Friday, September 25, 2009

The File Sharing Controversy in Britain: Are We Americans Seeing It Wrong?

In America over the past decade, the debate has been over whether file sharing is detrimental to the music industry. Well, certainly the record and radio companies are suffering. They blame file sharing, though the evidence points more toward the corporations, sabotaging themselves through increasingly expensive mergers, acquisitions, and contracts which buried them in debt. Some musicians are taking the record companies' side, while others embrace file sharing, saying it's no more or less destructive than taping used to be. In my last two posts, it seems, I viewed the controversy over a proposed British law through my American experience. The law would ban file sharers convicted of music piracy from the Internet. Apparently there's no controversy over whether file sharing's good or bad over there: both sides agree that it's bad. What they're arguing about is whether the file sharers should be banned from the Internet. So I misconstrued the real issue. So did Perez Hilton and any other American who took sides in the British brouhaha.

On one side, you have Radiohead, who post their albums online before they release them on CD (and now on LP), plus members of Pink Floyd and Blur. They form the core of the Featured Artists Coalition. On the other, you have the British record industry, plus certain musicians who have taken it upon themselves to speak for the industry, including Lily Allen and James Blunt. On one side, you have moderates who believe that file sharing is harmful but file sharers shouldn't be given the Internet equivalent of the death penalty. On the other, you have the record industry and its corporate tools taking the extremist position that file sharing will kill the industry, and therefore file sharers should be banned — and the American record industry cartel, the RIAA, and its militant army of savage corporate lawyers add that they should be thrown in jail for decades and fined tens of thousands of dollars minimum. The issue is not whether file sharing should be tolerated, like in the US, where the two opposing positions are taken by the tech companies (for) and the record companies (against), with musicians taking one or the other extreme. In the UK, the issue is punishment: should it be lenient or draconian?

So I and my fellow Americans have been taking sides in the wrong controversy. Our controversy. We see RIAA allies Metallica and Garth Brooks attacking Napster back in 2000 whenever we hear Lily Allen making them look calm and rational in comparison. We Americans should remember, though, that the UK is not the US. Some of the rights and freedoms we take for granted here simply don't exist over there; some of them never did, which is why the American Founders and their successors established them in the first place. We were (and are) fighting against or for the RIAA over the definition of "free speech" as protected under the US Constitution; they're haggling over penalties, leaving the definition of file sharing as "piracy" unchallenged.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lily Allen, Hypocrite

Since my last post, I've discovered that British pop tart Lily Allen, who recently declared war against file sharers, calling them crooks and pirates, is herself a plagiarist! Not only did she do some unauthorized mixtapes a few years ago (which she's trying to weasel out from under), her anti-file-sharing blog itself swipes from several newspapers!

When Metallica, partly under the influence of Ayn Rand, denounced Napster and helped destroy it, some wag put their integrity up for sale on eBay. And, like I said last time, Metallica are themselves a corporation as well as a rock band. It seems Miss Allen has already sold her integrity, and of course she sold it to EMI. (Cue the Sex Pistols song now!)

One thing I forgot to mention last time, when I called her a corporate tool, is that she owns none of her music. It's all EMI's property. You see, ever since the days of Tin Pan Alley a century ago, the record companies have been the sole proprietors of recorded music. That's why Metallica had to become a corporation. If you don't own your music but rage against "piracy", you've got to be raging on the company's behalf, as the company's shill. That's why I lost all my respect for Metallica and Garth Brooks a decade ago in the first place.

She can denounce Radiohead and Pink Floyd for music piracy (i.e., stealing from the corporate overlords who actually own the music) all she wants. She can denounce me as much as she wants, for that matter. But a crusader against file sharing (as "music piracy") who herself is a plagiarist? If even Perez Hilton calls her out, I'd say Lily Allen's got herself a major integrity problem!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lily Allen Is Hot, But She's A Corporate Tool

First Metallica. Then Garth Brooks. Now British pop tart Lily Allen has declared war against everybody who trades songs online. Here's her declaration of war.

What's with these musicians who claim that file sharing will destroy their careers? Every single person who trades a song online is a pirate who must, must, MUST be punished. As if all those millions of fans using LimeWire or Kazaa are no different from illegal CD duplicators.

The record companies tell them so. They're just, so to speak, retweeting the official corporate propaganda.

Let me tell you what I learned about the record companies. Did you know that big record companies force you to pay for your contract and the like? This commenter on this article has it exactly right: "The label is basically a loan shark. They get to make a risk free investment, and prey upon artists who desperately want to be on signed band." That's the record biz in a nutshell.

At least Metallica have an excuse or two. One: they're a corporation in their own right. Two: they're followers of that fanatic for capitalism, Ayn Rand. And Garth Brooks and those other country types were pretty much embedded in the Shrub Bush dictatorship; country music tends to be a right-wing thing anyway, from the most right-wing part of America.

But Lily Allen? She's just a pop tart. The kind who lip-syncs in concert. Have you even heard of her? If you're not British, you probably haven't.

Capitalism. Don't ya love it.

Lily Allen is hot, sure. But now we know what she really is: just another corporate tool.

Monday, September 21, 2009

H. G. Wells Is 143 Today

This day in 1866, Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England. From 1895 to 1898, his first four novels were released: The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. And thus science fiction was born. He isn't responsible for science fiction getting kicked out of the literary mainstream (that's mostly the fault of an increasingly narrow and dogmatic literary establishment, and partly the responsibility of pulp magazine publisher Hugo Gernsback). But he is the real founder of the genre. So, happy 143rd birthday to H.G. Wells.