12 August 2012

The Music Industry Is Dead, Long Live the Music Industry

After years of litigation, appeals, and prison sentences, the Swedish Supreme Court has finally forced—sort of—BitTorrent tracker site The Pirate Bay to pay reparations for millions of dollars of media revenue lost to file sharing.

Of course, the decision is not without its stipulations. Perhaps the most disheartening is that the artists whose work was actually stolen will not receive any money whatsoever. Instead, the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry will receive the entire $675,000 payout. IFPI claims it will use this money to prevent piracy in the future.

Still, even IFPI will face major roadblocks in actually receiving any money, since the four founders of The Pirate Bay have no monetary assets in Sweden, and Swedish courts have no claim to money outside of Swedish borders. A document leaked to TorrentFreak shows IFPI claiming “little realistic prospect of recovering funds” from The Pirate Bay.
So, Sweden rules against TPB, but the ruling is meaningless because a) the money won’t go to any musicians and b) the money won’t be collected any way.  Is anyone else beginning to suspect that combatting piracy is pointless?

On an anecdotal note, the claim that artists never receive money from their stolen work is ludicrous.  Now, in a pedantic sense it is tautologically true that artists don’t receive money for their music at the time their music is pirated, but it is foolish to think that the only time artists can get money for their music is at the point of download.  Without getting into too many specifics, let me simply say that I have spent plenty of money on music and band merchandise solely because I first pirated a band’s music.  There have even been times when I pirated an album and grew to like it so much that I actually purchased it just so the band could have money from me.  Thus, the idea that piracy is an unmitigated negative for music artists is simply ludicrous.

More to the point, artists should start embracing piracy. First of all, it’s not going away any time soon.  Second of all, even if it were eliminated, there are still a ton of ways to get music for free online without having to pirate it (YouTube videos, Last.fm and Pandora, etc.).  Third, piracy can serve as the 21st century’s version of FM radio, in that it allows people to explore new music at virtually no cost.  Better yet, this will help smaller, lesser-known, highly niche acts get more fans.  But more to the point, the battle against piracy is a losing one, and those who continue to combat it will find themselves left behind.  The album and/or song is no longer the point of purchase; it’s time for the music industry to quit acting like it is.

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