Just Because It’s Easier to Steal – Doesn’t Mean It Isn’t Stealing

prcyBack when I was a musician – writing songs rather than things like this – I was just about the only one I knew who wasn’t stealing music via the heist website Napster.  And I lived in Austin, Texas – the “Live Music Capital of the World.”  I knew a LOT of musicians.

Napster was “originally founded as a pioneering peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing Internet service that emphasized sharing audio files, typically music, encoded in MP3 format. The original company ran into legal difficulties over copyright infringement….”

Translation: People downloaded music – for which they never paid.  Hence the “legal difficulties over copyright infringement.”  Napster was a monster music shopping mall – without the shopping.

The arguments in defense of this theft were (and remain) patently (no pun intended) absurd.  Some of the absurdest:

“The musicians make money from touring – we’re only stealing from the record companies.”

A microcosm of the Democrats’ “Tax the evil rich to pay for free stuff for you” mantra.  Which is obnoxious.  Stealing from anyone – is stealing.  Oh – and of course musicians get paid for their music.  Unless their music is stolen.

“I’m not stealing anything physical.  It’s not like I’m taking a compact disc.  So they’re not out anything.”

Behold the absolutely ridiculous “Intellectual property isn’t property” assertion.  Even many center-right and libertarian people and outfits – some of some stature – lamely put this forward.

But a compact disc – bereft of Adele, Drake or Taylor Swift – is nothing more than high-tech plastic.  You’re not stealing it to get the high-tech plastic – you want what’s encoded thereon.

It’s the musical ideas – which beget the music, the recording, the marketing and the teenage madness – that matter.  These ideas – are intellectual property.

Thus is intellectual property, in fact, MORE important than physical property – not less.  And it always has been.

Technological advances don’t change any of this.  New platforms – same principles.  Stealing vinyl records – was wrong.  So too was stealing 8-track tapes.  And cassettes.  And CDs.  Stealing MP3s – is stealing.

Napster was only a toe-in-the-water beginning.  The theft of digital goods – music, movies, computer software,… – has only exponentially grown.  Into a HUGE global problem.  (And that is not just a Kim Dotcom pun.)  See also: China.  And….

Of course there is always a constituency for free stuff (see, again: The Democrat Party).  Some major players have in fact made it a key component of their business model (Hello, Google).  These intellectual property thieves have lots of coin (because they rarely pay for anything) – so they can dress up their thievery quite nicely.

They can hire lots of lawyers and organizations to pretend that opposition to their thievery – is actually opposition to technological advancement.  (When it, of course, defunds and undermines future technological advancement.  If you can’t get paid for your last advancement – why on Earth would you or anyone else invest in your next?)

And these thieves can hire lots of lobbyists – to have law written that all-but-legalizes their theft.  To wit: The Innovation and Patent Acts currently under consideration in Congress.  Bills which would make it so much easier for people to do to patents – what thieves like Napster, China and Kim Dotcom do to copyrights (and trademarks).  It would become dramatically more difficult for intellectual property holders – whose property protection device is patents – to stop the people who are stealing their ideas.

These bills are anti-intellectual property.  And anti-property.  And anti-technological advancement.  And anti-capitalism.  What they are – is pro-theft.  It makes a lot of illegal thievery – a lot less subject to the law and its enforcement.

I understand why the thieves would want this.  I have zero idea why anyone else does.

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