Saturday, 23 June 2012

Stop dismissing my humanity.

On the issue of illegal downloading.

I suppose when talking about these things one must always begin with a disclaimer. It is often with controversial topics that people jump into the debate with their mind already made up about what they want to say, eager to reply even when they haven't finished reading what you're going to say. Disclaimers are the way to get those eager commenters out of the way, so here's mine: I'm not going to defend illegal downloading (I also won't be against it). Throughout my life, I've purchased hundreds of cds. I buy music from amazon (because I don't like iTunes), I max out on free downloads from legitimate sources such as signing up for artist mailing lists and those promotional free songs. I'm one of those few weird people who still buy actual physical copies of albums. I love music, and I respect the craft. 

I think people should buy music always. I understand that if we're going to live in a society where you pay for someone to put the word 'Kobe' in front of your (otherwise normal) steak, then we should definitely pay for  the masterpiece beauty of a song.
I think if you read this article, you will also agree.

There is also something to be said about the positives of illegal downloading, amongst them the most quoted fact that those who download the must music illegally, also purchase the most music legally.

But here's the thing that bothers me.
When everyone talks about illegal downloading, it's always about the artists, about the record labels and radio stations, about advertising, corporations, streaming sites. And of course about people wanting to get things for free, and the fact that nothing is for free so if you're not paying for it, someone else is.
But the most important factor always gets ignored.

We are HUMAN BEINGS. We are social, we are loving and we are creatures who love to share. 

We love to share food, toys, clothes, ideas and what have you, but most of all we simply love to share experiences.
We share experiences because it helps get to know ourselves and each other. It's an important part of how we socialize and how we live, and it's part of our humanity and wellbeing.

Music is undoubtedly one of the most important cultural celebrations for a lot of people, like me.
Most of us have a song or a band that "changed our life". 
When we love a song, the thing we want to do the most is share it with those we love.
Hence why the mixtape became one of the ultimate gestures of friendship and romance. A mixtape was nothing but a collection of songs "pirated" from the radio, obviously paying for nothing other than the recorder and the tape (and maybe the arts and crafts supplies to decorate, if one was so inclined).

In the era of cds we shared them too. I remember borrowing countless cds from my friends because they were rare to find or expensive. I remember letting friends borrow countless cds because my mom had bought them for me overseas. It's part of how we experience music: we want to share.

I'm not saying the only reason we all illegally download music is because we're loving hippies who simply want to share. I'm just saying that while before you could let your friend take your cd and bring it back, you can't let your friend take your iTunes download and bring it back. If you have an obscure song you love, you know your friend can't go buy it anywhere so there goes the discography in a USB for them. There goes a file in their email. On msn. On their phone. 
Are we all trying to get something for nothing? I really don't think that's what we're doing.
I think we're just being human. Human like when one person in the group has something, it gets divided amongst the rest of the group.  

I'm not religious but there's biblical piracy in the story of Jesus and the bread and the fish. The fisherman and the baker would surely have a lawsuit in their hands.

My point is simply that at the end of the day, the reason why all these talks about music piracy and all those "you wouldn't steal a purse" commercials don't get through is because we're not talking about the same experience, and we're not on the same level. Until the music industry, the artists, and everyone in our society starts remembering that we are having a human experience and take that into account, there wont be any progress in this debate.

It's NOT an isolated issue, it's embedded into the greater discontent we all have with the economic system. There's a lot more going on behind the main arguments you hear all the time. Arguments that don't get taken into account and get dismissed because constantly everyone sees a person as a corporation, as a business, and we're not all here to be businessmen and traders, we're here to have a human experience.

I find it sort of sad that the abovementioned article itself fell short on one of it's own points: it tells us how corporations and businesses are trying to get us to compromise our ethics and morality for their convenience. While this acknowledges how the system is not adequate for our human condition,  it fails to see how that is one of the roots of the issue.
Instead of creating more situations and more laws that ask us to compromise and even negate our human state, we must begin adapting our systems to allow a full, unobstructed human experience. 

If we had such systems in place, the fact that people want to share music wouldn't be a problem at all.

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