March 15th, 2008

boy with dog

Music Downloading - Piracy?

I am of the general impression that I am more conscientious than average as a result of which I would think twice about doing something that I would consider socially / morally or legally unacceptable.

However, I must admit to, like pretty much everyone else I know, using pirated versions of operating system software and not willing to pay for it, while at the same time not feeling shitty about it even one bit, because I guess everyone just assumed that software would come in bundled with hardware and that it would be unwise to pay for it. The people that installed my computers post assembling them since the time I got my first computer in class 8 never really were among the paragons of virtue and would install all sorts of software with gay abandon, regardless of whether it was pirated or not, and this feeling of taking software for granted just trickled through everyone else in a slow gradual process.

However, once I understood what big business software development is, and how I am too a contributor towards the industry (despite writing crappy software for embedded systems used by niche target groups that invariably rely on more traditional methods of foraging food), and my respect for licensed software has gone up. In addition to that, my workplace pays for the software I use on my system and I have ubuntu running on my laptop at home, and as a consequence, I feel well and truly legal.

Music downloading is another ballgame altogether. I had the opportunity to interview Suraj Mani of motherjane, and most of those who read this blag might've heard about that band as well. He was mentioning to me how most of the band's music is up for downloading, and how the band makes money through live performances rather than through other ways, which is something that is a win-win situation for everyone concerned.

Fans or curious listeners get to listen to the band's music, after downloading it, and should they like it enough, they'd be more than willing to shell out INR 100 to check out an exclusive motherjane performance! This works well, assuming that a band has enough people following them, but as a converse, if enough people follow them, this system would be ideal to be put into place.

I am downloading a complete album of an artist that I like immensely as we speak. Orkut as a social networking site, despite its many downfalls has provided me with easy to access non-P2P links to album downloads which I am utilizing to the max. I like a couple of songs of a band, but I am a cheap brown guy, and paying 1 dawra per song is a tad too much for me. In addition, I am the kind of person who might end up liking a song that is on the B-side of the album, while not liking the popular songs too much.

In this case, I would, as a consumer, like to exercise my try-before-I-buy option, but it results in a situation where I am too mired in the clouds of lethargy to be willing to pay once I already have the song. I know, I am being morally despicable here, but I am atleast thinking about it, unlike a lot of other people!

As a viable compromise, I would like to state that should any of the artists whose music I have downloaded, enjoyed enough to keep on my ipod and listen to for more than n number of times, n being a number that I can fix depending on further studies and analysis that I will perform once I return home in a week's time, ever perform live in India, I will definitely make it a point to go watch them wherever they are performing within a reasonable travelling radius, subject to which day of the week the concert will be, and pay a sum of money that will more than compensate for not having purchased their albums.

I know that a lot of the money would go into cost recovery for the setup of the event, and the pie will be divided among a sizeable number of people, but that is the headache of the artist, just as paying for the electricity connection, the internet charges or should I buy the album the charges of transport or the time spent are all considered as my expenditures in lieu of being in possession of their music.

They win, and I have my conscience soothed. Now I think I can get back to downloading wonderland!
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