After yesterday’s internet black out, I realized that more clarification is needed about the “copyright” part of the so-called “intellectual property.” Why the quotes? Well, because the concepts are faulty and I frankly don’t want to give them any respect.
I recently explained my views on patents in my open letter in response to Professor William Bains, a scientist and the editor of the now defunct Bioscience Hypotheses. What I said about patents applies equally to copyright. But in that letter, I made the mistake of saying, albeit in a footnote, that copyright was less of a problem than patents because it is much more specific. Scratch that. It’s a big problem. It’s an especially big problem when people begin to see this notion of intellectual property as some kind of real right that they have and start demanding that everyone bow down and pay tribute to them just because they wrote a song (or book, or made a movie, or a drawing, or a photograph or whatever) or worse because they are acting as a MIDDLE MAN on the supposed behalf of someone who wrote a song (or all that other stuff). The hubris is sometimes astonishing. After all, shouldn’t the world stop in order to protect my RIGHTS? Well, yes, only there is no such thing as a right to an idea and your rights are NOT infringed because someone shares a song with a friend (or with anyone else). In fact, you can only BENEFIT by someone essentially taking the time to PROMOTE your work. So, stop whining.
If you are a musician who is really concerned that your fans will trade and share your music, well, I do have some advice for you. It’s really very simple. DON’T RELEASE YOUR MUSIC. After all, no one is going to be able to pull it out of your head. At least not yet. And if they try to do that, I will defend your right to keep in it there as well as I would defend your right to life.
You WANT to release your music? You mean, you want to give it away AND keep it, too? Somehow, I’m reminded of an adage about a cake….
But you might be a musician who is confused about this. You might be wondering how you will make a living if you let people freely share your music. I want to tell you this. The MORE YOU LET PEOPLE TRADE YOUR MUSIC THE MORE PEOPLE WILL BE LISTENING TO YOUR MUSIC. And the more people that listen to your music, the more fans you will have. The more fans that will PAY to have an AUTHENTIC mp3 or CD recording. The more fans that will PAY to see you perform. The more fans that will want the official CD with the official lyric book inside and with your official signature on it. Those .99 cent mp3’s you let people FREELY share will have repaid you many MANY times over. There is no need to be greedy.*
Now, what about plagiarism or people using your work to promote their own views or products, or people selling your stuff as if it were really you selling it? Well, it seems to me that there are already laws that protect you against these things. Specifically they are the laws against FRAUD. How does that work? Well, with plagiarism, it’s fairly plain. That’s fraud pure and simple. What if someone uses your work to promote their own views or product? The potential for fraud is there also unless the person were to make it clear that you don’t necessarily endorse their views or their product. After all, the work is going to be associated, in the minds of others, with you and your reputation. Fraud is also an issue when someone is just plain selling your stuff without your explicit permission. This is because many buyers will assume that by purchasing the work they were helping to support the further creation of more of your work and many buyers DO want to be patrons of the artists they are fans of. Indeed, why would they bother to pay for the work at all, then, especially in a world without copyrights?
Remember: If people purchase your music they have done you a good turn. If they SHARE your music, they have done you a good turn and you should NOT be trying to punish them for that. No one should go to JAIL because they are a fan of your music. Instead, consider them promoters. Very cheap promoters, too. They love your music and they want others to, too. Don’t worry. Your true fans will want to buy your music from you. They will want to be patrons of your work. They will buy CD’s just because they have your stamp of approval, your artwork, or your signature on them. So by all means, sell them on your website. Sell them on iTunes and Amazon and wherever else. Just don’t try to stop the wonderful promotion of your work on the internet.
Oh, and do get rid of those annoying middlemen.
*This is especially true if you are a small player. For those of you who are just starting out, or whose fan base is still small, this article a friend of mine recently sent me might give you a little perspective. It called 1000 True Fans and it’s by Kevin Kelly. It might help you.