What comes to mind when you hear “$1.5 million in statutory damages for distribution?” Drugs? Weapons? People? How about music? Okay, what if I said file sharing? You would think that terabytes of music must be involved, a huge game-changing event. Maybe some hacker-on-steroids stole everything Capitol Records released last year. What would you think if that was a penalty given to a single mom who downloaded 24 songs? This is especially distressing considering that one of those songs was Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, which this columnist wouldn’t consider music.
In my last column, I wrote about how musicians aren’t getting adequately compensated. What I found most interesting was that, almost universally, those who responded to my article emphatically told me that they “never steal music”, as if downloading music was the sole factor that keeps musicians down. I’m sure that none of the head honchos at Capitol Music Group have had to go hungry over a loss in sales due to a CD’s worth of music being downloaded by a mother of four from Minnesota. The labels disagree with me.
Capitol has been up to all sorts of things that make my skin crawl. They are currently in a legal battle with video-sharing site Vimeo over a viral video featuring a woman lip-syncing a song owned by Capitol, “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger. I just want to be clear that Capitol is the group making the most money from this song, Capitol is the one so adamant to bring this matter to court and Capitol had absolutely no part in writing or performing this song. They aren’t engaged in these battles pro bono; it is all about the cash.
There was a time that music was a way of taking what was inside of your heart and projecting it in a way that other people could understand it. I’m afraid that era is coming to a close. In the day of Ke$ha, Auto-Tuning and Macbooks, you don’t even need to be able to sing or play an instrument to be a musician. Record labels will crank out artists that will produce cash. This makes it even harder for talented musicians to get compensated. However, if you’ve got a novelty factor and a cute face, Virgin might take you around the block.
If Capitol and the like had it their way, you would pay for a song every time you listen to it, being sure to only play it alone in a soundproof coffin while remaining totally still. Better yet, you should go ahead and give them all of your money in case you hear some copyrighted work being played on the street. Eventually, they might develop some advanced computer equipment that just charges you according to your proximity to speakers playing copyrighted work.
So make sure that if you listen to music, don’t move your mouth while you are doing it, and don’t even think about letting someone borrow a CD. They might just listen to it.