Tonight on Court TV, a story ripped from the headlines…
12 Year Old Girl Settles Downloading Suit with RIAA.
So who was her lawyer? Tiny Freakin’ Tim? Ally McBeal?
The absurdity of the case, and RIAA’s Ebeneezer Scrooge impression aside, one thing is getting lost in the whole controversy over downloading music.
Downloading music without payment is theft, stealing other people’s work, and anybody who does it is a thief.
It’s theft because it is other people’s property. I don’t care how you valuate recorded music. You can call it the sum of the labor plus the raw materials; you can say it’s worth whatever price the market will bear; you can even try to value it based on its artistic worth. It doesn’t matter, it’s worth something, and if you take it without paying, you are stealing.
It pains me that so many (so-called) libertarians have this knee-jerk reaction against RIAA. “Sure I’m libertarian… I’m stickin’ it to the man by downloading music.”
This is a canard. It is axiomatic that respect for private property is one of the linchpins of a free society. When the government, or the people stop respecting the sanctity of private property, the bulwark, the core value we’re invested in, starts to erode.
And hell, if we libertarians can’t respect private property, why should the government?
Sure, the record industry charges too much for its products. You don’t like it? Don’t buy it. I don’t recall anything in the Constitution or the Magna Carta about the inalienable right to Linkin Park, or the Carmen Miranda warning. Really, if this is the best you can do, then please tell me why we shouldn’t be able to steal BMWs — after all, the dealers charge too much for them.
Of course you’ve always been allowed under copyright law to make a personal copy for yourself. It’s called the fair use doctrine. But here’s a newsflash: the personal copy is the one that the original purchaser of the CD puts on his computer in an MP3 file. It’s not a personal copy if you make copies for your friends, and it’s not a personal copy if you make copies for a thousand people you’ve never met. And it’s not a personal copy any more than a pirated movie, copied and distributed to 500 people around the globe, is a personal copy.
The fact that it’s intellectual property and not real property, is irrelevant. I’m a lawyer – my work product is all intellectual property. My time is worth money. If you were to take a brief I filed, copy it, and file it in your case, it would be theft. It doesn’t matter if my brief was publicly filed, taking the thing for your own use, without permission, would in effect be stealing my mind and my work.
So let’s hear it kids – bring it on. I’d love to hear some new arguments about why copying music and passing it around on distributed networks is legally and philosophically sound. Lord knows the ones I’ve heard so far aren’t convincing.