What about the Artists?

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I’ve already ranted about copyright, but it’s time to rant some more. I’m perfectly willing to pay for a product I want, but there need to be some changes to the way recordings, especially digital recordings, are sold. We need to protect consumers’ rights to make personal copies of lawfully purchased recordings, and insure that artists can directly distribute their performances via digital files, and internet broadcast, without needing expensive licensing arbitrage, and five or six administrative drones raiding the till. Right now, very little profit trickles down to the artists; most of the money goes to the drones.

I’d like to buy digital music files over the net, and from a kiosk at the mall. I’d also like to see the artists’ rights respected, and I’d like to see them getting paid. I’d like to be able to explore the work of unfamiliar artists, by downloading digital music files, and by listening to Internet Radio. The RIAA doesn’t want me to do any of those things, and so I’m boycotting the RIAA.

As I explained earlier, I’m not buying CDs from RIAA distributors/producers. Right now in fact, I’m not buying CDs at all. I want to be able to use my CDs where I want, and how I want, including making personal copies. I also want the artists to be paid. Right now, they frequently aren’t.

First of all, in case you’ve forgotten about it, or never read it, here’s Courtney Love talking about the corrupt nature of the biz, and how the real pirates are involved in the recording industry. You really need to read the whole piece—it’s intelligent, facutual and thought provoking. Ms. Love points out that “The system’s set up so almost nobody gets paid,” and talks about how “work for hire” with regard means that record companies, thanks to RIAA buying Congress, can own copyright in perpetuity. As she points out (the links are mine):

Last November, a Congressional aide named Mitch Glazier, with the support of the RIAA, added a “technical amendment” to a bill that defined recorded music as “works for hire” under the 1978 Copyright Act.

. . .
That subtle change in copyright law will add billions of dollars to record company bank accounts over the next few years&7mdash;billions of dollars that rightfully should have been paid to artists. A “work for hire” is now owned in perpetuity by the record company.

Next, I particularly want to point you to Janis Ian, yeah, that’s right that Janis Ian. She makes some very good points about the “internet debacle,” responding to the typical naive assertions about digital distribution as “thievery.” Among other things:

Most consumers have no problem paying for entertainment. One has only to look at the success of and the few other websites offering books and music at reasonable prices to understand that. If the music industry had a shred of sense, they’d have addressed this problem seven years ago, when people like Michael Camp were trying to obtain legitimate licenses for music online. Instead, the industry-wide attitude was “It’ll go away.” That’s the same attitude CBS Records had about rock ’n’ roll when Mitch Miller was head of A&R. (And you wondered why they passed on The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.)

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