Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Squirrels and Copyrights, My Copyrights!!!

I like to eat and I like good fresh food! So as a result, I planted a garden in our backyard with lots of healthy vegetables. It was all going rather nicely and we had even started eating radishes. Until one morning I went out to look at the fruit of my labor and the leaves of a whole row of radishes was starting to disappear. After trying several things, I caught some squirrels nibbling on my plants.

Now, I knew squirrels could be nuisances, but they had turned out to be destructive little thieves. These cute little reprobates don’t have a problem taking what is not theirs and what’s more, they didn’t care about the fact that I  spent many hours in the evenings and weekends working the soil, planting the seeds and pulling the weeds. They had a reckless regard for the fact of the hundreds of dollars I put in the garden equipment, seeds, fertilizer and organic repellents to keep them and whole bunch of other freeloaders from stealing it.

So, what does this have to do with copyrights? Well, it starts out very similar to the garden. Years ago I took piano lessons, I spent a fortune on college and graduate school. Then I bought equipment and software, made demos and spent a fortune of time and money on finding clients. I have even paid for live demos at the union demo rates for live players. I am fortunate to have a large catalog of music recorded with live musicians and large orchestras and that is not cheap.

Then someone takes my work from a CD or an mp3 and puts it in a TV show, renames it and takes the money. Another person puts it on Limewire and shares it with 10 friends who then pass it on to 10 more friends and so it goes around the world. No one has paid me a dime for my intellectual property and for the time and financial investment I have put into it. It’s not their music/property-it’s mine. If I took someone else’s property, I’d be in jail for stealing. We can get into mind candy arguments about it all, but intellectual property, is property, just as a car or a piece of land is property. It’s a crime to “plagiarize,” but how does one justify taking a song for free and distribute it with out paying the proper copyright owners? I have heard the statement that, “well the record companies didn’t have the right to charge so much for their music.” My standard answer is it’s still not yours. If you don’t want to pay the price then don’t buy it. You don’t have the right to steal it. In addition, if sellers/copyright owners price themselves out of the market they will lower their prices or go out of business.

There are a lot issues and trends that are eroding the value of intellectual property. Many internet companies are trying to get away with using music for free or for fees that are so ridiculously low that it devalues all intellectual properties. However, they make money off  the intellectual property-my work and when they do that I deserve to be paid. One of the huge hypocrisies of all this is companies wanting to use music for free or devalue it, go to incredible lengths to make sure you pay them their fair share and more of the use of their software or their distributions systems. If they didn't need music for their business, they wouldn't use it. Their argument is you need us. It really is a poorly thought out argument, because we need each other and they need my work just as much or more than I need their software or their digital pipeline. When they devalue my (or anyone's) intellectual property, they are in essence devaluing their intellectual property and at some point, it will cost them as well. Whether it’s an Internet giant or a P-2-P user, digital and musical piracy will have consequences.

While I am waiting for the latest greatest gadget, that is “supposed” to drive the squirrels away, the squirrels get fatter and I get more frustrated with trying to chase them off, and try to discourage them by putting cayenne pepper on the plants… and digital pirates take my work and flip the bird at me…

Jonathan David Neal-Composer