Tuesday, October 30, 2007

But Is It Really Stealing?

THE LIFE-OF-RUBIN BLOG posts about a dispute ongoing on the Yahoo Jewish music board. In short, a musician posted a list of albums he's owned that were lost or damaged and asked for people to send him mp3's. Another music industry member responded that this would be stealing. LoR agrees citing dina d'malchusa.

I don't agree and I also believe L-o-R's assertion of Dina D'malchusa is incorrect. I'm not aware of an actual case, but I'm certain that if the RIAA filed suit against someone for illegaly downloading songs, and the downloader was able to provide proof that he'd purchased all of those songs legally (i.e. he produced a crate of his old cassettes of all of those albums), then the case would be dismissed.

Assuming the original poster has in fact purchased the albums, I think he should be allowed to make copies. Intellectual property is just that, and once it's been paid for, the producers have no right to demand further payment from the same consumer, unless they go to further expense. The fact that the buyer lost it is irrelevant.

Here's a thought experiment. I buy a CD. Can I import it into iTunes w/o paying the producer an additional fee? Ok, now I take the disc out of its case and drop it. It still plays though. Can I still import it into iTunes w/o paying? How about if I step on it and it cracks slightly, but still plays? What if it's broken, but I'd burned a backup copy for my car? (Which, contrary to many JM producer's assertions is clearly legally protected Fair Use.) At what point does the producer "earn" the right to be paid again?

I do think that if a remastered or otherwise (arguably) upgraded version is released, then one should not be allowed to download those files on the premise that he'd paid for an earlier version of the album. (I use the word "arguably" because, IMO, many of the"remastered" JM releases are a step down from the originals.)

L-o-R also presents a false analogy:
If I buy a car and it gets stolen, can I go into the dealership and just take a new one?
This analogy is false because there are costs to the seller in taking another car. In this case though, the artist does not incur any additional costs.

I've posted many times about illegal downloading and why it's wrong. I don't beleive this falls into that category.