David Lowery on the ethics of music piracy

Lowery responded to an article on NPR by college student Emily White, who was struggling with the
fact that she had over 11,000 songs in her collection and paid for almost none of it. Here’s her article:

His reply is here:

I’d encoutrage you to read the whole thing - and even some of the user comments are quite good, but David
makes some very good points that I haven’t seen mentioned in the piracy discussions we’ve had here.

Here’s some highlights:

Good post Lenny. :sunglasses:

But I do take issue with the last paragraph. The baby-boomer generation has been more responsible for many social advances over the past 40 years than the current 20-something’s.

They’ve been around for twice as long, you know? :wink:

Lowery goes on and on about ‘morality and ethics’, as if the these virtues are the norm.

“Principles”. The market system has drained all principles save one principle: Profit.

MEMO TO US CONSUMERS: THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS NOT MORAL OR ETHICAL or PRINCIPLED. NOT WITH THE GAS IN YOUR CAR, THE SHOES ON YOUR FEET, THE FOOD ON YOUR TABLE, THE MORTGAGE OR RENT FOR YOUR HOME. YOU YOURSELF ARE COMPLICITLY NECK DEEP IN PLUNDER< RAPE< EXPLOITATION< DESTRUCTION. Music downloading is only transparant in its dubious ‘ethics’. You should thank music downdoaders for at least schooling you on how the market system operates at every other level.
No, its not an excuse to steal just because thats how its done everywhere else. But at least downloaders take that crucial first step toward recovering a semblance of shared civil behavior: RESPONSIBILITY OVER DENIAL.

^^^ Another stinking load of gibberish … from a complete hypocrite.

a short and appropriate analysis, I’d say :smiley:

I think, the copyright infringement discussion we had here, revealed much more interesting and controversial aspects of that topic.
I suppose, there was a broad agreement that downloading music is just a plain act of stealing other people’s property whereas other forms of ‘sampling’ in order to create something new cannot easily be prohibited without taking the risk of eliminating certain forms of artistic expression such as collages for instance or any socio-cultural comments. With this in mind it’s a great joy for me that the highest civil court in Germany is about to re-consider the matter.

To be fair, from artists perspective if you take that $2,139.50 for the 11,000 songs mentioned, the total comes to $0.1945, but in reality, buying from the Apple Store for example, how much does each song cost? Meaning, from a consumers perspective, which is how David was writing in terms of Emily. Would we be talking about a dollar per song?

Let’s say so. If you use this more realistic price figure (on Emily’s behalf) that would be paid for the songs, a whole different monthly cost arise. Instead of monthly $17.82, we now have $91.66, or what was the estimated sum to be paid to the artist ($2,139.50) has now changed to $11,000 in total consumer cost, for Emily. That’s a difference of 1 to 5.

With this more actual price, the comparison is also more unrealistic. In terms of the Smart Phone, the High Speed Internet, the insurance, Metro card, or even with the approximate 1 Smart Phone + 1 full size iPod + 1 MacBook at $2,139.50, the montly cost suddenly appear equal or even less than that of the cost of the songs Emily possess.

Of course, I do understand that Davids monetary perspective was that of the artist alone. But considering that the argument was with a consumer that does not necessarily have the opportunity to pay directly to the artist, and therefore is forced to use the traditional commercial road, I thought that both perspectives ought to be shown.

Please do not take this as I condone stealing or ripping music, not at all, being a musician myself, I absolutely understand the dilemma. I think that my point really is that the middle men, as in so many other venues, are the main problem. A musician playing music, a music lover listening, and then the idiots in between, making money on what? Making an compressed file out of the master, copying it to the Apple Store, including a few servers? And for that, everyone involved in the process, gets five times that of the person who bought the instruments and made the song? Give me a break.

In answer to the “existential questions”, I can only continue with my opinions of course…

You cannot build a computer or create an Internet on your own, but once you have it, digital content is virtually already on your computer. Meaning, you are by all means required to buy the computer and the Internet connection, but applications to move files across the Internet are free or easy to create and widely available.

So, it’s not as if people “gladly” give their money to the corporate conglomerates, nor do people “willingly” pay for computers, iPods, Smart phones with data plans and high speed Internet (with the sole purpose of downloading music), they are simply required in order to get to the Internet content.

It is rather the corporations who have positioned themselves as controllers of the access to the mass content on the Internet. Again, they did and do not care about anything but the control of what people want. With such control, they have assured themselves of steady revenue.

Why do you think a Smart Phone is $80 per month? When an Internet connection is half of that, and virtually anything can be found on the Internet for free, even video calling on Skype or most IM apps, BUT calling or texting someone on a phone, is extra.

Why do you think Smart Phones are “locked” in the USA, but almost nowhere else on the planet? “Locked” means that they are tied to certain providers.

Why can I not buy a DVD/BluRay movie on one continent and play it on another? The one reason? To control to maximize revenue. Some of the movies are not released on more than one continent, so It’s not like there is a choice for those, except violating unlawfully.

So I think David’s hyperbole is a bit misguided there, because people do not think “as if”, the way he so sarcastically portraits.

Every penny that is in control and can be squeezed out of something will be. This is the reason why people do not care about the value of anything that is not required (by them) to be valued.

This is also a reason why Steinberg use the eLicenser.

It is really not the people that are doing the wrong, it is the commercial interests that are doing it wrong. The value system has lost its ability to value anything, in favor of making as much money as humanly possible, regardless of value. Supply and demand is no longer the bearing for the commercial enterprise (other than when they play it wrong and ends up loosing, and needs to cut costs). Nowadays it’s the ability to control the need and availability of goods that runs the money, the ability to create strategic and artificial “gaps”, etc. This control is in the hands of the mega corporations that over the years have positioned themselves there. “Fair trade” in business, is a thing of the past.

A continuation of this is the banking system, which tack on fees and all kinds of rip-offs added to prices and transactions. They have positioned themselves in the position of controlling virtually the only path that “money” can travel. When cash is long gone, every single being on the planet will be at the mercy of a single transactional system that has been in place since monetary transfers has been done, the bank system. Leaving us with absolutely no choice. Virtually and on computers, just like musical content for people like Emily. Understand that what she is doing, they will eventually do with your money and investments.

Realistically, this topic is not really about artists and their compensation, but really a much larger concern, about the continuation of our earthly system as we know it. The way things are currently going (yes, including the monetary rape of the musicians, and everyone else) we will end up fulfilling the belief of a rapidly approaching doomsday, or at least with a global systemic failure.

One can appeal to consumers to be ethical and moral, but in the end, it’s not them that is the problem. They are merely the symptom of a much larger disease.

Anyone that thinks that this is gibberish, really must not have the capacity to understand it.

Musician D-i-c-k Dale has the solution: direct marketing of music from the musicians that create it to the music lovers that buy it. Simple. Elegant. Direct.

Freeware applications are given without money changing hands. It is offered that way. That is different than music offered for sale.

ISPs don’t seem to care about musicians (or record labels) getting ripped off. But if someone is stealing cable, computers, iPods, or phone service it’s a different story. They prosecute those folks.

ISPs are not good business partners for small-time music producers. iTunes (Apple) has the clout and technical expertise to conduct trade profitably with minimal losses from pilferage. They have identified a market opportunity and served that market effectively. Those that don’t value their service go elsewhere; and some choose to steal.

You left something out … cable television offers hundreds of channels … most of them are junk no one would choose to pay for (if given a choice). But consumers are currently not able to buy a’la’ carte. The internet, with streaming content will provide that in direct competition with the cable tv providers. This is an example of where competition drives better product, at lower cost.

Cell phone service fees have dropped. But “smart” features have upped the ante … since lots of folks want that functionality on their phones they’re willing to pay big fees to get it.

The onerous to protect ones intellectual property is on the producer. Clearly the masses don’t seem to accept any moral or ethical imperative to not steal. Sad.

People stealing intellectual property are doing wrong. They are part of the problem. Corrupt corporations and/or corrupt governments are another component of what’s wrong. Just because the big, corrupt institutions cheat, that doesn’t exonerate the little folks that cheat.

The problem with “fair trade” is that governments corrupt the system by providing benefits to certain enterprises allowing them an “unfair” competitive advantage. That gaming-of-the-system reduces competition allowing inferior products to be foisted on the public at higher prices.

There are two main problems with the banking system:

(1) corruption, both from within and externally. There are effective measures to mitigate those risks, but they have been compromised by (see #2)

(2) Mindless Government Regulation that radically drives up the cost of doing business with no perceivable benefit to consumers. This is complex and beyond the scope of this forum … there is a mountain of idiotic regulation that is utterly ineffective.

I know this two ways:

(1) I am an auditor (forensic-fraud, financial, internal controls, etc) with 30 years business experience in a wide array of enterprises including: government, service industry, retail, wholesale, manufacturing, and not-for-profit) and do this stuff for a living.

(2) I lost my retirement due to the bankruptcy of a corrupt insurance company that was regulated by the federal government. The regulations did not safeguard my money, nor did the government. On the contrary, the government solution was to take on a guardianship role, through the courts, that allowed another insurance company to buy out the policies and annuities for pennies on the dollar.

Reliance on the government (and courts) to fulfill their promise of safeguarding the people is folly. I’ve learned that the hard way.

The solution is to disallow individuals from hiding behind the corporate veil, ripping people off, then allowing the shell corporation to fall into bankruptcy. People that steal can’t be allowed to profit from their crimes by virtue of some legal corporate chicanery.

History teaches that humanity had always been on the brink of catastrophe. Plagues, famine, natural disasters, tyrants, have all been withstood. We are tough, as long as we don’t fall into the trap of making “doomsday” a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There’s a mantra from the '60’s: If you’re not part of the solution,. you are part of the problem.

The lack of morality and ethics is always a problem, without regard for what quarter it is found in.

That’s a normative argument, and not logical. :wink:

The easy oil is gone. Its going to be 50 years of rape and pillage like we’ve never seen. Have you seen the pictures of the dead children who happen to be in the way of imperial plunder? Oh but to download Adele’s latest hit, that is the question.

Check this out from D-i-c-k Dale … everything you need to know about marketing independent music:


People are caught up in unethical, immoral, unprincipled activity since the day they are born. At adulthood, ignorance is not an excuse. Its not acceptable that a person doesn’t do anything wrong personaly but still works for the plundering system. Because we feel personaly that the economic system, on our part at least, is on the up and up, doesn’t make it so, doesn’t exonerate our true responsibility. Externalizing the real costs of our lifestyle and conditioned desires, making the rest of the world pay for our unneccessary luxuries, will not simply disipate into the lonesome deaths of far away people and whole species. Dividing the world into abstractions fit for plunder will most certainly produce doom. Believe it. Know it. Welcome it.


Maybe you like lemmings?

More mumbo-jumbo normative-argument crapola from someone who arrogantly thinks they know what’s best for the entire human race … yet can’t articulate “ideas” in anything vaguely approaching an achievable plan. And instead spews a steady stream of hyped up hyperbole completely absent of logic or substantiation for the outrageous claims.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. After all these years … still just the same old tired empty rhetoric from you. Just noise and no signal.

Betting and trusting in official logic and status information is your game, your risks. Not mine.

Pleasant dreams to you captain! :slight_smile:

There you go again, attempting to define people based solely on your erroneous presumptions.

It’s difficult for me to have pleasant dreams when people are actively trying to destroy the republic, because that republic is not their Utopian dream. I start with reality and build on that as best I can, wide awake and eyes open.

A lot of good points, swamptone!

Some development that really annoys me is the fact that music very quickly got run over by the medium video as soon as the Music TeleVision era began. To me this is a horrible marriage.
Not only that music lost a lot of its importance (“Great clip! Hehehehehe”), today it seems you almost can’t sell your music, if you don’t have an accompanying video.
Nowadays you can’t easily fund a music- plus a video-production on your own and take the whole economic risk, if you seriously intend to make a living with pop-music. So this is where the big companies come into play. No wonder that the sponsors want to rule the game in order to make the best possible profit.
I’m afraid, it’s gonna be tough if not impossible for musicians to regain full control over their work though I think, it would be very desirable.

Why believe that funding music and video production is such an economic risk/ because of the technological standards imposed. Why bother with the standards? You can make a song and video with hardly anything. In most cases, high production value creates the highest forms of schlock. Its like this with film too. People think money is art, more money, more art. But the inverse is true. Goes to show just how much market capitalism has seized even the very standards of “art”. It already determines what is ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’. People dont have to think or feel or discern anymore. The market does it all for them.

High production value is nowhere really but any artist needs paying for his time, materials and skills.
We, the mediocre, at the moment are crowding out the real artistic voices thinking that, rather than be a good professional supporting cast of musicians, we are as good an artist as the best and that is why the markets are cluttered with cheap dross music produced with the ubiquitous DAWs that we think will show the world our true worth.
Very clever and insusttrious men do find it easier to make money than to be poor and at the same time people will give them money for old tat. Not very satisfying though.
However, if you are the real thing artist, craftsman or literary genius then, if the world can find you they will shower you with riches (money might be part of those riches) and stand your work up for as long as they can like the things you pay for like Astronomy and CERN and the ancients paid for like Stonehenge and the Pyramids. After all anyone can make pottery which is why there’s a mountain of it in Rome.
YOU are the market. If not you wouldn’t have the computer you typed this on. :laughing:
You can’t be holier than thou if you’re part of the problem. :mrgreen:

You don’t have to be perfect to have something critical to contribute. You don’t have to be innocent to recognize guilt. You can even be culpable and guilty as sin, a “hypocritical liar” (as Swamptone likes to call people over and over again, mmmmmm,) and still know right from wrong, still express an innate sense of being.

Is only power allowed to speak, to opine, to create values, to decide what is mediocre, what is sublime, what flies, what crawls? Thats the world more and more people conditioned to capitalism live in. The only value allowed is money value.
Test it, if you don’t believe me. Try exchanging your charm, your integrity, your patience, your generosity, your genetic impossibility, your good will, your word, your love, your pure intelligence. Everything of real value in human beings is becoming lost.

I am truly concerned that they have gotton to you, and make you feel mediocre. Thats the master plan behind consumerism; you aren’t good enough, wise enough, good looking enough, talented enough, rich enough. If I told you you contain all these things - they don’t contain you, you’d call me crazy.

Oh come on, “the republic” has been systematically pillaged by private interests over the last hundred years. Nobody is actively trying to destroy it (except for the occasional lost turban gang here and there, of course) but get people’s brain activity going so that it does not end up like all other historical empires. Because that is where we’re heading.

If one want examples of the status quo of our country, resources wasted, officials more corrupt than the mafia, etc. start with this story, and there are lots of other ones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Be1ihuZNg84

Don’t just dismiss or discredit the guy (he’s not my point), try to justify the behavior of the other parties involved.