1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Monday, 25 July 2011

Copyright and creatives: Leigh Harrison's Open Letter

I have recently been in correspondence with singer-songwriter Leigh Harrison, who is the author of the very powerful statement contained in her Open Letter, which this blog reproduces in full (with Leigh's permission, in case anyone was about to ask). I think it is particularly interesting because it summarises and reflects a lot of the anger and frustration felt by creators and rights-owners and also because it sheds some light on the contrast between the two views commonly held of copyright. Is copyright a tool in the hands of avaricious and vindictive corporations, intent upon crushing freedom of expression and spoiling the cultural development of society -- or is it a fragile reed, clutched by creators and performers in a desperate search for some means of retaining control and possible income once they do the one thing they aspire to do, and share their thoughts and feelings with others?
"An Open Letter: 
This letter is one of the most difficult letters I have ever written, but I can no longer remain silent in the battle between those who wish to earn an honest living, and those who would seek to destroy the livelihood of all artists. Currently, use of the internet has made many powerful in ways they can copy information and music indiscriminately, but the artists are powerless to earn a living when the bedrock of their living -- copyright -- is eroded. But -- as Paolo Freier said, "In the battle between the powerful and the powerless, to not take sides is to side with the powerful."

I am a songwriter and musician. I have one CD available, but the second one has been delayed for several years by numerous factors, financial difficulties, among them. In the several years since my first CD was released, I have seen the growing problem of record piracy, which has continued, and has, perhaps, even grown, while computers and the internet make copying more possible. After reading hundreds of online articles and reading numerous comments from people on both sides of the argument (those who want to earn money for their music -- or books, or films, etc., versus those who think the internet exists for them to have anything and everything for free) I have decided that it is high time for someone to take a stronger stand in support of the arts and the artists, like myself, who only wish to earn a living from our work.

After all, if someone believes my work -- which is my music -- is something one feels they should be allowed to copy for free, why shouldn't I, likewise, believe I have the right to go into their home and steal their books, or their jewelry, or other possessions? Or into their garage and steal their car? Or into their store, and steal their electronics, their food, their products? However, I am not about to steal their possessions; therefore I want the same safety for mine. Obviously, if everyone in society has the right to protection of their possessions, so, too, do all creative people, whose possession is their intellectual property, which the government is supposed to protect via securing our copyright.

As a result -- and although I have spent several years writing, recording, and mixing my CD, at considerable expense -- I have decided that without the support of the government making a more stringent defense of our copyright laws, I will not release my CD. There are some precedents for my action. In the 1940s, the music industry went on strike (Frank Sinatra was a strong advocate, working with the Musician's Union) to ensure that radio and other recorded performances made monies for musicians. In her brilliant books, Ayn Rand talks about the fact that the creator deserves the right to ultimately control his or her work, especially in her novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Recent arguments on the subject in the ASCAP blog by Dean Kay (The Daily Brief) have pointed out that while some computer groups believe that everything should be free, groups of artists are already beginning to join the fight against theft of their livelihood. Refusing to release my CD is the way I have chosen to respond in this war between the forces of art and the pirates.

I stand with all artists. In my decision to not offer my CD in the marketplace, despite the years of effort it has taken to create, I validate my belief that if we cannot make a fair living from our work because of piracy, we should not allow the piracy to take place, and we must fight piracy's contemptible affront to our art and our livelihood. My way of doing this is to keep my CD unreleased until I am convinced that the country I live in, and the government whose job is to protect me, will do so by rigorously protecting my copyright. I am not yet convinced of that.

This is, of course, a very personal decision. However, if I am an army of one, I still believe that I am doing the right thing. And, I call upon all artists to make a similar statement to the world of thieves and pirates, by withholding their work until they can be assured of fair recompense for their intellectual property. Please understand that I am not asking creative people to stop creating -- that would be an impossibility for those of us who live by our minds and hearts, which are constantly swirling with the visions of the worlds we first urge into reality through our vision, and then, which we establish in music, words, or images. I am, however, suggesting that to withhold the work from the marketplace until we are assured of a fair return for our work -- via stronger copyright enforcement -- may be an option. It is certainly the option I have chosen at this time, despite my incredible pride in my second CD, and my gratefulness to the wonderful, talented musicians who worked on it with me, and who are probably going to be as disappointed as I am that it will not be for sale at this time.

I realize that not all artists may agree with my decision. For those who recently released a CD/book/film, it is too late to keep it from the hordes of pirates. For those who are preparing a CD -- or book, or film -- it is something to consider. Those who feel that this action is more than they can do are certainly free to release any material they wish. But, if enough artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers (and others whose intellectual property has been bootlegged and continues to be stolen by the thoughtlessness of anyone who thinks they can steal with impunity) -- if enough artists join with me, then maybe a way can be found to stop the thievery. After all, if the internet can be used to trace the progress of the tiniest bits and bytes of financial data, there ought to be a way to use it to trace the pirating of art. It is time to make the government and the internet work to protect artists, rather than shield those who devalue our work via theft.

If you do not agree with my beliefs, you are free to do so. But -- if you support the rights of artists to have their copyright protected -- please forward this letter to all the other artists and musicians you know.

Leigh Harrison
www.leighharrison.com". 
Readers' comments are warmly welcome.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

An interesting approach. However, I do recall a somewhat contrasting attitude I read from an emerging author (I can't remember the name) who advocated a very liberal approach to online distribution on the basis that "obscurity rather than piracy" is a far bigger challenge for an author or musician.

Andrew Robinson said...

I'll resist the temptation to go through this line by line and refute every single thing in it, and restrict myself to just the one line the annoys me the most: "I stand with all artists."

No, you don't.

Take a look at Jamendo.com - a completely legal website where around fifty thousand bands, and individuals give away their songs and albums for free, under creative commons licences.

You you do not speak for these artists.

These artists disagree with you, but they are not just your political opposition, they are also your business rivals. If you expect them them to go on strike to support you, then you've misunderstood the nature of business rivalry.

I'm perfectly happy for you to hide your work away if you choose, and to miss out on seeing people enjoy it, getting feedback on how much people liked it, on taking money from people who want to pay for it, but don't pretend to speak for me and other business rivals who are competing against you for market share by pricing their work at the marginal cost of duplication: zero.

Anonymous said...

This is simply anti-piracy rhetoric with no actual consideration of the legal issues/developments.

So what exactly is she calling for? If its stronger enforcement measures to combat piracy, is the Digital Economy Act not enough??

If copyright is currently not sufficiently protected, what does she suggest? How should filesharers be dealt with? Internet bans? Bigger fines? Imprisonment?

"there ought to be a way to use [the internet] to trace the pirating of art" but there is, it's used all the time! People are routinely taken to court for filesharing, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. (ACS Law...)

Furthermore She appears to have a very black and white view of "artists vs pirates". and has not considered the vast numbers of creators who do not necessarily regard filesharing as "theft"

Anonymous said...

I support you 100%...

I stopped writing for the commercial market about three years ago and it feels GREAT!!!

There never was any real money in songwriting but I did it because I loved it. But once there was NO money in it I stopped altogether.

Best decision I ever made... I know of many others who have done the same.

Let the thieves write their own songs!

Andrew Robinson said...

A quick follow up, having done some more research...

Leigh Harrison has relented, and is no longer holding her second CD to ransom, citing President Obama's appointment of Victoria Espinel as Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator as evidence that she single handedly won the war on sharing.

Interestingly, Google is unable to uncover any evidence of pirates taking any interest at all in this CD, or the previous one. I wonder if readers will take this as a sign of victory, or (as the first anonymous respondent alluded to) confirmation of Cory Doctorow's maxim that 'piracy isn't your problem, obscurity is.'

Stephen said...

@AndrewRobinson:
Those artists are not really business competition. Giving away of your work for free is a decidedly non-sustainable "business model" (though I cringe to call it that).
For those artists that do support file sharing; yes, it is absolutely within their rights to do so. But it is THEIR DECISION TO MAKE, not the consumer's!
Further, when people decide to justify ALL IP theft based on the decisions of individual artists to give away their work, the blatant ignorance of fallacious thinking becomes mind-boggling.

The writer here has made it clear that she stands with those artists that want to make an honest living via their work. It is her right to desire that, and the right of any other artist to do so.
All the semantic tricks and rationalization in the world won't change that.

David said...

Andrew Robinson must be pretty incompetent if he can't find any evidence of 'piracy' of Leigh Harrison. Just Google 'Leigh Harrison free download' and you will find plenty.

John R walker said...

Firstly there is no such thing as 'artist' (there literally have been big selling elephant 'artists') Artist is a meaningless category. And artist is certainly not a social/moral category deserving special treatment.

Copyright is but one of many economic models available for artists to choose from, most of these calls to strengthen 'copyright' turn out to be restrictions of the terms of trade of artists whose economic model is not based on copyright; I give copies of my artwork away all the time, its called free advertising.

AndyJ said...

This is surely a polemic against the internet, rather than the suggested inadequacies of copyright law. If Leigh had been recording before the internet (or more specifically the world wide web) was in existence, copying of her work might well have taken place but she would have been oblivious to it and it would have been small in scale.
As others have pointed out, the existing law in the US (where she is based) is more than up to the job of dealing with infrinegement as a civil matter, but that involves the creator doing their own research to find the infringers unless she joins a large record label who might do this on her behalf. Certainly the RIAA has not been idle in pursuing file sharers and the like.
What Leigh seems to be advocating is more criminal investigations funded by the state (in both its US senses). This is impractical unless the infringement of her work was being done on an industrial scale.
And since this is happening because of the internet, we are not just talking about the actions of a single government. The DEA is an example of the British response to the problem, and as the extradition request for Richard O'Dwyer shows, there are occasions when the Federal authorities go after alleged infringers in other jurisdictions. I really can't see what more Leigh can expect to be done on her behalf.

Andrew Rbinson said...

@stephen

The music industry has always thrived on giving away work for free - be it through radio airplay, promotional CDs or expensive videos (yes, there is an element of financial return on videos, but it is almost never expected to cover the cost of making them, and radio play generates some revenue, but this isn't the point of it, see payola).

Giving away music for people to try before they buy, and recouping the (near zero) cost of doing so can be quickly recouped through increased sales (physical discs, and people paying because they like the music), gigs, merchandise, etc. It's not just a good business model, it's pretty much the only business model that works today.

People are highly resistant to buying music without having heard it, and no amount of legislation will change that, or alter the fact that everyone knows the duplication cost of a file is effectively zero.

It is indeed Leigh Harisson's right to desire that the facts are different, and that people would be willing to buy her music unheard, for whatever price she sets, but she does not speak for other artists, such as me, who accept the market conditions and respond rationally to them.



@David

The top 10 google hits for "Leigh Harrison free download" are:

1. A saxophone player from New Zealand who shares the same name.

2. A fake site pretending to have MP3s of the above.

3. A 3 second 'podcast test' by a different Leigh Harrison

4. The official myspace page for the Leigh Harrison we're talking about, which doesn't include any downloads.

5. Your comment on this blog.

6. A Russian mp3 site that only claims to have music by artists with vaguely similar names, not any of the Leigh Harissons mentioned above.

7. The web page of a UK fan of '50 Cent' called Leigh Harisson

8, 9 and 10. More foreign mp3 sites of dubious quality that only claim to contain music by artists with similar names, not any of the Leigh Harissons mentioned above.

Therefore, I stand by my comment that "Google is unable to uncover any evidence of pirates taking any interest at all in this CD, or the previous one".

Crosbie Fitch said...

When as a musician you've been brainwashed by record labels' copyright indoctrination to believe that copies of your music are your work and not that just your music is your work, then you will have a hard time recognising that in an age when copies involve zero work you must sell your music - NOT copies of it.

It is going to be hard to deprogram copyright's copy=work falsehood, but it must be done. I expect it will become easier as more and more people try to figure out how on earth some musicians can sell music via exchange facilities such as Kickstarter whilst the copies of the music sold are free of charge and free of copyright's now ineffective constraints. Impossible eh?

Only when people see this 'impossible' exchange of music for money with their own eyes will most be able to shed the scales that deceive them, that persuade them that copyright is their birthright (not an ineffective 18th century instrument of injustice).

The mystery is not how to exchange music for money without copyright, but why musicians cling to the belief that each illicit fan-made copy represents a theft from them, a personal insult from audience to artist. It was of course, never a theft from the artist, but a virtual theft from the publisher's monopoly profits, a monopoly they should never have been granted in the first place, being as it is a real theft of liberty from the people. Ask Jammie Thomas, Joel Tenenbaum, Richard O'Dwyer, etc.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Robinson said...

"... but they are not just your political opposition, they are also your business rivals."

So her business rivals aren't making any money either? I fail to see your point. If my "business rival" is just as dead broke as I am ... so what?

Later you accuse her of holding her second CD "for ransom." What an amazingly clueless statement! It costs money to create a quality recorded album of music. Assuming she even has the money to begin with, are you saying she should invest thousands of dollars into a project that she knows full well will never return a dime?

When all art is free there will be nothing worth taking. That's a fact that our founding fathers realized and it's why Thomas Jefferson put support for Copyright right in the Constitution of the United States.

Anonymous said...

@Andrew,

"The music industry has always thrived on giving away work for free - be it through radio airplay, promotional CDs or expensive videos"

No they haven't. Let's look at your examples,

- Radio airplay pays royalties.
- Giving out a few promotional CDs is NOT the same as your entire catalog being downloaded and passed around the entire Internet.
- Television networks pay to show music videos.

The fact that you don't know these very basic Music Business 101 facts displays just how unqualified you are to criticize a professional artist.

Joey W. said...

@Andrew Robinson: I have stayed away from this debate for some time as I ultimately became completely bored with the arguments put forth by the Utopian crowd. After all was said and done, not a one of them ever acknowledged creator (i.e. the artist) rights in any way, preferring to blow smoke in the form of taking down 'the Man' as a justification for acquiring music illicitly. THAT in part is what Leigh refers to and not to those that prefer to give music away by choice or list it on sites such as Jamendo. Even if you set aside the not insignificant legal issues, there is still the matter of the human ones. Whether one accepts it or not, it is 'in actual fact' a violation of a universal human right to acquire or utilize creative works without at least the creator's implied permission and/or compensating (directly or indirectly) same, if that is the creator's preference. While the choice not to release one's personal creativity to the world may be small on the scale of the vast ocean of product now available, it looms very large on the scale of human rights.

Lee Fox said...

Kudos to Leigh Harrison!

Truth Traveler by Dalton Priddy said...

Ayn Rand in her book Atlas Shrugged wrote "a world in which the individual is not free to create is doomed, that civilization cannot exist where people are slaves to society and government, and that the destruction of the profit motive leads to the collapse of society"

Her words written over 60 years ago ring true today. Technology has created a vast ocean of information in many forms, it;s up to the artist, writer music and movie maker to exploit this in any way possible.

Crooks will always exist, it's up to us to provide the security or freedom to steal or use works. If Beethoven stopped writing music for lack of income or becoming deaf, what would have become of this great genius?.

Embrace this new age and let the powers that control it realize for themselves what matters most to them.

Your not entitled to make a living creating, it's a gift you share because you love.

Anonymous said...

@Andrew, et al: OK, I get it. You think the concept of copyright is somehow "outdated," and that we artists should just give in and offer up our entire catalog for free as per the new "business model."

I have a question for you, which I've asked others like you, and have never received a decent answer:

If we give away all our catalog for free, how do we make enough money to pay our bills, much less fund the next project? Tell me, exactly how does this mythical "business model" work? Please walk me through the money trail.

Step 1: We make all our tracks available to everyone for free.

Step 2: ?????
Step 3: ?????
Step 4: ?????

Where does the money come in? How do we as artists earn a living with your "business model?"

Kevin

Crosbie Fitch said...

Kevin, remember there's a difference between free as in 'zero priced' and free as in 'without monopoly'.

No-one has a right to a state granted reproduction monopoly - because that grant requires annulling the people's right to copy.

Step 1: Artist offers to produce music (free of monopoly) in exchange for money
Step 2: Fans offer money in exchange for artist's production of music (free of monopoly)
Step 3: Both sides wait until offers are mutually agreeable/equitable
Step 4: Artist & fans exchange music (via BitTorrent) & money
Step 5: Fans produce unlimited copies/derivatives (no monopoly, no license fee) and freely promote the artist. The artist's audience size, fans, and potential revenue increases - goto step 1.

Yes, an undiscovered artist, without fans, will have to prime the pump by promotionally giving some of their music away to build an audience until they obtain fans who would pay them to produce more. Even record labels once did this.

When you can no longer sell copies (because we can all make them for nothing) you have to sell the music instead - we can't make the music.

This is a pretty standard business model (exchange of work for money). It only seems mythical because it hasn't been used for music for a very long time - because the copyright based model blew it out of the market. And now the people are reasserting their natural right to copy and blowing copyright out of the market.

The monopoly of copyright and its artificial market for copies has ended.

The market for music continues.

Artist and audience want what each other has. Without copyright they will not stare blankly at each other refusing to do business.

Without monopoly profits the record label will go out of business of course (and their lawyers will have to change specialism). These are the ones complaining the loudest against copyright's demise, not the artists or their fans.

And funnily enough, the traditional music publishers could actually survive on their back catalogues for some time. They also don't need copyright to sell music recordings that are out of circulation. They simply sell the recording rather than copies of it. However, they may be so blinded by copyright that they have no conception of how one can sell a recording without selling copyright protected copies of it. Then again, they could always talk to me...

maxusart said...

I am never quite sure now what 'artists' want now.

My take, from making short art video clips, is that it is impossible to get simple licensing of music for web clips, so I do not use any of it. Found sound and voices are just as good. If it is good enough for Brian Eno, then it is good enough for planet3/art//news.

Visual artists can get promotion. If high profile visual artists, or their estates, have protection issues, in other words they ideally want to be paid via a license, they friction the requests; sometimes artists object also on moral rights such as 'I don't like the clip much'. Review and criticism is OK as long as it what the artist expects.

Cease, desist, take-down and then disappear would be the sequence.

I am never quite sure now what 'artists' want now. Control and super normal profits from a talent monolopoly, overseen by collection monopolies was the dinosaur rock music model or by being Picasso. Now it is quite different.

http://www.dailymotion.com/planet3ARTnews

Anonymous said...

Of course artists should be able to have the option of making money from their work and recouping the investment in creating. Copyright is the mechanism that has been developed to achieve that. Is it unfair when artists are not remunerated for the use of work? Yes, in my opinion. The trouble is, enforcing copyright is far from easy in the modern world.

I can understand the frustration of artists that feel they are being stolen from (that said, I don’t accept the analogy with theft of physical goods, as filesharing does not deprive the owner of the “stolen” file, and that sort of rhetoric just sets up an argument that detracts from the debate). However, most of the attempts to deal with copyright infringement on the Internet raise serious questions about due process, proportionality and privacy. Each of these, in my opinion, is a more fundamental right than copyright, and should not be made subservient to copyright enforcement.

I don’t download music illegally, and I don’t support people that do. That said, I do worry about the prospect of deep packet inspection, flawed techniques for identifying infringers, liability being passed to providers of WiFi, disproportionate damages, etc.

Copyright itself has credibility issues: the excessive duration, the constant pressure for yet more term extensions, the difficulties in archiving in libraries, etc. It’s is perfectly possible to want a fair deal for artists and to have a dislike of the current copyright system.

Finally, I agree that artists should not be forced or expected to adopt alternative business models that involve giving their work away. However, some artists are using these models successfully, and with filesharing unlikely to disappear any time soon, I would have thought it would make good sense for any artist to take a long, serious look, to see if they can make one of those models work for them.

Andrew Robinson said...

@Anonymous

"So her business rivals aren't making any money either? I fail to see your point. If my "business rival" is just as dead broke as I am ... so what?"

My point is that she's competing against people who are treating the music as a loss-leader, and needs to find other revenue streams if she wants to make money. Her approach of simply saying 'everybody else must stop undercutting me' isn't going to work.

I stand by my description of of her as holding her CD to ransom, because that's exactly what she did, she told the world 'do what I want, or nobody gets to hear the CD.'

"are you saying she should invest thousands of dollars into a project that she knows full well will never return a dime?" No, I'm saying that she HAS invested some (possibly even thousands) of dollars into a project that will probably never return a dime, and is throwing a hissy-fit because she's discovered than the world doesn't owe her a living.

I'm curious as to what you would suggest as an alternative - state funding for all artistic endeavours, perhaps?

You may, if you like dismiss all +50,000 artists at Jamendo, the entire creative commons movement, and all artistic works created before 1709 as 'nothing worth taking' if you like, but as a debating position, it's rather weak, as is your assumption that I'm American, and your assumption that I'm opposed to copyright as a concept.

Andrew Robinson said...

@(a different)Anonymous

"Radio airplay pays royalties". True, but these royalties are small compared to the expenditure on pluggers, freebies and (where record companies can get away with it) payola. See my comments on videos below.

"Giving out a few promotional CDs is NOT the same as your entire catalog being downloaded and passed around the entire Internet.". I'm sorry, I don't recall saying it was?

"Television networks pay to show music videos." As I pointed out, they do, but the amount paid is not expected to cover the costs of making the video. Functionally, videos are adverts, and they are on the balance sheet as expenditure. In essence you are making is the same argument that is used about YouTube, it's licenced and generates revenues, so it's ok - regardless of the fact that the revenues are laughably low. Take a guess at how much songwriter Pete Waterman got paid for 154 million youtube plays of "Never Gonna Give You Up", then google the answer, you may get a nasty surprise.

@Joey W.

"not a one of them ever acknowledged creator (i.e. the artist) rights in any way". Well, I formed a political party and stood for parliament on a platform that has as one of it's core policies a 10 year copyright duration. I'm sorry you've never heard of us.

"Whether one accepts it or not, it is 'in actual fact' a violation of a universal human right to acquire or utilize creative works without at least the creator's implied permission and/or compensating (directly or indirectly) same, if that is the creator's preference." Those right must be limited, unless you propose infinite duration of copyright, and wish to be ruled by the descendants of Shakespeare?

Copyright and free speech are inherently opposed to each other. If someone 'owns' words, then other people are deprived of the right to freely say them. A balance needs to be found between the two.

"...the choice not to release one's personal creativity to the world... looms very large on the scale of human rights." I have already defended Leigh Harison's right not to release her personal creativity, as I would defend her right to hold a trade secret. What I object to is her claiming to speak for people who have made a different decision.

@Anonymous (btw, if you really want to be anonymous, I'd skip the bit that says "Kevin" at the bottom)

Step 2. sell gig tickets, physical CDs, T-shirts, downloads through iTunes, as per usual. In other words, you do exactly the same as the entire (highly profitable) music industry does at the moment when the vast majority of their work is available online for free.

As I've answered your question, perhaps you could return the favour and answer a question which I too have I've asked others like you, and have never received a decent answer:

Why do you think legislators should be compelled to provide you with a viable business model?

Leigh Harrison said...

A few small points: (1) The reason Andrew Robinson is so vociferously arguing with my Open Letter is that he's the former head of The Pirate Party, an organization devoted to illegal sharing of music, film and other art. It's in his interest to have things for free, and he has no respect whatsoever for the ideas, work, or creation of others -- only for taking what he wants without paying. Every word out of his mouth, including "and" and "but" is in defense of that theft.

(2) There are several people named Leigh Harrison, and another one is also a singer-songwriter. To avoid any misconception, I live in the US. Also, Jeremy (at the 1709 blog) asked to copy my Open Letter, but didn't add that it was written in May of 2009, and that I only withheld it from sale for one year -- as a protest against piracy.

(3) Despite a comment earlier, I did not "hold it for ransom" -- I merely was keeping it off the market for a time, as a political/social statement in support of all other artists who are pirated.

(4) I never heard of Jamendo nor am I concerned with whatever 50,000 bands allow their work to be copied freely there. In the real world of professional artists, 71,000 jobs were lost to piracy in music (not merely musicians turning from their art, but producers, sound editors, etc.) and 46,000 movie jobs and a minimum of 1.37 billion dollars could be lost in Australia alone! I live in the US, where billions of dollars in income have been stolen by theft of work from struggling artists such as myself.

(4) I have nothing against the internet -- I use it frequently to keep in touch with people by email, do research, and post information, including videos for a TV show, Poet To Poet. But just because the internet is so easily used for illegal copying of art works DOES NOT mean that it is legal, moral, or ethical.

Leigh Harrison

Andrew Robinson said...

@Leigh Harisson

I'm glad you've joined the debate here, welcome aboard!

I'd like to clear up a few misunderstandings. As regular readers of this blog might know, I am actually the former head of the Pirate Party UK, not the whole 43 country-spanning Pirate Party movement.

The Pirate Party is most definitely NOT "devoted to illegal sharing of music, film and other art", we are actually devoted to the legalisation of non-commercial file sharing. This is a very important distinction! We also support a range of other policies, including open government, reform of pharmaceutical patents, reduction in governmental surveillance, and (you may be pleased to know, considering the nature of your post!) reform of our overzealous libel laws.

As I stated in my first post, I was only taking issue with the way you claimed to speak for me as a recording artist. I'm flattered that you think "every word out of my mouth" is devoted to political reform, but I'm also a amateur musician, and professional artist and graphic designer.

I have never, and will never defend theft. What I call for is a modification (not repeal) of copyright law so that it balances respect for the "ideas work or creation of others" with the commercial realities of life in a society where infringement of copyright is an unavoidable fact of everyday life.

As for my use of the word ransom, I still stand by it as an accurate description of your original stance in the May 2009 letter.

(Unfortunately, time has got the better of me - I'll have to put off replying to the rest of your points for a few hours, please accept my apologies that I have to be brief this time)

One last thing before I go... I couldn't find out how to buy your second CD on your website, maybe you should add a prominent link to it?

AndyJ said...

@Leigh Harrison.
I too welcome you to the debate here. I wasn't trying to suggest that the internet per se was your target. Rather that you seemed to be blaming the law (and its enforcement agencies) for the difficulties artist face, when in fact it was the ethos of the internet which was mainly responsible. That ethos is different to the real world. People who would behave morally and ethically in front of their work colleagues or neighbours, can (and do) behave differently on the Internet with greater impunity. Also the internet, built as it is on an infrastructure that was initially provided free (by the US military and academic institutions) to the user and whose many early exponents were driven by making things freely available (Shareware, open standards such as HTML, Unix, the EFF etc) coupled with the ease of copying material in digital form, makes the internet a difficult place to operate in compared to the physical world.
To take an analogy from your piece, putting something on the internet is much like leaving the door to your house unlocked. Neither is illegal but in both cases the level of sympathy you garner if something is taken is reduced due to you not taking sensible steps to protect your possessions. If the lock to your house was broken you might sit up all night by the door, but with the internet the level of vigilance is beyond the resources of a single artist, and largely, I would say, beyond those of the law enforcement agencies of the major nations.
I agree with you that none of that makes illegal copying moral or ethical.
But just as stores on main street have to accept a certain level of shoplifting and pilferage as 'normal', so artists need to accept the reality of the internet and not rail against the thunder about which they can do nothing.
Good luck with your music.

Anonymous said...

@Andrew Robinson,

"The Pirate Party is most definitely NOT "devoted to illegal sharing of music, film and other art", we are actually devoted to the legalisation of non-commercial file sharing. This is a very important distinction!"

No, it isn't. It's semantics. And it's exactly the kind of weak argument I would expect from someone with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

-David

Anonymous said...

@Andrew Robinson,

"... but I'm also a amateur musician, and professional artist and graphic designer."

"... with the commercial realities of life in a society where infringement of copyright is an unavoidable fact of everyday life."

Those two statements make absolutely no sense whatsoever in the same post and only show that you are incapable of thinking through the long term damage of the position you're promoting.

"One last thing before I go... I couldn't find out how to buy your second CD on your website, maybe you should add a prominent link to it? "

Why don't you just download it? That's what you stand for isn't it?

-David

Lee Fox said...

Andrew Robinson said, "we are actually devoted to the legalisation of non-commercial file sharing."

A distinction without a difference.


.
AndyJ said, "But just as stores on main street have to accept a certain level of shoplifting and pilferage as 'normal', so artists need to accept the reality of the internet and not rail against the thunder about which they can do nothing."

What level of pilferage is acceptable?

90%?

95%?

99.44%?

At what point do you draw the line and give up defending yourself against looters?

Andrew Robinson said...

@Leigh Harrison

I find it interesting that you haven't heard of Jamendo. If you are trying to run a business selling CDs, wouldn't it make sense to check out the competition, see how your product's quality and price compares? I wonder if all the people who are rushing to your defence would react if you were manufacturing a non-creative product, and displayed a similar disregard for the competition?

Can you provide sources for any of the statistics you quote? Simple common sense would indicate that the loss to the economy due to piracy is zero, because pirates don't destroy currency, they simply spend it differently.

It's interesting that you mention Australia, EMI's Chief Operating Officer of New Music (and former Google CIO) said in a recent keynote address in Sydney that profiling the behaviour of LimeWire users led to a discovery that the biggest sharers were also the biggest spenders on iTunes, "That’s not theft, that’s try-before-you-buy marketing" he said, echoing what the Pirate Party has been saying for years, that Piracy is free advertising, and it lets people discover music that they go on to buy.

On your last point, I'd say that the morality or immorality of copying is open to debate. The finite duration of copyright implies that it has a moral downside, surely?

(oh and please accept my apologies for misspelling your name earlier in the debate, I have a friend who's surname is Harisson, and I typed that instead.)

@Anonymous -David (incidentally, do we have 2 different -Davids here?)

If you are saying there is no difference between breaking the law and campaigning for democratic changes to the law, then you must have very few politician friends! Thankfully, surrounded as we are in this blog by some of the world's finest IP lawyers, I'm sure the distinction will not be lost on the majority of readers!

We started this debate with a post about an artist who has unwisely invested in a business proposition without doing sufficient research, demanding that every other artist alters their business model to fit in with hers, and you've arrived at the conclusion that I'm the one with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement? Really?

@Anonymous -David (the second one)

"Those two statements make absolutely no sense whatsoever". What exactly are you having trouble understanding?

"Why don't you just download it? That's what you stand for isn't it?"

I have three reasons. Firstly, because the law says I couldn't download it, if I wanted to.

Secondly, because I heard two of the sample tracks "Crush on you" and "All that's Left is Love" on her website, and although I appreciate the well crafted song, intelligent lyrics, slick performance and polished production, it's just not the kind of music I like.

Thirdly, because (as I pointed out before) I couldn't find pirate copies of it on the web at all. I checked on the Pirate Bay, and I can tell you exactly how many times the CD has been downloaded from there: None at all. It may be available on a specialist invite only website somewhere that I'm not aware of, but it's certainly not being widely pirated.

I'm sure that a reasonably large potential audience for this album does exist, but I think that the reason it hasn't sold well isn't piracy at all, it's that it's not had a big enough marketing campaign behind it. Far from being the problem, I believe giving this album away could actually be the solution for Leigh.

Andrew Robinson said...

@Lee Fox

My answer is that people who want to hear your music, and let others hear your music are actually your allies, not your enemies. Pirates care about music, that's why they share it. If pirates take an interest in your music, you are a step ahead of an artist who nobody pays attention to.

People need to hear music before they buy it. If you are unable to buy airtime through payola, or by paying for an expensive pop video, then giving away music is your only solution, so why not embrace it? It does work... for example, you gave away a streaming version of your cover of Depeche Mode's "It's no good" on Jambo, I (being a huge Depeche Mode fan) heard it and bought it on iTunes. Why didn't I find a pirate copy? Well, for all the reasons I outlined in my reply to Leigh, and one more... I'm willing to pay £0.79 for the two things iTunes gives my that Piracy does not; Convenience, and the knowledge that I've contributed to your earnings (Apple's habit of not paying out on low territorial sales notwithstanding).

AeliusBlythe said...

Leigh Harrison,

Reading letters like this makes me want to cry. I've been reading a lot of them lately.

I am an aspiring writer, and much of what has been said and done copyright-wise in the name of musicians is now being said and done in the name of writers (i.e. "You need to be protected from the big bad pirates!") It is very sad because artists of all types have a lot of passion for their work and it is natural for them to fear losing control of it. It is natural for them to feel like all the blood, sweat and tears that went into making a piece of art deserves to be paid back. As an artist, I say that, yes, it does. Artists deserve to be paid. Art deserves to be paid for.

But if we let these emotional attachments to our work guide us, if we give into the fear that our work will be taken away from us all for nothing, if we let these fears distract us from finding new ways to sell our art, then we deprive ourselves of the most basic purpose of creating art: to share it. How amazing is it that we have the ability to make our work available to the entire world with the click of a button? And how amazing is it that one person might love your work so much that they want to share it with a hundred people they have never met in a hundred different places in the world?

Can you tell me where your statistics of jobs and dollars lost come from? Those are pretty specific numbers, I would like to see where they came from. There is much question as to the accuracy of many of the piracy studies. In fact, as I'm sure you have heard, the United States government Accountability Office in it's 2010 report on Intellectual Property admitted that the studies they had relied upon were unsubstantiated.

Unfortunately, most artists do not succeed. The numbers vary based on what type of artist you are, for writers the numbers are grim: according to the US census, only .05% of the population makes their living this way, and likely many of them have second jobs. It is understandable that artists will look for any reason why they are not making as much money as they want, or as much as they once made. But it is also wrong to punish the pirates who, after all, do their best to share the art they love around the globe and also are responsible for many of the sales. What a wasted opportunity!

I find letters like these so sad because I feel the same fear for my work. But holding onto art with a clenched fist will not make it sell any better. You'll be lucky is any one goes through the trouble to pry it out of your hands.

I am an artist and a pirate and I've found that the two go rather well together.

Anonymous said...

@Lee Fox

I love the artwork on your site, and I’m looking forward to listening to some of your music (when I’m not at work).

I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I am genuinely curious: do you pay royalties for music and lyrics when you do cover versions?

Thanks,
V.

Anonymous said...

@Andrew Robinson,

"If you are saying there is no difference between breaking the law and campaigning for democratic changes to the law"

Based on what I've read here, the "democratic changes" that you claim to be campaigning for could be summed up by the statement, "because it's become really easy for me to steal music it should be legal."

I'm sorry, but that sounds amazingly childish to me.

Let's try this. I want you to read the following sentence and take a minute to soak up just out stupid it sounds.

Because computers make it really easy to get child pornography, it should be legal to produce and distribute.

See how that sounds? That's how you sound to us. I really don't know how you expect to be taken seriously when your position is basically, "because my shiny toy makes it easy to break the law, it should be legal to steal things."

- David M.

Anonymous said...

@Andrew Robinson,

"Take a look at Jamendo.com - a completely legal website where around fifty thousand bands, and individuals give away their songs and albums for free, under the creative commons license."

You make an excellent point here. Under the current system, artists who want to give away their music for free are completely free to do so. Artists who don't want to give away their work for free don't have to.

So basically you're trying to force your sense of entitlement on everyone by making it legal to take whatever recorded music you want.

Lee Fox said...

Andrew Robinson said, "My answer is that people who want to hear your music, and let others hear your music are actually your allies, not your enemies. Pirates care about music, that's why they share it. If pirates take an interest in your music, you are a step ahead of an artist who nobody pays attention to."

I am aware of the benefits of sharing some of what I do in order to let people have an idea of what they are getting from me. I'm old enough to have experienced terrestrial radio's dominance of the music marketing pie.

Stripping me of my Rights by posting my music so that others can have it without so much as offering me a 'how do you do?' is wrong.

I do offer free samples in exchange for your email address. That's a fair exchange, isn't it?.

.

Pirates do Not care about music.

Pirates are only interested in money and breaking the system that supports artists, however meagerly.

My music is no different that an app that you use on your shiny new smart phone.

It's someone's creation. Someone's blood, sweat, and tears.

It was recently reported that an independent developer published an app.

That app had 1200 legitimate sales at 99 cents each. (£0.79?)

17,000 copies were being actively used.

A piracy rate of over 90 percent.

Sadly, they are not an exception to an otherwise theft free environment.

So, I'll ask you as well...

What level of pilferage is acceptable?

90%?

95%?

99.44%?

At what point do you draw the line and give up defending yourself against looters?

.

P.S. Thanks for the purchase. *smiles*

Lee Fox said...

Anonymous said...

"" @Lee Fox

I love the artwork on your site, and I’m looking forward to listening to some of your music (when I’m not at work).

I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I am genuinely curious: do you pay royalties for music and lyrics when you do cover versions?

Thanks,
V. ""

*blushes slightly*

Thanks!

Yes, I paid for the right to publish the cover songs before letting them go 'live'.

It's easy, if a bit slow...
http://www.songclearance.com/

I hope you enjoy what you hear.

Leigh Harrison said...

Despite Andrew Robinson's comments, I DID NOT in any way "invest in a business proposition without doing sufficient research," NOR did I "demand others alter their business model to fit in with mine." Clearly, he didn't read the entire Open Letter. Anyone who read it to the end would have seen that I was making a very personal political and social statement in support of stronger copyright enforcement and IP protection, and in no way did I "demand" anything of other artists. If, Andrew -- instead of a knee-jerk reaction -- you'd actually read the Open Letter, you'd have seen that I proposed other artists also take the step I was making, but I clearly left it absolutely open to their own choice. I don't make demands that others do what I do (although I see that, in a way, YOU DO, inasmuch as you think that just because you don't mind your work being devalued down and down until it hits "free," others should allow their work to be taken for free.)

As for the "distinction" between theft and the "legalization of non-commercial file-sharing" -- since legalizing copying (file-sharing) without any commercial recompense to the artist who created it bears no distinction from theft if the artist whose work is being copied has no desire to set the price at ZERO, it is still, thus, theft. Again, if YOU wish to make your work free, do so. Don't devalue all of our work.

Furthermore, I did not "stop holding the work for ransom" --there WAS NO PRICE anyone could have paid to force me to make the CD public. I simply kept it off the market for about a year -- again, as a statement of my personal political views. And one of the reasons I mentioned for withholding it was the perceived inaction on the part of the US government in fighting record piracy. Just about the time I decided to release the CD, Obama appointed Esquinel to the Copyright post, so the two events coincided. Also. around the same time, numerous governments around the world began taking more stringent steps to protect our work (I say "our" work, but clearly, you'd benefit, even though you're working to devalue all artists work.)

Lastly, since the basic tenet you support is that "just because it's easy to steal, it should be free" (almost "it can be free, so it should be free") it's a bit of a circular argument, and totally indefensible. If you want to give away your work, do so. Don't try to devalue the work of those of us who spend small fortunes creating our music.

And, BTW, the old canard I've often heard about "but it's just a few cents worth of plastic!" doesn't hold water, either. At $5,000 to record, produce, master, and then make 100 copies of my first CD back in 2002-2003, each CD actually cost Bob and I $500 to produce. If I were with a major record company (rather than one member of SongCrew -- a two-person record company) they would have probably made thousands of copies, amortizing the cost somewhat. But for those of us who devote our lives and (minimal) fortunes and much labor to our music, the very LEAST we should be able to expect is $10 per CD, and $1 per download, in a world where a loaf of bread costs $2, a beer at a bar $5 - $8, and a week's MetroCard (that's NYC public transportation, for you Brits) sets us back $25, more or less. At these rates, it's not asking too much to be paid $1 per song, I think, especially for something that gives pleasure long after the beer was downed.

Leigh

Anonymous said...

@Andrew

"We started this debate with a post about an artist who has unwisely invested in a business proposition without doing sufficient research, demanding that every other artist alters their business model to fit in with hers, and you've arrived at the conclusion that I'm the one with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement? Really?"

No, we didn't. We started this with an artist asking people to stop stealing her work. You are the only person here who seems to think she's trying to force her ideas on other people. Which is ironic, because you are the one who's trying to force his ideas on musicians by taking away their right to control distribution of their work. This probably comes from your overdeveloped sense of entitlement.