Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2003 / 19 Tishrei, 5764
Subpoena as business model
The recording industry's not-desperate-in-any-way decision to sue over
two hundred people for downloading music strikes me as curious.
Punishing people for not buying your product seems an odd business
model. If I snag a stray grape or two in the produce aisle, my grocery
store doesn't sic lawyers on me.
CD sales are dropping, however, and filesharing takes the brunt of the
blame. I would venture to suggest there are other factors here. We can
now make our own CDs at home, for example, so many of us now realize how
much the record companies have jacked up the price of their flimsy
little disks. This fosters resentment. Also: not to put to fine a point
on it, music really sucks right now. Nobody wants to spend money on it.
And the music we do like isn't being recorded by the record industry, or
played on the radio. So we go looking for it on the Internet.
Now, sure, artists should be recognized and paid for their efforts, not
to mention getting credit for what they create. Increasingly, however,
artists are getting the short end of the money stick.
In addition to getting ripped off be record companies, they are getting
ripped off by their so-called fans. Internet users seem to believe, as a
rule, that whatever is on the Internet should be free, unfettered,
decentralized, available to everybody, unfiltered, raw. The record
industry says, "Mine. Mine. Mine." The webbies say, "Ours ours ours." And
never the twain shall meet.
Well, I hate to break it to you, but if musicians don't make money on
their records, they're going to stop making them. You're going to run
out of files to share. This might mean a return to pianos in the parlor,
singalongs, or even simple humming at the sink for our entertainment
needs. Bring back the gramophone, I say.
On the other hand, the record industry might win this fight, and the
concept of getting money out of consumers by suing them for not
consuming could catch on. Look at the court decision to unblock the
block on unwelcome phone calls. The No Call list is a no-show. Yes, in
another great victory for free speech, telemarketers can still call us
any time they want to. Perhaps soon, if we don't pick up the phone, they
can sue us for ignoring them.
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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2003, Ian Shoales