I’m always on the lookout for new music and last.fm is brilliant for helping me find bands and musicians previously unknown to me. But, having found music I would love to listen to on my stereo, how to obtain it? I happily purchase music legally whenever possible, but what happens when this is not possible?
I wanted, for example, to purchase a couple of mp3 tracks from Amazon but discovered that mp3 downloads are not available to those living outside the United States. Great, I thought. What’s the difficulty? Luckily one of the bands I’d recently discovered was available to purchase online from cdbaby and I did so but this site does not sell the music of better known groups. I find that legally purchasing music online in New Zealand can be fraught with difficulties. I’m still frustrated at the delay in the release of Speed Caravan’s album in New Zealand, for example. It’s available overseas but do you think I can find a legal copy to purchase? No, I have to wait another few months. It can be frustrating for an impatient music fan such as myself.
Some of my discoveries are generous bands who are happy to let you download some of their music for free and I’ve obtained music this way from the bands’ Myspace page (e.g. the brilliant New Zealand group An Emerald City or the Italian group, Novembre). Such generosity makes a person such as me want to buy their music. I joined the fan club of An Emerald City and purchased their albums legally but even then the group sent me 2 or 3 free downloads via email. As a consequence, I’m a fan for life! Perhaps the artists themselves should arrange for legal purchase of mp3s from their fan sites. If fans believed that the artists got most of the proceeds (and not just a fraction) they’d be happy to pay.
However, I will admit to downloading a track or two through filesharing sites, but only one or two tracks of an album that is difficult to purchase legally. I have never downloaded an entire album. I may be one of a minority certainly but draconian amendments to copyright laws (such as the proposed but discarded Amendment 92a) will not help to solve the problem.
Anti-piracy software exists of course to prevent illegal copying of DVDs and games, for example. This is fine if the software used does not harm the computer of a legitimate purchaser. When Electronic Arts changed their anti-piracy software from Safedisc to SecuROM on their Sims 2 expansion packs, many game fans found that their computers had been corrupted by the software. This sort of thing does not encourage legitimate purchasers. On the contrary, fans sought out illegal copies which did not have the harmful DRM software on it. Oh, the irony!
I’m certainly not advocating illegal copying but as a normally law-abiding citizen I just wanted to point out that there are many reasons for illegal copying and downloading beyond the simple want of something for free. I just illustrated two. Those of you who saw Dylan Horrocks’ presentation at last year’s LIANZA conference will be aware of other reasons for illegal copying, one of them being to share artwork which could otherwise be lost forever.
But then, can anyone be surprised that pirating and copying is so widespread? The technology exists such as file-sharing protocols, and DVD and CD burners (which are now standard on computers). Naturally they’ll be used!
On that note, I will leave you with Dylan Horrocks’ cartoon (which, incidentally, is copyright-free).