Tonight David Byrne and Author Chris Ruen Explain Exactly, Specifically, and Definitively Why Illegally Downloading Music Makes You A Huge Asshole

Categories: Freeloading

"If you ask people whether they think it's okay to knowingly violate the rights of an artist, I don't think you'll find many people who think it's okay," says Ruen. "Maybe there's a few, but even those people aren't saying that because they think it's okay, it's because they're justifying it and conflating it with other issues." In Freeloading, Ruen picks apart some of the justifications for illegal downloading -- from the belief that record labels and rich artists "deserve it" (for price gouging, greed, and generally being dicks to their fans) to the idea that piracy helps smaller artists reach a wider audience.

"That's somewhat moot," Ruen says of the latter notion, "since artists are fully able to choose to release their music for free if they wish, and there are plenty of examples of that happening. So there's no contradiction between respecting artists' rights and also embracing all the 'frictionless' potential of the Internet."

Ruen allows that freeloading often boils down to the very human flaw of greed winning out over guilt ("There's that fundamental question of, 'Can you check your own desire for instant gratification?") and social norms ("If your friends and peers are doing it and don't care, then certainly you're not gonna question these actions"), as well as the missteps of the music industry. "The RIAA lawsuits made it difficult for labels or artists to talk about ethics or what's fair," he says. "It was so heavy handed, and that justifiably pissed people off. It was a PR disaster. And if we're having this conversation four years ago when that's still on everybody's mind, there'd be no sympathy and it'd be 'Fuck record labels, they're fuckin' assholes." I think the more time passes and we get away from those lawsuits, that's having an effect on perceptions around this issue."

By dismantling the various justifications for freeloading -- and Ruen says he's yet to hear a single convincing argument in favor of illegal downloading -- Ruen hopes to get readers "to a place where they feel comfortable owning up to it and saying, 'Yeah, it's free, that's why I'm doing it, I don't think it's right and I'm not saying it's progressive.' If you can get people to that place, then you can have a conversation and talk about policy and respecting artists' basic rights."

Ruen's outspokenness on the issue has earned him plenty of enmity and vitriol from, well, freeloaders, but he says he's not trying to fan the flames of the debate just to watch shit burn. "There's a thin line between trying to engage people and being a provocateur or a sensationalist. I'm not down with that, I don't think that's cool, and I've tried to bring a rational, fact-based approach to the discourse. The subject does bring out some passion, but I think the really angry responses, you're going to find those online behind the safety of anonymity."

"I think [tonight is] gonna be a lot of passionate music fans who understand how much they've gotten from these artists who've had the chance to have careers," says Ruen. "And it'll be an older, more mature crowd. Age makes a big difference in this debate. I know that when I was in college, I didn't know what it meant to have a job or to need to make a living, and the older you are, the more you understand that 'I want artists to be able to do this and make more of this stuff for me to enjoy, so they need to be paid somehow.' I don't think it's gonna be an antagonistic audience, but you never know!"

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11 comments
contactjn33
contactjn33

This is about people protecting fat pay checks pure and simple.  They know they don't deserve the amount of money they are losing on pirating, but they want it.  They want their holiday in the sun.  So while the servers in that coffee shop fight for minimum wage, Bryne fights for the artists who are already flying around the world and making plenty of money.  "Oh you free loaders are making us not be able to be millionaires!"  Boo Fu#$ing Hoo!  What a loser.  Why don't him and Brian Eno go make another album no one will even bother to pirate, lol. I mean it's pathetic.  This guy is some trust fund baby who decided to go the way of music, but still wants to be rich.  I don't care, and I will never care about these losers.  Art is free, and if you don't like it go get a real job.

contactjn33
contactjn33

I get it.  Bryne watched so many other musicians reap these bloated, just basically WRONG amounts of money from making music, and thinks it's wrong fro the musicians of the day to be denied the same money.  He's wrong.  This is the way music should have been from the beginning.  I mean if someone stole my written works and millions bootlegged them, I would be flattered.  Happy just to do what I love for free.  Sorry but it's his greed that is out of control.

contactjn33
contactjn33

 I disagree with this article entirely.  Artists have a long history of not making their money from album sales but from live performances.  Record companies have made their money from album sales.  What you have now is Artists no longer enjoying a dishonest "hay day" of reaching ridiculous riches.  Artists were never supposed to be these rich celebrities like "The Killers," or "Vampire Weekend" are trying to be.  It isn't about making music anymore, but rather about being on MTV Cribs.  Radiohead isn't crying and they put out their albums for free.  You have a dream life and you want the big wealth too?  Shame on you.  I think that there is a lost value when artists become celebrities and rich and powerful. Pirating is a way of taking these bloated egos down a peg.  I mean he cited "Vampire Weekend?"  Wow, now jet setting around the world and being worshiped by millions of little pseudo intellectuals is an excuse for a pity party?  Well boo hoo, I guess playing music for a living and having millions of fans will have to suffice, no big fat pay check to go along with it.  What a loser.  It wasn't pirating that stopped Bryne's music from selling, it was mediocrity.

julien14
julien14

here is what i mean if you clog the courts over downloading and not the true crime of uploading...  the internet one big file sharing.... stop harassing downloading its not a crime.... its byproduct of file uploading...

julien14
julien14

Downloading Music Makes You A Huge Asshole..... your scam makes you the Asshole on those who upload and grant free downloads with rights to do so.... that a user can be entrapped by a scam law 

julien14
julien14

every image every text you serf on the internet downloads on your computer just by a site visit...so your law of download crime is a scam...... only upload can you prove a crime is committed 

julien14
julien14

see your fighting downloading when really its the uploading without a permit is the crime.... like i run a site that pays the author a fee that grants everyone free download... base on ad revenue... \now your claiming what .... everthing is bad to download .. defamation... it puts you in the wrong by defamation of downloading

julien14
julien14

see downloading is not the crime its the uploading without a permit from the author.... and imposes fear on everyone is the crime your imposing on others without merit in law...the internet is one big file sharing system.... built by uploading 

julien14
julien14

illegal downloading lol it the uploading not downloading.... like did i get the right to upload the file...the internet is all about file sharing.... image text and files.... so you have to prove your uploading files that don't belong to you.... like the internet is one big file sharing system.... an image on a web site found on your system... and more..... your not the upload-er are you..... like how do i know you did not make a deal with upload-er..... where i download... now your scamming everyone that its illegal to download where the crime is the upload without a permit... what a scam.....

nicholaslovell
nicholaslovell

The issue I have is with conflating freeloaders with illegaldownloaders. I understand Chris's point that it would be better ifpeople chose to pay for music and his point about respecting artist'srights is powerful. However, Ibelieve that we have passed the tipping point: social norms,technological changes and the fact that many artists *do* embrace givingtheir content away for free means that Chris and David Byrne arefighting their losing battle.While they are discussingwhether it is morally defensible to download music for free, others arefinding new business models that work. I would much rather accept thenew reality and adapt to it than fight it.

willie.smothers
willie.smothers

The problem I see is that the only way to prevent the sharing of music online is to have complete surveillance of everyone's internet activities. So what's more important to you, the obsolete business models of record labels and musicians, or your civil liberties? Additionally, it seems that there is much more music today than there ever has been in our history.

I think it's time for musicians to embrace the ability to tap huge audiences, and get creative with monetization strategies.

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