How the music industry can make you love it by getting rich stealing from everyone, or something

Andrew Orlowski is quite often worth reading, quite often siding well on the side of individual liberty. He writes mostly for The Register, an irreverent British technology magazine, although he lives in San Francisco. His latest piece is “How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved“, and was the Keynote address at “In The City,” which is apparently “the UK’s international music convention.”

In this piece, Orlowski explains to the music industry, at great length, how they can do all these things by attaching themselves firmly to my wallet via the government teat. He proposes a tax, preferably on broadband but possibly on the phone bill, which will equal 20% of the record companies’ 2000 revenues, and be divided among them in some manner. This is apparently a “fair” way to make up the revenues lost via Napster and other ways people get music without paying the record companies for it.

Well, Andrew, guess what: I never stole any songs. My parents certainly never stole any songs. We listen to the radio. We buy CD’s and DVD’s. The fact that other people might be bypassing the record companies in no way obligates me to pay for their losses. If they can’t make money under their present business plans, they need to find another, and theft via proxy is not a business plan. Business consists of peaceful interaction perceived as beneficial by all participants.

Ah, but Andrew anticipates my response. He has it all thought out in the list of possible objections on page 8:

– PUBLIC: I never listen to music. Why should I pay for it? – A: I don’t have a car or children, but I pay for your schools and roads. Knowing roads and schools are there is an incentive to join you. It’s a public good, so you might want to start enjoying music now.

– PUBLIC: I don’t download music. Why should I pay for it? I’m not having this on my phone bill! – A: See above.

I’ll take it a sentence at a time.

I don’t have a car or children, but I pay for your schools and roads.

This is, apparently, the “two wrongs do make a right” argument. Instead, perhaps Andrew should question why those who use roads and schools have a right to force him to pay for them. And if they do, then why not those who use racetracks, strip joints, baseball stadiums, bars, golf courses…

Knowing roads and schools are there is an incentive to join you.

Lots of amenities that attract people to a town or society are privately funded, such as restaurants, shopping malls, grocery stores, and cinemas.

It’s a public good, so you might want to start enjoying music now.

Nude fat male street dancing is a public good, albeit enjoyed by few. However, if the Nude Fat Male Street Dancing Association (NFMSDA) gets its way, it will be funded by the NEA, so you might want to start enjoying it.

I actually shudder to think how bad this tax-funded music will eventually be. Will it be as good as we’ve come to expect of NEA projects? Music is, indeed, a public good–in fact, digital music is perhaps the ultimate non-rivalrous good, since anyone who has a computer and wants a copy can get one without driving up the costs for anyone else. However, music and television over the airwaves are also public goods, yet they survive (in America) without being funded through theft. That is because they are bundled with a private good: advertising. They also are in some cases (satellite, cable) encrypted or scrambled in order to discourage freeloaders. However, in the digital realm such efforts are stopgaps at best, as scheme after scheme has demonstrated, and as Orlowski documents in his article.

The root problem is, Orlowski has identified the theft from the record companies and artists (bad) but proposed a solution consisting of an equal and opposite institutionalized theft from broadband or telephone users (worse.) Two wrongs do not make a right, and Orlowski’s solution is no more moral than looting a little bit out of all your neighbors’ houses to replace your electronics after you get robbed–even if you’re sure that one of your neighbors did it. The record companies and artists need to find a way to protect their own rights without violation yours or mine–because if they don’t respect mine, why on earth should they expect me to respect theirs?

21 thoughts on “How the music industry can make you love it by getting rich stealing from everyone, or something”

  1. Now THIS is an example of TYRANNY, to impose a tax on everyone.
    I *HATE* the RIAA (see http://boycott-riaa.com ; yep, you can find me posting there, under the same nick I use here) , I *HATE* the commercial pseudo-music, and I really don’t feel inclined to ever pay them. And so are lots of the folks in the USA, who don’t care a damn for the ‘music industry’. You should PROTEST the very idea of the new taxes like this. It’s the highest rudeness of the music monopolies to demand money from every citizen, including who that would never buy their crappy products.

    For me, it’s a perfect example of the mercantilist ties between big business and government. Long time ago, Adam Smith stated, that most of the big enterprises aren’t especially sympathetic to the idea of free market, the very free market that created them, if only the ties with government seem to give more profits than a free competition. And that they WILL push for mercantilist measures in order to protect their profitability (I don’t remember the exact quote; could anybody provide me with it? It’s probably from “An Inquiry Into The Wealth of the Nations”. I’ll be grateful).

    In Liberty,
    Critto

  2. The root problem is, Orlowski has identified the theft from the record companies and artists (bad)

    Copying is not theft, don’t call it that. Otherwise, a good article.

  3. With regards to musicians, I prefer to do this by attending live concerts, where the artist retains a larger amount of sales revenue relative to cd and merchandise sales.

    …and then stealing from them later, says Aaron G.

    Incidentally, the phrase “pleasure him/her” is generally only found in science fiction and bad pornography. Word up.

  4. Yes, I will admit that it is rude, if one considers himself a purveyor of the arts, to be willing to enjoy the arts without supporting those who’s efforts pleasure him. With regards to musicians, I prefer to do this by attending live concerts, where the artist retains a larger amount of sales revenue relative to cd and merchandise sales.

    And since we’re crucifying Kinsella and dancing on his burning body in the next post over, I’d like to point out that he did at least write the definitive rebuttal of Intellectual Property law, which makes for good reading for anyone interested in the subject.

  5. I hope you’re not suggesting one can own an idea, Sabotta. Surely you know better than that, O Great Slayer of Rothbardian Hypocrisies.

  6. hi, andy. when i had a recording studio that used digital decks and piles of blank tapes, i was taxed in a scheme similar to the one described above (for recording original music). it’s already been done in america, but i don’t know if it died with DAT (which the chicken littles said was supposed to kill the CD market):

    The DAT Tax
    Tape Tax History
    Audio Home Recording Act of 1992
    MUSIC PIRACY AND THE AUDIO HOME RECORDING ACT
    ROYALTIES ESTABLISHED UNDER “AUDIO HOME RECORDING ACT” OF 1992

  7. and in result, it seems to me that the music industry is the biggest threat to the free market now. The limits of ‘intellectual property’ are being pushed farther and farther, an d still taking the larger areas. Many governments seem to be voluntarily subdued to the whims of the “IP owners”, and they foster their mercantilist agenda of trampling the free market (the DMCA and software patents are the best example here). The times, when the US government allows FBI to investigate and prosecute the “intellectual property infringment” (instead of catching terrorists, racketeers and similiar bandits; of course I’m anti-FBI (Fucking Bastard and Idiots) and I think this agency should be dismantled), are the times of the coming tyranny. There is no more balance as “fair use”, which was out there for many years. The record companies whine and scream for “more prosecution of _P.I.R.A.C.Y._” (let them go to the high seas then, because it is what piracy means). Some totally loony ideas as the SSSCA (or KGBDTA, CBPDTA or how is it called?), which would force EVERY computer user to have the DRM installed and automatically updated from the Net to exercise control in an orwellian manner or, the more recent ones as PIRATE Act or INDUCE Act are being proposed and debated in Congress. Some, as DMCA, have even succeeded. The crap is coming also to Europe. Lots of folks believe in the fraud disseminated by the crooks from RIAA, MPAA and similiar organisations.

    Now, being anti-government implies the fierce opposition to those who are actively supporting it, have good ties to it and demand its “protection” in violation of everyone else’s freedom.

    In Liberty,
    Critto

  8. Aaron G.:And since we’re crucifying Kinsella and dancing on his burning body in the next post over, I’d like to point out that he did at least write the definitive rebuttal of Intellectual Property law, which makes for good reading for anyone interested in the subject.

    But not nearly as good reading as Stephan Kinsella On Intellectual Property, Stephan Kinsella On Intellectual Property, Part II, and Stephan Kinsella On Intellectual Property, Part III?, wherein we can find Kinsella exposed as a definitive example of hypocrisy – for anyone interested in the subject.

    Much like his supposed hate for the State, Kinsella’s denouncement of IP law only applies when it’s convenient for him.

  9. “The problem is that you claim that there is no such thing as intellectual property, then turn around and threaten folks who exercise their supposed-by-you right to steal other people’s stuff.”

    You people just don’t know how to make a coherent point. What is your point, exactly? Or your question?

    I don’t claim there is no IP. I say there should not be IP rights enforced by government. And who have I threatened? You think obtaining patents per se is a threat? You ever thought some people stockpile them to use a defense if they are themselves sued for patent infringement?

    Moreover, most patent lawyers don’t own the patents they help their clients acquire. Companies acquire and own them. They are the ones who threaten others using these patents. So obtaining a patent for a company is like selling a gun to someone. The owner might use it for good (self-defense) or evil. What has that to do with being a patent lawyer?

    And what’s the point of your remarks anyway? What are you trying to establish? Why do you people always make it about me, personally? I am not that vain. It’s not about me, people! Jesus. Are you trying to establish I’m a “bad person”? If so, who gives a flying fuck? What does that have to do with liberty or libertarianism, or with claims that IP law is, or is not, legitimate?

  10. “But not nearly as good reading as Stephan Kinsella On Intellectual Property, Stephan Kinsella On Intellectual Property, Part II, and Stephan Kinsella On Intellectual Property, Part III?, wherein we can find Kinsella exposed as a definitive example of hypocrisy – for anyone interested in the subject.

    “Much like his supposed hate for the State, Kinsella’s denouncement of IP law only applies when it’s convenient for him.”

    Hey numbnuts, you realize the Internet was invented by DARPA, right? But here you are, using it, you hypocrite.

    Jesus Christ, grow up people.

  11. “But here you are, using it, you hypocrite.”

    I agree completely, Stephan. Look at these people who call themselves Spoonerites and they haven’t even started their own post office! Amateurs, all of them.

  12. Hey numbnuts, you realize the Internet was invented by DARPA, right? But here you are, using it, you hypocrite.

    I’m typing into a VAX connected via leased line to Los Alamos? Coulda fooled me. Unless your claim is that the US Government owns the idea of the internet and I’m using that. Is that it, are you defending FedGov’s supposed intellectual property?

    Kinsella, you have every opportunity in the world to simply embrace the idea of intellectual property. If you indeed have intellectual property rights, then it follows that since the state monopolizes the market for enforcement of same, it’s OK to use government IP law to enforce your natural right to your property.

    The problem is that you claim that there is no such thing as intellectual property, then turn around and threaten folks who exercise their supposed-by-you right to steal other people’s stuff.

  13. Kinsella, what’s the point of your claim that my using an internet connection is hypocritical?

    I don’t claim there is no IP.

    You claim that there isn’t any legitimate claim to intellectual property. According to your worldview, “intellectual property” is an oxymoron:

    We see, then, that a system of property rights in “ideal objects” necessarily requires violation of other individual property rights, e.g., to use one’s own tangible property as one sees fit.

    I’m not in any way saying that you don’t think that people don’t claim intellectual property.

    And who have I threatened?

    I think that you threatened the owner of a net.crank website, as implied here. I’ll ask you straight up: did you defend Lew Rockwell’s intellectual property rights against this David Irving?

    What are you trying to establish?

    Intellectual consistency, from you.

    What does that have to do with liberty or libertarianism,…

    Kinsella, if you don’t understand what intellectual consistency has to do with it, I can’t help you. Do you understand the value of intellectual consistency?

  14. And of course I’m not going to answer your other question.

    “Of course” – why not?

    Did you defend Lew Rockwell’s intellectual property rights against this David Irving? Yes, or No?

  15. I could sympathize with a person who secures their intellectual property as a buttress against others who would use the state to coopt said person’s natural rights. Any restriction on the power of the state is a good restriction, I say.

    As for libel, I suppose the truly anarcho-libertarian (and gentlemanly, I might add) thing to do is to issue a challenge to a duel, should all other treatises to sensibility be exhausted. Of course, dueling is an expensive and risky proposition, and the internet is stocked with fools, how on earth could you challenge them all? Besides, I believe it’s quite against the law in this country. Perhaps, if Stephan was a truly serious individual, he would purchase citizenship somewhere where such a thing is respected as a private matter between men, just as long as someone picked up the burial tab. Again, an expensive method of preserving one’s honor.

    In the end, as with all things, I suspect it’s the Christians that have it right: bear up patiently under scrutiny, let the truth be shown in your words and actions, and someday God will sort out who was right and who will burn.

    I’m off to bed, you kids have fun.

  16. I don’t see why owning an idea is such a wacky notion. The only argument I’ve ever heard against intellectual property is that it restricts what people may do with their property. But all property rights do that, necessarily, that’s no argument against intellectual property per se.

  17. Well, an idea is no longer scarce once it gets out. Everyone in the world can enjoy an idea and make use of it. In contrast, not everyone can enjoy my television set, so some sort of defined property rights are necessary.

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