Cassandra, the Atheist Mama, relays the story of olga.net, a site that got shut down after the Music Publishers’ Association served it with a cease and desist order for posting free guitar tablature.
It’s often said that these draconian measures – shutting down sites that offer free samples and sheet music, prosecuting everyone who may be thinking of downloading MP3s, and so on – are necessary to encourage musicians to continue producing their art. Apparently, nobody writes novels anymore, since the book publishing industry didn’t crack down on the copyright infringements that are filesharing, book-reading sessions, and excerpting.
Actually, the book publishing industry is a pretty good model for how to make sure copyright is geared toward encouraging creativity and production rather than cracking down on civil liberties. Authors retain the copyright to their works; citing even substantial parts of a book is explicitly allowed, and academic photocopying of entire works is tolerated; there is no governmentally enforced mandate for looking for pirates everywhere.
The RIAA’s rules stifle creativity a lot more than sites like Olga. Instead of license money going directly to artists, granted with a serious commission, it goes to a shared pool that gets distributed to artists via their positions on the charts. An underground bash that has to pay $10,000 to license punk music ends up giving extra dollars to Michael Jackson, not AC/DC or K’naan.
A lot of libertarians say that the government is a mafia. They’re wrong: the government isn’t a mafia – it just legitimizes such mafias as the music industry.
Update: my wanton ignorance about music shows. Please pretend “AC/DC or K’naan” reads “Bad Religion.”
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