Published on The Doomstead Diner on April 15, 2017
Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner
Yesterday I cross posted the last part of Allan Stromfeldt Christensen's (ASC) 6 part Music series, which mainly was a paean to his favorite music band, Fanfare Ciocârlia. It's a bunch of Gypsies who are not real big commercial successes (although doing OK since there is a Wiki entry about them), and besides their type of music is dying for other economic reasons in the neighborhood it developed. So the series had Collapse Relevance because of that, and was worth cross posting on the Diner.
ASC has a few idiosyncracies, among them he rejects watching any video these days after studying to be a filmmaker, or "filmer" as he refers to it on his Blog From Filmers to Farmers. He also switched himself off the internet for a number of years, and as he notes in this series even stopped collecting any music, although he got forced to listen to it in elevators. lol. However, he mellowed out on the internet and now runs his own blog, and he is collecting and listening to Gypsie Music again too! So we got this 6 part paean to Fanfare Ciocarlia as result. Embedded in this last part though is a discussion of copyright issues, which I brought up years ago in an article I wrote, Clan of the Copyright Bear. I linked above to that article which I reposted on the Diner years after I actually wrote it during the Napster Era, but I am not going to quote from it or even re-read it now, to attempt to respond just to what he wrote in this article in a fresh manner. I did send him the link to Clan of the Copyright Bear though sometime back, and this portion is clearly a response to that:
Somewhat similarly, it’s been pointed out to me while writing this series that the practice of copyrighting music is a rather recent one, and that in times previous to when even sheet music was around the traditional way in which musicians made their money – i.e. living – was via giving performances. It was then suggested to me that since copyrighting music stems the traditional free flow of music (“stealing” music) and since by these traditional standards charging over and over again for the performance of a particular piece of recorded music is absurd, ripping music off of YouTube is therefore justified. Can the aforementioned Gypsy saying be interpreted to justify this theft of recorded music? As far as I can see it, absolutely not.
One issue with recorded music is that by unavoidably placing it in a physical format – be it on parchment, plastic, zeroes and ones, whatever – investment is required for the recording, mastering, the medium itself, etc. This costs money, and as opposed to performances, most of the proceeds from sales of recorded music is siphoned off by middle men. In effect, to a certain extent recorded music is little more than an advertisement for the performances of musicians since this is where their living is predominantly made.
So while the aforementioned Gypsy saying was inferring that one “steals” influences from far and wide – as opposed to stealing whatever one wants – the simple fact of the matter is that music is by no means a biological necessity like food (which in some cases can be justified stealing), and if one really has a problem with copyrights on recorded music or recorded music in general then rather than refusing to hand over one’s money the simple thing to do would be to refuse to hand over one’s ears; or, simply grab an instrument and play music on one’s own or with friends and family – the “traditional way”.
Now, first off, at least in recent years (the last 40 or so) it hasn't taken a whole lot of investment to make a physical recording of music. Going back to the Cassette Tape player era, I brought my cassette recorder into concerts I went to and made bootleg tapes so I could listen to the concert again later. I PAID for that concert! $10 in 1970s dollars! The investment cost here for doing this recording was $100 for the cassette recorder from Radio Shack and another $3 for a TDK 90 minute tape cassette. Primitive of course compared to now, but with the Dolby and the general tendency of vinyl of the era to get scratched up, actually a bit better than the vinyl in terms of durability.
Today, you can professionally record music for the cost of some quality mics from senheisser, a good mixing board (or you can use software on your laptop) and a decent music editor. Then you can burn CDs or distribute the mp3s via your website. This is not a cost intensive bizness to get into nowadays, unlike the era you needed manufacturing plants to press out vinyl records. For doing quality Bootlegs today instead of the clunky old cassette recorder I used which recorded in mono, you can today substitute a really spiffy portable stereo digital audio recorder. The Tascam you see at the left here is the model I have. $100 in 2014 dollars when I bought it, which adjusting for inflation makes it about half the cost of my old cassette recorder. I didn't buy it for bootlegging concerts, I bought it to be able to do On Location recordings of lectures for the SUN☼ Project as well as audio interviews and rants for the Diner. However, it would work great for bootlegging concerts, as long as you have a good seat and the people around you aren't screaming too loud. Better at perfomances of Classical Music or in Jazz Clubs than Rock Concerts for this reason. lol.
GREAT CONCERT from Heart in 1977 I recorded, and I PAID good money for that concert too! So now I am supposed to ALSO go to the record store and spend ANOTHER $10 on their latest vinyl album? Pay TWICE for the same tunes I listened to already and recorded on my cassette player? WTF would I do something so stupid?
Interesting YouTube Stat: This vid from Heart has 1.5M Views, as compared to the 4M
views for the Fanfare Ciocârlia vids I watched
Heart also doesn't just get paid over and over again because of idiots buying their records, they ALSO get paid over and over again every time it airs on a Radio Station in your neighborhood. The stations have to pay royalties for using their music in the daily programming of course. So for a few hours of work over a few days writing a song and then recording it in the studio in 1976, for the next 40 years these folks get paid OVER AND OVER again for the same thing! Nice gig if you can get it of course.
Nowadays, just about all the music you ever wanted to listen to and have time for listening to comes for free over You Tube videos or the radio in your car. You can't generally pick the music you listen to off the car radio, but making playlists is a pain in the ass anyhow. What comes up is what comes up, and you occassionally get some old tune you forgot about pop up. Pleasant surprise while you are sitting in traffic.
Of course, you're not going to find Fanfare Ciocarlia popping up on ANY Radio Station in the FSoA, and likely not in Oz either, so if this is the music you want to listen to, you'll probably have to buy it…oh wait! No you don't! They have their stuff up on YouTube! This one is doing fucking GOOD! Over 4M views! They are POPULAR! At 4M views on YT for this track alone, their Ad Revenue is GREAT! I wish I could get 4M views for my Collapse discussions! I'd be doing just GREAT! I could build a SUN☼Community! lol. Very EZ to convert a YT vid to an mp3, so WTF would I pay for this? They are making good money off the YT Ads already! I need to support them off my meager disability income? What?
Now, after listening to 3 of their tunes, I can say I am not the fan of their music that ASC is. Give me Jethro Tull, Queen, Pink Floyd, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez etc etc etc any day over this stuff, but to each his own of course in the music appreciation biz.
The bizness of Music Copyright though is only the tip of the iceberg as far as Intellectual Property goes, it also reaches into the area of writing (which I do a lot of) and IT in terms of software that runs your computer. It even extends to the Human Genome itself! You can lock up pretty much anything with patent law and copyright law if you have enough money to pay the lawyers to do it for you.
How many times has Bill Gates been paid over and over again for copies of Windows on all the computers you bought in your lifetime? How many times was Steven Jobs paid over and over again for the Iphone OP system before he croaked? Every time you bought a new phone or new computer from a portion of your measely paycheck, you were stuffing the pockets of these already filthy rich Pigmen! You supplied them the money to fly around in Private Jets while you drove a 10 year old Toyota Junkmobile! Property Law, whether intellectual or physical property is what allows this to occur.
This however is not the worst of the outcomes of Intellectually Property, nowadays Monsanto, Genentech and others have the patent rights to YOUR genome, and most of the Plant and Animal Kingdoms too! No, they didn't invent your genes or even play the music first, but they tied up the patent for them first because they sequenced them first. This would be like going to a concert and having perfect pitch, listening to the music and scribbling it down in that funny ♫ clef ♫ notation and then quickly scurrying over to the copyright office and getting rights to this music for the next 100 years! Even the musicians who came up with it to begin with are fucked if they didn't know how to write music notation, and now THEY have to pay YOU to play their OWN Music. lol.
I am all for creative people being compensated for their creativity. It is just insane though to KEEP paying them over and over again for the same fucking idea, all wrapped up with legal protections for "Intellectual Property". Do you know how Robert Abplanalp got rich (he funded Richard Nixon)? He invented the little Plastic Spray Valve on the top of all the cans of Hairspray and Spray Paint ever sold. Tell me that is not ridiculous please.
Let me make another analogy here, in the physical world of FOOD.
If I were to go out and plant an Apple Tree, does that mean I should be paid forever after for every apple that tree produces? In today's world defined by property ownership, that is indeed often the case, as long as you own the land you planted the tree on and you pay Da Goobermint yearly taxes to protect your Property Rights to that land.
However, prior to this concept of owning the land developed (which came with the advent of large scale Agriculture), no individual owned the Apples that the tree grew over the years. The person who planted the tree had no more right to those apples than anyone else in the tribe. What the apple tree gave up each year thereafter was a GIFT to the tribe as a whole.
It is similar with any intellectual property, be it writing, artwork, music or software. Once created or elucidated, this becomes IMHO the property of All Mankind, not of any individual. In the Academic world (to an extent these days), this comes in the form of presenting your ideas and discoveries in a Journal, which other academics read basically for free although if you subscribe to a lot of Journals that can run into some serious money. Hooked up with an academic institution though, the Library has subscriptions to the journals and you read them off the library computer these days. In my day, you went to the Stacks and pulled the journals off the shelf, but same general idea. You do have to pay tuition though to the University to get access to the stacks, unless you are employed by them as a professor or at least a janitor.
This essentially free distribution of accumulated knowledge is what allows us to "Stand on the Shoulders of Giants". The information flows freely as it is discovered or elucidated, then the next bunch of people have that stuff to work with and develop still more new ideas. In theory, there is no profit motive in this, you just do it because the topic and problem interests you, and then you want feedback from others concerned with the same topic or problem. Of course, this has NOT held true in recent years though as academics who publish often do try to get patents before they publish.
Imagine if Watson & Crick had filed for a Patent on the Double Helical Structure of DNA they elucidated with Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin? How many of you even know who Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin were, and just know the names of James Watson and Francis Crick? If Watson and Crick had filed such a patent, both would be richer than Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (before he croaked) put together, and likely Richer than God right now. Meanwhile, Maurice and Rosalind would be in court filing lawsuits to try and get their share of the goodies from working on this research and probably get stiffed because Watson & Crick had the better lawyers and their names on the initial paper. lol.
I am all for paying people for being creative and inventive. I am a creative and inventive person, and would like to be paid for that too. But there IS a limit to this, and to keep paying people over and over again just because they got a brainstorm one night and had a great idea or composed a musical tune which hits the top of the charts in 1977 and gets replayed on Classic Rock stations for the next 40 years is just RIDICULOUS! It's all legal construct that creates Conduit Schemes based on ownership of property rights. Tie up property rights legally, physical or intellectual, you get rich. You don't gotta work no more.
Far as the gents from Fanfare Ciocarlia are concerned, I doubt they are getting as rich as Bill Gates from their intellectual property, but that is not really the issue, it's the principle that counts here, and if I actually did like their music and could find it for free on You Tube, I sure the fuck would not pay for it. How stupid is that? I'll pay for their shit when they start paying for mine. Or we can barter for it. Or I just won't bother listening to it, and that goes for music I actually LIKE also. I'll pay to listen once. Not Over and Over again.