Pirates & Hypocrites

The news today from Spiegel Online that Pirate Party executive Julia Schramm’s book ‘Click Me’ (for which she received a $131,010 advance) has been removed from a file-sharing website due to the actions of her publisher (though in her name) has induced a hollow laugh from me, today. No doubt Julia is furious- after all, she has described the idea of intellectual copyright as ‘disgusting’- but then, she did do the deal, she took the money. Money that has come to from the exploitation of  her own intellectual copyright.

To me, that makes her a hypocrite, even if she didn’t personally initiate the takedown. If you’re going to advocate a no copyright world, don’t then get into bed with those who make a living from it, and take their money. Publish it yourself, for free, it’s easy enough these days.

But then so often that’s really what’s behind so much of the anti-copyright rhetoric. MONEY, and who’s really raking it in from all this ‘free’ content. It isn’t ‘free’, anyway – it costs time, mostly, these days, and money too (in my case, to pay other musicians and record them well) and those who insist that because it’s ‘art’, it should be ‘free’, are so often blogging from the defence of their Big Tech white towers, getting paid to issue canonicals against copyright while wearing expensive Dr Dre Beats headphones and playing their free content back on expensive devices via expensive broadband connections, and sipping a latte that probably cost more than most albums, these days.

‘Free’ content is never free.

The same bloggers often get all uptight about bad conditions and pay among those who make the devices they love so much, but conveniently forget that the illegal content they get from those devices- and never pay for- represents an equivalent exploitation. Big Tech, in the form of Google and the ISPs, never mind pirate sites like Grooveshark, are making an absolute fortune out of the work of musicians, photographers, and writers everywhere, via ad placement, sub fees, and pricey fast broadband packages. Yet those who create the content make very little, if anything at all, from it. And those who advocate a no-holds-barred free content world in the name of ‘mashup’ ‘art’ do so mostly because their own ‘original’ work would be so lame without the addition of a sample nicked from some classic, that of course they want the ‘right’ to plagiarise from anywhere. They’re just not good enough on their own.

It’s no accident that of my last four releases, three are releases of commissioned work, not ‘art’ albums made purely for the sake of the art. I haven’t had the money or time recently for such a luxury, and it’s commissioned work (as Apollo Music) that pays the bills. God knows, those of us who write instrumental music that can’t benefit from the Internet’s obsession with virality and lowest common denominator LOLs, that isn’t about selling ‘merch’ or appearing on X Factor, or any other tawdry promo activity, know that we’re on a losing game here. We always were anyway (though from the 60s to the 90s there was just enough money in it to survive, if no longer) and we’ve long accepted the current situation.

But there is a real, basic, economic issue here. Musicians like me don’t exist in some parallel world with no bills, and no other calls on our time. To make our art costs TIME and MONEY, and if we can’t find either, because not enough of you pay for the music, then there’s a good chance the art will NOT be made. All we ask is that if you like our music enough to want to play it offline, then you’ll have to come across with some readies. You can hear every album I’ve ever made, here, in full, for free. And that ought to be enough. But if you want to play it offline, with better sound quality, have the respect and decency to pay for it.
And that’s all Julia’s publishers are asking for – and if she doesn’t like it, don’t do the deal, Julia.

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