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Fans who share music aren't thieves

Fans who share music are not thieves or pirates, sharing music has been happening for decades.”

Canadian Music Creators Coalition

Well, that’s certainly an opinion I’ve held for a long time, but when a group of musicians including names such as Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan, and others form a coallition to start saying exactly that… Well, I feel somewhat vindicated in my oppinion.

Of course, it’s rarely been the case that the musicians themselves are the ones pushing DRM1 and running around suing Joe Public, it is usually the record corporations (well, excepting the famous Metallica/Napster controversy). But what has motivated the coalition to form? To my mind it’s likely a happy marriage of artists standing up for their principles, and artists cashing in on public opinion.

Public opinion

Over the last year especially, there has been increasing resentment from the general public toward the RIAA and the recording industry in general, following some very unscrupulous actions taken by such groups. There have been numerous reports of RIAA engaged in harassment2. There was the Sony Rootkit scandal, which enraged a good number of people once they realised what Sony were actually doing. There is also the recent action of the French government seeking to force Apple to remove DRM from songs sold in iTunes.
Although the majority of people are unaware that their rights are being eroded by these corporations, online communities are extremely aware of the issue, and that knowledge is starting to spread into non-nerd circles. Finally.

My opinion

If I buy a CD then I feel I have the right to listen to it however I like. If that means ripping it to my computer, or to my iPod, surely that is fair use. I paid for it, I want to listen to it on my iPod. The RIAA claim it isn’t fair use, and they’d like to sue you for it.
If I buy a song from iTunes, I want to be able to listen to it on my computer, on my iPod, on my Creative MuVo, or anything else I own that can play music. But I can’t - because of DRM technology. That’s wrong too.
When I buy a DVD I expect to be able to play it in my non-PC DVD player and my PC-DVD player. When the copy protection used on the disc means I can’t even play it on the non-PC player, that’s out of line (Serenity, Harry Potter - I’m looking at you both). It’s also useless, because with the right software utilities installed on my PC I can play the discs and make a copy just fine.
If I subscribe to HBO to watch Lost, and I miss it why am I a criminal for going online and downloading the episode I paid for but missed?

The crux of the issue is that the understanding and the ethos of copyright can not elegantly nor justly work in todays digital world. The models the companies use to sell their content are now defective, and it will harm them in the long run to continue to behave in such boorish fashion. It is not the people that need to change, it’s the sales models and the companies. So, whether this new Canadian coalition has come to be because of principles, or as a way to pander to the fans, I’m all for it. I can only see more of this happening. Viva la revolution!


  1. If you don’t know what DRM is, the people at ZDnet have a good video you can watch which explains the term, the technology, and why it is bad for you as an end user: ZDnet: A load of C.R.A.P. back

  2. You only need do a search on Digg to find multiple stories reported, including:

    There are many more examples of RIAA dirty tactics, floored reasoning, and public resentment toward the RIAA’s attitude and actions. Just Google it if you want to find more. back

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