Monday, 23 January 2012

Piracy: Theft of Bits

SOPA! PIPA! ACTA! The unholy trinity of redundant anti-piracy laws. See with, the take down of Megaupload (which may not be so much of a shame as you think, especially if you're not a fan of child porn and self indulgence, see this and this), and existing cases, including a single mom being sued for 1.5 million for downloading 24 songs and the quite worrying and extremely unjust extradition of UK student Richard O'Dwyer to the US for linking copyrighted material on his webpage, it is clear that the US government can persecute those who infringed upon copyright without the help of SOPA and PIPA. Luckily, I understand both PIPA and SOPA did not make it through congress, however this whole issue has highlighted a couple of much more important and fundamental questions. Who has the right to own an idea, a song, or something that community can enjoy? Is piracy, especially of music, actually a bad thing? Is it really fair and just to sue a single mother 1.5 million dollars for "stealing" 24 songs? Are the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) run by out of touch old businessmen who eat shit for breakfast?

The answer to that last one is a most definite yes. Let's start with the act of piracy, and its implications. Speaking as a "pirate", which I think groups me with most of the people who use the internet, and in particular as a music pirate, I thoroughly reject the idea that piracy is a bad thing for music. Generally speaking, those that the RIAA is "protecting" with their rather frivolous and unjust lawsuits are musicians who bring in money by the truckload, even after the record company and album producer rips them off. So who can piracy hurt? It can make a presumably minor dent in record companies' profits, and it can hurt small, local bands. Second question, when was the last time a small local band specifically told you not to download their album? Loma Prieta  actively tell their fans how to get their music for free, because far more important to them than record sales and piles of money is having people listen to it. As long as someone can say, "Oh man, Loma Prieta really inspired me", can attend one of their gigs and can tell their friends, I don't think Loma Prieta really give a fuck if you buy their album. And the fact is this is the norm for most bands that operate at a local to mid level, mid level referring to roughly the popularity of ISIS. These bands want you to go to shows, and have a good time, to them playing music to an audience is the most important thing, more than record sales and sexy groupies by the dozen. That's right, the RIAA is defending the minority of musicians, it is a corporation representing the well-to-do of the music community. This is analogous to a human rights group defending the rights of a successful businessman who got offended because someone called him a cunt. Music piracy allows many people to find out about and easily acquire more music. CDs and records are expensive, and the people who download music most are the people who also tend to put the effort back in to their local scene: they write for music review sites, they organize shows, book tours, tell all their friends  about a good new release or band and when they can, purchase music. This is the machinery that keeps music alive, this helps the money and ideas flow. Far from harming this, music piracy helps promote it to a degree.

The next question one must ask, is where the justice lies in suing a single mother 1.5 million dollars for downloading 24 songs. I highly doubt that any lives were ruined in the process of downloading these songs, and yet it is perfectly legal and respectable for the RIAA to take all this woman has? This may be law, but it is not justice. By any decent man's standards this is an act of absurdity and immorality. An act of greed in an attempt to fight a non-existent threat. Think about what 1.5 million dollars in damages means. Think about the struggles people face in day to day life. Think about what we, as a whole society consider just, consider our concept of fair. Think about what you learnt about fairness as a child. The RIAA pulls in so much money every year, rips off musicians left and right, that it seem absurd that they can claim the moral and legal high ground.

What about Richard O'Dwyer who is being extradited to the US for a crime that isn't even illegal in the UK and is also a gross misuse of the extradition agreement the US and UK signed, that had to do with issues of national security and international security? Richard O'Dwyer linked, yes linked, copyrighted material on his website. That's it. Is this fair? If someone can show me the paperwork that outlines how much damage he has done, featuring a wonderful conversion of dollars into the freedoms of a human being, maybe I might reconsider, but I doubt the damage he has done, if any, is even worth calculating. This is legal absurdity at its worst.

Carl G. Gustavson says that power is balanced in a democracy by the existence of different organizations that oppose each other, which stops one gaining a clear and dangerous upper hand (take for example how the actions of the Chamber of Commerce was/is balanced out by the actions of The American Federation of Labor). Who opposes the RIAA and all these copyright nazis? Which organisation stands for the right of humans to download a few songs and not suffer the unjust consequences for the rest of their mortal lives?  The actions of the RIAA are a moral travesty, and it is an out of touch organization that deserves no respect.

Finally, I truly believe that copyright is not a thing that protects my right to earn loads of cash, but something that means my work will not be copied without my permission, that I will not be a victim of intellectual property theft. It means no one will make profit off of sheer laziness, it means no one will credit the Theory of Relativity to anyone but Einstein. It should not be a mechanism by which individuals are sued for money they do not possess by corporations scared of a phenomena they cannot control. It should not be a mechanism that means only the wealthy can afford essential medicines for morbid diseases. It is a mechanism to protect the intellectual rights of inventors and creators and thinkers; to allow credit where credit is due, to enforce fairness and justice, not to spread unfairness and injustice.

If you wish to know more about these things watch this , even though I think he is being paranoid he does provide quite a few links to various sources, making it a good reference point and gateway to educating yourself on these issues. If you wish to sign a petition to stop/reverse the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer, click here.

And if you wish to make difference, do as Dio once said: stand up and shout.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Poetry and Lyrics, Emotion and Impact

For a great deal of people music is incredibly important. It seems to be woven into almost every single culture that has ever existed. We are a musical species, more so than any of the others that display musical tendencies (think birds), and as music has developed through the ages and we have become more emotional unstable and whiny, lyrics have become increasingly important. Now, for the most part one can consider lyrics and poetry to be quite functionally similar, and anyone who doesn't agree needs to read some of ISIS' lyrics, which are rather brilliant, if not a little abstract.

However there are some important differences between lyrics and poetry and one of them I really want to highlight. Lyrics can really pack a punch, emotionally, in a way that poetry cannot. I do not mean to suggest that poetry is unemotional, I mean that lines that would seem cliche and silly in poetry can be pulled off lyrically, due to one important difference: lyrics are sung.

I imagine it has been suggested that poetry can change when it is read to an audience, which would hark back to the idea of art in performance, or the reason plays, and some band's live music, keep changing. The intonation of the voice, shouting or whispering, the tone one uses can all change the impact and power of words.

Take, for example, the climatic lines of The Nation Blue's song Blueprint for Heartache:

This summer's day,
Is just for you,
The sun burns the sky light blue,
I hope I die,
before you do,
Cause I can't live without you

Reading that, it sounds lame and whiny and cliche. But here, have a listen (I'm not gonna tell where these lines are located, because I do want you to hear the whole song).. Now, regardless of if you like The Nation Blue or not, I think you would have a hard time arguing that those lines work better written down than sung.

So what is it here that makes these lines work, have impact and affect people emotionally? Sincerity. When Tom Lyngcoln sings those lines, he might be being cliche, but he fucking means it. You can tell, he really does hope he dies before you, because he really does think he can't live without you.

This is the golden quality that poetry, when read in the mind's eye, can rarely convey. If you say or sing something cliche, but mean it, it has effect. If you write something cliche, well how the hell are you suppose to show that you mean it? The situation is a little more tricky, and perhaps that means affecting and moving poets are more talented than affecting and moving lyricists, but then again, no one ever taught you how to write lyrics at school. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Pretentious Dicks

This is a blog. This is a bLog. This is a bLoG. THis is a bLoG. THis Is a bLoG. THis Is a bLOG. THis IS a bLOG. THis IS A bLOG. THis IS A BLOG. THIs IS A BLOG. THIS IS A BLOG.

I think I have made my point. Being the pretentious dick that I am,  this first post will be all about the wonderful concept of opinion.

We live in an age when anyone can put their opinion up, as I am doing now. Now, there is nothing wrong with an opinion, until you try to hold it against facts that directly counter your opinion, and this where it gets interesting. It is fair to say the internet is not a moderated debating forum. No doubt debates and arguments from the philosophical to the completely absurd erupt all over the internet, across the social media sites and blogs, on youtube and facebook, via emails and instant messages. However these debates tend to be closed in a sense, two people doing nothing more than butting heads. In the realm of virtual words, It is easy to leave a debate you are losing, easy to keep your ways, to say something and not provide evidence; much easier than in the "real" world at least.

So what does this mean? It means that I encourage everyone who may ever read this, to take their fiery debates over the internet, and transfer them to real life. Discourse is the root of progress, ideas lead to innovation, innovation to a better society (or so we hope). Stop talking about the weather during lunch, argue backing with the man on the soap box declaring that it is the end of times, join a debating team, write for an opinion column (as long as it's not inane. ah fuck it, do what you want). And when you do this in real life, listen. Choose discussions and discourse over shouting matches. Closed ears create closed minds, and there is always something you do not know that someone else does. Through equal, constant, and reasonable discourse, you will be amazed and what you can learn, about yourself, others and the world. Perhaps. Unless all your friends are dumbasses. Then you have different problem.

Of course, you can debate the above impetus I have given, but then you're just being a pretentious dick.