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Pimping the Music Industry and an Interview With A Vampire.

category national | arts and media | opinion/analysis author Friday January 27, 2006 20:54author by James R Report this post to the editors

"S'cuse me Bud, d'ya 'ave an inlay card for tha?"

Irish internet providers were yesterday ordered to hand over the details of 49 people engaged in file sharing, what Judge Peter Kelly called a "modern form of thieving." What follows is a consideration of and an interview on music piracy.
The Soulseek Browser.
The Soulseek Browser.

Last Christmas you gave her your heart, this year she probably just settled for an IPod. Given the prevalence of white necklaces around the place, we're probably all in on the same silent conspiracy. A generation of disobedient, malfunctioning consumers – all the logic of consumerism’s gone straight out the window and we’ve settled down to plunder tunes from the net instead.

The reel to reel resistance of tape copying has morphed into a whole sale ransacking of the music industry in the form of peer to peer file sharing. If the latest moves on the industry's behalf are anything to go by, its time to stick those mix tapes in the blender, microwave those CD-rs and erase those mp3s because with an unprecedented venom the industry is out to get you. Well at least that is the logic of IRMA's latest drive against Irish file sharers. We may not be too far off some geezer in a hi-vis standing on the street stopping music fans making themselves deaf with their Ipods, before asking: "s'cuse me Bud, d'ya 'ave an inlay card for tha?"

The introduction of the Copyright and Related Rights Act in 2000 put the Irish state to the forefront of legislating for copyright in the digital era, ensuring the rights holders monopoly over online distribution. The general ideological justification for all this crap rests on the premise “that unless the rights of creators and investors to a fair return are supported, the community as a whole would be impoverished by the fact that, in many cases, these works would not be created or developed.” IRMA has recently used this legislation to take litigation against over 60 "serial uploaders" this year in two separate legislative waves. IRMA's drive is primarily a scare tactic, designed to disrupt these networks by putting word out that serial up loaders are being targeted. Within peer to peer networks there is a spoken rule of "share or be banned" so if people chicken out of the game and become parasites, well, that's the mutual aid down the proverbial and the concept collapses.

The Digital Rights Ireland group raises several concerns over the manner in which IRMA carried out its litigations against music sharers, stressing possible contravention of European legislation: “firstly, there is the manner in which the individuals’ shared folders on their hard drives were entered and scanned. This was done on IRMA’s behalf by a company called MediaSentry. MediaSentry is a US based company, which does not operate within the ‘safe-harbour’ scheme for Data Protection. This means it has not agreed to handle EU citizens’ data in accordance with the European Data Protection regulations.”

All in all, the man has probably learnt something from the experiences of American copyright lobbyist Jack Valenti. Who with all the foresight of a drunk driver told a Congressional panel in 1982: "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." New technology has always incited fear in the entertainment industry, Disney guffawed and stalled the idea of rental tapes going as far as investigating methods to ensure they could only be used once. While back in the eighties the British Phonographic Industry cacked itself and launched the “Home Taping is Killing Music” campaign. Leaving themselves open to a ruthless and relentless campaign of satire by agit-prop heroes the Dead Kennedys, who upped their already besmirched reputation among industry circles by printing "home taping is killing big business profits. We left this side blank so you can help" on one side of the orginal In God We Trust Inc.

The industry is forcing downloaders on to legal networks like Connect Ireland, Eircom, Itunes Ireland, My Coke Music, Vitaminic Music Club Ireland, Wippit Ireland. All promoted by IRMA on its site as legal download entities, with a reservoir of tracks ranging from 250,000 to 1m. Connect requires the use of MS Explorer 5+ as did Cokes entity, Vitaminic are waiting for a new site to come online, while Wippet was undoubtedly the best deal at £50 for unlimited downloads over a year, and the heftiest choice of tracks. But face it, this twatish corporate competition is never going to be as efficient as the illegal digital underground networks like Soulseek.

Newspaper hacks trying to convey an ounce of credibility cite the stellar success of groups like the Arctic Monkies, and their relinquishing of copyright as evidence of how dynamics in the music industry have changed. Legal guru Lawerence Lessig describes how copyright is used to lock down creativity - in music this is even more obvious. The development of dance music would have been stunted if copyright was asserted, given the widespread pilfering of beats and loops as the definitive feature of the genre. Coldcut, one of Britain's definitive early dance acts had an album deleted as a result of the stringent application of copyright – so much for guaranteeing innovation. Sympathy for the industry and corporate gluttons like Metallica decreases even more when you read what the likes of Steve Albini and Courtney Love have to say about the minuscule control minor bands on mainstream labels have over their works and their resultant financial crippling.

The threat posed by peer to peer file sharing is very much rooted in the emergence of the knowledge economy, immaterial production based on the manipulation of signs and symbols rather than the manipulation of nature. The reproduction of music files is essentially a reproduction of capital, but without any economic value being derived by the copyright holder. This is the problem the music industry has, its got nowt to do with creativity, and income for bands – it’s a battle for the control of the means of musical distribution. Downloaders view themselves as engaged in an entirely different practice - continuing traditions of sharing and lending, previously associated with non-digital music formats such as vinyl, tape or CD.

There have been other, more serious, contestations of copyright in the form of intellectual property. The most obvious are the non-violent daily direct action against bio-piracy in India, where rural peasants reuse seeds despite Monsanto’s patent to take a ‘stolen harvest’ back out of the market and into the commons. Most people are all to familiar with the humanitarian consequences of the zealous effect of imposing patents have on the distribution of AIDs drugs. What if copyright was enforced on university photocopiers?

The music piracy debate really needs to be reframed. The success of bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and most boundary bashing musical subcultures from punk to rave show profit does not equal creativity. If we have the technology should we not remove culture from the market and allow equal access to all? After years of the industry ripping bands and fans off, screw P. Diddy and his kids desire for a gold toilet. Gangsta rapper revolutionaries the Dead Prez have it right "pimp the system" - I'm a dot.communist, and you?

What follows is an interview with Sean Murtagh, the head of the anti-piracy aspect of IRMA ireland (carried out through email in several days prior to Deceber 12 '05..)

Home taping never killed music, so is this fear of music piracy not similarly unjustified?

When someone copied music from an LP or analogue tape, to analogue tape, the copy and every subsequent generation of copies was inferior to the master. Ripping tracks from CDs and burning them to CDRs is, in fact, "cloning" - each copy is an exact replica of its parent. This is a much greater threat to the record industry than home-taping ever was. Bear in mind that 1 in 3 CDs worldwide is an illegally burned CDR and you will see that this is not just an industry crying wolf.

How does peer to peer music sharing differ from lending CD's or burning them for a mate? Is the worry here the sheer scale of sharing or are you trying to make a principled point on copyright here?

Making copies of copyrighted music, even for your mates, is a breach of copyright if you don't have permission to do it. What sort of friend gives you something that they have stolen? P2P sharing, when done without copyright owners permission, is copyright theft on a large-scale. IRMA's job is to tackle piracy wherever it occurs.

Should you not be placing more emphasis on the inequalities of relationship between artists and record labels rather than chasing after fans who may end up contributing directly to the artists via gig tickets or t-shirts?

IRMA cannot comment in the private contractual relationships between artist and their record companies. It is always convenient, when people want to have a go at record companies, to wheel out the argument that they are ripping off artists, but nowadays, artists are probably in a much stronger bargaining position than ever before, given that there are now other ways of getting their music to market.

Many artists would disagree with you and go to the other extreme of suggesting that music downloads help the music industry by speeding up the spreading of new music, giving people tasters of what to expect and encouraging gig going - but what do you think of such attitudes?

Virtually every piece of reliable research published on this subject indicates that downloaders buy LESS music e.g. Forrester, August 2004: downloaders buy 36% less, so I'm not really sure how that claim can really be justified. As far as artists choosing to make their music available for free over the Internet - more power to them, if that's what they want to do, it's theirs after all to do with as they see fit. But the overwhelming majority of artists do not take this view - they see their creations as their property, to be protected and to provide them with an income.

Are rights of privacy being sacrificed in forcing an ISP to hand over the personal details of peer to peer file sharers?

Since when has the right to privacy been allowed to shield someone from the consequences of their illegal actions? The High Court has held that the right of a copyright owner to protect his/her creations from illegal exploitation outweighs the right to privacy of the individual committing that illegality. It should be stressed that IRMA does not simply go to ISPs and ask them to hand over the details; we ask a High Court judge to decide on the balance between the various rights involved.

Is it your intention to seek a closure of peer to peer networks like Soulseek, Lime Wire and Kaaza?

IRMA is not seeking to close down any P2P networks - just ensure that all copyrighted files which are shared on those networks are fully cleared and licensed by all copyright owners concerned. The P2P model is a fantastic means of sharing information, but it should not be predicated on copyright theft to survive.

Given the size, anonymity and decentralized nature of music sharing networks - do you think that this is a battle you can win?

Since the summer, Kazaa has been successfully sued in Australia. Grokster has been successfully sued in the US and is now closed down. most of the other P2P networks are now seeking to legitimize their operations. I believe this is a battle we are winning, and music will be increasingly available on legitimate services into the future.

author by Auntie IRMApublication date Sat Jan 28, 2006 00:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great article James!


Online file sharers 'buy more music'

Downloading 'myths' challenged

Net music piracy 'does not harm record sales'

Red Pepper's 'Guerrilla Guide' to filesharing

An artice I wrote on Indymedia when IRMA announced the first 'sweep' last year

author by ErqWnQr - {my encrypted indy name}publication date Sat Jan 28, 2006 16:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I can totally understand why the music industry and Hollywood is freaking out about P2P.

The argument that the music industry was threatened by P2P always struck me as a joke.

Years ago when I had a credit card I would use Live365 to find new interesting bands, then I'd use Limewire to find some MP3s and if I liked the band I'd hunt down their website and buy a CD directly from the band or their distributor. Often, the threat I posed wasn't so much that downloaded the MP3s but that I cut out some of the middlemen when I did purchase the product. Also, what the music industry probably really hates is that I sampled the album before I bought it - something difficult and sometimes impossible to do in a physical store.

But the music industry has not adapted to the new online world since those years ago and they get little sympathy from me today. Why not offer something unique and special *with* the purchase of a CD? Password Access to a special webpage that offers me an incentive to buy more? Why not a little quicktime video of the band? a PDF format file of factoids and info about the band? Something that I know I'd get that is different from taking the chance on downloading a poor quality series of MP3s which may take days to download.

Not only say the music industry not done anything new innovative in their marketing, they have insulted and endangered their customers with CDs that hack their computers' security - as was the case with Sony recently. I doubt I will ever take the risk of buying a Sony CD again and I will be weary of buying ANY music CD in the store again.

We now know that it may be safer to download illegally than to buy a CD in the store.

Like I said I do understand why the music industry and Hollywood are freaking out. But do not ask me to be sympathetic.

I no longer use a credit card and where I live there are limited options for buying the music and DVDs I want. What am I to do? The music industry and Hollywood could have created a simple system *years ago* where I could go to the Bank, buy some sort of pre-paid online debit card system that allow me to buy things online and have them shipped to me. I know of no such system available where I am.

Today I can easily find what I want online for free via various P2P apps. Here's three examples of my own recent P2P behavior:

1) The cable channel I was watching the American TV show 'Lost' disappeared from the channel selection - it was just presented for a couple weeks as a teaser to get me to subscribe to a higher level from the Cable provider.

I really *really* REALLY like the show 'Lost!' I was desperate and pissed off that I couldn't see the rest of the series.... so I found it available via BitTorrent. In a couple days I had the whole first season dowloaded. After finishing off that season, I have downloaded whatever is available of the 2nd season.

Not only does Hollywood not get my 50 bucks for ordering the first season from Amazon, but the local cable provider doesn't get any money from either.

2) Again, using BitTorrent, I was able to download 26 albums of Johnny Cash. Wow. 26 albums! That took me about 3 days to download. Thats so much music I haven't even had the time to listen to it all yet.

3) Since I discovered BitTorrent and now have broadband I am downloading a lot of documentaries that I have seen years back and always wanted a copy of.

This is where my guilt starts to set in.

I know that documentary makers don't make shit for what they produce. Perhaps even more exploited by the TV networks than musicians by the record companies.

But these are excellent documentaries and important for people to watch, so I am downloading them, burning them and giving them to friends and comrades. I justify this to myself by saying its 'Samizdat' for these dark times.

So yes, the powers that be have every reason to be scared shitless of this new world - and until they make it real easy for me to buy stuff online AND give me an additional good reason (extra interesting stuff) to buy it physically - they are doomed in the long run.

author by Michaelpublication date Sat Jan 28, 2006 23:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Don't forget to use software like PeerGuardian (search the web for it) before engaging in any P2P activities. It keeps a list of IP addresses of governments and corporations who search P2P networks for copyright misuse (filesharing). When a request comes to your computer from one of those IP addresses, your computer plays dead "nobody hear except us chickens", instead of "sure, I have a copy of that DivX movie, you can download a piece of it from me..."

author by ErqWnQrpublication date Thu Feb 09, 2006 15:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Lavinia Carey, British Video Association:

'UK research shows that, on average, downloaders are film fans who view the same number of legitimate films (cinema, rented and bought DVDs) as the average active DVD consumer (24).

On top of that, they also consume illegitimately acquired movies. So even though they buy fewer legitimate DVDs, showing the anti-piracy trailer on a DVD is a good way to reach them with the message that file-sharing is a crime.'


found at

author by p0laritypublication date Thu Apr 13, 2006 16:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A great article, and exciting to see such in-touch Irish journalism. I agree with the author, but I must disagree with the sentiment just at the end. It is not a battle record companies are winning. It just isnt. It is undoubtably in the favour of such organisations to say that they are hitting the file sharing networks hard, but this is just sabre-rattling, corporate propoganda. The point is, it will require a complete online police state to get file sharing under control, or even damage it. I find myself marvelling at the sheer innovation that the social "open-source" revolution is bringing. The music loving sharers are always one step ahead. Take for example the fact that legislation against BitTorrent is only coming in NOW, and it is almost time for the next generation of software to come into effect, wielding as many anti detection weapons as possible. I can see this going on and on, and if the record companies refuse to adjust to a new market structure, they will find that their current attitude will bury them.

author by p0laritypublication date Thu Apr 13, 2006 16:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

and one other thing....

Why, on earth, when all the recording costs and production overheads have been long covered, does "The Wall" by Pink Floyd cost me 39.99?!

Ya know what? Screw em, I'll just download it.

author by neddypublication date Tue May 09, 2006 21:12author email edalicious at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

i was mad for the downloading until a couple of months ago when a mate of mine got a phone call off the lawyers of a bunch of record companies telling him that he was being sued for €1.6 million (a grand a track). the chances of it happening to me are fairly slim but it was enough to make me stop. now i just rob albums off mates and rip em onto my computer. essentially the same thing but a bit more hassle (my mate ended up settling for a lot less but it was still a couple of grand)

author by neddypublication date Tue May 09, 2006 21:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

forgot to say...

the quality of mp3s that you download is shite so if you rip them yourself you (can) end up with a far better quality compression. because you all know there's nothing worse then downloading your favourite song and everything's masked to fuck so all you can hear is the guitars and it sounds like it's being played underwater...

author by p0laritypublication date Wed Jul 26, 2006 15:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The computer doctor on Newstalk 106 rang IRMA today and they now claim transferring music from a physical CD onto a digital library is illegal under Irish copyright law. Amazing.

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