Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Home taping is killing music

My reference to downloading music being cheaper than buying CDs (in this post) might have been mistaken for a reference to illegally downloading music for free. I was thinking of amazon instead. The album is almost $6 less as an MP3 download. And you don't have to pay shipping.

Anyway, I think the ethics of illegal downloading is interesting. It's sort of a victimless crime, but if everyone did it instead of buying albums then making an album would only ever be done at a loss. But would that be so bad? Small bands would still do it as a hobby, and bands who made it big would probably still release albums to attract people to their concerts. There might be less bad music, since there would be less of an incentive to release purely commercial stuff.

The important thing, I suppose, is the effect on artists, and I don't know what that would be. It's hard to see how it could be good though.

So perhaps "interesting" was an overstatement, but I can imagine a utilitarian arguing that it is positively good to download illegally. I think I've convinced myself that it's bad though. The only exception would be if it was reasonable to think that the artist(s) would not mind. For instance, if you knew that you would not buy the music you were downloading and thought you might either buy other music by this artist if you ended up liking it or else encourage others to buy it. But then maybe that's what Myspace and YouTube are for.

Anyway, this strikes me as a case in which it is better to think in a vaguely Kantian way (about fairness to artists) than like a utilitarian.

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