About Hypebot And Music Piracy

03.09.11 Posted in Blog by

Yesterday the influential music and technology blog Hypebot asked its readers if they were “past the whole music piracy thing”. A comment on a previous post had made the editors behind the blog doubt if long-term readers  have grown tired of the topic. Therefore Hypebot asked its readers if the subject should be replaced with other topics instead. The readers’ comments left no doubt about their answer to this question.

An important debate

Music piracy has been a widely discussed subject in the world of music and technology, especially during the last decade. Today, music piracy still is one of the bigger issues in new media and it is often used as an example to learn from for other fields that fail to innovate. For years now, every week brings new opinions, new reports and new researches about music piracy. One could imagine that people could grow tired of this. However, the commenters on the Hypebot post unanimously said NO to the question if they were past the music piracy thing. Music piracy is still an important topic to them.

I agree with them. Hypebot and many other blogs should continue to write about music piracy. Whether you are anti-piracy, pro-piracy, or in the middle and like to observe the proceedings just like me: music piracy is one of the biggest debates in the tech world and we should continue this debate. Here are some reasons why this debate is still relevant in 2011.

Music piracy and innovation

While many of the purely anti-piracy people probably won’t agree with me, I am convinced of the innovating forces of (music) piracy. In the article Why Piracy Is Good For Innovation, an essay about the innovational powers of (music) piracy, I already wrote that several services that have been depicted as piratical should actually be considered innovators.

Many pirate services are a useful source for market insight (think of Napster), piracy helps in establishing new markets (think of English radio pirates in the 1960s), and services that are initially associated with piracy often evolve into legitimate and influential businesses (think of YouTube). Do you want to miss coverage about the next GrooveShark, YouTube or Napster?

Not writing about piracy will only further bias the anti-piracy sentiment of the debate

During the past decades anti-piracy associations such as the RIAA have grown and so have their budgets for lobbying and influencing people via marketing campaigns. The RIAA for example spend $90 million on lobbying in the past decade. Competing against such a big marketing machine that often gives a very biased view on the music piracy debate is very hard, but necessary.

Sources like Hypebot should not stop to scrutinize and counter some of the industry funded reports and campaigns. They should continue to question both anti- and pro-piracy reports. Stopping with doing this would most likely result in an even more biased view on music piracy.

Therefore, I join all the other commenters on the Hypebot post with saying: Hypebot, don’t stop with reporting about music piracy! You’re doing a great job!

One Response to “About Hypebot And Music Piracy”

  1. Jessica Graves says:

    With regards to music piracy and from an ethical standpoint, I believe an artist has every right to be angry and seek legal action when their recordings are unwillingly sold for profit or bootlegged by a shady record label or download site. It’s the intellectual property of the artist, who typically writes and composes their own songs. Not to mention, the artist has developed their own way of performing a song, which is documented within the recording.

    In 2011, a judge ruled in favor of singer Paul Collins, whose rock group The Beat lost substantial revenue from a series of unauthorized bootleg recordings released by an underground record label. The recordings were unknowingly engineered during The Beat’s tours with The Police, Eddie Money and The Cure. Although the label argued that the recordings were tracked and mixed by an independent investor during the 1970s and 1980s, Collins was unaware of these dealings and was awarded an unspecified amount of damages. Collins was granted permission to digitally re-master and officially release the live recordings. In response to backlash and negative publicity from fans accusing him of being greedy, Collins attempted to make a public statement about piracy. In 2012, Collins made the recordings available to everyone as free MP3 download tracks to fans worldwide.

    Some fans might argue that Metallica was selfish to target Napster for illegally offering their music as MP3s. In all fairness, not everyone victimized by piracy are platinum-selling, wealthy artists in the caliber of Metallica. Paul Collins had just as much right to take legal action, but he turned the negative situation into a positive one by publicly releasing the pirated material as free downloads to his fans. Case in point, not all rock stars are selfish or “only in it for the money.” Musicians have a right to be paid for their intellectual property. People who support music piracy only think about themselves. If a musician isn’t being paid for their work, how are they supposed to continue recording, writing, performing and touring? Musicians aren’t slaves and if they aren’t making enough money to function, then they might choose a different career path that doesn’t involve making music.

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