Having fixed Africa and AIDS, Bono tackles filesharing

Bono, in a New York Times top-ten essay filled with of Brilliant Ideas That Will Fix The World If Only They'd Listen To Moi, says "Intellectual Property Developers" are doomed because of filesharing. Snip:
bonohed.jpg But we know from America's noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China's ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it's perfectly possible to track content. Perhaps movie moguls will succeed where musicians and their moguls have failed so far, and rally America to defend the most creative economy in the world, where music, film, TV and video games help to account for nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product."
Ah yes, the "noble effort to stop child pornography," always good to lead with that one when you're proposing draconian net-trawling tactics. After all, those efforts did stop child pornography, right? And surely what's good for squashing China's dissidents is good for the world! Cory's on holiday, but you can bet he had some pithy goodness to tweet, after the jump.


Bono: Ten for the Next Ten (New York Times)

(Image via Wikipedia)


  1. If only greed and ignorance could suppress Bono is more like it. Now that would be a useful purpose for greed and ignorance.

  2. Cory’s comments are a bit mean – but I feel exactly the same way.

    However Bono has nothing to fear from me. I promise never to illegally download any U2 songs. In fact, if one comes on the radio I promise switch stations.

  3. So, let me get this straight– The music business, already in the crapper because they didn’t keep up with technology and the demands of their consumers, should look to the successes exemplified by trawling for child pornographers and the tactics of oppressive communist regimes? What kind of logic is that? I’m guessing Bono was writing during a post-New Year’s hangover.

    Why do we listen to these guys?

    1. The fact that someone makes good music does not imply that it’s worth listening to them talk. (It doesn’t preclude their being clueful and articulate, but it doesn’t increase the odds.)

      America likes celebrities who make news — good, bad, or embarrassing. I suspect it’s because we don’t have a royal family to gossip about.

      1. America likes celebrities who make news — good, bad, or embarrassing. I suspect it’s because we don’t have a royal family to gossip about.

        Better check your atlas- last I looked Dublin wasn’t part of the United States.

  4. Whats with the @#$%$ glasses Bono? He’s an idiot and The Edge can’t play guitar to save his life. Most of us know that musicians don’t make money unless its from performing for lots and lots and lots of people.

  5. Once again Cory is hurting the cause he claims to support.

    Bono is rich so he should shut up? Is that supposed to be an argument?

    If you’re not an RIAA shill, then make the real arguments here instead of acting like a 4th grader.

    1. “Bono is rich so he should shut up? Is that supposed to be an argument?”

      No – the argument is that most of his riches made this year come from touring, and tickets to a gig aren’t files that can be shared.

      The endgame of the “copyright law is broken” argument is that artists will need to make money from avenues that have nothing to do with files, and Bono, in this case, is a shining example of doing it right.

      I suppose the “shut up” indignity comes from the sense that Bono wants to have his cake and eat it – he’s not satisfied only with being stupendously wealthy from his tours, but he wants to install government spyware on your computer so he can eke a few more bucks out of you for files as well.

  6. You know, I adore Bono and U2 (he’s a good man, and anyone with an ounce of sense will acknowledge that the other three members’ musicianship is excellent), but the band’s greatest shortcoming is their archaic approach to the music business. Just because they had their own iPod, that doesn’t mean they’re even remotely “with it.” They belong in the same boat labeled “Dinosaurs” as Lily Allen does.

  7. I don’t think the comments are “mean” at all. Bono is a smart enough guy that he could have done his research and found several counter-arguments to his statements. The fact that he published his agitprop un-fact-checked is his own damn fault. The fact that he is using rhetorical devices from the mid-90s to present his position is his own damn fault.

    The dude has a /staff/ and he has the ear of hundreds of people smarter than him on this subject. Instead, he takes the easy way out and publishes a screed based on rhetorical tricks and outright misinformation. He has painted himself as a person who likes to take nuanced positions with a practical bent. Something he did not get right with this subject.

    Doctorow’s comments are not only spot-on, they are much milder than Bono deserves.

    Bono is going to have to work harder to convince me that he isn’t just doing more noob celebrity cause-mongering. Bono: read a damn book already.

  8. Bono is one of the 0.01% of songwriters who is paid well, so he doesn’t realize that 99.99% of songwriters aren’t. It’s not surprising that he has no idea how the world of music works for those fledgling songwriters he claims to be on the side of.

    I know several local songwriters of some repute, none of whom gets any money from ASCAP for their efforts. They work day jobs. They write songs because they have the uncontrollable urge to write songs. They won’t stop writing songs because people use the Internet to share music.

    And he’s wrong about that other stuff too.

    1. To be fair, nixie, if you actually read the article, Bono professes to be concerned not about himself, but about new up-and-coming songwriters who don’t have his level of fame.

      His comments still miss the boat, but to attack him for being rich already and wanting to be richer is an unfair straw man. Attack him for what he did say, not for what you want him to have said.

  9. Since his early forays into politics I’ve thought he was a twunt, hereafter I just feel that I was right.

  10. He’s just sad because their new album SUCKS – didn’t sell as much as how to dismantle a nuclear bomb, as a result, their concerts didn’t sell out and Bono didn’t get a chance to pitch his “Send a SMS message to help free third-world countries by forgiving their debt” crapola to as many concert goers. Man – Get on your boots SUCKS!!!!

    1. Get on your boots does suck, but No Line on the Horizon is excellent, as is Magnificent and Breathe. The rest of the album is quite good, too.

  11. I wonder how many lesser artists cannot get their songs heard because “monster-mega-stars” like Bono take up such large chunks of the pie? He’s like the Walmart of Music, so successful that he drowns out all the little guys.

    The music industry began with live performances for ticket a ticket buying public as the primary revenue generator. They need to get back to that, using the recordings as “sonic business cards” advertising those concert events.

    As it stands now, 20 minutes of studio time equals a lifetime of sitting on your butt collecting royalties. Ridiculous.


  12. None of the musicians that have achieved superstar status seem to question their role in the economics of the creative world. The star system rewards a few representative bands and ignores the majority of creative people. This system is designed for global economy, for large companies to generate and receive profit from a tiny sliver of highly controlled output. The Internet and file sharing help more bands that are just starting out than the recording industry has since adopting the star system as it’s model.

  13. “…it’s perfectly possible to track content.”

    It’s perfectly possible to suppress content. But “track” it? Nope. Just look at the failure of DRM.

  14. Let’s be fair, Bono acknowledges that *he* does well from touring:

    “A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us.”

    So in a world where nobody pays for an MP3 file, just how do ‘fledgeling’ songwriters (not necessarily performers) get paid? Do they deserve to get paid?

    These are difficult questions.

    1. “Let’s be fair, Bono acknowledges that *he* does well from touring”

      Precisely. Bono’s arguments are a lot less nonsensical than Cory is making them out to be. He’s not claiming he’s being that hurt by piracy — but that more obscure artists are. It’s a real issue that can’t be swept under the rug by saying “Bono makes huge amounts of money by touring”, even if that’s true. The problem with the whole “recorded music just serves as advertisements for your concerts; you should be glad it is copied for free” model is that it only works for big name artists who hold concerts in sold out arenas. And what about artists that *can’t* perform live as their music consists of multi-tracking themselves, electronic modification, etc.?

      1. Jonathan @28: I’d argue that it’s the other way around. The biggest artists – Beatles, U2, Metallica, whatever – are the few most genuinely hurt by piracy, because there’s no compensating benefits.

        Small groups need exposure above all things; the biggest reason people don’t buy albums from (insert your favourite non-world-famous band here) is never having heard of them.

        You’re neglecting to consider the preexisting music industry setup: bands who aren’t big enough for major concerts also never make any money from CD sales. (Major music-label accounting is deeply disgusting.)
        Profits go to the label; only the few biggest bands ever get to ‘recoup’ (i.e. actually be paid royalties on album sales).

        That’s a simplification for blog-comment purposes, but it’s not an oversimplification.

        Salvation for smaller artists will consist of new distribution channels that bypass the majors entirely.
        (Rock Band Network is the example that comes to my mind right now; there are others.)

      2. “And what about artists that *can’t* perform live as their music consists of multi-tracking themselves, electronic modification, etc.?”

        Have you ever heard of a computer?

        They are very useful machines. I would think any musician who is clever enough to multi-track to record is clever enough to, you know, play with recorded tracks. I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s easier than playing with people.

        I have a friend who put his “bassist” on an MP3-player when stood up after short notice. The show was fine. Mr. Creative Zen was perfectly acceptable it turns out.

        If you mean what about musicians who don’t care to figure out how to play a live show? Well, what about musicians who don’t care to play any instruments, or write any music, or… you know do anything?

  15. Bono lost any claim at giving a damn about recording artists when U2 and their record label nearly destroyed Negativland, way back in 1991. This is a fellow who hasn’t a care for artistic expression, much less the well being of artists that are not he and his chums from u2. Oh yeah, his music is terrible.

  16. Why does Bono go after filesharing when he could go after all of the bands that shamelessly ripped off the U2 sound? That’s some copywright enforcement everyone can get behind.

    For every time I’ve been mildly annoyed by the blandness of a U2 song, I’ve been driven twelve ways to distraction by some twerps that have mindlessly parroted the Edge’s eighties echoplex guitar, or, worse, mimicked Bono’s vocal histrionics. Save us from the poseurs, Bono!

  17. I liked U2’s music, but Bono’s idiotic comments through the years have coloured my perception of his music.

    These comments betray a staggering lack of understanding and humanity. Thinking that totalitarian means of controlling media, just so that he can record a song and have income forever is ludicrous and evil (depending on your definition of evil, of course).

    Other people have to work everyday for their paycheck, most have to work 8-10 hours a day until the age of 67-70. The fact that a system is in place so that Bono does not need to work more than one week a year (unless he REALLY wants a fourth castle and a third business jet) just reminds us of the sillyness of it all. Gigs are real work. Writing music is real work. Recording is real work. You should get paid for each of those. But should you have this extreme control over the subject matter for these long periods? questionable.

    If you are a good musician you will be able to survive comfortably. If you are also able to write music that people want to hear then you will get a lot of people who want to listen to you. And each will pay you.

    For people who grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s the normal system is: write a hit song, get filthy rich, never do anything ever again.
    Musicians up to that time had to work everyday just like the rest of us. And I suspect that musicians in the future will have to do the same. This was a temporary system, now we need a new one because the old one is breaking down.

  18. Bono might not necessarily be the best poster child for the cause, but I agree with the sentiment that America has become a nation of “if it’s free and I cant get caught, then that makes it morally right.”


  19. Songwriters who sell their songs tend to do alright- it’s the guys who insist on performing them that have to get a little more creative for money. But Labels traditionally have treated such as a necessary evil they need to put up with in order to make money, and therefore treated them very shabbily. But when you can get an album recorded without a label (sometimes trickier to do so but how tricky is it to get signed in the first place again?) and use the internet to get it out there, all you need is a method of promotion- the main area labels help you. If they choose to do so.

  20. I don’t agree with Bono on every issue but that doesn’t mean I think the guy is an irredeemable asshole. Anyone who raises millions of dollars for Amnesty International deserves at least some “free speech” cred.

  21. Bono’s acting like an ignorant dick. He would do well to step out from nehind his wallet and look at the real issues and causes behind IP “piracy” and government control of the net. “Free speech cred” via his Amnesty International work is no excuse for being a loudmouth dumbass – if anything, these statements drastically reduce his Amnesty driven cred because it shows he doesn’t know what the f*ck he’s talking about. Should he shut up just because he’s rich? Of course not. But since he’s in a position of influence he would do well to educate himself beyond his own profit motives – and then perhaps people will listen to what he has to say and stop calling him an ignorant dick.

  22. I don’t know but I remember listening to some older extended family talking about how they just loved U2’s music, but that you just had to try to ignore that awful liberal crazy stuff Bono says because, you know, musicians and actors are always talking about that.

    I thought to myself. Wow, that guy’s out of touch with his fans.

    Bono. You have a lot in common with John Denver.

    As a small musician I really don’t care if people download my songs. I don’t stand to make money off of recordings anyway, only if I get paid to play.

    I have no desire to deal with large labels. I just like making music. Apparently Bono doesn’t know what that feels like. It shows.

    Sorry U2 fans, it’s just not my bag.

  23. …Well, if it wasn’t official before, it’s official now: The wrong Bono died on the ski slopes. Then again, Bono’s had to sell himself out and find other ways to keep himself entertained since he and U2 quit running guns for the IRA. Those doubting this should reference the fact that all of their songs written after the final ceasefire in Ireland were *not* the Anthems that all U2 songs were during their pre-sellout days.

    Don’t be surprised if there’s a U2 flood on the binary groups within the next day or so. A lot of pirates are BB readers…:-/

    1. The wrong Bono died on the ski slopes.

      I live in Sonny Bono’s district. If he were alive today, he’d be trying to legislate the death penalty for file-sharing.

  24. “And what about artists that *can’t* perform live as their music consists of multi-tracking themselves, electronic modification, etc.?”

    It’s called ‘Tough Shit’ ™.
    If your music is done in a way that doesn’t make it commercially viable to be played in front of an audience live, then you don’t make money with it and either find something else to make money with or do something different with your music. It’s very simple.

    I’m an engineer who only works on kerosene engines. I propose we set limits and tracking on all this diesel and gasoline nonsense which is putting my livelihood at risk.

  25. This is just all the more reason to support local artists. Instead of paying $50, $60, etc (whatever it is people pay nowadays), pay $5 – $10 and go see some artists who need the money. Buy their CDs and merch from them at their gigs. They will genuinely appreciate it.
    Fuck big content with a stick.

  26. There you are thinking that its only rock and roll and then suddenly the money success and fame means that you need to protect your position and become all corporate and controlling. After all someone else coming along being rebellious and creative might threaten the domain you have created.
    I am not sure that is what Bono was doing, though you could interpret it as involving feathering and the odd nest.
    If music is good then people will support it, they will be there for the artists, as a crowd at a gig or an online audience listening to an MP3 whilst they are all playing on their xbox. The breakthrough artists will fit nicely into that to as they will be able to be on the same playlists as the big groups. Its really the middlemen in the record companies that will suffer, but they are a relatively new invention so should find a way to evolve.

  27. Small-time musicians are having to figure out new stuff, too, no doubt. This *is* an issue, though internet spying is no solution.

    “And what about artists that *can’t* perform live as their music consists of multi-tracking themselves, electronic modification, etc.?”

    Have you seen an Animal Collective show? Or Grizzly Bear? Or Dirty Projectors? Most of the answer is “get a macbook and give some programmer a little groupie action.”

    I’d say what we really need is infrastructure. We need venues that aren’t the Nokia Theatre or the McDonald’sDome, or otherwise tied up in big, insane acts. We need something small that people can go to, and an audience willing to experiment to fill seats. In the future, there is no mass market, just millions of niches.

  28. I, for one, have always considered him to be rather a pompous, preening ass. Nothing is changed by this.

  29. >>I’m an engineer who only works on kerosene engines. I propose we set limits and tracking on all this diesel and gasoline nonsense which is putting my livelihood at risk.<< Yes, but what if Americans could easily steal your kerosene engines in mass, with virtually zero chance of being caught? You'd be singing a different tune. Pun intended.

  30. Here’s a simple idea: if the creator of a piece of music (or a movie, or a book, or a video game) doesn’t want you to download it without paying for it, maybe you should respect their wishes instead of coming up with some rationalizations like, “If they really wanted to make money, they would tour, etc.”

    Who are you to set the conditions for how others share their art and make a living? If you don’t want to pay the price they’re asking, don’t consume the media.

    1. Easy enough for me. I think most people’s stuff is crap anyway. I don’t pay for stuff I don’t want though, only stuff I like.

      So I’ll shell out fifty bucks for a neat version of an album I already have by an artist I like because I can. And I’ll go to their shows, and I’ll buy an extra download fom Amazon because I’m too lazy to rip my favorite CD to my phone.

      Buuuut I won’t be spending five dollars on figuring out whether I like a band or not. It’s not worth it.

  31. Bonos statements are but words only. If he really cares about the small songwriter, why doesn’t he support one of them each month both financially and musically?

    Cory, you are doing well because you embrace the openness. You would help your cause better by falsifying his statements by own example (or the example of Jonathan Coulton, who is much more talented than Bono) in profiting from freedom.

    Apart from that, I agree that the copyright is really not sufficient in the digital age. But I am currently in two minds on whether the solution lies in its extension or limiting. Those pro extension of copyrights to fight filesharing are not making a good case, since mostly their motivation is seen as greed. Their opponents aren’t making a good case either, since their motivation is all too unclear.

    Greetings, LX

  32. Do NOT get Olly McPherson started with mention of libraries… probably would never stop raging against the whippersnapper freeloader ingrate types that frequent them.

  33. @Anonymous 13 – Not to be Captain-Save-A-Bono here but the current U2 tour has been selling out steadily. Manager Paul McGuinness has been claiming that when it’s all done with, they’re expecting the tour to gross $750 million – far more than their previous tours. However what’s not very well reported is that U2’s touring expenses are $750,000 a DAY – whether or not the band actually plays. So in the end there actually is a question of whether or not the U2 organization will actually make any money.

    To me that’s a completely insane economic model, but I’m not sure if U2 (or any other stadium act) is in a position to operate in a way other than Big Mega Colossal Tour. The rest of Bono’s NYT column only affirms that his point of view is just as quaint and old-fashioned as being a rock star in 2010.

  34. Step 1: Create opinion based on poor understanding of the relevant technology and laws.

    Step 2: Alienate consumers, preferably as publicly as possible.

    Step 3: ????

    Step 4 : Profit!

  35. @LX – Actually U2 *did* run a record label (Mother Records) for awhile, but shut it down in 2000.

    1. @Chris Barrus: I know, but I meant a more personal way of ensuring their progress than throwing money at them.

      Greetings, LX

  36. Hmm. I just bought How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb the other week, convinced that the material was good because I’d been listening to illegally uploaded music videos on YouTube.

  37. If only the Virgin Prunes had become the mega-superstars and U2 remained a well-regarded footnote in Ireland’s post-punk past.

  38. agreenster @ 44:
    “but what if Americans could easily steal your kerosene engines in mass, with virtually zero chance of being caught?”

    Ah but no-one’s actually going into Bono’s house and STEALING a pile of CDs. That’s a bit of a difference – I’m not going to argue over whether all art should be copyrighted to such a degree that we can drag the spanish inquisition back out (I use CC licences on the guff I write), but you need to match metaphors.

    What you should be saying is “How would you like it if someone took an x-ray photograph of your engine, then went and got all the meterials and made their own!?”. Which perhaps someone would be angry with. Maybe.

    I happen to copy loads of music. It’s stored in a high density electro-chemical based biological storage device. I can often pull music, films and books out of it whenever I want – sometimes I even use my high desity device to mash the song up and have it sung in a different voice.

    Perhaps I should have this device removed? Whaddya think?

  39. Yeah, just like I’m not surprised by your rudeness.

    What wonderful, superficial metaphor will you spin next? Since downloading files is directly equivalent to visiting the library, I don’t see how you can fail to convince everyone on the subject.

  40. Im an artist, and I think libraries are great! They use government funds to purchase media to disseminate in moderation. They dont offer free, unlimited downloads for copyrighted material.

    What I just dont understand is the unabashed supporting opinion for free file sharing here on BoingBoing. Do you guys really think its OKAY to download a movie and watch it? Do you not realize that artists RELY on the sales/rentals/subscriptions of their media to make a living?

    In my opinion, if you watch it or listen to it, you need to pay for it. Unless, of course, you want artists to slowly lose their jobs until no one is making anything anymore.

  41. >>What you should be saying is “How would you like it if someone took an x-ray photograph of your engine, then went and got all the meterials and made their own!?”. Which perhaps someone would be angry with. Maybe.<< Actually, your metaphor is way off. No one is downloading the script of a movie (or a piece of sheet music) and making their own version. Thank you for so eloquently pointing out your flawed logic! They are taking the original, copying it perfectly, and providing it free of charge to a limitless audience. The problem is that the internet and technology has made it simple to get SERVICES (not goods) for free. Hey, if no one was hurt by it, Id be all for it. But Ive seen first hand my friends and colleagues get laid off because a movie or game doesnt sell, yet its one of the higher downloaded movies on any of the torrent sites. Whats the solution?

  42. >>I happen to copy loads of music. It’s stored in a high density electro-chemical based biological storage device. I can often pull music, films and books out of it whenever I want – sometimes I even use my high desity device to mash the song up and have it sung in a different voice.<< Again, your metaphor is way off. In order to make a copy (in your brain, to use your example), you would have to have been exposed to the original in some form, right? You didnt make the song up on your own. And to do that, you should pay in some way. If you paid for the track on iTunes, great. If you hear it on the radio, advertising covered your tab, everyone is happy. If you got it from the library, the government covered your tab, everyone is happy. If you got it from the internet, you stiffed the artist. Congratulations. Im NOT arguing against making a copy of something you have paid for, Im arguing against getting a copy for free, and zero artist compensation.

  43. Thank you for being more substantive in your responses than I have the energy to, a greenster. I agree with you.

  44. Gee, I guess the dude *coughcough* isn’t already rich enough. Can you imagine someone like Ozzie Osbourne giving a shit about this and saying that the rest of the world should get on board with China?

    Can’t help remembering that episode of Southpark – how many courics is he again?

  45. “Unless, of course, you want artists to slowly lose their jobs until no one is making anything anymore.”

    Sounds like a great idea to me.

    When that happens we can see/hear more actual art; you know, the stuff artists would produce regardless of the amount of money they would pull in. Ah, just imagine, the death of the MTV Cribs purposed “art.”

    That slow loss of jobs can’t come quickly enough. I’m an idealist, I realize.

  46. “If you paid for the track on iTunes, great. If you hear it on the radio, advertising covered your tab, everyone is happy. If you got it from the library, the government covered your tab, everyone is happy. If you got it from the internet, you stiffed the artist. Congratulations.”

    …I heard it on the street from some passerby… perhaps THEY “stole” it from the Internet, even? DOUBLE-STEALING! OH NOES.

  47. >>”Unless, of course, you want artists to slowly lose their jobs until no one is making anything anymore.”

    Sounds like a great idea to me.<< And the best way to cherry pick which art you want to live and which you want to die, is with your wallet. If you like Pixar's movies (which can really only be made by the combined effort of a large group of talented, employed artists), then please buy a ticket or DVD. If you dont like "Miss March," then dont buy a ticket or the DVD and show the creators not to make those anymore. But not buying either and just downloading them isnt helping the artists you like, who already make "stuff artists would produce regardless of the amount of money they would pull in." Sure, people can sit in their basement and freeload for years trying to make a movie, but if they dont make any money on it, odds are it'll be their last effort. Support artists by buying (not stealing) their products. Please.

  48. I’m a filmmaker, a musician, and a comics “artist” (whatever that means.) By all means, “steal” my stuff and pass it around. No one “owns’ anything they make- the concept is ridiculous and morally indefensible. I pay for the albums I own, but I have no problem copying an album or making a copy for a friend. Freely exchanging ideas will never hurt anyone- it’s the whole reason human beings exist (or one of them.) If you like someone’s work, give them money, or don’t, and maybe they’ll make more work, or maybe they’ll stop. Either way, no one owns anything they make or buy. They’re IDEAS, people. You can’t own an idea any more than you can own the land or the sky. When we all die, Bono’s last couple of shit albums will still be around, for better or for worse, because his music is not his to control. Arguing that musicians are going to starve if we don’t pay for their stuff is not only untrue (we’ll pay if it means they can’t make more stuff that we value) it’s also, simply, not a moral argument- just one based on fear and ignorance.

    And this is all moot anyway, since technology is just going to keep rendering the concept of ownership more and more archaic. You can accept this fact now or later, but it’s still a fact.

  49. Well, glad you spoke for everyone there, das memsen.

    Maybe it would be ok if artists who are comfortable having their work shared freely, you know, share their work, while other artists–those who disagree–don’t.

    I’m an “artist” too. Please don’t steal my stuff and pass it around, thanks.

  50. Thats just it, you arent paying for IDEAS, you’re paying for SERVICES. In movies, the service is entertainment. Lets use your logic in a different scenario: You hire a clown for your sons birthday party.

    Try to not pay him and see what happens. You’ll have an angry clown on your hands, police will be called, and you will be held legally responsible. How is this any different?

    PS) You can own land.

    1. sneaking into a movie theater is stealing a service. It costs them money every time they screen the film. The ticket covers their costs. making a clone of a cd is not stealing a service. Neither the artist nor the record label spends any more money or energy because of your clone- in fact, now there’s MORE copies of their “product” at my expense, not theirs. We call it stealing because that’s how we’ve defined the game, but in any real, “step outside our little paradigm called modern society” sort of way, nothing at all has been stolen.

      You can’t own land, not in any real way, either. But at least our system of land ownership makes SOME sense (though certainly not to the people that were here before us and got dicked over.)

      i think we should support artists financially. but we are not LEGALLY obligated to do so- it’s our free choice, period. we can ask people to pay us for our stuff, and hopefully they will- but we have no right to prosecute them legally if they choose not to.

    2. Indeed you can own land. Of note is that your terse rebuttal points to a commodity type that nobody (save perhaps real estate speculators in Dubai) can make.

  51. >>(we’ll pay if it means they can’t make more stuff that we value)<< That is precisely the point I am arguing. And how exactly do you expect to "know" if they cant "make more stuff?" Should an artist (or a studio) send out a press release saying "Hey, I have a great idea for a (game/movie/song) as good as the last one you guys liked! Can you promise to pay for it this time, instead of just downloading it, and Ill promise it'll be good!" No. If you like their stuff, buy it. Then that'll encourage them and and make it able for them to make MORE stuff. You have your cart and horse backwards. I mean, Im not necessarily talking about single artists here. Im talking about studios with employees with modest salaries. And artists DO get laid off when their product is a victim of piracy. I've seen it first hand.

  52. It was bad enough three years ago when Bono was beaking off about his economically illiterate ‘solutions’ to Africa, and carrying himself with the pretention that government leaders should meet and listen to him – but this latest move on his part has gone from arrogantly ignorant, to the morally criminal.

    It used to be that he was encouraging people to waste money on warm fuzzies that would help no one. Now he’s encouraging them to do something that will be outright harmful. As a content creator myself I certainly don’t agree with the “All art should be free!!!1!” argument, but this statement of his is ludicrous.

  53. >>> Do you not realize that artists RELY on the sales/rentals/subscriptions of their media to make a living?

    I believe the days of being able to make any kind of living solely as an artist are well over now. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing… I’ve been a musician for years, and sure I’d like to be creating full-time, but in practical terms I also have to put a roof over my head, pay for bandwidth, studio equipment, etc. and so that’s why I have a job. Not very much the romantic image of bohemian-artist-at-large, but that’s the reality of the situation.

    On the other hand there’s no way I’d want to go back to the way the music industry worked 10-20 years ago. Back then I’d have to tour ALL the time, pay thousands for studio time, risk losing the rights to my own songs, be obstructed from selling my music in other countries, and all for the chance of owing thousands of dollars to a record label. No thanks. I’d rather play the lottery.

    Sure I’d love it if everyone would buy my band’s album rather than download a free copy but at least now there’s a fighting chance of everyone being able to hear it.

    Complaining about musician’s filesharing attitudes is the new complaining about musicians selling songs to advertisements.

  54. Well, technically, you ARE legally obligated to do so. It IS illegal to rip a movie, put it online as free distribution. In fact, its a federal offense. Just because people get away with it, doesnt make it legal.

    What we are arguing isnt IF its illegal, but whether it SHOULD be illegal. I think it should, you think it shouldnt. Lets at least establish what we’re arguing about here.

    I honestly believe that people who download and watch a movie have just “stolen” (or maybe a better word is prevented) their otherwise potential sale from the makers of that movie. Sure, no physical object was stolen, and the middleman (movie theaters) was removed, but lets not kid ourselves by saying no harm was done. Harm WAS done.

    And I dont buy the logic “they wouldnt have bought it anyway.” If their curiosity was piqued enough to download it, then Im sure their curiosity was piqued enough to at least rent it. Lord knows Ive rented enough stinkers in my life. But even if only half, or a quarter of those illegal downloads were rentals or bought copies, we’re still talking millions of copies.

    Look, I know that asking for a morally responsible society to do the right thing is like asking for a dog to not lick its butt, but I wont sit back and not let the voice of reason at least be heard.

    1. “I honestly believe that people who download and watch a movie have just “stolen” (or maybe a better word is prevented) their otherwise potential sale ”

      The issue here is was that a potential sale or not? I watch the free movies on my netflix all the time. If I like the movie I order a copy because I like owning copies. If that movie hadn’t been there free though, it’s quite likely I might not even have put it on my queue to use up one of the monthly slots. Besides if you were correct no one would EVER purchase copies of movies they had rented because there’s no real reason you have to own it. Most things are usually around some where.

      Burning a copy is just a way of having it lying around. If you want the nice version you’ll still probably pay for it.

      Don’t even get me started on the rare stuff. There are so many things I have downloaded because they are out of print and I can’t find a copy to buy even for a stupid amount of money.

      If it makes you feel better I had a free rip off version of Todesking, but it didn’t stop me from ordering the fancy version from overseas when I had the cash free to do it.

    2. How’s this for a voice of reason.

      The music business, just like a film business is a business like any other. Businesses need to adopt business models that work. The old business model has crashed head-first into new technology and new attitudes.

      Would you have opened a high end jewellery store in the Bronx in 1977? Surely not, because despite the fact that people robbing you is a crime, it would be bound to happen, insurance would cost far too much and you’d be much less likely to make sales then if you’d put your store in down-town Manhattan. Whether robbing someone is illegal or morally right is irrelevant. What is relevant is that your business would likely fail if you’d stuck it in the Bronx, whereas success would be much more likely in Manhattan.

      A lot of musicians do have the intelligence to see the folly in bitching and moaning about file-sharing and they’re adjusting their business around this. Doing more live shows, selling special limited run vinyls for huge prices, having donation things on their websites, cutting out the middlemen, etc, etc.

      Now musicians may be poor and struggling to find a living selling their music because people download it free, but musicians have always been poor. It’s a hard way to make a living and only a small percentage ever manage to do it as their sole income, let alone do it comfortably.

      The big difference now is recording is cheaper than it’s ever been and distribution is virtually free, so instead of racking up tens of thousands in debts to record companies and being poor musicians can be their own bosses and be poor (and the rich ones can still make buckets of money doing stadium tours).

    3. agreenster, downloading files isn’t as easy as you make out. I was downloading AGE OF CONSENT (Helen Mirren’s 1st film) & BitTorrent only got to 97% when the seed gave out (THEY were at 97%.) So when I was looking for LITTLE FAUS & BIG HALSEY (Robert Redford & Michael Pollard), I jumped at the chance to buy it for $15 from a website instead of trying to find it on a BitTorrent site. But I have downloaded other movies with BitTorrent –NIGHT OF THE DEMON, SLAPSHOT (Paul Newman)& SLITHER (James Caan.)
      Another problem is that the video rental stores seem to be going out of business. The local Hollywood rental has closed. Blockbuster is still around, but they censor movies. I’ve noticed several grocery stores & drug stores have DVD rental kiosks. Of course, all they offer is this year’s hits.
      I remember when there was a mail order service called Home Film Festival (in Scranton PA no less.) You subscribed & they would send you a yearly catalog (232 pages) listing all the films they had. They specialized in foreign films. You could rent up to 4 VHS tapes, keep them for ten days, & then send them back in the provided box, postage prepaid. They disappeared around 2000, but there still seems to be a shop in Scranton. In Sweden, they have a website called film2home.com which sells or rents films over broadband. I just have dial-up.

  55. Most creative economy in the world? Most of the stuff the major music, tv and movie companies are pumping out are just rehashed versions of stuff that’s come before, and if an original idea comes along it’ll get killed off early on because it requires the consumer to actually engage that piece of mush between their ears.

  56. I still only have an illegal version of Rubin and Ed. Why, you ask? Because as far as I know they haven’t released it on DVD and I’m not paying hundreds of dollars for an old VHS when I don’t even have a VHS player. Maybe if enough people profit from illegal sales of it they’ll release it on DVD.

    I should have stolen Hole when I had a copy of it. I had no idea it was out of print until I went to order it, and by then I had returned the copy :(:(:( I still watch clips of it on Youtube and kick myself.

    It’s so much more nuanced than it seems.

  57. Ah, but even “free” movies on netflix arent “free.”

    The distributor of those “free” films still get compensated by netflix, and passed on to you as an added service and “value,” courtesy of netflix (intended to keep you happy and using their service)


    Are provided freely from the distributor, with the intent to spread interest and hope to garner sales.

    But netflix does NOT provide free movies without the permission of the distributor, or by paying them a fee.

    There are so many layers upon layers of contracts and distributors out there, that we as consumers have gotten confused, that everything starts to look and feel the same, so we feel justified when we take without paying.

    1. Um… duh.

      And yet you still don’t seem to get it. I don’t watch movies I wouldn’t pay for. I rent movies. I buy movies. I go see movies in the theater. I also watch free versions. I hope this doesn’t offend you but I also watch movies that my friends own at their houses without paying ANYTHING because my friends already paid for the DVD! Freaky no? I mean, shouldn’t I mail in some cash to compensate for that time I watched Anchorman in some one’s dorm room?

      Aaaand almost every movie I’ve found worth downloading illegally I have ponied up for.

      The few I haven’t were crap and I’m no more sorry for that then I would be if I watched a movie a friend rented and didn’t pay for my personal viewing of it at their house.

      The others I haven’t are not available for purchase.

  58. Well, seeing how Bono is talking about the film industry, and Im making a case primarily for the film industry (but music and games as well) Id say your suggestions that pertain to musicians only are slightly irrelevant in this discussion.

    And I also feel that just because something is easy to steal/break into doesnt make it right, and the owners of these properties have every right to prosecute the offenders.

    But I dont support government spying/policing either. Again, I dont have the solution, just a lot of questions and the hope people will make the morally correct decision. But I can see Im barking up the wrong tree…

  59. I do occasionally disagree with Cory, but I see nothing wrong with his tweets here.

    @Stephen , omitting logical steps from an argument because the medium is limited to 140 characters makes no-one a 4th-grader. The point is that Internet piracy can’t buy you a ticket to a concert, and that’s where the money’s at, so Internet piracy is not destroying the industry.

  60. It is not just Bono, something is wrong with all of his team. Here is another briliant argument that appeared in the Economist: “But by reducing the money available to sign and tout new artists, file-sharing has made it harder for bands to become established. Paul McGuinness, who manages the band U2, says the whole “starmaking apparatus” is damaged.” Link to the complete article http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14845087

  61. Please. Cory is willfully misreading Bono’s argument so that he can resort to an adolescent tendency – to simply throw mud, attack him as a greedy, ignorant bastard, and walk away without even attempting to address the real issue. It’s a strategy meant to inspire message board chatter and attention for his “brand,” and nothing more constructive than that. The old model is supposedly broken. No one knows what the new model is supposed to look like, but Cory’s language is more akin to any cynical politician merely concerned with their narrow constituency, rather than with finding realistic solutions. This is an issue Cory has made his name on, so it makes sense he’d reply in such a way, as if someone else had invaded his turf. But it’s essentially a destructive attitude on his part. If someone came up with a “solution” to the Freeloading problem, he’d probably still be on the attack, because he’d have lost his big issue. Increased tracking and punitive ISP measures are on the way, in large part (and sadly), because Freeloaders are so unwilling to acknowledge that, yes, there is a problem and there are dire consequences to a world where no one pays for music, movies, books, and journalism. Either we can wrestle with this and try to find a solutions, or resort to name calling best reserved for, yes, an elementary schoolyard.

    The artists with the most profitable tours are the artists with the most marketing and promotion support, usually backed by a MAJOR LABEL. Small artists are lucky to break even on the road, and your insistence on not paying for music only makes it less likely that small labels are able to give emerging artists the support they need. By not voting with your wallets, you’re merely aiding in Live Nation/Clear Channel’s ever growing monopoly. You’re ultimately empowering the “greedy” corporate interests you claim to hate. If you want particular artists (backed by particular labels) to to have the time and energy to continue making work that you love, then the obvious choice is to support them.

    1. There is no point arguing with you – by your comments it seems you have vested interest – but you neglect to acknowledge that musicians are self-driven to create music. That’s why they became musicians in the first place.

      Just because a bunch of schmoes figured out a way to make money off musicians like a leech, doesn’t mean we should encourage this process to continue.

      Recording and pressing albums used to require equiptnemt and know-how that was far beyond the financial or theortic means of the musicians themselves. This is no longer the case. Why should the consumer accept paying relatively the same price for music as 50 years ago, when record company’s overheads have decreased significantly?

      It’s a preposterous ask… so consumers access music illegally instead, just as they did in the age of dubbing cassette tapes.

      I buy a ton of merch & tickets when musicians demonstrate appreciation for their fans by coming to my city. That is how we should support them because the artist, in most cases, gets a far higher cut from merch and tix than royalties from a CD. Also keeps my cash out of the hands of rec exs to funnel into their legal department :)

  62. Bad music, bad glasses, bad ethics & bad reasoning. Saw U2 live in Tokyo (thank Dog the ticket was a gift) and guess what? The light show was the best part!

    You fail the big one Bono. He Probably still hasn’t found what he’s looking for: Mo’ money.

  63. >>agreenster, downloading files isn’t as easy as you make out.

    I absolutely hope thats true.

  64. Im not trying to offend or make anyone angry, and yes, I have a vested interest. This matters to me, and I hope Ive offered a polite counter-opinion. Im an animator at a major animated film company, and to be quite frank, I dont want to lose my job or see my industry suffer because people dont buy DVDs or go to movies anymore. (but not because they arent interested in animated movies, thats a separate ball of wax)

    I know it’s a stretch that no one would buy movies anymore, but Im looking at it predicatively. Blueelm, I believe you buy/rent your movies, but in my experience, many, many other people dont. If the trend continues as it is, people could completely stop buying movies, especially if the pirated film is a 100% high quality match. That could become a reality, and that would be a shame.

    And regarding the dubbing cassette tape argument, imagine if that same person copied 10 million cassette tapes and hired 10 million people to stand outside your house and hand it to you if you asked for it. Im pretty sure they’d still be in jail. Thats essentially what we’re talking about.

    Try to think about it from a content creators perspective: you just finished pouring 3 years of your life into a project that the public reacts positively to (could be a game, could be a movie), only to find out it isnt selling, yet is at the top of torrent search/download lists. Then you’re told you’re laid off, and the company wont be making another project. Bummer. Now it’s still hypothetical at this point since technology hasnt quite caught up with blue ray ripping/distribution, but its only a matter of time.

    1. AGREENSTER, i work in the film/tv biz as well and would be perfectly happy seeing it go down the drain tomorrow. 99% of what it churns out is utter mindless dreck that’s hurting us more than helping. If the industry goes away, we’ll just find something else to do, as has happened plenty of times throughout history. Regardless, our connection to the industry has nothing to do with morality or reason. Prosecuting anyone for downloading anything is morally indefensible, and should be legally indefensible as well.

  65. Having saved Darkest Africa from itself Bono now rails against the tide of technology that threatens to sweep away That Which We Know And Love. We should expect no less. As we know from history it’s the conservative’s job to Resist Change (and to burn heretics at the stake if they refuse to comply).

  66. Teapot, Hi. My only vested interest is as a fan of independent music who sees a critically misguided philosophy that brings out all the worst the internet has to offer. Much of this hinders on a consumer (you) accepting the commodity system as means of artistic support, even if they are intellectualized commodities. The ideal of the internet is that a larger market or consumers pays less for their products and/or services – not that they suddenly get to pay nothing. Doesn’t make sense. And if that’s the model you want to fight for, I think you ought to reconsider where such a model will realistically lead.

    Labels provide artists with support and investment and that service is still very much needed. If an artist “cut out the middle men” as some of you fantasize, they’d have little time or energy to make actual music. Who has actually done this? Anyone? Radiohead and NIN had years of major label support to build their fan base. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah still needed a distribution deal. That’s reality, superior to another fantasy, that artists simply “have a deep unquenchable desire to write songs” therefore rendering all other life circumstance irrelevant. That’s not an argument, it’s a romantic delusion you allow yourself to justify your own blind spot for responsibility and the consequences of your actions. It would be great if artists could just do it all themselves, but there are few, if any, examples to back it up, even with all the changes and efficiencies of the internet.

    I think it’s great that you support bands that come to your town, but more often than not you won’t hear about said band or they won’t be able to book that tour without the assistance of a label, one that, yes, happens to be owned/managed by an “executive.” I’ve been doing some writing on this stuff on Tiny Mix Tapes, if you’re curious. Later.

    1. You make some fair points, my friend and have obviously done some serious thinking on the subject.

      I am not pretending to know what the consequences of accepting illegal downloads would be, but I can safely say that there is just as much potential for triumph as catastrophe. The truth is; we don’t and can’t truly know what would happen.

      Also, you seem to believe I am in staunch support of everything for free. Not true: I am in staunch support of everything being fair. I just can’t see any examples of record companies playing fair – and that’s what I hate.

      Disproportionate penalties for infringement, using their lawyer-armies to unfairly change laws and extend copyright periods and unfair unit costs (we know what CDs cost wholesale). These are all the things which make me think “OK, fuck you – I have another option. I’m keeping my money away from your deplorable business practices.”

      Also, re your link:

      A person who takes advantage of others’ generosity without giving anything in return.

      This definition suggests record companies have a level of generosity to begin with (where? please list examples of the generous things they do). The definition also presumes that word of mouth promotion (commonly accepted as one of the most effective forms of marketing) is of no value.

      1. Hey Teapot,

        You’re right, of course. No one knows what’s going to happen. I would love some organic, sustainable, anarchistic artistic culture to emerge where everyone’s somehow getting a fair deal – sure. But I’m trying to look at things realistically and in a greater economic context. And of course I have my own ideas about what it means to be a fan and lover of music/art. Anyway, I’m glad you took a look at the article and some of the ideas resonated.

        The “just tour more” model isn’t the grand solution everyone’s making it out to be. Subscription services haven’t caught on. Spotify barely compensates anyone. Don’t think the IP tax is going to happen anytime soon – if ever. Some argue that a government patronage model should be embraced, but I just don’t see that happening in Washington (maybe I’m wrong). So those who argue that labels should go away, that we should burn down the old system completely and start new – I just don’t think they have any reasonable ideas as to what this new model might be. Also, there’s a clear antagonism toward artists seen on this site and especially on torrent freak – the very notion that any artist should get paid for their work. I’m dumbfounded by the person who enjoys or loves a person’s work, but wants that person to be as broke as possible making it. It’s some weird continuation of the original antagonism toward Metallica but levied against artists who are already poor. Did the Beatles make less pure music when they were millionaires many times over and stopped touring? I don’t think so. If anything, it gave them the freedom to do whatever they wanted creatively. They didn’t need to worry about licensing “Eleanor Rigby” to 1800FLOWERS, did they? That’s a point that goes missing too often.

        Anyway, when I look around at the “solutions” people propose, the most direct and simple one seems to be the one that already exists. We (the fans, consumers) are the patrons – now let’s patronize. Now, I am interested in finding a way to encourage increased transparency as far as record deals – or at least try to encourage a higher royalty rate for artists. That seems like the “solution.” As I mention in the linked article, the simple point has to be made that labels aren’t exploiting artists. The artist chose to sign with the label of their own free will and the artist is releasing their music for sale because it is their own wish to do so. If they wanted to go totally DIY and do everything on their own – lord knows they have the option once their deal runs out. But nobody is – don’t you think there’s a good reason why that’s the case? Ultimately the Freeloader is violating the artist’s wishes. Labels serve as an easy scapegoat to avoid feelings of guilt.

        I sympathize with your desire for fairness. Those lawsuits were truly awful and I think (and hope) the RIAA understand what a stupid PR move that was. I also think that much of the debate now, and much of the reason why Cory and Lessig became so involved, is/was due to the lawsuits – not because they thought Freeloading was such a great idea on its own (and they’ve subsequently painted themselves into a corner, as far as I can tell). My understanding is that the lawsuits have stopped. So, at this point, just consider who you’re really punishing. The basic point is that by not buying the music, you’re taking yourself out of the equation. If we don’t value or “want” something at the price it is being offered, we don’t buy it. If we sufficiently value it, we do buy it. The internet doesn’t change that. Also, I don’t think there will be any perfect or ideal price point achieved for MP3s. If you can get an album for $10, I think that’s pretty damn good, considering all the time and effort those artists put in to the work. Then again, maybe I’m just old fashioned.

        Re: the definition. The generosity is coming from the artist, primarily. I hope I don’t have to list how they are being generous if you happen to love a band’s work. I consider it a very fortunate thing, to find music you can connect with and it’s important to show gratitude. Now as for labels, they are offering the artist a desired platform and support that they otherwise would not have. When the new Beach House album comes out, it will be a much bigger deal if only because it will be a Sub Pop release instead of Carpark. The point is, labels aren’t evil. Doesn’t mean they’re perfect, either, but I think at least some of your hatred towards them is undeserved.

        Word of mouth promotion is valuable, sure, but if you tell twenty friends about a band and link them to a torrent – well, what’s that worth at the end of the day to an artist? That seems to be the world Freeloading is building. Everyone has heard an artist’s music and likes it, but no one is willing to step up and compensate. Maybe one or two of those friends will go see the band live, but concerts are pretty inconvenient affairs and don’t pay artists as much as we’d like to believe (that money from the door still need to be split between quite a few parties). It’s much easier to buy an album than to go to a show – just the way it is.

        Sorry to be longwinded, but I’m longwinded. And I think the details are important. I will be posting letters from readers of that article, and my responses to them, in the coming days on my Blog. You can find my email there if you want to discuss further. Take Care, Mr Teapot.

        1. the simple point has to be made that labels aren’t exploiting artists

          If labels aren’t exploiting artists then why do the vast majority of bands that get signed to major labels leave their deals with huge amounts of debt? Why do so many older artists (usually the one’s that are famous but not uber-rich) state it’s good that the old business model is failing? Why do artists like Ben Folds write songs like One Down? Why was Factory Records so revolutionary at the time?

          I have absolutely no problem with distribution deals, but record deals, by far and large are pure exploitation and major record labels exploit artists ruthlessly. They’ll pray on young artists with a ton of talent and no business mind at all, they’ll pray on poor artists and lure a $10,000 cheque in their face, every cent of which will need to be paid for, not out of total profits but the artists cut (sometimes as low as 20cents per cd) sold (50,000 thousand sales before the artist sees 1 cent of return). Meanwhile the record label has pocketed tens of thousands already.

          This is a good article looking at the profits of record labels, artists, promoters and live venues since the rise of file sharing

          1. The artists are signing up for the poor deals you speak of. Blame it on them as well as their management, as well as on cynical record companies. Support labels that offer their artists better terms. I would love to see more Factory Records-type groups, by the way. To pretend that labels are actually an evil institution negates all the gray areas and complexity of this issue and makes it impossible to find a solution. It does not surprise me that some older artists complain about their labels or want to see the model change. But does that mean they have a better idea? I’m willing to bet that most of the artists you’re thinking of are still releasing their music on labels. That’s an interesting graph and thanks for including it, but the writer admits to a lack of information on the actual concert revenues going to the artist and how much of the concert total is going to “Legacy Acts.” Doesn’t bode terribly well for new artists and brings some of the other data into question, though it is interesting. By the way, just because an artist is perceived to be getting a small cut of revenues isn’t a justification for Freeloading their music, even if I share your hope that they will achieve better terms.

          2. Yes the artists were signing shitty contracts. Unfortunately this was about the only choice they had in most cases if they wanted to release records. You may as well say sweatshops are not exploiting workers because they could have trundled through the trash looking for gold.

            Currently the US market share for independent labels and artists is about 12-13% Source

            In 2005 it was above 18% which was the highest it had been in at least 5 years. Source

            My guess for the independent share drop (pure speculation) is that a lot of the larger independents were bought up by major labels, as this has been their major business tactic over the past 20 years.

            One thing that is certain though is that record deals have gotten better over the past 10 years, especially with indie labels. Net Profit Deals: A Recent Alternative to the Traditional Record Deal.

            Why are deals getting better for artists? Simple, bargaining power has changed.

            It’s far easier to make it without a shitty contract now then it was 15 years ago. Recording is cheaper, distribution is cheaper (or free via the internet), mastering can be done on a home computer with a $600 pair of speakers that sounds as professional as a lot of studio equipment 20 years ago. Finally, more important than anything the publicity and networking game has changed completely via the internet.

          3. Needless to say, I think your sweatshop comparison goes a bit overboard. And my speculation runs counter to yours on the sad decline of independent labels (great resources, the way). By not supporting the indies, already offering better, more fair deals, don’t you agree that Freeloading is forcing them to either go out of business or accept a major label buyout? That’s central to my argument for responsibility and support, and my envisioned dystopia of ever more concentrated corporate patronage. But anyway…

            Great discussion. I think it demonstrates how powerful (and positive) the internet can be when we aren’t resorting to snipes and name-calling. Take care guys and (one last plug) please pass on my article to anyone you think would be interested:

  67. And regarding the dubbing cassette tape argument, imagine if that same person copied 10 million cassette tapes and hired 10 million people to stand outside your house and hand it to you if you asked for it.

    Your comparison is bunk. People at the time were using available technology to get what they wanted, without having to pay. This is what happens now.

    The legwork involved in finding someone with the song you wanted or waiting for it to play on the radio so you could record it has now been replaced with digital ‘legwork’. Yes – much easier & much faster – but still legwork.

    Your comparison is bunk because in your example I would be providing a direct replacement for the real product, at no effort or cost to the person who wants it (thereby directly withholding potential profit from the rights holder). Downloading a song and burning it myself costs me money (CD + internet + computer), but costs the rights holder nothing especially if I would have never bought it in the first place.

    I have always maintained the argument that illegal downloads just keep content producers more honest. If an album has 1 good track and the rest filler, no one is gonna buy that crap. If the packaging is like every other product, no one is gonna buy that crap. If, however, the artist/musician puts effort & thought into a product then it is likely consumers will want the exclusive experience of the product.

    While we are still just getting a generic plastic disc in a plastic box for $20+, I don’t see them pulling out of this mess in one piece. Personal experience and recent studies have shown me that if I like the content I download, I will likely buy it. In many cases, had I not given “try before you buy” a shot, I never would have heard of, or been interested in buying it.

    If you have such a problem with the ‘on-demand’ nature of illegal downloads, how would you feel about a hypothetical situation where I stream-and-capture music directly from the radio, for my own personal use. Would this keep you happy? (genuine question, not trolling).

    An animator is in an interesting job… I have several friends who used to animate for everyone’s favourite sweat-shop embracing company. One day the a-hole execs packed up the studio and outsourced it (to Korea, I believe) instead. Rights holders have been screwing everybody for years – squeezing every drop of money out of everything – at the cost of local, well paying jobs in the field. I just can’t find much reason to support them now, when big companies are always looking to increase value for investors, but not their customers… the very people who are keeping them in business.

  68. The big artists hurt the poor struggling ones more than any amount of file sharing does. I therefore propose an earning cap. Let’s say US$30k per year, per artist. Any earnings over that amount should be subjected to 100% tax, and the collected money redistributed to the poorer artists. Further more, no artist is allowed to record more than 5 songs per year, or perform at more than 5 venues, or 15 days per year, whichever comes first. This will open up more windows of opportunity for new unknown artist to have their own moment of fame.

    * I use the word artist as a shortcut for singer/musician.

    We also don’t want any single artist to monopolize the market. If a single artist sells millions or tens of millions of records, it limits the exposure of other artists. No CD should have more than 100,000 copies made. If there is demand, and they wish to make more copies, a special permit shall be applied for, and 100% of the profits from these extra copies donated to a non-profit whose purpose will be to promote small unknown artists.

  69. A few years ago, I worked at a startup that used an SDK to acoustically identify music after a few seconds – similar to what Shazam iPhone app does. The founders had pioneered filesharing, were sued out of existence by the labels, and then started a new company to try to solve the problem with a new kind of file sharing service. The labels bought in, product never took off, and the company was sold.

    I don’t think the solution is through changing file sharing. Each measure will have a counter-measure. Already, ThePirateBay is using decentralized “Magnet Links” to make surveillance more difficult. Ten years ago, I spoke the RSA Data Security conference on how one could get rid of the third party altogether. So, I don’t think crippling filesharing will provide a solution.

    However, I think there are three factors that will turn around the value of content ownership: timeliness, interactivity, and social currency.

    Timeliness. Right now, it takes me a day or two to download a popular DVD release. Or, I could reserve it from the library and get it from 1 day to 2 weeks later. Or, I could walk down street and rent it. Right now I do all of the above. At some point I will subscribe to a service. I pay extra for getting it now.

    Interactivity. Most recorded media is static. Some iPhone apps, such as T-Pain, BT, and Eno allow you to interact. Interacting with content deepens the experience. Because interactive products are often updated, there is an incentive to buy in.

    Social Currency. Music is our personal soundtrack for real life. When I was growing up, the radio used to be the default social glue. Now it is texting, tweets, and FB. Is it at all surprising that SMS is now a bigger market than the recorded music industry? Many Billions of dollars bigger.

    My guess is that owning content will become the ticket to a new kind of venue: one that is current, interactive, and shared like a conversation.

  70. Thanks Chris Ruen for your insightful comment. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person who was old fashioned enough to believe in actually paying for stuff you want.

    1. “I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person who was old fashioned enough to believe in actually paying for stuff you want.”

      What a lovely way to steer this debate into quietly establishing a moral superiority of one side of this unquestionably black and white debate. Of course, an opposing opinion now surely boils down to nothing but personal greed, regardless of what fancy high-talkin’ reasons they hastily tack together.

      If you’re going to play the self-righteous “old fashioned” card, you’re really exposing yourself to criticism when you stop the Way Back Machine only when convenient for you. Do you know what came before paying to hear music? NOT paying to hear music. However, I’m sure you meant for us to ignore anything previous to the combination of 20th Century capitalistic system(s) and recorded music, and what you consider the Good Old Days are the only good old days that matter. After all, that is when morals were invented.

  71. Oh, NOW I get why Chumbawamba included him on “Passenger List For Doomed Flight #1721”! [Chumbawamba is that band that collaborated with negativland on “The ABCs of Anarchy”]. And who wouldn’t want to drive a car designed by Jeff Koons? Maybe Ralph Nader! Ha ha ha!

  72. Well… Child pornography is more important to remove,
    but I can see Bono’s concern. U2 have been smart business men and making huge deals with Apple, but if you can buy music illegal everywhere else, it’s a massive income that will vanish.

    Ignore it’s Bono talking, what he’s saying is true. You spoil upcoming artists chance to get in the business.
    Music is a business like everything else and musicians should earn money on the stuff they make. Simple.

  73. @Freeloader: Describing Cory’s copyright philosophy as ‘freeloading’ is grossly inaccurate.

  74. There are always grey areas. That doesn’t mean the big labels aren’t a criminal conspiracy to intimidate artists, collude on royalties and prices, under report sale, and bribe legislators to write draconian and unconstitutional laws. And THAT doesn’t mean Cory isn’t acting like a spoiled child.

  75. Intellectual property is yours – Yep – it’s all yours, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth anything.

    I’ve been quiet here about such things, but I feel an absolute need to speak on this. Bono, a guy I like a ton even through his self importance, seems to speak clearly on what he views as moral imperatives. I’m hip to that, if all that money he got can’t help him do what he thinks is good then what use is it?

    Either way, Bono, you know well by now that the soapbox is a prop for a target. I’m not going to do that kind of archery, I simply disagree. I read your op-ed here and I’m on the bus with your dissentors.

    I get your concern for intellectual property, I really do. I think of myself as an artist. I have a different vantage point, though: I cannot allow myself the luxury of believing my hype – I don’t have any.

    You stated “The immutable laws of bandwidth tell us we’re just a few years away from being able to download an entire season of “24” in 24 seconds. Many will expect to get it free.” and “A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators — in this case, the young, fledgling songwriters who can’t live off ticket and T-shirt sales like the least sympathetic among us — and the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”

    I cry bullshit. I’m a songwriter. I’m a performer and I’m a goddamn artist. I’m not starving, nor have I been unable to find ears for my voice because the profit has gone out of CD sales. In fact the opposite is true, I find some barriers fallen with the financial aspect taken out of the equation. I think I write more directly and sincerely knowing that I have to win an audience loyal enough to purchase tickets and merchandise. I write songs as songs and not commodities. I think it’s done me a world of good. Excellence is commonplace – I have to be better than that. I have to be better. I hope you’re not afraid that the bar raised when they lowered the price of admittance. I do not believe a market corrects itself, but I believe that value is a social contract.

    Last I checked your shows attracted a lot more people than mine and you command $100+ plus a seat; I get about $15. The money is not being Robin-Hooded from you, Bono. You’re one of the last players not giving the songs away or asking people to set their own value on it, but that fails to surprise as you’re also one of the last major players to hold onto your label.

    You spoke later on about the power of people and the upside down pyramid. How can you not take your own advice? If these people are smart enough to criticize a corrupt government then it follows that they can accurate set the value of a collection of music. Try not to be offended when you find that value of your recorded music is zero.

    Mine is, too. So are the sounds of Gould playing the Goldberg Variations and the images of Picasso and Cezanne. It’s all out there for free.

    We’re fine, though. Not only are you in good company, your arena shows still sell out. My sales increase. I constantly find a new audience. My ticket prices are going up. Don’t be scared, man. There’s great songs in you. People will steal them – but they will pay dearly to hear your words from your mouth.

    Things change. Be grateful

  76. What a lovely way to steer this debate into quietly establishing a moral superiority of one side of this unquestionably black and white debate

    Granted, but thats expected when people have differing opinions. No need to make it personal by calling people self-righteous, etc. Im just offering an opinion, thats all. Sorry if you feel like I was arguing unfairly.

    So do I think its the moral high-road to pay for music, movies, and games? Yes. Do I think downloading/consuming with zero compensation to the artist is “wrong?” Yes, but only in a sense.

    Do I think its “wrong” to download if you plan on buying the DVD when it comes out? No. I dont think, in itself, the act of acquiring free media is “wrong,” I think the mentality of “all art should be free” is wrong, and can lead to artists eventually not making art (if you extrapolate the concept to infinity, seeing how artists need compensation to live and make their art. This is especially true in the collaborative sense; large groups of artists working together to make a film, for example. This needs large amounts of funding, not just a computer and a microphone)

    So I admit the word “moral” is probably an inaccurate word. Its more of a practical thing than an abstract thing of morality.

    Bottom line, I just dont want to see art diminish because people stop paying for it.

    If someone could prove this wont happen, or provide a model where they think it could work, I’d be a happy camper.

    1. People have been expressing themselves creatively way before we had invented money. Those paintings on cave walls were not sponsored by WALMART. Technology has made it so that anyone can make a movie or record an album with little money, and that’s just going to get cheaper and easier to do every year, so seriously- do you really believe people need the incentive of money to make art? That’s completely illogical! We are driven to make art for the same reason we are driven to learn language- we have a basic need to communicate our ideas, to be heard, to be understood. That’s not going away for a long, long, long time, even if/when the world economy collapses and mass chaos ensues.

      You don’t need money to make a movie. You need connections to get it seen, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

    2. No need to make it personal by calling people self-righteous, etc. Im just offering an opinion, thats all.

      I was beginning to wonder if I was the only person who was FILL IN THE BLANK enough to believe in FILL IN THE BLANK.

      That’s not an opinion, just a classic recipe for a sentence to write when you want to come off sounding self-righteous. Take a page out of Chris Ruen’s book – he’s articulating his principles without casting broad judgement on those with differing opinions.

      The suggestion by some that the struggling artist is a victim of modern-day IP infringement is just crazy. Artists have always had a hard time making ends meet because the things they produce are, by definition, luxury items (as opposed to basic needs). Of course this does not mean artists don’t deserve to be compensated, but it is an undenyable fact which is worth consideration. Funny that in the real “good ol’ days” (Renaissance) an artist/musician was more likely to recieve a higher percentage of the sale/performance price from their work than in today’s IP-laden world.

      Bottom line, I just dont want to see art diminish because people stop paying for it.

      No one wants this, but no one can explain to me why the IP system supposedly inherrently protects artistic practice. I understand that artists need money to live and to buy material to create art, but the current IP system clearly has its misgivings in terms of inapropriate distribution of wealth, whilst not encouraging people to try abstract ideas. It’s dangerous to be different, so things tend to err on the side of caution and mimmic each other.

      Lawsuits mean that interesting creative experiments get shut down, and the artistic world doesn’t flourish as fully as it may have otherwise. The Grey Album is a perfect example of this. The Grey Album has no chance of being mistaken for, or reducing sales of the original works. If anything, it makes people more likely to seek the originals out. Nonetheless the labels saw fit to try and sue it out of existance, only to have the complete opposite result (the outrage made it proliferate across the net) with the added bonus of making the record companies a lot of bad PR.

      I think Ikoino #103’s idea is one of the best I have heard:
      My guess is that owning content will become the ticket to a new kind of venue: one that is current, interactive, and shared like a conversation.

      Something like XBL but for media. I know if my xbox didnt have XBL I would have played it about 95% less than I do. Plus, wanting to use XBL means I can’t pirate games.

      Word of mouth promotion is valuable, sure, but if you tell twenty friends about a band and link them to a torrent – well, what’s that worth at the end of the day to an artist?

      Chris: That’s where a person’s ethics and what I mentioned before about “digital legwork” are supposed to kick in (I acknowledge that I may be the exception, rather than the rule). If my friends want something, they can find it themselves. The only torrent I have ever linked to was MJ’s discog – because I have a big problem with all the idiots out there flocking to buy his records as soon as MJ stands to earn even less from them.

      What I will do is blab endlessly about great music and drive around in my car, bumping it loud. I know this doesn’t put money in the pockets of the artist, but i’ll do that when they come here to say hi.

      I will also continue to call BS on scum (Bono, Allen) when they try use their fame and a one-sided, self-serving argument to brainwash the masses who are unwilling or unable to do their own research/thinking.

      Only tight-arses are rooting for everything to be free. Most rational people are happy to pay a reasonable price for a decent product. It’s the ‘reasonable’ and ‘decent’ part that many consumers are waiting for.

    3. I just dont want to see art diminish because people stop paying for it

      It isn’t happening and it won’t happen. Providing people want to consume art in some form there will always be a market for it.

      Take street art as an example. Anyone living in hundreds of cities all around the world can see copious amounts of street art free. They can simply walk up to it in the street and look at it, or they can jump onto Flickr or one of a million other sites and see examples of street art around the world. Alternatively you can walk into a book shop or jump on Amazon and spend $80 on a massive hardcover book that can sit on your coffee table, or you can go to an auction and buy a Banksy piece for $400,000 [or a Phibs piece for $400 just to prove its not just the biggest artists in the world that sell their pieces].

      The same goes for music or film. Avatar $1,000,000,000 in 17 days. Oh yeah people really won’t pay for a film when they can download it.

      Music. Concert ticket prices in Australia just keep getting more and more expensive. Average ticket price for a medium sized 2 night festival would be about $300 AUS (~$275US). People bitch and moan about how expensive they are yet these same festivals sell out every year. (One example Meredith has a dual ballot system. First ballot is released before even a single act is announced, every year hundreds of people miss out on this first ballot).

      The idea that you can have something in a capitalist society and has immense social value without any monetary value is simply untrue. If you can find me one example of something that does have social value that people (or Government, or Companies) aren’t willing to shell out good money for then I’ll eat my hat (which I could have stolen, but instead paid for).

  77. Ok. So around the late 1800s/early 1900s, we take music, which was something that you went to see in a live venue, which was woven into public life, and started to make machines which could reproduce it, piano rolls wax cylinder, records. Taking these personal experiences, and figuring out a way to may them into a commodity, like the aforementioned Kerosene [@#36].

    Fast forward a few years, and we invent machines that take that newly-minted commodity, make perfect, limitless copies of them that can be nearly instantaneously transmitted to any corner of the world.

    Price of the commodity drops to zero (effectively).

    You either have to criminalize using the copying machine, or admit that you had a good run — and now we go back to the way music was listened to for millenia before the advent of commoditization, or invent a new way to commoditize music that is immune to copying, or invent a post-capitalist method of valuation & equitable transaction.

    Various groups are trying to do all these things simultaneously. What fun!

  78. >>The same goes for music or film. Avatar $1,000,000,000 in 17 days. Oh yeah people really won’t pay for a film when they can download it.<< Yes, I agree it isnt a problem now (though we are already seeing inklings of it). Its my position (and Bono's, I guess) that the film industry COULD, and most probably WILL run into the same problems when the technology catches up. Its still not very easy to find/download an HD/3D version of a film and play it, but in 3-5 years it likely will. And making music or doing street art is VASTLY less complicated than making a film. Films (and Im only talking major blockbusters here) can only be made by dozens, if not hundreds of people with financial backing over the course of several years. If theres less of a revenue flow in the future, we'll see much less big budget films and much more smaller films. Now, to some of you, thats a good thing (and hey, I like the whole gamut of films too) but I'd hate to see large films go away because studios think they're too risky to invest in anymore. This is all speculative, and Im sure it will work out eventually. Thanks for the lively discussion

  79. >>If you can find me one example of something that does have social value that people…aren’t willing to shell out good money for then I’ll eat my hat.

    Oh I agree with this, people ARE willing to pay if they have to. Its only when they DONT have to that they will almost always not pay. Imagine if there was a way to attend a concert without paying and with virtually no chance of punishment if caught. How many would pay? 10%? 50%?

    Go up to any random person on the street and ask them what percentage of the songs on their iPod was paid for and which were freely downloaded. 10%? 50%?

    Now fast forward 3-5 years and see how many of the movies on people’s home theater system are free and how many were paid for.

    Thats the comparison Im drawing…

  80. If you read his entire article, Bono says that China has seemed to figure out how to block the internet, so why can’t other countries. Hmmm, let me see…oh yeah! They’re friggin’ democracies that’s why, Bono-head. I can’t believe Mr. World Peace would invoke China as a positive example of anything. Let me quote the old Oirish fart himself, “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief.” From an article about U2 thieving ways: “This phenomenon of unconscious plagiarism – known as cryptomnesia – was presumably at work when U2 pinched the anthemic “touch me” bit from A-Ha’s 1985 hit ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ for the middle-eight of ‘Beautiful Day’…. U2 were able to joke about the similarity (“Those guys have ripped us off so many times anyway,” commented Bono), but some plagiarism cases are far more serious.” (I can’t post the link to the article but it’s at nme.com). So if Bonio & the Boys rip you off, it’s art (ha-ha). If you rip U2 off, it’s theft.

  81. @agreenster #129 “Go up to any random person on the street and ask them what percentage of the songs on their iPod was paid for and which were freely downloaded. 10%? 50%?”

    A more scientific study would be: 1) the correlation of playcount to purchased content. 2) correlation of unshuffled playcount (music that was consciously selected) to purchased content, aggregated by artist.

    I recall a claim, several years ago, that people who shared files also had more more purchased content. In my case, I have 400 purchased CDs. Most of my new purchases are new artists found an previewed on Mixtapes and downloads. My iPhone now takes the place of radio for “try before you buy”. A lot of the content on my iPhone is equivalent to what would be playing on the radio, just before I change stations.

    Here’s a use case: last night I downloaded “Coraline” for free. I missed it in the theaters as I thought it was a kid’s movie. Tonight, I will be renting any movie of Henry Selick that I can lay my hands on. If Coraline reappears in 3D theaters, I will pay to see it again. Plus, I am guaranteed to see Selick’s new production “Here Be Monsters”

  82. Coraline’s creators, Laika, recently laid off a ton of their artists due to financial troubles.

    Is it a direct result of poor ticket sales on Coraline? Its definitely possible. I remember when Coraline came out in theaters. There were torrents available the same day for pirated copies, which were very popular.

    Sure, tonight you’ll buy/rent more of Selick’s previous works, but you definitely wont be helping the artists who work(ed) at Laika.

    1. Coraline did as well as Wallace & Gromit’s box office over the first two weekends, and a little better worldwide. But that’s beside the point, because Laika’s layoffs had everything to do with their decision to end a CG production that was underway as well as plans to focus on stop motion (From what I’ve heard, all the layoffs were CG folks and support staff).

      So rather than being “definitely possible” it’s “probably unlikely”. The argument could even be made that it was Coraline’s success that spelled doom for the CG department.

  83. >>My iPhone now takes the place of radio for “try before you buy”. A lot of the content on my iPhone is equivalent to what would be playing on the radio, just before I change stations.>>

    Except that in radio, artists get compensated.

    1. >>My iPhone now takes the place of radio for “try before you buy”. A lot of the content on my iPhone is equivalent to what would be playing on the radio, just before I change stations.>>

      >Except that in radio, artists get compensated.

      Was talking about the music that I *don’t* listen to, that is on my iPod. But, I see your point.

      The feedback loop, in both cases, is indirect. Back then, the labels would predict what records would sell, engage in some Payola to the radio station DJ, and pay royalties back to the artists. And now the DJ is the filesharer who turns on their friends to something cool, who in turn buy the CD, as Itsumishi pointed out. But, until recently, the DJ is not getting a bribe, they were getting sued.

      The problem, from the vantage point of the Label, is that the distribution channel has changed but the licensing deals have not. Mechanical, airplay, streaming, lyrics, composition, and what else? Tis hard to experiment with new business models if it requires an old partner to roll over and die.

  84. From what Ive heard (from people who worked there) is that the CG side was relying on revenue from ticket sales from Coraline to help fund their film. It didnt happen, so people got laid off. Had Coraline done better (it only made 120 worldwide with a budget of 60), its my suspicion that their CG film would be in production today.

    You cant make 2 films with 60 million bucks. One had to go.

    So my argument stands.

  85. By cuting out the (or Government, or Companies) part there you’ve changed my point entirely.

    For example, it is my original understanding that the original Star Wars films made far more money off merchandising then any ticket sales at the time. In future blockbuster films might be given something akin to the 360 degree music deals happening at the moment where instead of just CD sales, labels are taking a cut of merch sales, tours, etc.

    Other investors might come in the form of a bit more product placement. It certainly happens enough in films already and does an advertiser really care if you’ve paid for a ticket or watched the film on your computer? Certainly not, as providing you’ve watched the advertisement.

    I’ll reiterate what I said before, where there is social value, there is monetary value. As you yourself have stated in previous posts it doesn’t matter where artist compensation is coming from, providing they get compensated.

    Also your point about ipods seems silly. Ask those same people what percentage of music on their ipods they’ve listened to more than once or twice and I bet the numbers would be roughly the same 10-50% is that consuming the music?

    It’s like Cory’s analogy of the dandelion seeds. The seeds are produced in the thousands everytime. Only a few need to germinate for the process to continue. Making a copy of something is not the same as consuming it and even if the copies have been consumed is it really detracting the value of the original? I’d argue it does the opposite. Another example;

    When Battles – Mirrored came out on of my housemate downloaded it, chucked it on the stereo and everyone (5 of us) in our house loved it. We all stuck it on our ipods and listened to it. Since then 2 and a half odd years later, none of us are living in the same house. I’ve bought the cd, 2 of my old housemates have bought the cd and all of us have seen them live. The original housemate that downloaded it is one of the few people I know who does download music constantly and virtually never buys cds. He still does not own the cd. Has him downloading the cd been detrimental or positive?

  86. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it all works out!

    If the copying model turns out to be beneficial to artists, you definitely wont be bothered reading my comments in that future scenario :)

    I just have my suspicions, thats all.

    1. Ah well, good intelligent discussion on both sides of the debate in this case.

      Usually these ‘arguments’ don’t take long to turn into an abuse match on Boing Boing (and far quicker on a lot of other blogs).

      Enjoyed it.

      1. Usually these ‘arguments’ don’t take long to turn into an abuse match on Boing Boing (and far quicker on a lot of other blogs).

        Hear, hear. It was getting close for a while though :)

        From what Ive heard (from people who worked there) is that the CG side was relying on revenue from ticket sales from Coraline to help fund their film. It didnt happen, so people got laid off. Had Coraline done better (it only made 120 worldwide with a budget of 60), its my suspicion that their CG film would be in production today.

        I don’t believe your argument still stnads, as this suggests it is good practice to count your chickens before they hatch. 120 mil is more than enough for a film to make at Box office. I’m sure 120m was enough to pay for its own production which is all that is fair to expect. Why should 1 movie fund the production of 2? Presumptuous.

        I love when film studios put on a frowney face and turn out their pockets after a film does mediocre at the box office… it’s as if they ignore the fact they are still going to pull in millions from DVD release, rental, TV broadcast & public performance.

  87. How’s this for a poster: Bono driving a tank on Tiananmen Square, running down a guy with TBP slogan on his back?

Comments are closed.