"Online Thieves and Corporate Puppets," by Alpha Unit

A musician spends time and energy creating a work of music – time and energy he or she can never get back. What is his effort worth? How do you place a value on what a musician has created?
The argument over this question goes back for years – probably to the beginning of commercial music, actually. I’m sure plenty of you can remember the battles over file sharing with companies like Napster, Limewire, and Grokster that have lost court battles over copyright infringement. While musicians are serious about protecting their intellectual property, many of them point out that they have no beef with their fans. The fans aren’t the enemy. Corporate America is. As Ellen Seidler puts it:

Online piracy isn’t about altruism, it’s about income. Today’s technology allows web pirates to steal content and monetize that content with a click of a mouse. Meanwhile, “legit” companies encourage and facilitate this theft while also profiting from it (ad service providers, advertisers, and payment processors).

Ms. Seidler explains that companies like Sony, Radio Shack, Pixar, ATT, Chase, Auto-Zone, and Netflix are generating an enormous amount of income by placing advertising on websites featuring streams and links to pirated content.
Of course the ads also generate income for those operating the pirate websites. Says Ms. Seidler:

This dubious connection to piracy is not limited to the companies whose ads appear on various pirate sites. Even more problematic are those companies, like Google (via AdSense), that generate their own robust revenue stream by providing the interface for the pirate-site pop-up ads themselves. In this equation everyone except the actual content creator makes money from this theft.

According to The Trichordist, this piracy isn’t about fans sharing music. It’s about illegally operating businesses making millions of dollars a year from the exploitation of artists’ work and not sharing any of the revenue with artists.

To the uninitiated, it might seem odd that what seems like a simple question of right or wrong is even being debated, but these sites that exploit artists are supported and promoted by faux civil liberties groups opposed to protecting creators’ rights – and internet giants are happy to throw their support behind them.
Together they have crafted a narrative of creator rights as quaint and outdated, offering artists a brave new online world where they can throw off the shackles of labels (or publishers, or studios, etc.) and give away their work to find fame and fortune. However, after a decade of half-baked ideas, faulty business models, and outright lies, we know this is simply untrue.

The artists at The Trichordist say they might not always be a fan of record labels, but at least the labels negotiate contracts, pay advances, market and promote artists, and are contractually accountable for wrongdoing. A musician has no such enforceable rights in what they call the Exploitation Economy.
As for the view that the internet is a powerful tool for distributing music more cheaply, these guys are adamant that pirate sites have no place in this scheme. They say that nothing is stopping musicians from sharing or giving away their music through legitimate sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp. As far as they’re concerned, there simply is no justification for the existence of pirate sites.
Major companies such as American Express, Citibank, Direct TV, Levi’s, Macy’s, Princess Cruises, Target, United Airlines, and dozens of others have been cited as placing ads on sites that are receiving notices for copyright infringement. David Newhoff points out that this is about large American corporations supporting and legitimizing the exploitation of American workers.

I’ll say it again without equivocation. These sites are in the business of exploiting workers. Period. Don’t let’s get distracted by the fact that copies of files don’t cost anything to produce or distribute or that you think WMG is evil or you don’t like the RIAA. That’s all that bullshit again, and it has nothing to do with the way in which these sites generate revenue. All that “free” media represents hours or years or even decades of labor, either by one person or by hundreds of people.

And the idea that by downloading files illegally you’re “sticking it to the Man”? The truth, he says, is that the ardent file sharer is a corporate puppet that has no idea which companies are pulling its strings.
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