Share and Share Alike

At the office, we were debating the issue of file sharing and its impact on artists, specifically whether or not a digital distribution system for music sales would allow artists to see a larger share of the proceeds from every sale. The argument was made that the low overhead of digital distribution doesn’t necessarily ensure that artists will see more money and in fact it may mean that they get a reduced share of the profits.

That’s when I realized that, after all the fuss over Napster (whose impending relaunch actually kicked off this conversation), Gnutella and lawsuits filed against individual users by the RIAA, I’ve developed a pretty callous attitude towards artists’ rights. This may anger some of my friends who are musicians and who aspire to become very well-paid musicians for a living, but at this point, it doesn’t really matter to me much whether artists get their fair share of money from recordings or not.This is because the battle over digital music distribution has become, in many ways, a battle over who is disenfranchising artists — file sharing pirates or greedy record executives? It’s a war of accusations, with one of the central questions being whether or not, in the Internet age, artists are losing their incentive to produce music.

Frankly, I don’t care whether or not there’s a viable career in music for aspiring musicians. I thoroughly understand that that’s a pretty insensitive point of view all around, but I really feel that, as a society, we have way, way, way too much music — certainly enough to keep us all socially anesthetized for years to come — and that there are bigger issues to tackle than whether or not the right to consume more music lasts for another generation… or even whether or not there will be enough Britney Spears and White Stripes to see us through to their sucessors.

I’ve decided that what I really care about is fair use, about the right for individuals to use information as provided for by the copyright laws that have built the great media empires we know today. Both the RIAA and the MPAA would like to see those laws curtailed, and I think that’s what the fight is really about.