One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Back when I was a musician – writing songs rather than things like this – I was just about the only one I knew who wasn’t stealing music via the heist website Napster. And I lived in Austin, Texas – the “Live Music Capital of the World.” I knew a LOT of musicians.
Napster was “originally founded as a pioneering peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing Internet service that emphasized sharing audio files, typically music, encoded in MP3 format. The original company ran into legal difficulties over copyright infringement….”
Translation: People downloaded music – for which they never paid. Hence the “legal difficulties over copyright infringement.” Napster was a monster music shopping mall – without the shopping.
The arguments in defense of this theft were (and remain) patently (no pun intended) absurd. Some of the absurdest:
- “The musicians make money from touring – we’re only stealing from the record companies.”
A microcosm of the Democrats’ “Tax the evil rich to pay for free stuff for you” mantra. Which is obnoxious. Stealing from anyone – is stealing. Oh – and of course musicians get paid for their music. Unless their music is stolen.
- “I’m not stealing anything physical. It’s not like I’m taking a compact disc. So they’re not out anything.”
Behold the absolutely ridiculous “Intellectual property isn’t property” assertion. Even many center-right and libertarian people and outfits – some of some stature – lamely put this forward.
But a compact disc – bereft of Adele, Drake or Taylor Swift – is nothing more than high-tech plastic. You’re not stealing it to get the high-tech plastic – you want what’s encoded thereon.
It’s the musical ideas – which beget the music, the recording, the marketing and the teenage madness – that matter. These ideas – are intellectual property.
Thus is intellectual property, in fact, MORE important than physical property – not less. And it always has been.
Technological advances don’t change any of this. New platforms – same principles. Stealing vinyl records – was wrong. So too was stealing 8-track tapes. And cassettes. And CDs. Stealing MP3s – is stealing.
Napster was only a toe-in-the-water beginning. The theft of digital goods – music, movies, computer software,… – has only exponentially grown. Into a HUGE global problem. (And that is not just a Kim Dotcom pun.) See also: China. And….
Of course there is always a constituency for free stuff (see, again: The Democrat Party). Some major players have in fact made it a key component of their business model (Hello, Google). These intellectual property thieves have lots of coin (because they rarely pay for anything) – so they can dress up their thievery quite nicely.
They can hire lots of lawyers and organizations to pretend that opposition to their thievery – is actually opposition to technological advancement. (When it, of course, defunds and undermines future technological advancement. If you can’t get paid for your last advancement – why on Earth would you or anyone else invest in your next?)
And these thieves can hire lots of lobbyists – to have law written that all-but-legalizes their theft. To wit: The Innovation and Patent Acts currently under consideration in Congress. Bills which would make it so much easier for people to do to patents – what thieves like Napster, China and Kim Dotcom do to copyrights (and trademarks). It would become dramatically more difficult for intellectual property holders – whose property protection device is patents – to stop the people who are stealing their ideas.
These bills are anti-intellectual property. And anti-property. And anti-technological advancement. And anti-capitalism. What they are – is pro-theft. It makes a lot of illegal thievery – a lot less subject to the law and its enforcement.
I understand why the thieves would want this. I have zero idea why anyone else does.