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November 20, 2006

Here we go again - FTA $%^&ing up Australian Intellectual Property Laws

Because the Australian economy is clearly being destroyed by an epidemic of copyright infringement (AKA Intellectual Property Theft, all depends on whom you ask), Australian's no doubt need a hastily cobbled together ((by whom?) piece of legislation rammed through the parliament in the dying days of the year, potentially criminalizing all kinds of barbaric activities such as singing "Happy Birthday" in public, while no one seems to give much of a crap.

Look, is it the Government's job to prop up aging monopolist industries with their chicken little scenarios for the end of civilisation if said government does not legislate against people's actual behavior? Past experiences with this fom of social engineering typcially has unforseen consequences. Like the entrenched Mafia in the US, a consequence of prohibition, abandoned nearly 80 years ago, or urban gangsterism, a function of the demand side criminalizing of in particular crack cocaine in the early 1980s (note we don't have yuppie gang wars, despite the ongoing epidemic use of cocaine among young urban professionals. More's the pity).

Seems that we have some genuinely civilisation threatening issues to address, that will probably impact the planet a tad more than people copying songs. But hey, governments gotta get their priorities straight.

Yet again, mainstream media ignores this ludicrous waste of effort, while the political opposition seems quite happy to let the government pass laws of little real value, that are so badly drafted that they criminalize all kind of far from illigitimate behavior.

And once more might I observe that my entire livelihood pretty much depends on people paying me to use the inutellectual property that my company creates, so supposedly this sort of crap is in my interest. But I know it's not. It just further creates a "moral economy" where people fel it is ok to copy say music from large corporations who behave in unethical unscrupulous ways. Be very careful what you wish for RIAA (particularly when you start playing the "starving artist" card).

People have copied music since it was possible. 200 years ago, musical references to and quotations of the works of other composers was considered the height of artistic achievement (heard of a guy called Beethoven?) (compare with sampling today, where what many, me included, consider legitimate artistic expression is legislated and litigated into the ground).
Music, like language, is a virus. Legislation, like DRM and other mechanisms to minimize copying (note to music guys in suits - playing music, whether digitally, analogue, humming, or strumming is copying) simply stops the virulance of its spread. You guys want the virus to spread - that's the easy part. Then you need to work out a way of making money from that - simply taxing the flow of bits through monopoly distribution channels doesn't cut it anymore - sorry, your customers have choices now - some of them legal (iTunes), some of them less so.

But getting the nanny state to bail you out by criminalizing the very behavior you want. Man, that is some dumb shit.

Welcome to the anti social.

November 20, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

There is so much potential for making new customers but these attitudes seem intent on turning us all into criminals. In our household we started down the iTunes route... but now have problems listening to our legally purchased albums across the various devices in our own home. Stripping out the DRM solves the problem but turns us back into criminals. There are now some good DRM-free legal online music stores. Movies anyone?

Posted by: rosemary | Nov 21, 2006 12:54:04 AM

But John, don't you realise - people downloading stuff will kill music, just like people swapping tapes killed music!

After all, the worst thing that can happen to an artist is to gain new fans becasuse existing fans got their friends to listen to them!

...although I will make one concession. Singing Happy Birthday in restaurants probably should be criminalised ;)

Posted by: Ben Buchanan | Nov 21, 2006 10:35:56 AM

OK, I'm not going to comment on the new laws but I have to say something, as a professional musician, about the childish, stupid comments about copying music. People seem to think that because they enjoy music and it's entertainment that therefore musicians should do it for fun and not expect to earn a living from it. Here's the news for you guys: if you want to be a good musician you have to work at it from the age of 5. It takes incredible skill and dedication. And, at the end it is a PROFESSION, just like being a doctor or a web designer. We may enjoy what we do but we are still entitled to be able to eat.

Ben, people copying and sharing my new CD (which took me 2 1/2 years of very, very hard work, and which also provided work for other Australian musicians) may gain me new fans but that's not going to help me pay the rent or buy food. Why should they then go out and buy it when they can get it for free?

John, all I can say is I'm surprised. I expected a more compassionate and enlightened view towards the arts from you.

Posted by: Deb Lander | Nov 21, 2006 3:04:41 PM

@Deb

While I defend your rights to make money from your work - and in no way should someone be able to profit from your work without you receiving payment I think you are missing the point.

The copyright laws are not going to stop anyone pirating music at all. They won't make a scrap of difference to preventing anyone from downloading your album if they wanted to. If someone is OK with pirating music now - I'd be pretty darn sure they won't have an issue after the new laws are passed.

What it will do however is criminalise people whom have legally purchased your music.

It would make EVERY mp3 player owner a criminal. Period. The police could issue you an on the spot fine for simply having a copy of your legally purchased music on both your mp3 player and your PC.

You would not be able to burn a backup version of any CD you purchased as that would be a criminal offence.

It would make recording a TV program, and watching it more than once a criminal offence.

The list goes on and on.

The news laws don't protect anything. Piracy will continue completely unhindered - it will only make 'fair-use' a thing of the past.

Posted by: Adrian Lynch | Nov 22, 2006 1:22:58 PM

@Adrian, you'll note in my opening sentence that I said I wasn't commenting on the laws themselves, only on the offhand comments made by John and Ben, so I don't think I actually missed the point! But thanks anyway.

Posted by: Deb Lander | Nov 22, 2006 4:49:24 PM

@Deb, Fair enough... my bad. :)

Posted by: Adrian Lynch | Nov 22, 2006 6:05:52 PM