Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me

A group of Canadian musicians recently released a statement saying they support file sharing: www.musiccreators.ca

Then I found a website of a guy who was sued by the MPAA (like the RIAA) for file sharing, but is insisting on taking the case to trial. This frightens the MPAA because they've never had a case actually go to trial. If they lose, they won't be able to sue small children any more. Then how will they make money?

All this got me thinking about file sharing and how I recently swore it off because I want to be an ethical lawyer. I'm not saying I'm about to start violating the law, but it's gotten me to thinking about it. I already think it's acceptable as a philosophical issue. For those of you who haven't had the honor yet, here's my file sharing rant:

The music industry is changing. In a few years, music companies will no longer expect to earn money simply because they release a band's music. The music industry will still be profitable, but the music companies are going to have to work harder for it. There are several reasons why people will continue to pay for music:

  • Reliability and convenience. This is the iTunes model. It is easy to download music (and movies and software) from Kazaa, Limewire, or BitTorrent, but it is easier and much more reliable to download music from iTunes. They also have a better selection, usually (although I wasn't able to find the Travelling Wilburys). Reliability and convenience are things people are willing to pay for.
  • Quality artists that you actually respect. I will still buy albums by artists I really like, like Beck, Matisyahu, RL Burnside, Alabama 3, and Avril Lavigne. I respect these artists and they deserve my money. Britney Spears does not. (Not that I'd download her music either, but I certainly wouldn't pay for it.)
  • Special features that can't be downloaded, like interviews and music videos on the CD, and special packaging with pull-out posters.
  • For people who want to have a collection. Like my friend Aaron Mohammed who has the entire Beatles collection on CD. Some people like to put these things on display as a point of pride, and they're willing to pay for that.
  • Higher quality sound. A 128 kbps mp3 sounds fine on small computer speakers, but try playing it on a $4,000 home stereo system some time. It sounds like crap. And as we move beyond CD's this problem will only grow. If you go to the store and buy an HD-CD or an Audio DVD, you're going to get much higher quality sound than on an mp3. Real music afficionados care about that.

So, there are still lots of ways for music companies to sell music and get paid for it. But they shouldn't expect to make money simply because they released a band's songs. They're going to have to make more of an effort than that. Some music companies will be able to adapt, and they will be successful. Larger companies will refuse to adapt, and they will fail. Dobrei pajalavit vakapitalizm. (Russian for "welcome to capitalism.")

Not to mention that the musicians support file sharing. The more people engage in file sharing, the more popular an artist will become. Popularity is always a good thing.

Also, statistics show that people who pirate music actually buy more CD's per capita. In fact, they're twice as likely to buy CD's.  This isn't hard to understand; people who download an album and like it are more likely to lay down $20 (or $30) than someone who hasn't heard the album. Not to mention that people who download lots of music are probably music afficionados and simply like buying music (partially for the reasons I mentioned above). So, statistically, it makes good business sense for the RIAA to not combat music piracy.

Does this mean I should remove my philosophical opposition to file sharing? As I already said, I'm not announcing that I'm going to start breaking the law. Of course I wouldn't do that. I'm just talking about it as a matter of principle.

Any comments?