The Cost of the File Sharing Debate
Is music free? Should file sharing be accepted as part of modernity? I read studies and look at statistics on the topic fairly regularly, and the debate frustrates the hell out of me. The loudest voices against file sharing, typically major media corporations that own huge amounts of copyrighted assets, are over zealous & greedy. They take the issue to an extreme to point out how much damage file sharing has done to their industry, and the numbers always feel exaggerated.
The loudest voices supporting file sharing tend to come from people with little at stake, usually those that don't create or own much intellectual property (from what I've been able to tell when I try to learn more about these bloggers). Their argument always carries heavy stick-it-to-the-man overtones.
Even though the debate potentially has an impact on the future of independent musicians careers, we tend to sit it out at the risk of being clumped in with the greedy suits or made examples by the pro-sharing crowd as two dimensional musicians who are ok with giving it all away. Neither case helps us thrive as musicians.
As I've said before, there's a larger issue at stake. Instead of arguing how much presumptive money may or may not have been lost, we should be debating questions like:
- How do we, people of the world, collectively value art?
- If you believe art should be free, does that mean it holds no value?
- What would happen to our society in the absence of art?
A friend once pointed out that if art makes you think about the world a little differently, it's done its job. It makes you imagine what this person's life must be (or have been) like and how they created this thing you're hearing, looking at, or watching. Collectively, these experiences make us empathize with the world around us and want to make the world a better place.
Don't you think there's some value there? I gladly pay for those experiences.
(Little Grey Buildings painting by Erika Lloyd)