Why the ‘War on Piracy’ is just so much Bullshit.

“There are unjust laws as there are unjust men…”  – Mahatma Gandhi.

I pirate music, all the time.  And I don’t think this is wrong.  At ALL. (Buh buh BUH!!!)  How can I say this?  Well, let’s start by clearing up a prevalent misconception.

That whole ‘Piracy is stealing’ thing is bullshit.

Remember the old advert on the front of movies? (You know, this one).  “You wouldn’t steal a car…You wouldn’t steal a handbag…you wouldn’t steal a television….Downloading is stealing…etc.”

This is what is known in the game, kids, as a reframe.  It is a cunning trick designed to change the meaning that you attach to a certain action. But, if you look at it closely, the argument doesn’t quite hold up, does it?

Of course, in one way the advert is dead right.  I wouldn’t steal a car, I wouldn’t steal a handbag, or a television.  BUT, if I owned a magic raygun that could make a perfect copy of whatever I pointed it at, AND if a friend gave me a book and said he didn’t mind me copying it, and I made a copy (with my raygun) then read the book, (while he kept his copy) then what is that?

It’s SHARING, kids.  And we were all taught that sharing is good, weren’t we?

‘Stealing’ by definition is: when you take something that isn’t yours from somebody else and therefore (and here is the important part) deprive them of it.  Do you deprive someone of their property when you create a copy?  No.  So, at best, it is inaccurate to equate piracy with stealing, (at worst it’s just plain wrong); it’s actually closer to sharing.

Now, for all of you lovely, law abiding folk out there in internet land, reading this and being like: ‘I would NEVER steal music, for that is WRONG’, I would ask you…Have you ever lent anyone a book?  Or a DVD?  Have you ever burnt a CD for someone?  Or (if you are old enough to remember) made a mixtape? (image of mixtape for those puzzled by this archaic term)

Then you have already broken this law.  It is exactly the same copyright infringement law that applies to downloading music, but it’s not really discussed in these forms because that would highlight the fact that:

A) this law is stupid and unenforceable, and

B) everyone is breaking it anyway (even my Granny, who used to lend out books like a motherfucking library on fire).

Can you imagine a SWAT team kicking your door in and being all like:  “Sir, did you lend someone this copy of Harry Potter?  GET ON YOUR KNEES!  You have the right to remain silent..etc.”

Of course not, because that would be ludicrous, and stupid…. 😉

I believe that there is something very vital and natural in the sharing of music and art.  There is something in us that, when we hear or experience something amazing, instantly wants to share that with someone, and this is a good thing.  Sharing things that we find of worth is an urge that comes from deep within us.  Enforcing outdated, outmoded laws is not.

‘But you are an independent musician!’ I hear you cry.  (In my mind).  ‘How can you espouse sharing music and still expect to make a living?’.  ‘Will your music not be covered by the same copyright laws?  And will you not enforce them?’  ‘Will you not, in fact, be a big fat hypocrite when it comes to protecting your own Fat Stacks of Cash? How on earth do you plan to make a living doing what you are doing when you are talking up this brand of crazy?!’.

Good questions, one and all.  And my answers are as follows:  I espouse free sharing of music because I believe it’s vital and good, and I believe that it allows the permeation of good music and art into our culture, which ultimately benefits everyone.  No, my music will not be covered under the same copyright laws, I will be releasing it under a seperate copyright (most likely, an Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives license) which means that you can share the music as much as you want, but if you want to use it for a commercial purpose you should ask me, and if you are making money off it then I should have some too 😉

I’ll answer the last question (how can you possibly hope to make a living, etc…) with a story.

About two years ago, I came across a lady called Zoe Keating.  Zoe is a cellist, who makes beautiful, layered cello music using her instrument, a laptop and a footpedal.  It is beyond beautiful, as is she.  So, I ripped all of her albums off the net to listen to, and listened to them over, and over, and over again.  I looked her up, and discovered that she is a fully independent musician, supported solely by her record sales and her touring income.

So, I did a little research about where she made the most money (physical CD sales thru her own site) and I went there and bought every album she had made.  Then I bought extras to give to my friends.  I have also talked her up to anyone who would listen, and now I am writing a blog about how awesome she is, and linking to her site (at the end of this article).

Now, why did I do this?  Well, not to make a point.  I did it for 2 reasons.

#1  Her music is amazing.  It is kickass, beautiful, badass sexy and fantastic, I love it and it adds tremendous value to my life.  And

#2:  Her story.  The fact that she is an independent musician and really receives the money I spend on her music.  It is an exchange I feel good about being part of.  Everybody wins.

I believe that, when music is good enough, when it really adds value to peoples lives, then those people will support it in some way.  Reciprocity is a fundamental human impulse.

As is the need to share.

Sleep well, LawBreakers.  (That means you too, Granny, I love you;-).

[If you are interested in checking out the awesome that is Zoe Keating, you can find her site, here.]


My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist.  If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music.  Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

Get 3 Free Tracks Now.

And lastly, if you’d like to find out what I’m up to on a more day-to-day basis then here is my brain on Twitter:

94 Comments

  1. Excellent goods from you, man. I have take into account your stuff previous to and you are simply extremely excellent. I actually like what you’ve got here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which through which you say it. You’re making it enjoyable and you still take care of to stay it smart. I can not wait to learn much more from you. That is really a wonderful website.

  2. Thanks for dropping by http://www.WritingWellDesignAndPhotography.wordpress.com. You make an interesting point about stealing vs sharing. This post brought two questions to mind: (1) Are those who fight piracy most vigorously primarily concerned about losing out on megamillions, depriving them of mansions and lavish lifestyles or are do they fear losing the basic needs of living, i.e. food, shelter, clothing and medical attention and the sustainability of their ability to create art? and (2) Can independent artists make the necessary money required to support their basic needs and in turn fuel their continued artistic endeavors?

    1. Those are two very important and well thought out questions. Thankyou very much for raising them. 😉
      To my knowledge, most of the work being done to convince the public that sharing is stealing, is an attempt to use morality as a lever to enforce copyright and therefore for monetary gain. For the most part, the people speaking out loudly are the companies that hold copyright, not the artists themselves.
      As for the second question, my answer would be yes 😉 I humbly offer myself as an example, in that, I support myself solely thru music and I am doing fine 😉 (For other larger examples I would probably cite Zoe Keating again, who has never been signed to a major label and has bought a house and supports her whole family thru her music even tho it is freely available for illegal download).
      A good article is ‘1000 true fans’ which shows that, in the present time, an independent artist really only needs around 1000 true fans to create a good, stable, sustainable living for themselves.
      I have really enjoyed writing back to you. I hope you are well, and that I hear from you again.
      – J

              1. I can feel the wonderful energy of your music from here! I am so happy for you, James! Yeay, can’t wait!! All of your hard work, effort, and intentions will be met with much delight, that I am sure of! Cher xo

  3. In full support of your argument, you might be interested in this piece from Negativland, using Ethel Merman to espouse the merits of “stealing” and standing up for the “music butchers”.

    I love it
    🙂
    And if you like this, check out what they have done to ‘Favourite Things’ from the Sound of Music 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Thankyou for thinking of me. That sounds like a cool thing.
      I’ll do my best to check it out after release date – till then, I’m kinda rammed 😉
      Thanks for getting in touch,
      Best wishes,
      – J

  4. Only one flaw in the argument …

    ” … a friend gave me a book and said he didn’t mind me copying it … ”

    Did you ask? Always? Whenever you copied?

    I can lend a book to someone, but I can’t copy a CD? How are they different? The act of copying … That said, yes it’s a bad law, because unenforceable.

    Sounds like your proposed solution – Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives – is a good one, but it doesn’t detect those who don’t ask. Guess you’ll live with it. Basically, trusting people to be honest and ignoring those who are not is the only practical solution.

    And thanks for the like! Happy New Year!

    1. You’re totally welcome.

      I see your point, the first part of the argument (‘…said he didn’t mind…’) was to show the logical extreme of the counter argument, the real point was more about clarifying the true distinction between ‘stealing’ and ‘sharing’.
      In companies where the most important thing is the bottom line, there doesn’t seem to be any compunction about convincing people that they are doing something morally wrong, when in fact, what they are doing is natural, human, and vital. The sharing of information is what has allowed us to evolve to this point. I don’t see anything wrong with it, and the definition of ‘stealing’ that is used is simply logically incorrect, as ‘stealing’ implies depriving someone of something.
      Hope that’s a little clearer 😉
      I value your points, thankyou for getting in touch,
      – j

    1. Haha! Funny.
      It’s an interesting way to go. I picture people sitting round a table somewhere, trying to work out how they are going to convince people that sharing is fundamentally wrong. They were probably just given the assignment by someone paying their wages, and did it to the best of their abilities then went home to their families. I don’t believe they are bad people, just that the system could use an upgrade.
      Thanks for getting in touch! 😉
      – J

  5. I’m listening to Zoe’s “Optimist” while I write this…breathtaking! I’ve always wondered, if everything were strictly copywrited and protected the way the law mandates, would we ever get to hear anything new? How would anything ever “go viral” and capture the attention of the world? I do applaud your buying all her CDs and sharing her music that way too. But isn’t all this legal “reframing” designed to protect the corporations, not so much the artists?

    1. Totally! I am so glad you are listening to Keating – She is the BOMB 😉
      It’s a weird system, but I don’t think it’s evil, it works really well in some ways, just not in others. In my opinion it just needs upgraded. The ‘bottom line’ motivation does make that tricky tho, if not impossible. Maybe an evolution of motivation is what’s needed… What do you think?
      – J

  6. Excellent article James. As someone who also works promoting independent music I think you make wonderful & passionate points,
    I would like to share your post on my artist page on an internet radio at http://www.mixpousre.com . The DJ’s only broadcast independent music, your topic is one that generates a lot of conversations. You express the general consensus so well.
    ( I won’t repost though without your permission.)
    Fabulous James!

      1. Repost done James… on mixposure.com:
        Here is the link.
        http://www.mixposure.com/barefoot-music/blog/5491/why-the-war-on-piracy-is-just-so-much-bullshit-by-guest-autho-artistr-james-radcliffe.

        Traffic on Mix has slowed down a bit due to the holidays, but I know that your thoughts are going to be kindred thoughts echoed by many artists there. I look forward to the feedback.

        I would like to repost this also on my music blog (Barefoot Music) after the first of the year. I have been working on an article regarding the topic of what I refer to as the “so-called ‘big record label artist’s” filing copyright infringement complaints on YouTube As indie artists covers tunes made popular by mainstream “Big Names” I watch as the complaints are being filed and are extremely selective.
        A very good friend of mine, a lead guitarist who like all musicians works extremely hard on his interpretation of songs by artist’s he is influenced by; almost as his way of paying homage. This past year alone he has had a couple of his video’s blocked on YouTube. David Gilmour & Jimmy Page for example; both filed infringement complaints against my friend’s covers of a tune of each of theirs. My friend Paul is also a professor of music, and uses these popular tunes which he interprets always as instrumentals, using them as teaching labs as well.
        It baffles me to see this happen, while there are dozens of pages with other covers of the very same tunes, these are not blocked. No complaints filed.
        I tend to think that people like Gilmour & Page are forgetting where they too came from, forgetting that in their beginning they were indeed doing cover tunes while building their own fan base.
        I have been researching the subject and I think that your article and mine would be good companion articles. My hope is that both will inspire some fantastic discussions, and maybe even some awareness.
        . Thank you so much new friend, .~ T

        1. That’s really cool. Look Ma, I’m famous! 😉
          Anytime you want to share anything of mine you are welcome to do so, just let me know, so I can revel in the glory *revels*.
          I think that, probably it’s not Page and Gilmour – they don’t own the copyrights to their own music, more likely it will be Sony or whichever label own the tunes. It is not a perfect system, but we can upgrade it!! 😉
          Big love to you, thanks again,
          – J

          1. Giggling at the the thought that you’re ‘famous’ because of my blog,,;in our dreams James…lol…
            Yes, you’re right about copyright ownership, I was being too general in using Gilmour & Page as examples. I love your attitude and belief that we can upgrade the system. I’m on board for that.
            You’re awesome to share so generously, I will always send you the link anytime I share. As well as always giving credit.
            I received an alert this morning that your article on mixpousre has a comment. I’ve not been to read it yet but it is just what I hoped for; discussion.
            I thank you again, stay in touch and in tune my friend. ~ T

            1. The fame…THE FAME.. You will have to keep me in check 😉
              I tend to shy away from the whole ‘tear it down, it doesn’t work’ thing, because life isn’t clean, it’s messy and sticky. So I think that, taking things that are working, after a fashion and refining them is a much more efficient way to progress.
              THanks for your words, I am always happy when I see I have a comment from you 😉
              – J

              1. Your thoughts on things that are working, and finding ways for refining them, and your idea of efficient ways towards progress both seem to be also indicative of your belief system’s regarding the navigating of life in general. I like that about you. I like that you take the high road and see the positive, and the possibilities.
                You also say the kindest things and create this warm inviting environment to want to return to and continue chatting. Thank you James for that.
                I hope your Christmas brought abundant joys and reasons for smiling,
                ~ T

                1. You make me smile 😉
                  I have found a lot of the answers to questions in my life thru my practice of music. It is such a great vehicle and it has really clear feedback, you can’t fake it, not really.
                  You are very beautiful to say the things you do. I had a beautiful Christmas. I worked on music in the morning, walked over and spent some beautiful time with family, then came back and worked in the lateness. How was your Christmas? I am hoping it was beautiful and filled with love and light.
                  I am glad that you want to come back – makes me happy.
                  – J
                  (The temperature is dropping in Edinburgh – Keep Dancing!!) 😉

                  1. Oh James you are a sweet message to wake up to. Can I say that? 🙂 I guess I just did, eh?
                    I have this sometimes annoying trait (to some) that I speak what comes to my mind, and I often am transparent to maybe a fault. (This is my one-time qualifying disclaimer for you)
                    I do clearly understand what you are saying about through the practice of your music you find answers unfolding. I have for most of my teen & adult life navigated life and emotions through lyrics and notes. It is true that I find music to be the perfect universal language that bridges feelings,and worlds together in a way n other medium quite does, as well as provides a great source for creative communications.
                    I think there s a sense of kindred spirit with you. I enjoy your intelligence, I find it is like a magnet, and your sense of humour so charming. See? Saying what I am feeling out loud again.
                    I am happy with a warm heart hearing your Christmas was so filled with bliss. I love how you spent your day & am anticipating the release of your album more and more as I come to know you.
                    My Christmas was/is still filled with such peace and serenity that I have this amazing afterglow going on, and this is quite something I am completely enamored with feeling. Thank you for asking.
                    So dancing a snow ballet for you I am, My hope is maybe this video I included might inspire some flakes to start falling all around you as Lindsey Stirling dances her own way over a blanket of white.
                    Enjoy.. and while you are.. think Snow James. Think Snow!

                    Smiling because of you today ~ T

                    1. “Awe… James”… she says blushing… 🙂
                      Thank you kind friend for your so very welcome thoughts.
                      I have had the great pleasure of spending the afternoon listening to Zoe Keating today who without your recommendation and well-deserved praise I would not have known of. Thank you for the introduction. She is brilliant and touches my spirit deeply.
                      I am pleased that we both are in good places. I wish that for everyone ~ T xx

                    2. I just want you to know James that you and your shares are like a little flame of enormous warmth to my spirit. I like how you light up my day when I find your messages, I do I do. 😉
                      Thank you.
                      (Still snow dancing)

                    3. Tonight after reading your latest message I was inspired to search your local weather forecast and found per weather.com you may have some precipitation Monday,- Wednesday.
                      I will be snow dancing and chanting with the greatest of devotion 😉 I will not be giving up with it being just a week into winter
                      ~ T

                    4. Awe James.. how beautiful, even if it was in your mind’s eye that you saw a snowflake. I adore that you shared that with me. Thank you.
                      I discovered that a snowflake is actually a winter butterfly that leaves a soft kiss wherever it may touch.
                      ~ T xx

                    5. Music to my ears. Wishing and hoping you had or are having a productive session James. After listening to your demos at SoundCloud my anticipation for your alum release is buildings. I like your atmospheric vibe that seems so very much part of your signature sounds.
                      So I hope you are taking care, you have a new fan who is waiting for this album to drop.
                      Sending you smiles. ~ T x

                    6. That’s really sweet to hear. Definitely a productive session tonight – had a major breakthru with one of the pieces that I think is going to spill over into the rest of the album… and it is definitely atmospheric 😉
                      Thankyou so much for your many kind messages, I value them a lot. I hope you are well,
                      – J x

                    7. I am delighted to learn that your passion is so alive and thriving on, this will translate into beautiful phrasing throughout your entire album. This I have no doubt of.
                      The count down for 30 wake-ups begins today, so you keep composing and recording James, and I will keep sending messages. Though we may be running out of room in this thread. 🙂
                      Happy tune-making my friend.
                      ~ T xx

                    8. You know what James? I quite fancy getting your messages too. I find myself smiling when I see your messages.
                      As cathartic as composing and studio work is I also know it can become of time of great solitude. So I am touched that my messages are enjoyable for you, and you are sharing this time with me.
                      Yes,30, soon to be 29 wake-ups left.
                      No pressure though you understand? 😉
                      You take care of you please, and I will be here dancing.
                      ~ T xx

                    9. That is always good to hear. 😉
                      29 wake ups you say? I’d best get back in the studio. I will watch for snow 😉
                      Thankyou so much for your connection, and your interest. It is like gold dust.
                      – J x

                    10. Gold dust.. my how you honor my humble shares. Thank you. 🙂
                      I think we meet people in our lives for specific reasons, albeit the reasons are not always apparent.
                      Music especially seems to bridge people together and that reason alone is enough for me when it happens.
                      Keep strumming and picking James.
                      ~ T xox

                    11. Thankyou very much.
                      It is half after midnight here, I’ve just woken up so I can start recording again. These hours are crazy, but it’s well worth it. 😉
                      I think we meet people for specific reasons too. 😉
                      Be well,
                      – J x

                    12. You are so very welcome. Crazy hours the muse does not know. I agree with you it is worth it. So just continue to soar on your creative wings, we the flock of music fans will reap the rewards in your new album. I struggle writing one song, you’re doing an entire collection of tracks. I kind sir am humbled by you.
                      Happy tune making James.

                      ~ T xx

                    13. That’s very sweet of you to say. One song can be as tricky, there are no rules in this game. I do think that real deadlines help tho. When I truly commit to a real deadline, solutions just seem to happen. Otherwise, I would finish nothing 😉
                      Coming up to 20 hours awake on 3 hours sleep – still good tho. 😉
                      – J x

                    14. Hoping you have had a bit of shut eye since last message.
                      As I crossed the Cascade mountain range in Oregon this weekend in both directions I thought of you with each falling snow flake I spied
                      And despite being away and immersed in an old fashioned family jam session this weekend you & the countdown of wake-ups still were part of my thoughts.
                      Funny in a very cool way how sometimes a connection is made, and it becomes one of significance. I am feeling like I missed a days update on your recording sessions. 😉
                      ~ T xx

                    15. I’m literally just about to go into one now 😉 Synchronicity.
                      Cool to hear from you – had wondered where you had been.
                      I’m going to record Hero guitar for ‘Ocean’ now.
                      Soon,
                      – J x

                    16. I had the most amazing weekend visit with my two brothers, and an awesome old fashioned family – open mic jam.
                      So very cool to know that as I sit here typing this to you that you are recording, and what you are working on. I rather like that detail, thank you for saying.
                      I am still coming down from a 3+ hour road trip and am listening to soundcloud which includes your Sketchbook II sampler; I like so much how your music is so visual. I just sit back and close my eyes and drift. I look forward to hearing full versions of your compositions for a full-on escape into the experience.
                      Have a happy tune-making session my friend.
                      ~ T xx

                    17. I am about halfway thru, just taking a break for my fingers – I think I have about half done, will know for certain tomorrow.
                      Thankyou so much for your thoughts about my music – I love that it’s visual to you – what do you see?
                      – J x

                    18. What do I see? Hmm…see if I can put it into words here that will make some sense. I am just going to free write this.
                      Firstly I feel your music. Your Sketch II I find is very meditative & ethereal with the chanting, acoustic guitar, and piano in particular tonight is what took me away.
                      I close my eyes, Seeing the horizon that is textured by the scattering of trees with their bare winter branches.
                      Celestial star lights woven through powdery clouds that move gently over the ocean, reflecting on the water’s edge.
                      deep sigh..anticipation for your album has me hooked.
                      (hope that made some sense to you, off the top of my head.)

                    19. Evening to you James. Thank you so much for your very sweet understanding of my attempt of expression. I woke this morning and thought I wonder if I came across cheesy or cheeky in my road tired lament last night of the places your music takes my spirit.
                      I am both grateful and relieved that I made sense to you.
                      I see, hear, and feel that your music holds quite a bit of reverence, that should always be honored by any listener.
                      25 more wake-ups… (I love your day ticker by the way.)

                    20. I have just woken up – ready for tonight’s recording session. You come across in a lovely way 😉
                      25 more wake ups? Busy time 😉
                      Thankyou fro your words, my friend,
                      – J x

                    21. Good early morning James, hope your session is still in full swing, and you’re loving the moments you’re living.
                      Would be so cool if I could just twitch my nose and place myself there in a quiet corner so to hear you working through the tracks as you record this album.
                      But alas, my humble spirit is there in thought and my energy with you.
                      Happy “Bluesday” to you! 😉

                    22. Thankyou 😉
                      Tonights session was good – I work in an unusual way, in that I don’t really get to hear the tracks until they’re fully done, they develop right up to release day, – I am looking forward to hearing them in their best clothes 😉
                      Thanks for the good wishes,
                      – J x

                    23. I love how you termed ” I’m a bit of a passenger in this whole affair.”
                      I absolutely can relate to that on a writing level. In November I was consumed by a story I was writing. I discovered mid way through the month that I began to feel like it was writing itself. Unfolding in a way I never had projected or dreamed of. I went to sleep breathing it, woke up breathing it, even in fact dreamnt about it.
                      Very unusual but significant high I found in that journey.
                      So cool when we are given the gifts of time and space to those extensions of ourselves.

                    24. That’s really true.
                      Altho, I don’t think you can count on them – you still have to do the hard work – when they arrive they are like manna from heaven 😉
                      – J x

                    25. That hard work is what keeps me grounded and allows there to be balance in my life.
                      Things of quality and beauty should never come without some great effort. I think we’d lose our appreciation if they came to us so easily. I am quite humbled by both spectrum’s of creativity.

                    26. I agree that we need some kind of hard work.
                      I think that you can never predict how, when or why something beautiful will appear, but that it is, indeed, very rare, if not impossible for it to manifest without putting in the hours.
                      Still no snow, my friend – did you accidentally point your dancing towards NYC? 😉
                      – J

                    27. Too funny is your question about my sense of direction James. I have three friends back east who are swearing (and I do mean swearing ‘at’ me) that their weather is my fault because I practice my snow dancing.
                      After I pulled an all nighter writing this my morning I had the lovely gift of a light dusting here on the high desert. I could not resist the compelling feelings I had to want to dance AND chant with purposeful intentions of sending snowflakes to you & your beautiful Edinburgh. Don’t give up please, hold on to that faith that anything is possible if we believe it so. 🙂
                      And I do believe.

  7. So true…profit & greed based law systems destroy Art and the Nature of Art, which is meant to be shared amongst humanity….that is its purpose and the greatest reward a true artist can hope to receive

    1. They certainly can. It can be very tough. But I think there is hope, if enough people start telling the truth there is no reason that art shouldn’t flourish. Thankyou for your words, they are very thought-provoking.

  8. This is a well-articulated argument. So many people are at extremes on this issue, and don’t bring in the viewpoint of the artist, so yours is good to see. And thanks for stopping by my blog.

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