as a shareholder or trading them? The original share is still there, right? So how can it be stealing?

    It’s stealing because it dilutes the value of the original, ultimately making it worthless. Hardly fair for the original issuer. Everyone understands this, and nobody complains that brokerages use authentication to protect this. In other words, DRM.


  2. Of course. And this is why we outlawed the VCR, the cassette recorder and the phonogram (which stole the compositions that were recorded for its discs). #historyfail

  3. No, I think Bingo is on to something. I think the world could be made a better place by making shares easily and infinitely copyable. Imagine how things like the Enron debacle might have played out if the everyone in the entire world could own as many shares of the company as they liked.

  4. We DID outlaw them for piracy and distribution of the bootleg copies.

    Jeez, Cory, I thought my comment was civil and polite, but if you;re gonna be snarky, sarcastic and arrogant, you should at least have your facts straight.

    And you didn’t address the point about DRM and how it prevents dilution of value. Or do you not think that real, non-corporate, working-stiff folks make their living creating music as a commodity?


  5. The more I think about this the more I like it. The worth of all publicly traded things would be tied to the number of shares in existence. I really dig company A, so I’m going to make myself a million copies, but I just found out that company B is killing baby seals, so I’m deleting all my shares of that one.

    1. It’s not a good economic model but it is an interesting idea. Could you see it more as a Karma Index, a way to rate a company’s intangibles (ecological impact, fair trade, profit margin, worker job satisfaction)? WalMart does contribute to local charities and their policies lower prices overall, even for those that never shop there, but the company destroys smaller local firms and their policy of having registers they never ever open just mocks me when I wait fifteen minutes to buy something at 4 AM. Apple makes neat stuff but they are a tad DRM happy and locked the iPhone to ATT.

      In order for it to be accurate, it would have to have some mechanism to thwart bias, both ideological (you don’t want it to become the Hippie Index or the Rand Index) and astroturf-ical (Jerkstore Enterprises creates eleventy kajillion shares to counteract revelation that their factories run on puppy tears). Perhaps a set number of shares a week and perhaps a questionnaire to sniff out biases and some mechanism to adjust the index for bias? Maybe sub-indexes with themes like Green or Maker?

  6. @The Thompson Five

    I appreciate the sentiment, but don’t forget that your idea would equally impact any entrepreneur, not just the bad guys. I’m a strong proponent of carefully overseeing large companies (public or private), ensuring they are not abusing their power or outright committing fraud (as with Enron).

    The thing is, you would be hurting the company you like by making lots of free stock, not helping. But I like the “popularity” angle, if you can devise a way for it to work!

  7. We didn’t outlaw anything. We’ve never outlawed anything. We have continuously invented devices that diluted the value of the thing that came before it: sheet music – phonogram – radio – jukebox – cable – VCR. At every turn, we *changed the law* to ensure that the new thing was legal *even though* it “diluted” the value of the old thing.

    You really, really, *really* have this wrong.

    We never banned technologies for “diluting” copyright. “Diluting” copyright has never rendered the underlying work valueless.

    What’s more, the question about DRM is just as ahistorical. Did you read the article? You didn’t, did you? I can tell because the central lesson of the article is that *every copy control system failed*. Just as every DRM has failed.

    We have had *15 years* of legal protection for DRM without any evidence that DRM works, nor that legal prohibition on DRM circumvention reduces copying.

    We’ve also had 15 years of facts in evidence about what DRM *does* accomplish: a reduction in competition, a slowdown in innovation, a compromising of fair use, increased surveillance, mission creep to prevent everything from voting machine research to print-cartridge remanufacture, and deep incursions into free speech.

    And if you think calling “copyright infringement” (the actual, correct legal term) “stealing” (an absolutely incorrect legal term) is “civil,” I’d hate to see what you’re like when you’re being rude.

    1. As for being civl, can we have this discussion without resorting to name-calling and bullying? I’ll start, you follow suit:

      We have indeed outlawed piracy on cassettes, sheet music, etc. In order to publish sheet music of a particular composition, you need to obtain a Mechanical License from the publisher, which stipulates a statutory royalty rate. Anyone can do this via simple forms, but the Harry Fox Agency ( does it en masse and charges a commission for the convenience. In most cases, publishers are *required* to grant this license to anyone who applies for it — but make no mistake: reproducing sheet music without having first obtained the license is *against the law.* All of the above applies for cassettes, etc, too.

      And, yes, I did read the entire article before posting. The article points out that the industry was unsuccessful in stopping piracy (as you say), but my point is that piracy is still wrong, which you haven’t addressed at all. And furthermore, the article does specifically mention the provisions about mechanical reproduction rights. Just because you disagree with my opinion, don’t infer that I didn’t do my homework.

      I’m a working composer and I know this stuff backwards and forwards. I will happily (and politely) admit it if I have my facts wrong, but that’s not the case.

      You are correct, I used “stealing” as an informal term, not a legal one.

      1. Please understand that it’s possible to be rabidly anti-DRM but also pro-creator’s rights. DRM does not protect the artist. It protects the studios and harms the consumers.

        The surest evidence that a good DRM system is impossible is that it’s not out there yet. Apple has mostly abandoned DRM on music, some other companies have followed suit. Because it sucks for everyone involved and only penalizes legitimate consumers.

        If I buy an album and end up with an inferior product (because I can’t put it on my new mp3 player or what have you) then I’m sure as hell going to remember it next time. When you “steal” it and end up with a superior product, we have a problem.

        DRM is just a way of saying “I don’t trust the people that are giving me money.” Well, here’s some help: the people that aren’t going to give you money? They already aren’t. But they have your product anyway.

        1. Who are “the studios” that you refer to? I am an independent composer. I write and record music — sometimes for hire, sometimes as my “art,” sometimes with my band. At any given time, I can find at least one of my CDs posted illegally on a blog via rapidshare or similar. Judging by the blog comments (“thanks for uploading” etc) I can tell at least a dozen people download the files with each instance. For the CD I see posted most often, I get 25% (wholesale) for each unit sold (or legally downloaded), so those downloads are money out of my pocket.

          Explain to me how that helps the artist?

          I have other songs I choose to distribute for free because I’ve decided that the promotional value exceeds the sales potential, but that is *my* decision.

          I also disagree that good DRM is impossible because nobody’s done it yet. If people would stop knowingly and willfully practicing copyright infringement, this issue would go away. Why is the burden on the infringee (is that a word?) to justify counter-measures, as ham-fisted as they have been so far?

          1. “For the CD I see posted most often, I get 25% (wholesale) for each unit sold (or legally downloaded), so those downloads are money out of my pocket.”

            No, it isn’t. Only a very small part is. If that stuff were only available by purchasing a CD or with ultra-hard DRM, only very few would have bought it. They might say “thank you” to the uploader, but the truth is, they don’t think that they netted $25 or whatever, but place nearly zero value to your work.

    2. and btw,

      The article was specifically talking about music recording reproduction, not voting machine software, or DRM at the expense of other liberties, and my comments are intended for that context. Music recordings are a commodity (IMO), votes and privacy are not (IMO). I think it’s unreasonable to paint everything with the same broad brush.

  8. @bingothechimp please come back with your crude metaphor when we are allowed to resell DRM protected movies, music or books, like we can do with our shares.

    1. “Crude?”

      Really, I am being sincere here: what is with all the vitriol and sarcasm?

      Anyway, to your point, I agree that the DRM we’ve seen so far with itunes, et al, has been really poorly implemented and customer-unfriendly. But I think the concept is fine (as akin to the stock analogy) and I look forward to someone doing it right.

  9. we never change the law to reflect the times. that’s why slavery is still legal and women aren’t allowed to vote.

  10. I just deleted half my shares of Aptera. While I was initially excited about the product I’m not sure I like where the board is headed.

  11. DRM doesn’t ban piracy. DRM bans whole classes of technologies: technologies *capable* of making copies.

    I have indeed addressed what is right and fair and what isn’t: it’s local. The composers thought it was unfair to record their compositions without permission. Congress gave anyone the right to do so on payment of a mechanical fee, which was widely viewed as unfair by artists. Except, of course, for the artists who used it to make their own art (cf Sid Vicious records My Way without Paul Anka’s permission). It turned out that it was local.

    Musicians recorded one another’s compositions and sang them and performed them without permission or compensation for most of recorded history. They have always had elaborate codes about what was too much taking and what wasn’t. Those codes changed. It’s local.

    Fans have always traded the songs they loved — they sang them for one another, they lent each other recordings, they invited one another over to listen to the radio, they traded mix-tapes. Each group of fans had their own rules about what was and wasn’t fair. It changed with time. It’s local.

    Now, onto DRM.

    DRM doesn’t work.

    Do you think it does? Why do you think so? When has it ever done so?

    DRM isn’t considered impossible because no one’s done it. It’s considered impossible because every cryptographer, save those who work for DRM companies, agree that it is. What do you know that they don’t?

    Laws to protect DRM have bad consequences — from restrictions on voting machine research to laws against modifying your own computer. Can you think of a way to legally protect DRM without these consequences?

    Finally, onto civility: calling other people “bullies” isn’t civil. Try again.

    1. Cory, my fine feathered friend, you and I are having two different conversations. You are using the term “DRM” to refer to all the lousy attempts at DRM in the entertainment world (and more). You seem to insist that I defend those, but I can’t, nor has it been my intention to. I make a distinction between that and Digital Rights Management as goal, the practice of which has yet to be done successfully in this context.

      I’m specifically offering my opinion that some form of DRM is needed in light of music piracy. It’s amazing to me that people think they are entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor just because the technology makes it easy to do so and because nobody has figured out a good way to make them stop. You call that “banning whole classes of technology,” but I am certainly not advocating a ban on the technology. I advocate ways to make it more difficult to copy that which one does not have the right to copy, without imposing on the freedom of those who do. Has it happened yet? Nope. Is it easy? Nope. You and your army of cryptographers who say it’s “impossible” are too narrowly focused on, well, cryptography of files, to make much headway. History is littered with “impossible” things that came to fruition.

      Re: Syd Vicious, every copy of his recording of “My Way” pays a mechanical royalty to Paul Anka (and his co-writers), so I’m not sure what your point is. Look it up at (if you’re a member) or

      Also, are you saying that the laws against duplicating sheet music without a license are akin the “banning the technology” of printing?

      I’ll rephrase this, in an attempt to get an answer: see my post #15 re: pirated downloads of my songs

      1. Do you think the people who post those files are acting ethically?

      2. What about the people who download them?

      3. Do you think posting something on a blog is a fair use, one-to-one transaction (akin to tape-trading or inviting someone over), rather than akin to broadcasting?

      If your answer is “no,” what do you propose as a remedy, if any, for my loss of income? What would you think if there was a means for me to prevent that without adversely affecting those who have purchased the product? Please don’t focus on the fact that this hasn’t been invented yet, please answer the question.

      If your answer is “yes” to 1,2 and/or 3, you and I have a fundamental disagreement about right and wrong, which no further debate will change.

      You object to my use of the word “bullying.” That’s what I call someone who “really, really, *really*” tries to make a point through repetition and assumes that anyone who disagrees “didn’t even read the article” and doesn’t know history. So look over our thread and see who attacked the commenter instead of discussing the issue.


  12. Well, it was a crude metaphor and I don’t take it as serious as all those stupid car and theft analogies.

    The very fact that there is such a concept as copyright shows that immaterial property is something else than material property, otherwise we wouldn’t need another set of laws to regulate this. That’s why virtually all metaphors employed in discussing these things are crude an worthless.

    I’ll grant you that you were a little more creatively by trying to equal music with shares, but that’s still, pardon my french, bullshit. Shares are electronic documents, they are not the goods in themselves. Can a copy a share get me money? No, I can neither sell it nor can I execute a voting right nor will I get the dividend. You could as well used money as your metaphor – most of that stuff is purely virtual and these days created simply by saying “let there be.”

    So this metaphor doesn’t really work, too.

    Now, back to DRM.

    With DRM, you don’t even have ownership, since ownership means that you have exclusive rights and control over property. Something obviously not true with DRM protected data. So what’s the “value” of such data? Is it the price the original renter set? Is it the price the renter’s asking now, making my prior “bought” copy less or more expensive? Or is it zero because it cannot be sold?

    Likewise the same for DRM-free data, by the way, since you’re usually not allowed to set that, either.

    Looks to me as if your metaphors do not work very well.

    The good news is, we do not need metaphors, we already have laws in place, which determine who is allowed to copy what under which conditions. And these laws seem to have worked and they seemingly still work insofar as people still purchase books, recorded music and movies and software.

    And none of the doomsday scenarios of the last century came ever true, even though the attempts to outlaw copying technology failed miserably. It’s just unsurpassed greed that sees every unauthorised copy as lost sale. And envy on the side of the “angels”, who think that the people who really would’ve bought the stuff and now consume it for free are the cause of high prices and lough behind their backs. I’ve even seen customers defend the braindead idea of making Apple and co pay for the 30-second try-outs, because they use copyrighted material.

    The music industry muse be extremely profitable, since it apparently is run by idiots.

    I’d love seeing the run Vegas – they’d probably ask for an entrance fee for the casinos, wonder why attendance drops and then ask the government to either outlaw or tax dice and playing cards, because people do not come to them anymore.

  13. @BingoTheChimp:
    >”It’s stealing because it dilutes the value of the original, ultimately making it worthless. Hardly fair for the original issuer.”

    For most of recorded history, and probably before that, humans have collaborated and built on the work of others to produce new work in art, science and mathematics. Most research is still done this way in maths and science.

    If I produce something, like an idea, that can be told to another (copied) then we have both benefited. The more people who hear it the more we have all benefited.

    Let me put this another way. Every time someone, who would never buy a copy of your music, gets a copy by say downloading it, and listens to it, it’s a win for both of you. Every time someone discovers your music by say downloading it or listening to it at a friends place it’s a win for you. You get publicity, you get potential sales from new customers.

    I borrow music from friends, I borrow it from libraries, I buy it second-hand on occasions. I used to listen to in on the radio. Is this all somehow stealing in your world view? Your arguments would say it is yet it is perfectly legal in most countries.

    1. A lot of non-music-professionals think that “publicity, “exposure,” etc, are valuable replacements for cash. Maybe for a stereotypical young band trying to “make it” that’s true, but not for people who write and record music as their living, and who make up the majority of published composers. That would be like you going to work at your job for free because you get “publicity” as a professional in your industry. A music composition is often no more or less than a product of someone’s labor — a commodity. If you think most of the professionally recorded music you hear is created to benefit society, or as a purely artistic endeavor, you are mistaken.


      Even if one of those people would have bought it, it is money out of my pocket. And if none would have bought, that’s fine, too. If they don’t want to pay for it, they shouldn’t get to play it on their ipod. It’s their choice, but they can’t have it both ways.

      1. Your argument is the same as that of those who defended communism on the purely theoretical basis that since “pure, true communism” had never been tried it could not be called a failure. Guess what? Communism failed. DRM is just the latest scheme to control users and access to what they have already paid for. It, too, will fail.

        So keep trying. Maybe it’s better that way. Keeps you busy, I guess.

        And you seem to place no value on people knowing who someone is behind a CD/file, or being aware of the person who created it (as opposed to merchandised it, and who gets most if not all of the proceeds from it) in the first place. Mostly because you say you’re “established”. Already got yours, screw the rest of ’em, is that it?

        So tell us who you are behind the handle. If we like your music, maybe we’ll buy it.

        If we don’t like it – or you – well…

        (I don’t buy much music anyway these days. Lots to listen to if I choose, online and in the world, very little I want to shell out money for, even less I feel worth putting up with music industry BS over.)

        1. And you seem to place no value on people knowing who someone is behind a CD/file, or being aware of the person who created it (as opposed to merchandised it, and who gets most if not all of the proceeds from it) in the first place. Mostly because you say you’re “established”. Already got yours, screw the rest of ’em, is that it?

          Nope. I’m saying it’s my choice whether or not to charge for my music. Anyone who wants to give their work away for publicity is welcome to. How am I preventing them from doing that if I’m saying it’s up to each individual rights owner to decide what’s best in their case? And your reference to “who gets the proceeds” shows your naiveté about us working stiffs. All I want to do is prevent people from having illegal copies of my recordings without adversely affecting the people who bought them. Is that really so weird?

      2. even if one of those people would have bought it, it is money out of my pocket.

        And even if one of them showed your music to someone else and bought your next cd that’s money in your pocket.

        I had a friend who was a very good performer. He found it unethical when people spoke at his shows, feeling that instead everyone should shut up and pay 100% attention to him. He used to get angry and yell at people. After a while the numbers of people attending his gigs shrunk further and further while his performances got better and better. He sobbed to me about it one night and I just told him flat out “it’s because you act like an arsehole to your fans”. It took a while but he eventually saw that it was hurting his art as well as his business.

        At some point you’ll have to do this to. Your ethics are obviously not shared by everyone in the world. I agree artists deserve money for their work, but like business you need to use a business model that works. Let your recordings get traded for free. Put a ‘donations’ thing on your website. Offer your cds at a pay what you feel is right model. Create fucking awesome album artwork that people will want to collect and charge accordingly.

        Don’t bitch and moan about ethics that aren’t shared. People can download your music and listen to it on their ipod for free. They can have it both ways, nothing you believe about ethics will change this.

        1. @#32 As always, thanks for shouting in bold.

          My choice of business model is for people to pay for my music. You can disagree about the wisdom of that, but the choice is mine and I will succeed or fail accordingly. Don’t impose your idea of a “better” business model on my business, just as I wouldn’t do that to you.

          Let’s say you decide that you will not get paid this week for your job, because your employer says there’s a chance that by doing so, you will get a double paycheck the next week. Not a promise, a chance. Is it worth the risk to you? That’s your choice and nobody should make that decision for you. Making music is my job — like anyone, I strive to have a job I enjoy. That doesn’t mean I should do it for free. You seem to be stuck with thinking of music as strictly an art — for us professionals, it’s sometimes art, sometimes a commodity, etc. I have yet to see anyone else post to this thread who makes music for a living, not just a consumer.

        2. I’m sorry but I did not intend my bold text to imply I was yelling. It’s simply emphasising certain points. I could have perhaps used italics but that’s neither here nor there.

          I don’t think of music strictly as an art at all. My music is an art and a hobby, but I know plenty of people that live solely off the music industry.

          I clearly stated like any business you need to use a business model that works.

          Now you can complain about people stealing, and that anyone that condones sharing music immoral or whatever and say once someone creates DRM that works it will all be fine again but it’s pointless and the last part is just not correct.

          DRM doesn’t work and there is a very simple reason. One person, in 1.5billion [roughly the number of people with internet access world wide] needs to work out a way to get around it and put the file online before that same 1.5billion people have access to the file. Those are odds you simply can’t fight.

          Now I wouldn’t open a store in a crime riddled neighbourhood with no security, but I also wouldn’t bother wasting time and money adding a security device that only needs to be broken once before being rendered useless. Instead I’d work out a better business plan.

  14. Bingo, you’re having a conversation that doesn’t make much sense if you’re not considering DRM to be access limiting technologies. Because that’s what they are. You’re conflating a support of DRM with a support of artist’s rights – which are two completely different things. DRM is, by definition, the technology that limits a legitimate consumer’s ability to work with their rightfully purchased files. Anything beyond that in discussing DRM and you’re confusing the matter. If you want to debate whether it’s right or wrong to copy files, then fine – debate that. But don’t call it “DRM.”

    In debating DRM, having even very strong DRM won’t help prevent the situation you describe with your music being available for download. DRM will be broken. There’s just no way around that, as even if you somehow 100% prevent a direct digital solution, in order for someone to list to the music you need to output it as audio at some point, and it can then be recorded. All it takes is a bored teenager somewhere in the world and five minutes of their time and then there’s a digital copy available forever to billions of humans. Stronger and stronger DRM systems are a folly – they present no more of a barrier to a determined pirate than a “please don’t copy this” sticker. In fact – less of one as the sticker and lack of challenge will be a demotivator. So since I’ve shown that DRM is not a hindrance to the pirate and dedicated copyright infringer, who is it a hindrance to? The legitimate, money-in-hand, consumer. You screw them and they remember it and don’t buy any more music from you, thus harming you, the artist and seller, as well.

    When it comes to the game of DRM, the only winning move is truly to not play. Trust your fans, and make it possible for them to support you without being stabbed in the back for the favor.

  15. @BingoTheChimp, there’s a lot to be said re: giving away digital (i.e., infinite) copies of work in exchange for something tangible (i.e., rare). If the technology exists to make your art infinite (copying) and you, as a creator, are trying to make a living from your art, you have to change your assumptions. It’s up to the artist to determine what those tangible, rare items could be.

    Ideas about making money off one’s own labors are changing. The old saying “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain” is applicable here. Remember, obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy (

    One of my favorite music artists gives his music away for free and offers to let his fans pay him for it as well ( He lets his fans create mashups (which are often *fantastic*) and then upload them to his site for download. I have given him money over and over for things I could have gotten for free. Johnathan Coultan is another music artist who does the same thing ( — you can receive his songs for free or by purchasing them. I am a loyal fan to both artists, mostly because I enjoy their music, but also because I love their business model.

  16. Yes, Sid Vicious paid a mechanical license. Did you read the preceding sentence in which I explained that mechanical licenses were viewed as dilutive by composers when they came into existence, but were created because they benefited music, even if they were disliked by some musicians?

    You are describing a fictional, counter-factual, technically incoherent DRM, and offering no detail on how it could possibly work. You dismiss people with actual, technical expertise because their conclusions are inconvenient to your hypothesis.

    Here’s a hint: “Also, are you saying that the laws against duplicating sheet music without a license are akin the ‘banning the technology’ of printing?”

    Of course I’m not. Here’s what DRM does: it says “You may not copy even if the law permits you to.”

    Here’s what DRM does: it says, “You may not build a device that can play this media without permission from the DRM vendor, even if that is legal.”

    Can you see the difference between DRM and a law prohibiting unlawful duplication of media?

    Here are some specific questions:

    * How would your DRM work without encryption?

    * What legal underpinnings would it requires? Anti-circumvention? Rules against publishing security flaws? Technology mandates limiting compatibility?

    * How would it accommodate fair use?

    On to your questions:

    1. Do you think the people who post those files are acting ethically?

    Yes. Ethics have changed. When it became possible to diffuse music over radio, we did. *Then* we legalized radio, by taking away musicians’ right to stop their music from being diffused on radio. We did so because radio was more important than last years’ musicians’ ideas about the right way to get paid for making music. New musicians came up who embraced radio; some of the old musicians embraced it too. Others quit. Music went on.

    Copyright is instrumental. It serves the goal of maximising participation in, and diffusion of, culture. It is enshrined thus in the Progress Clause of the Constitution. When new technologies that allowed for broader participation and access to culture came along, copyright gave way. Here’s a short summary of some of those changes:

    * Compulsory licenses on compositions so that records could be made without permission from composers

    * Consent decree legalizing radio through collection societies (without royalties for performers)

    * Compulsory license on recordings allowing for jukebox play without permission from performers

    * Compulsory license on TV broadcasts allowing for cable TV diffusion of broadcast signals without permission from broadcasters or the creators of TV shows

    * “Betamax principle” in 1984 establishing that making complete copies of commercial movies for the purposes of librarying and time-shifting is legal, even if you skip commercials and even if it undermines a video-rental market. Further, the principle that it is legal to make any technology that “is capable of sustaining a substantial non-infringing use”

    Look at history: when a new technology comes along that copyright would stop, we always take away copyright’s “moral” right — the right to decide who can use your work. We sometimes (Betamax) also take away the economic right — the right to get paid for a use. We do so because copyright isn’t there to maximize income for creators, it’s to provide enough income to creators to get the most media at the lowest price into the most hands.

    2. What about the people who download them?

    See above. They know what computers are for: copying.

    3. Do you think posting something on a blog is a fair use, one-to-one transaction (akin to tape-trading or inviting someone over), rather than akin to broadcasting?

    No, I think it’s akin to neither. I think it is akin to putting something on a blog.

    1. Did you read the preceding sentence…?

      No, I replied in great detail about something I care about for the 10th time today without reading the post I’m responding to. See Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions for more like this.

      1. Do you think the people who post those files are acting ethically?
      Yes. Ethics have changed.

      Summarizes your position nicely. All the rest is just so much rationalization of it and, IMO, a selective and biased reading of the facts. At least now we know where you stand on pirated music. Remind me never to lend you anything.

      over and out

  17. @BingoTheChimp:

    I may be jumping into this conversation a bit late, but I’d like to point out the immense success that Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails have had ENCOURAGING sharing of their music. You can’t stop the copying, making money in music the ‘old way’ just isn’t working any more.

    Check out this great interview on Digg:

    Also, I wonder if you ever produced a Zine called ‘Avast’, back in the early-mid 90’s. You sound like someone I once knew.

  18. For artists that have a more limited potential audience (we don’t know what kind of music bingo-chimp composes, but it’s perhaps safe to assume it’s not multi-million selling pop ditties), one model that seems to have some potential is to create true works of art that have a deliberately limited number of copies, for which the sound itself is only part of the art work. Artists like Merzbow, Current 93, Coil, etc. create a substantial number of limited edition works which are collectible and thus have a resale value. In some cases the pressing is on high quality vinyl, or perhaps it’s in the packaging. However, there is something other than simple content, which in its mass produced format has a limited value. Music-recording-as-work-of-art.

    There are 2 other semi-viable scenarios that continue to exist: 1) works for hire (you get paid a large one-time sum for your compositional work), or 2) digital audio as a promo for live gigs.

    There will never be a viable DRM for digital audio, nor will mp3s ever have a value larger than the current value of somewhere between $0.00 and $0.99 (and expect that the $0.99 ceiling will drop over time to $0.69, 59, and lower). Even if we end up with a subscription model controlled by the ISPs, don’t expect that payouts per listen will be more than $0.10.

    I’m a recording artist and not particularly happy about the present situation, but this is the way it is, and with ever -increasing supply and ever-decreasing demand for the digital-audio-commodity, like all other commodities the value of a single unit will only drop. If more DRM devices are made, it will simply maintain the current supply while lessening demand, which is counter-productive. You can argue ’till you’re blue in the face that it’s stealing and wrong, but that won’t get you increased payouts for your mp3s.

    1. @#29 lerasmus

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, in all sincerity. I do music for hire, in a studio. So live gigs are not applicable. I’m not a performer (well, I am, but not professionally). Think of me as less-talented, blue-collar Jerry Goldsmith. But I also do CDs (for hire) and part of my compensation is a royalty of units sold. As you suggest, I have started to opt for a higher lump fee instead of a smaller fee + a percentage. My complaint is that it’s a drag to be forced to do that just because so many people are doing something illegal (and so many people condone it). I’m not ignoring the problem, I’m lamenting it and look forward to another option.
      Someone posted something about the retail industry and how they accept a certain amount of theft as a fact of life. It’s a great analogy. We all pay higher prices to offset the losses from theft — and don’t forget the anti-theft devices attached to everything.
      I appreciate that music is strictly art for some people, but that’s only part of it for me. It’s also a living. Try telling a plumber to give it up and make copper pipe sculpture instead of fixing the toilet :)

      1. Bingochimp, it’s not just illegal activities that has lessened the value of the identical-copy-recorded-sound-data-block, and it’s not only in digital music-commodities that lessened per-unit value is being experienced. The same goes for commercial photography, ebooks, etc. With iTunes becoming the world’s largest distributor of digital audio products, the pricing scheme and the nature of the sold commodity has been firmly established as having a *maximum* value of about $6.50 (the payout to a label or an individual artist who uploads an album to iTunes). This is equivalent to the high-wholesale price for CDs prior to the existence of iTunes, a price that has existed since the 1980s although the cost of living in the last 25 years has gone up appreciably. When Apple starts seeing decreased sales expect that price to drop to $0.69, and payouts to drop to a max of $4.00 per album. It’d be great if it went the other direction, but it is exceedingly unrealistic.

        These numbers have nothing to do with offsetting the losses from theft, since Apple has incurred no losses due to theft. Again, a subscription model is likely to emerge soon in many country markets, and that will fix the value of any individual song at somewhere between $0.02 and $0.10 based on many industry estimates. That’s even worse, but there would be no appreciable piracy. You can rest assured every copy is legit, and you’ll see little money from all those legit copies. I’m not sure it’s an improvement.

        I too am a recording artist and many of my recordings can’t be recreated live. I’m not happy about the situation at all, but am pragmatic enough to see that recording sales at best will be a small part of any economic strategy for my music-making.

        As has been posted elsewhere, the sudden value accorded mass-duplicated commodities which propelled the industry from the 1950s-1990s is perhaps more of an anomaly than the loss of value we’re experiencing at present. The business models that have any potential for success today hinge upon figuring out how to monetize or to derive benefit from the free distribution opportunities that are available, not how to monetize low value content. The other model – create highly collectible art pieces.

        1. @ lerasmus

          Totally agree about all those economic factors, and I think your analysis is insightful. But to the extent that theft is also a factor, it’s still wrong and should be mitigated, not condoned. Theft is a fact of life and perhaps inevitable in this context, but it’s too bad so many people say “copyright infringement is ok and/or a right of liberty” instead of “copyright infringement is wrong, but we don’t think we can stop it.” Cory D. is explicitly in the former camp.

          Again, you have good points and I don’t think we are necessarily in disagreement?

          1. Well, few people disagree that piracy is illegal, and few disagree it should be discouraged.

            However, a lot of us pretty strongly disagree that governments, law enforcement, and even other industries to be forced to give the entertainment industry preferential treatment, as is the current status quo of their demands. In many cases, the industry bills its income, albeit secretly, as being more important than some basic human rights.

            Frankly, very few people seem to understand that this is usually the core of the argument. People can be against piracy, and also be against relinquishing their own wants and rights.

            Most people are not having a debate over whether piracy is bad, or whether we want to fight it, no matter how hard certain groups try to hoist that straw-man. What people typically debate is how much damage the industry should be allowed to do to the healthy operation of society in the attempt.

            What people really resent is that this industry thinks its wants are more important than everyone else’s needs, and they often entirely deserve to be told to shut the hell up and deal with it.

            It is already illegal to pirate, police already use the same methods and respect the same boundaries to enforce it as any other form of “theft”, and what the industry is really saying when they want more anti-piracy is that they want even more. Being equal isn’t good enough, being treated fairly isn’t good enough, we have to sacrifice our needs to give them more.

            No matter the mask that is put on the issue, it is essentially selfish malice, and there will be no acceptable outcome but its complete defeat.

          2. Well, few people disagree that piracy is illegal, and few disagree it should be discouraged.

            Actually I think plenty of people think it’s acceptable to share music online, I think this is evidenced by the fact that millions of people do it. This doesn’t mean people aren’t going to support artists.

            I buy a fair few cds, I buy posters, I go to a hell of a lot of gigs. I also download plenty of music. It’s how I discover music that’s happening outside of Melbourne.

          3. Well, I tried to be careful and say “illegal” rather than “immoral”, but then I was wrong in that a lot of people don’t want it discouraged, yes. It seems a minority opinion, but it isn’t trivial.

            Also: yeah, “piracy” is a silly buzzword. I’d stop using it, but it’s too dang fun to make pirate jokes about the issue.

            Arr, this new album be pleasin’ to me uter– erm, ears!

          4. Well, few people disagree that piracy is illegal, and few disagree it should be discouraged.

            I disagree vociferously with calling it piracy.

            Studio exec: We need a word that makes music sharing sound like a crime that would land you in prison.

            Lobbyist: Rape?

            Studio exec: Worse!

            Lobbyist: Murder??

            Studio exec: Worse!!

            Lobbyist: Well, pirates rape the men and murder the women when they steal a ship. How about piracy?

            Studio exec: Perfect. Can we get the death penalty?

  19. And I slightly disagree with the statement that ethics have changed in relation to this issue – it’s more that ethics have become irrelevant as the commodity value of mass-produced music has dropped to near-zero. What continues to have value, and skirt the ethical irrelevance, are successfully marketed personal connections between artists and audiences of various sorts.

  20. Being realistic, I think it’s time that the entertainment industry just learned to cope with “theft” the same way the retail industry has.

    While reasonable efforts are (and deserve to be) made to prevent losses in retail due to theft, those businesses still must expect and account for a certain amount of theft to go uncaught and unsolved. It’s a loss that is part of running a business. It’s great to prevent it, but it is a hard and irrefutable fact that they cannot force it to stop altogether. Thankfully, they also haven’t tried to drastically reform law and society so that retail representatives are allowed to intrude on privacy and human rights in order to tilt at windmills hoping to prevent theft altogether.

    The problem with the entertainment industry is that they seem quite convinced that if they rush in and blitz society with enough ham-fisted reforms designed solely to protect their business at society’s expense, they can structure a new society where nobody pirates their material. They are stuck in an eternal sense of denial where they simply fail to comprehend that even if they completely reforged society in such a way that preventing piracy was the greatest and most prioritized human aspiration, it would still continue to happen, and it would probably happen at roughly the same rates it currently does.

    Yes, they deserve to enforce their copyrights within reason, but they also need to accept that some amount of infringement is a fact of doing business and maybe they need to realize that their return on investment would be higher if they spent less money on lobbying and DRM and more on cultivating additional assets from which to make revenue.

    Quite frankly, I’m tired of people thinking that just because piracy is bad, we all need to sacrifice rights, privacy, and fair governance to curb it so the businesses it harms are privileged with special treatment that lifts them above the status of every other honest (perhaps moreso) business.

  21. Can we have the full reference to the paper? Without the full reference, this is useless. It could be a pile of crap made by a sunday hobbyist club.

    Nevermind, I found it. It was hard to find, but it was publish in ARSC Journal, vol.17, no.1 (1985), p.18-45.

    Thank you for keeping the full reference next time!

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