a dangerous group among us that finds our very way of life an
affront to its sensibilities. This organization finds our most
cherished pastime to be flagrantly liberal and a contradiction
to its members beliefs concerning ethical behavior and,
in their eyes, there is no middle ground. Because we are many
and strong, they cannot attack us directly. They strike terror
into our hearts by picking victims at random and using our own
resources to thwart us.
speaking, of course, of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association
advent of 8-tracks and video cassettes, it has been the prerogative
of Americas youth to capture media they enjoy. The need
to possess something greater than ones self, to somehow
control an idea - an idea in the form of songs and movies and
television shows - to use it as an expression of the self, realizes
two basic human needs: the need to be understood and the need
for self improvement.
If we understand
this, other mind-boggling behaviors of our peers becomes clear.
For example, what other motivation could inspire so many teens
to post lists of their MP3s online? Why does every blog have that
silly feature "What Im listening to/watching now?"
two motivations springs the personal conundrum of anyone who considers
illegally downloading media: how does the way I acquire this art
impact what it means to own it? Or more generally, to steal or
not to steal?
says the implications of music theft are clear. The artist is
robbed of the money that his art has earned him. In an economic
system whose principle tenet is that those who produce something
valued to society should receive the amount of money their product
is worth, this is clearly unethical. For those who agree, this
means that their possession of illegally downloaded music adds
another dimension to what each song says about them - it says,
"Im willing to undermine the very foundation of the
society that I rely on."
of us dont feel our pirating is so severe. After all, the
very technology that allows us to steal music is the same technology
responsible for the balloon in the recording industry. The cost
of producing each sound byte has dropped, yet prices have not
reflected this. Today, CDs are sold for more than LPs ever were
(adjusting for inflation), yet they are cheaper to produce.
margin cant change in a system where we must purchase 90
percent of our music from the RIAA. Without competitors, were
forced to get our music at the prices it sets. And when the recording
industry behaves like a trust, the question of ethics gets thrown
back to the accuser. People have been recording music onto tapes
for decades, but using a technology that allows higher profits
comes with the cost of having a new scale of competition - free
digital music sharing.
So how can
we reach a fair equilibrium that doesnt leave the recording
industry giving its music away to compete? The RIAAs answer
is guerrilla warfare, forcing us to look over our shoulders at
every turn on the information superhighway. What alternative is
there that doesnt rely on our own integrity to recognize
a fair trade?
has no faith in us, and I doubt we do either. But if we are to
overcome our foe, we must relearn the ethics we hold dear. We
must understand why it is we respect art and what it means to
pay proper tribute to an artist. Then we can take pride in ourselves
and our actions and show our enemy what it means to do right.
Maybe well even be understood.
Cassandra R. Hunt is a member of the Class of 2008.
article originally appeared in The Tech, issue 48 volume 125.
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