Friday, January 04, 2008

i am not a crook!

I'm a pretty law-abiding guy. I pay my taxes. I obey the speed limits (within the 5 mph margin of error we always hope traffic cops will grant us). I don't torture animals, I've never kidnapped an ex-lover, my high school episodes of vandalism were limited to toilet papering houses and throwing an occasional egg, and (although I fully support the right to do so) I don't even smoke pot or take any recreational drugs except for alcohol, chocolate, and caffeine.

I am also supportive in general of intellectual property rights. I understand why the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) went after the guys who ran Napster.

But now the RIAA calls ME a criminal, and to paraphrase the eminently twisted philosopher Dee Snider, I'm not gonna take it. At least, I won't take it quietly.

What have I done to offend the RIAA? I have, gasp, actually taken CDs that I purchased and copied them onto my computer. I have NOT made them available on-line. I do not file share.

I have downloaded about four albums in my entire life -- all ones made available for free legal download by the groups. Hell, when Radiohead released their latest album and said "name your price," I put $10 on the digital barrelhead when I could have downloaded it legally for free. I buy CDs. I buy a lot of them. Dozens in a year.

So I resent being told that making a copy for personal use is criminal activity. Why do I copy them? So I can listen to them while I'm surfing the web, blogging, playing games, whatever on my PC, which is located in a different room from my stereo. Yeah, I could just stick the CD into the drive and play it, but having it on the hard drive frees up the CD-drive for a computer game. Importantly, it also allows us all to make a copy of a song from a CD that we can load on our MP3 players.

How is this different from copying a vinyl album onto a cassette so you could listen to it on your car stereo or on your Sony Walkman? Yes, I understand that if it's on the computer it could be swapped on-line. And I don't really care if RIAA goes after people doing that. But it is absurd to argue against the long-established practice of copying something you purchased legally to listen to on a different format.

I do not cheer when I see news like this - album sales in 2007 declined 9.5%. I LIKE music, I like buying CDs rather than (legally) downloading individual songs because I prefer listening to music in album-sized chunks. And I know that many many artists, producers, etc do not approve of the RIAA's single-minded and counter-productive campaign to make criminals out of their customers in such a way.

But it doesn't win the RIAA support among those of us who understand their concerns when they make such absurd logical and legal overreaches in their flailing, desperate attempts to adapt to a new media.



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