Lets Rave On; A new theory on the negatives of pirating music

Department of Justice Leads Multi-National Piracy Raids

The US Department of Justice was at the helm of a recent international anti-piracy sweep, with 11 countries part of the coordinated raids. Dubbed “Operation Site Down,” the FBI-led effort consisted of 90 searches, resulting in four arrests and the shutdown of at least eight major servers used to distribute media content illegally. The Wednesday dragnet covered various forms of media, including movies, software and music. The RIAA was predictably out in front of the effort, applauding the move. “The theft of intellectual property — whether on rogue file-sharing networks or in organized piracy distribution groups — is a threat taken seriously in all corridors of US government,” said RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol. The raids were conducted in the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal and Britain.

The DOJ sweep highlights just how broad digital piracy has become, with software, music, and film often mixed together. While the humble roots of Napster involved the trading of music files almost exclusively, piracy today now covers a much wider spectrum. Although the trading of movies is still on the fringes of the everyday P2P experience, technologies like BitTorrent are accelerating the move towards casual trading of heavy files. Now, the movie industry could be feeling the early effects, with a slow year at the box office raising fears that the storm cloud has finally arrived.

– Credit: Digital Music News

With the world’s governments finally getting serious on the, ahem, war on piracy, I feel it’s time to talk about alternate theories on the subject. Anyone who has spent more than a week connected to the internet has at some point downloaded something, whether it be a ringtone or that new Faith Hill single or the deleted scenes from Napolean Dynamite. Whatever it is, it’s probably been illigal in some fashion. It seems that the products’ illegality has had absolutely no effect on the amount of people that practice piracy. And why should it? What is the consequence of being caught downloading? While there have been many arrests during raids in which people were distributing pirated copies of movies and whatnot, and plenty of arrests involving people running websites involving piracy, there really haven’t been a ton of arrests of regular guys who want a free copy of Ciara’s CD. When there are arrests, it’s often of the elderly and minors that we hear about.

But just as the government is getting serious about cracking down on piracy, pirates are getting even more serious about downloading. The problem is much worse (according to the governments’ side, anyway) now that people aren’t just burning singles but stealing entire discographies at amazing bit rates, full movies at great speeds, and cheat codes for Katamari Damacy. Those meddlin kids! We can’t let them get away with this!

Though there’s the obvious reasons as to why people download stuff for free (why would we pay for it when it’s so damned expensive if it’s free elsewhere?) there are other reasons that mean a lot more in terms of national consciousness. When downloading music, you are doing two things. 1) You are getting to hear music you like, and 2) you are f*cking with friends of the government. Does anyone else see a connection to the basic attitude of a punk rocker? I’d say part of the reason we download stuff is because it pisses off record company execs. Sure, there will be the scattered few who will stop downloading if the government tells them not to, but not most. Most people could care less about being a model citizen. Underneath any sort of patriotic pandering, does anyone really care if they’re cutting dollars off of anyone else’s paycheck? Please. People are way, way too selfish for kindness of that sort.

So, if you’re going to stop downloading music because of the government, then you probably shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. Having said that, I think I’ve got something here with slightly more dearth to the entire discussion than subpoenas and lawsuits. This might take a second to swallow, but I think we should all stop downloading music because it’s beginning to turn us all into introverts who eventually lose the ability to speak properly to other people.

I first downloaded a song, like many other folks in 1999, while not paying attention in class. We were supposed to be designing some airplane or something, but me and several other guys were far more interested in watching the progress bar go from nothing to complete in only, gasp, twenty minutes. After only 4 times longer than it took to play the actual song, we were the proud recipiants of an mp3 of ‘All The Small Things’ by Blink 182. Forget the fact that all of us owned a copy of the album, we felt it was our goal, nay, our destiny to explore just how this ‘napster’ worked. After about a week, we couldn’t think of any more songs (ah, being 14 and having no idea what music was other than FM radio’s vomitoriam) and we decided that perhaps we should go about getting some girlfriends, and the quest was postponed. I really never thought about downloading music a ton during high school, possibly because I was surrounded by subpar computers with no potential, but also because I was happy with my assortment of Metallica and Our Lady Peace records and needed little more for comfort. University would change that right quick.

If anyone ever has a chance to be a DJ at a college radio station, under no circumstances do you pass that opportunity up. Not only do you meet some of the coolest folk around, you also get to know what music there is out there. Perhaps you won’t like it. Perhaps you’ll be completely happy with endless Matchbox twenty LP’s, but hey, at least you tried. That likely won’t happen, however. What’s more likely to occur is that you’ll go through this phase where you’ll simply listen and love everything you find while digging through the shelves, sooner or later finding your niche and developing your own genre (something I sort of hinted at in my Mallcore article and will go through in detail another time). You’ll love it. I bet my reputation on it. Just don’t let the music director boss you around. Unless it’s a girl, then by all means listen to her (remember my advice about girls and music from before ; they will always know more than you because they will always care more).

ANYWAYS, my illegal copying would begin there. Soon I found programs such as Limewire and Kazaa Lite that allowed me amazing access to all the mainstream singles out there. Eventually I was led to Bittorrent, and was soon downloading entire albums within minutes. It had been quite the journey in pirating from those days in grade 10 in computer class. I half expected myself to admit quietly to someone at some point that I was an addict and I needed help, but I don’t think that was ever the case. I think I’ve always purchased albums at a fair rate, and few of the albums I’ve downloaded are my favorites. To me, downloading has been a venture that’s allowed me to DJ clubs and cruise ships and radio stations for the past three years, and I certainly can’t say I regret any of it.

However, it hit me just last week that not only do I have a problem, but everyone who has ever downloaded anything has one, too. Last week I downloaded a torrent that gave me every Radiohead album ever released. That’s all seven LP’s, over a dozen EP’s, and over two dozen singles, which equals a whole hell of a lot of music. I’d squashed my morality issue with pirating long ago when I promised myself that when I was out of University and making some sort of salary, that I would slowly purchase every album I’d ever downloaded. I’ve always considered downloading an investment more than anything, and it became a sort of credit that I felt no obligation but a desire to pay off. This set of records was by far the most extensive collection I had aquired, but more than that, it included some albums that simply could not be purchased through regular means. Most Radiohead EP’s and singles simply aren’t released into the mass market, and often have to be tracked down like one would track a treasure chest left long ago by south carribean poachers. It was difficult, to say the least, to find the real versions of this music. I’ve heard that excuse from many other downloaders that if it’s something they can’t buy in their HMV, then they feel justified in stealing it from the net. I’ve always felt the opposite, and that’s why I felt immediately bad about downloading the file.

While there’s something very utopian about the way the internet works (Avril Lavigne and Wilco get the same attention when it comes to finding songs by them) it means that attaining everything is equally simple. I may have a strange attitude about this, but shouldn’t it be difficult to track down “Just For College” by Radiohead? Or, at the very least, more difficult than getting that new CD by Fat Joe? I know this is weird because I’ve heard before that Indie rockers have this odd logic that the more difficult something is, the better (anyone who considers themselves fans of Bjork, Mogwai, and Godspeed You Black Emporer will tell you that) but I do think it’s a pretty good rule if you follow it at a relative level. When I downloaded the new White Stripes album, I enjoyed it, but did I enjoy it as much as Elephant, an album I forked over 17 bucks for? And if I did enjoy the older album better, was it because of it’s quality, or because I paid for it?

Here’s a line of thinking that might put this in better perspective. In order to be in possession of all 50 or so Radiohead albums, I could do two things. I could download them, wait four hours, seed it for netiquette karma, and burn them all to CD-Rs and be done with it. OR, I could break out the phone book, research every indie music store in town, visit them all, shop for hours, and find a couple of them. Afterwards, I’d plan a trip to Europe, armed with a general knowledge of where to find the good stuff, make a two week trip out of it, make some great friends, drink some good beer, spend a ridiculous sum of money on both accommodations and 45’s, return home, sell the book rights and have a hell of a story to tell for the rest of my life.

And here’s where I get back to my main point. By downloading, not only do I not have a story to tell, I don’t actually get to talk to anyone. The internet is based strongly on the friendliness of strangers, and while I seeded over two gigabites off of someone else’s computer, we never once exchanged pleasantries. And when I do burn this CD, and when I spin it at the club and people ask if it was hard to attain (because it’s an indie club full of like-minded people) I can’t say that I had to look through over thirty places to find it. I can’t say it was difficult. All I can say is that I burned it, that I’m a pirate, and that I took the easy road. What am I left with? The music, which is obviously a plus, but there’s no context surrounding it. There’s no spirit there. I know exactly what mood I was in when I bought the Vanilla Sky soundtrack when I was 18, and how I felt when I first heard the voice of Jeff Buckley, but I barely remember thinking anything at all when I downloaded Radiohead. And to make sure I’m not stepping on my own toes, I know for certain that it’s not because it’s Radiohead.

There’s a certain amount of redemption in my promise to myself. I will one day book that ticket to England and spend a couple weeks perusing underground shops and used boutiques, because until I do I’ll be a thief and a pirate and someone who has all this music but no soul to surround it with. But I have a small feeling that most people won’t.

No, most people will download the torrent, and reply in the discussion board with a ‘Thanks!’ or worse, a ‘Thnx!’ Not only are they completely ignoring basic rules of their native language, but they’re also ignoring the basic principles of a discussion board. The summer before last, I spent all day and night talking to this fan of Tom Waits about chord structures, medleys, moods, and philosophies through Waits’ music. It was one of the deepest conversations I’d ever had, and I’ll probably remember it forever. At work today, I told a guy I’d downloaded every Radiohead album, and all he said was ‘cool’. I didn’t really have anything to add. There’s more to conversation in music. There’s more to conversation with people. There’s more to life, and I think having every medium of entertainment free and convenient is a strain on both our ability to properly socialize and our ability to live our lives to the fullest. We could spend our nights watching the progress meter on a download, or we could be out at a pub talking about a fight we had once with this punk who grabbed the last copy of the “COM LAG 2+2=5 EP” out of our hands in this store that was the 20th one we’d been to searching for it, and if we didn’t gnaw it out of his terrible paws we’d have to charter a flight to Japan.

I’m not saying don’t ever download. It’s a great source of independent music and rare stuff you can’t find without really looking, and it’s a great way to screw the system. All I’m saying is that when you do get courageous enough to leave that room and go looking, don’t think twice, because it’s a much more fulfilling journey.

***

LINKS

Micheal Chadwick wrote this review for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah the same day Pitchfork did. Good job.

Mathan Earndt makes an interesting case as to why Jay Z still hangs around this Bleek guy. Compromising photos are the grease that make every business run smoother, indeed.

To Shawn M Smith, I’m the guy who writes ‘party on, Garth’ at the end of his columns. It is a lot better than ‘keep it real’, to be fair. At least a billion other people don’t use mine as a ‘hey, we’re guys, we have to have stupid catchphrases’ type of goodbye. Nothing against you or anything, but I always hated those cliche’s dudes use when they think it’s cool or something.

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LYRICS TO LIVE BY

Girl Anachronism – Dresden Dolls

You can tell
From the scars on my arms
And cracks in my hips
And the dents in my car
And the blisters on my lips
That i’m not the carefullest of girls

You can tell
From the glass on the floor
And the strings that’re breaking
And i keep on breaking more
And it looks like i am shaking
But it’s just the temperature
And then again
If it were any colder i could disengage
If i were any older i could act my age
But i dont think that youd believe me
It’s
Not
The
Way
I’m
Meant
To
Be
It’s just the way the operation made me

And you can tell
From the state of my room
That they let me out too soon
And the pills that i ate
Came a couple years too late
And ive got some issues to work through
There i go again
Pretending to be you
Make-believing
That i have a soul beneath the surface
Trying to convince you
It was accidentally on purpose

I am not so serious
This passion is a plagiarism
I might join your century
But only on a rare occasion
I was taken out
Before the labor pains set in and now
Behold the world’s worst accident
I am the girl anachronism

And you can tell
By the red in my eyes
And the bruises on my thighs
And the knots in my hair
And the bathtub full of flies
That i’m not right now at all
There i go again
Pretending that i’ll fall
Don’t call the doctors
Cause they’ve seen it all before
They’ll say just
Let
Her
Crash
And
Burn
She’ll learn
The attention just encourages her

And you can tell
From the full-body cast
That i’m sorry that i asked
Though you did everything you could
(like any decent person would)
But i might be catching so don’t touch
You’ll start believeing youre immune to gravity and stuff
Don’t get me wet
Because the bandages will all come off

And you can tell
From the smoke at the stake
That the current state is critical
Well it is the little things, for instance:
In the time it takes to break it she can make up ten excuses:
Please excuse her for the day, its just the way the medication makes her…

I dont necessarily believe there is a cure for this
So i might join your century but only as a doubtful guest
I was too precarious removed as a caesarian
Behold the worlds worst accident
I AM THE GIRL ANACHRONISM

***

Next week, I’ll make do on my promise from last week to write about Broken Social Scene, The Arcade Fire, and other bands that might be on to something truly original in a world of music filled up by copycats. The reason I bumped it to next week is because I’ve got a guest helping me (she’s a violinist/horn player in a similar band) and couldn’t get together last week in time.

Party On, Garth.

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