February 03, 2004

Ian Pockets Another $25

As the title suggests, I get paid $25 for each of these little masterpieces I write. The column then gets published in thousands of copies that go out to a (hopefully) receptive audience. Anyone anywhere can read it on the Internet at the Vermilion’s Web site. The newspaper and its accompanying cyber-presence are both free to everyone. Regardless of how many people read my work, then, I still make only $25.

That sucks. So now I have a new rule: if I see anyone reading this, I will demand a royalty or I will take your paper away. I’m not joking. I suggest you look up right now, because I might be passing by. And don’t think you can take me down, because I can hold my own. Then I’ll see you in court!

I’m sorry, am I being too much of a jerk? Does that sound a bit greedy and extreme? Of course it does. And no, I’m not really like that, but the entertainment industry is. When a massive and lucrative business is suing 12-year-old girls for Internet file sharing, something’s wrong.

Those who decry file sharing have only one argument: that it hurts someone’s profits. No philosophy is involved whatsoever, at least none that doesn’t come right back to the bottom line.

For a quality copy of the latest Black Eyed Peas song, 99 cents is not asking too much. But the whiny attitude of the suits is irritating. The penalties and their propaganda both reek of desperation. Even the language they use is different: “file sharing” is sweet, like something Barney might sing. “Internet music piracy” is the preferred term by those who try to make it sound much worse than it is.

I would sympathize wholeheartedly if the anti-sharing artists were of the starving persuasion—unless you consider LL Cool J, Metallica and Madonna starving artists. Obscure bands with names like “Beat Meat” and “Energy Pimps” actually live for the free publicity that they’re supposed to hate. Even groups like U2 and the Dave Matthews Band advocate the practice and have used it effectively to bolster sales.

The suits want to ensure that the only time anyone hears a song or sees a movie is by paying full price. To do that, all free works must go. After file sharing is gone, it’s off to the library! Books, albums and movies, all available for the price of a free card. I was ready to buy “Collected Essays on Pride and Prejudice,” but the library had it for nothing! I bet Jane Austen’s really pissed about missing that royalty check.

Then it’s time to torpedo the airwaves. Radio plays songs for free that any fiend with an audio recorder can put to tape. As for television? In 1984, to the delight of viewers and cops, the Supreme Court ruled that taping a TV program with a VCR was not illegal. But what do they know?

In the good old days (2000), I loved my Napster. It made sense, because I could easily find the old and obscure pop music that even amazon.com didn’t carry—stuff that would embarrass me to buy at the record shop, if in fact it even existed there. And let’s face it: the theme songs to “The Transformers” and “The Greatest American Hero” are not going platinum anytime soon.

Until the corporate bigwigs and rich artists come up with a better line than “I make slightly less money,” they need to concentrate on making a product worth buying in the first place. At least with me you’re getting your money’s worth. Freeloader.

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