Wednesday, March 13, 2002

I'd like to take a moment to talk about MP3s, the RIAA, and the like. Most of what I've heard has been along the lines of "our rights are being infringed!" and "The RIAA are a bunch of crapweasels!" The RIAA may well indeed be evil. However, your rights and the rights of artists are not being infringed by the shutdown of Napster. Music is a product. If you copyright it, it's protected in perpetuity, and owned by you, your heirs, or whoever you sell the rights to. Now, as I understand it, the current situation is as follows: musicians write and/or perform music, and sell it to Sony, Geffen, or whoever. The record companies take these songs and sell them to the public for a fee. Some people don't want to buy the albums, and simply download them off Audiogalaxy, Morpheus, or any number of other similar sites.

Now, it seems to me that we have several things happening. The first is that artists are selling their product, and receiving money in return. As I understand it, they retain the rights to play their songs in public, unless otherwise stipulated. Secondly, record companies are selling their product, and receiving money in return, with the purchaser gaining the right to listen to their purchase and play it in public for noncommercial purposes. Another group of people, deciding that they want both the songs and the money in their pockets, take the songs without paying for them. Am I missing something, or is this what we consider stealing?

The RIAA may well be stupid beyond belief for not giving in to pressure. That is their right. It's their property. Musicians are threatening to release stuff straight to the web, as well. Again, that's their right (so long as they haven't sold it first). However, they shouldn't be surpised when no one buys their albums any more. After all, why buy something when you can get it for free? For the album art and liner notes? Now, I will say that the Canadian government is misguided for putting such a silly tax on things capable of storing MP3s, though once again, within their rights.

To summarize:

Right to sell your compositions: yes

Right to sell purchased compositions: yes

Right to get commercial products without payment: no

Right to tax whatever you feel like: stupid, but probably there

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