That was what an American teenager screamed while being dragged from his classroom, by the police. His offence - sharing MP3 music files.
A week ago, I went into a music shop with a friend of mine. It was the first time in three years that I was going to a music shop - but my friend wanted to buy an album, not me. We were chatting with the shop owner, when he told us why there were so few quality music shops in Patna:
"It's because of music piracy. Everyone buys bootleg MP3 CDs from Bakarganj [an area in Patna where electronic goods and CDs are sold] these days."
Of course. Why wouldn't they (we)?
I have not bought a single CD for three years now. It was in December, 2002 that I wanted to buy two CDs - a Linkin Park and a Lostprophets album. The usual price of audio CDs here is Rs 125, while international artists' albums cost Rs 425. You can divide that by 10 to get the equivalent price in US Dollars. So, normal CDs for $12.5 and international artists' for $42.5. That's right, more than 40 bucks for one CD. That was okay though. We used to buy them anyway.
I checked the price for the two albums I wanted. Both cost Rs 550. These were big
artists, and the albums were a sellout; of course the price would be high. And of course I couldn't afford them.
However, I was more deeply upset by this than just for not being able to buy it. My question was simple - it costs Rs 10 to manufacture a CD, and these CDs are not imported, they are manufactured locally (via copyright arrangement with the original label). Why then does it cost 55 times more? Let's say it's the advertising, profit margins and all the usual poop. Fine, price it at Rs 125, or Rs 150, even Rs 200. I would buy them, no problem. I want to support my favorite artists too. But I can't - they are asking
me not to buy their albums in original. I did not buy any new albums since then. I simply couldn't spend half a thousand Rupees on one CD.
And they say piracy must be curbed.
It is not stealing. It is sharing. I'm a musician myself. I am also a programmer. All my music is free, so is my software (except two of them for which I was paid). Of course, I'm not BIG. I don't LIVE on it. But the truth is, sharing MP3 files of bigname artists doesn't make them any poorer. It's not the album sales, but the performance and the paraphernalia that earns them revenues. And let's face it - Metallica or Madonna didn't have to go on the road with a begging bowl because some kids got their music for free instead of buying it. In fact, research and surveys shows that artists whose music was most widely shared on online file sharing services, saw the most jump in their album sales. It is a mode of advertising. This is why bands such as The Offspring, Anberlin and PPK regularly put their MP3s up on the net for free. It is sad to see bigger artists like Metallica and Madonna (these names will recur often) bitch about reduction
in revenues when people like you and me can't even afford to buy ONE of their albums.
In fact, music lovers have novel ways to show their protest. One FTP site which required people to exchange music by uploading a song to download another, offered all Metallica files to everyone without any upload.
The RIAA is evil. They are slapping lawsuits on 15-year-olds in the hope that it will scare others. It will not. It encourages people to share. To protest. To scream.
It is artists like Madonna who need a new Gucci bag everyday, or Metallica who can't do without Armani [however that's spelt], who moan when people copy their music and distribute it for free. Dexter Holland from The Offspring might want more money to get a better guitar custom built for him - he will not, however, want string tuners made of gold (Mark Knopfler comes to mind). Music is a universal language. We need to share it. No self-respecting artist will ever deny this. In fact I am going on record by saying that NO REAL MUSICIAN will clutch their record to their bosom, asking for money before they let their listeners listen to it. As long as they can live a comfortable life, they will be happy to continue to share their music. Really guys, which band wants to sell out??
Why then must we stop
sharing music? Is it stealing? Is it piracy? I'll let the record label execs think that for themselves. There is no place for that line of thinking in our artists' community. We know we need the freedom. The Freedom to create. The Freedom to share!