Digital Music

Lily Allen Babbles On Piracy And Muse’s Matt Bellamy Responds

In recent days, UK singer Lily Allen has spoken out against piracy making arguments as if this debate just started

Lily Allen right big "The internet is the most amazing thing, but it should be OUR thing, and ironically piracy is just playing into the hands of the corporations….

It's not fair to steal peoples material, I know it's art and it has no physical value but even Shakespeare had shares in The Globe Theatre. People will lose their jobs…  Please, please, please…buy a c.d. or album off itunes if you really like it, and god help us, keep buying books . If we do this, i really think we can make a difference."

On Wednesday, Matt Bellamy. the lead singer of Muse wrote Allen a more sophisticated response and suggested a broadband tax.

Muse Matt "My current opinion is that file sharing is now the norm.  This cannot be changed without an attack on perceived civil liberties which will never go down well.  The problem is that the ISPs making the extreme profits (due to millions of broadband subscriptions) are not being taxed by the copyright owners correctly and this is a legislation issue. (more)

Radio stations and TV stations etc have to pay the copyright owners (both recording and publishing) a fee for using material they do not own.  ISPs should have to pay in the same way with a collection agency like PRS doing the monitoring and calculations based on encoded (but freely downloaded) data.  Broadband makes the internet essentially the new broadcaster.  This is the point which is being missed.

"Also, usage should have a value.  Someone who just checks email uses minimal bandwidth, but someone who downloads 1 gig per day uses way more, but at the moment they pay the same.  It is clear which user is hitting the creative industries and it is clear which user is not, so for this reason, usage should also be priced accordingly. The end result will be a taxed, monitored ISP based on usage which will ensure both the freedom of the consumer and the rights of the artists – the loser will be the ISP who will probably have to increase subscription costs to compensate, but the user will have the freedom to choose between checking a few emails (which will cost far less than a current monthly subscription) and downloading tons of music and film (which will cost probably a bit more than current subscription, but not that much more)."

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47 Comments

  1. Bellamy’s response is based on the false assumption that *everyone* with an internet connection is file sharing. What a tool……..

  2. I see a few problems with Matt Bellamy’s proposal. First, the usage tax would apply to both heavy piraters and those that use ad-supported or paid streaming/downloading services (unless perhaps it was only on uploads?). That will contribute to a general sense of unfairness and bitterness: if I start paying $20 per month to BMI/ASCAP/PRS for piracy I don’t commit, then why shouldn’t I start? Why would I buy music ever again, if I’m already being charged for it? I’m not being sarcastic or facetious: I would certainly start bittorrenting music if I had to pay the ‘piracy tax’ regardless. Also, my (perhaps uninformed) impression is that BMI and ASCAP statistics are heavily-biased towards major label artists — sales reported by soundscan vs. those ‘off-the-grid’ — which makes life a little bit tougher for the indie artist.

  3. The ISP tax is the more “sophisticated” option?
    How come musicians and publishers have such a hard time figuring out how to create business models that don’t require a f’ing law being passed? It’s stunning to me that this is considered normal.

  4. Absolutely right. What killed me in Bellamy’s example was — GRAPHIC DESIGN, YOU JACKASS. My friends who are designers move 10-50 gigs per month over their internet connection and IT IS ALL WORK. They’re not stealing from your label, they’re trying to make a living.
    There’s thousands of other examples, including managers, label heads, and producers.

  5. Yes, Mr Bellamy has really oversimplified things… Record labels and graphic designers use a lot of bandwidth to transmit files legally. And what about things like Netflix streaming, where people are already paying for the service and only streaming legal videos?
    Also, as noted above, smaller indie artists and labels won’t get a fair share of any such tax, so they will be hit doubly hard, as people continue to download their music and assume that they are getting well paid for it.

  6. shorter justin boland “sure, illegal activity has destroyed musicians ability to make a living through no fault of their own but god, why don’t hey just invent, like, something new to make money? god!”
    thanks, justin for this brilliant distillation of a ridiculously complex situation. why didn’t any of us, admittedly, stupid musicians ever think of something like that before??? if i were you i’d expect a lot of “justin boland” tribute songs soon…
    (oh btw, for those of you not as thick as justin, people look to pass new laws when the old ones that were intended to limit/prohibit illegal activity prove unable to do so. happens, oh, i dunno, ALL THE TIME.)

  7. Kassin: actually, no. The United States government threw in the towel on the prohibition of alcohol — possibly the best comparison to the file sharing activity of today.
    The government also threw in the towel on the 55 mile per hour speed limit. They’re in the process of throwing in the towel on the prohibition of marijuana, though that one is slowly evolving.
    When some percentage of the population wants to do something, in a relatively free society, laws against it become pointless.
    But this is an opportunity to bring up a thought experiment. I propose: The government will take (unspecified but effective) action to shut down illegal file sharing. In exchange, the music business will enact universal pee-testing to shut down illegal drug use. Everyone in the music biz found to be using illegal drugs will be kicked out — contracts cancelled, fired, recordings deleted. Also, all recordings celebrating such activity will be deleted. (Maybe we should get the whole catalog of such artists, just to be sure.) ๐Ÿ™‚
    Or, in other words, the business that brought us sex’n’drugs’rock’n’roll looks pretty pathetic and hypocritical, appealing to law.

  8. The concept of intellectual property exists purely by law. In other words, it is an artificial human creation, built to balance the incentive to create and the usefulness of having things in the public domain. Either extreme is obviously detrimental (e.g., Shakespeare getting royalties vs. me being able to sell copies of someone else’s book under my name). The problem is that the current laws largely predate the computer, let alone digital media — hence mp3s being classified as “mechanical reproductions”, a la 1890s cylinder phonographs. Music (and all media) are able to exist in a meaningful form because of copyright protections, and so your comment about “business models that don’t require a f’ing law being passed” seems pretty unfair, given the completely antiquated laws we do have. I’m not saying that I agree with any of the proposals being put forth by the industry and performers’ groups, but some sort of rethinking of copyright law is sorely needed.

  9. I’m really not worried about these kind of comments from either artists because they are never going to get any traction.
    Others have already made the most important points which were: A)A broadband tax will be grossly unfair to both consumers and artists, and B) In a democratic society, a highly unpopular law is simply unenforceable in a practical sense.
    Distribution of data (and therefore music) is now free in every sense of the word. (both too cheap to meter and unable to be controlled). All of these pleas, threats, tantrums and posturing from industry and artists are not going to change this.
    If you think legislation is going to make the difference, then see point B above. The only reason this ever worked in the past is because possession is 9/10ths of the law. Possession is now irrelevant in music distribution and the remaining 1/10th is just pissing into the wind.
    Artists who adapt to this fact and find alternative ways to monetise their art are going to succeed, and those who don’t are going to fade away.

  10. Thanks for the venom.
    My point is simply that passing laws is a very lazy solution. I’ve been making money off my music through “work” and I was suggesting that y’all do the same.
    I’m not a part of any publishing organizations because I’m familiar with their history and I would like to see them end. Hypebot has faithfully chronicled for years now the fact that publishing companies are the albatross that’s killing the industry.

  11. How so? “Someone who just checks email uses minimal bandwidth, but someone who downloads 1 gig per day uses way more, but at the moment they pay the same. It is clear which user is hitting the creative industries”, he says right here that there are at least two distinct users on the internet, the second being the one who file shares.

  12. Lily Allen is correct. I understand that this site is predicated on the concept that theft is not theft, hence your dismissal of her comments as “babbling.” But theft is, in fact, theft. The fact that you spend your days justifying this fact doesn’t disprove it.

  13. Why don’t you think it’s reasonable for an artist to suggest to her fans that they pay for her music rather than steal it?

  14. At no point did I make any judgement on what Lilly can or can’t ask from her fans. All of my points pertained to what is PRACTICAL.
    Any artist, like any business can ask whatever price they want for their product. But if they actually want people to buy then the price is going to have to take the current state of the market into account.

  15. We (well me, at least) are not trying to deny that theft is theft, we have just come to the conclusion that the moral question is largely irrelevant in relation to how the future is going to be shaped.
    Once again, not because we want it to be irrelevant, or we want music to be free, but simply because that’s the way it is.
    All the moralising in the world is NOT going to put the Internet genie back in the bottle.
    I would characterise the position of the proponents of “Music 2.0” (for want of a beter term) as one of a PRAGMATIC search for a new way to monetise music in a world where there is no practical way to control the distribution of data.

  16. That safemedia product is a firewall type of product. It stops P2P being used through the connection it is deployed on.
    It does not stop illegal downloading “out there” (so to speak) so it’s completely irrelevant to the issue of music piracy at large.

  17. Lily Allen was taking the current state of the market into account. Illegal file sharing is just that: illegal. It is not part of the “market.”

  18. Is there a practical way to control the distribution of your personal financial and health records? The distribution of information regarding national security? Of course. It may be a challenge to work out an appropriate system of fines, ISP policing, etc., but certainly it can be done.
    As for the idea that “moralizing” is not going to put the genie back in the bottle, I am not sure I agree. What I would say is that if a generation is told that illegal file sharing is acceptable, they will come to believe it. This entire discourse is predicated on two ideas. One, that illegal file sharing cannot be minimized, and the other, that because it has become prevalent, it is not immoral (or even if it is, those who do it somehow are not).
    I refuse to concede the idea that the moral question is irrelevant. Proponents of what I like to call “Music 3.0” call for the re-education of a generation so that they can understand the difference between acting with integrity and stealing.

  19. Bellamay’s response is still ridiculous Mike. Someone who does a lot of legal streaming (YouTube, Spotify, We7, LastFM) would also get hit hard, just so ‘creatives’ can get paid.
    Before anyone goes into any industry they need to make sure it’s commercially viable for them to be in. Ironically that statement applies as much to YouTube’s PRS agreement as it does to creatives expecting to get paid by people who are not consuming their material.

  20. Those are both terrible analogies (financial/medical info and gov secrets) because they are both about a very short reaching distribution of data to a small set of very well known people. (100 points of ID!)
    This is the exact opposite of how anyone would want to distribute music and the very factors that make it opposite contribute hugely to it’s safety.
    I guess this is the exact point where you and I differ. You just don’t yet realise how incredibly intractable a problem this really is.
    I’ve been a computer geek all my life and worked in the web programming industry for 10 years. My conclusions are based on solid technical knowledge, NOT just wishful thinking to support a rebellious ideaology.
    And for the record, my interest in this blog comes from being an artist who will be releasing his debut EP sometime in the first half of next year, so I’m not just a loud moutherd punter on the sidelines who wants everything for free, I have a horse in this race too.

  21. One downside to subscription models is that artists may ask their friends and fans to send or play their music multiple times or continuously in order to get their play time or play count increased and get more royalties.
    It is like those McDonalds contests where the rules say employees can’t participate. There is no similar rule for the subscription models.

  22. The point that Lily Allen makes is that developing artists are not being sustained by the false “innovation” of file bartering. Artists who were already established prior to about 2004 or so (give or take) had benefited from the music industry as it existed when there was an actual market with rules. A fundamental aspect of a market is enforceable property rights–absent these there can be no market.
    Even if there were a broadband tax, there would be no accurate way to divide the money among new and established artists–so it would be a fight amongst those who could afford to argue (established artists) and those who could not (new artists). Guess who wins that fight?
    The argument that those who choose to crush the economic liberties of artists need to have their own “civil liberties” to steal protected is simply absurd on its face.
    These arguments about broadband tax, ISPs collecting a small monthly fee from users, etc., are all sooooo 1999. Lily Allen actually had a new idea–stand up to the corrosive effects of file bartering and save British music.
    It’s not hard to compete with free–it’s hard to compete with stolen.

  23. I agree 100% that theft is theft, just like murder is murder. But nobody is going to put a stop to war, and nobody is going to stop file-sharing either. It’s a computationally intractable problem, folks. As long as digital files are used to “play music” they can be copied, re-recorded, and shared.
    The only possible “solutions” are absurdly limited hardware options that no consumer would buy…unless you made everything else illegal.

  24. Chris: I fail to see what’s new in Lily Allen’s idea — people were trying to get consumers to ‘see the light’ about illegal sharing well before P2P was born (go check out the ‘don’t copy that floppy’ video from 1992). The analogy to marijuana is, from a societal perspective, pretty apt: clumsy PSAs, draconian law enforcement (DMCA, RIAA lawsuits, the Rockefeller laws), de-norming efforts, etc. ‘Re-education’ on a large scale is an almost impossible task.
    We’re all arguing for the same thing: getting fans to pay for music. The question is how. I think that the role of the artist isn’t to make broad, often accusatory statements like Lily Allen or Metallica before her, but to work on the micro level by establishing some sort of connection with fans. The goal is two-fold, both creating some sort community that fans are willing to pay for in order to feel a part of, and of creating a moral imperative: ‘hey, i like this person, i know she’s working hard to make the music i love, and now i’d feel like a dick stealing it’. Should consumers feel like a dick stealing any music? Of course. But most don’t and never will. Not until they ‘know’ an artist who is depending on that income.

  25. Hey, Sam. I hope your EP is a huge success. As for the examples of medical records and government secrets, my point was not that these are analogous to music files. I was just countering the idea that there is no practical way to control the dissemination of data. I get what you’re saying, but my point was that steps can still be taken to minimize data theft (i.e. “sharing”). Further, individuals who steal and the ISPs that facilitate that theft can be punished. Obviously, all crime cannot be eliminated.
    One reason that I am sanguine is that in fact, many people DO chose to purchase rather than steal music. Anyone with a computer can easily grab music illegally, but many still choose to go to iTunes and pay for what they take. Some may like the value-added benefits that iTunes offers, but many may actually have the integrity to want to pay for what they take.
    I am all for people choosing to adapt to a changing marketplace, and certainly one must be pragmatic. At the same time, I have not given up on the idea of education. A generation of music fans literally don’t understand that illegal file sharing is theft. I am not willing to concede that this cannot change.
    You suggest that you and I differ because I am ignorant of how difficult it is to control file sharing and stop the theft. I disagree. I conceded that it is difficult. I get it, it’s easy to steal files. It is also easy to bash an old lady over the head and take her money, yet most people choose to work instead.
    I think that sites like this are fine, and again, I am all for creative ways to maximize artist revenue. But I will continue to reject the idea that music theft is so easy that we should simply accept it.

  26. In both 1920’s Prohibition and today’s copyright laws, the laws are being ignored by very large numbers — tens of millions — of otherwise-upstanding citizens. And, in both cases, enforcement is not changing behavior.

  27. Interesting comparison. It’s really not so much the laws, then, that are analogous, as it is the behavior in response to those laws. I think it might be more apt to compare the theft of music with shoplifting, which is also pandemic and is also often done by otherwise “upstanding” citizens.

  28. It’s not irrelevant if it’s employed at the ISP level – meaning that you wouldn’t be able to download stuff except from legal sites. It is technically possible and very simple.

  29. Neither of these artists is legally able to price or sell their own product…Hens the opinions they put forth. If they weren’t both tied to sinking ships that require an obscene degree of ambition and truckloads of cash to operate then they would have a more realistic POV.
    Sell your own product, make your own money and you won’t need to worry about the geopolitics of copyright law, ISP taxes, or violating anyones civil liberties.
    brendan b brown
    wheatus.com

  30. That’s quite a point you have there. If people who don’t do illegal downloading also get charged as a consequence of the people who do, these people might be tempted to do it anyway.
    There’s an example in the book by Dan Ariely “Predictably Irrational”. Parents were often late picking up children at a daycare center. This made the daycare come up with a solution to charge parents that were late. The outcome? Parents started coming even later than usual, because now they evaluate it based on market value, not social value. They weight the amount they have to spend versus the time they have to give.
    I wonder if the same would happen if broadband tax were applied?

  31. Hey Justin,
    Yes I agree. With all this discussion and debate around music, images or graphics get sidelined. I wonder why I’ve never heard of the term “pirated images”? I’m pretty sure that a lot of people just search images in Google and then use those images for their blogs or e-zines without noticing whether there’s a copyright on it or not.
    Because blogs are kind of commercial too you know, so the use of copyrighted images on a commercial blog is kind of a morally ambiguous issue for me. I mean, I don’t see these commercial blogs putting up full music on their posts right? But the pictures, they get me thinking.
    Thankfully there’s Flickr now, and the Creative Commons option. But there are still “pirated images” going around.
    What’s your take?
    Cheers,

  32. There was another post somewhere, or maybe it was here that also mentioned comparing music theft with shoplifting.
    But, the penalty for music theft is much more significant than shoplifting.
    True.

  33. Well, back in the days when recorded music first arrived on the scene, musicians objected to it. At the time how they got paid was by playing live venues. And since there were no records, people had to come to these venues to listen to music.
    Then recording technology showed up. The musicians argued that if people could listen to music anytime they want, what reason would they have to come to a live performance? I think the musicians tried to fight it out pretty hard, like how artists today are fighting the modern music consumption trend (if everybody could get it for free, why would anyone want to buy?)
    As we all know, records only made the music industry much much bigger. It even provided artists with a passive income model, based on performance royalties of their records.
    Why bring this up? I think that we’re at another turning point for the industry. Much like how recording technology was alien to musicians back in the day (I think it was circa 1920’s), digital distribution and online presence is still alien to musicians today. It seems that we need to develop a new paradigm, that might abandon the FREE debate and also the COPYRIGHT debate altogether and come up with a completely original solution.
    Regardless, the music industry is only getting bigger. Heck, even here in my home country where the piracy rate is at 85%, almost every major television network has a music special show (sometimes even twice or three times a day). If most of the audience download music illegally, then I wonder where the profit comes from to fund all this promotion? Obviously, there is a larger picture that we need to see.
    I also think that the FREE versus COPYRIGHT debate is a rude awakening to musicians. Now we need to create good quality and engaging music that provides value to our fan base and other consumers, more than ever. There are already too many things demanding people’s attention in this network economy. With all the choices available, why should people listen to my music? What’s in it for them? Why should they spend their hard earned resources if all they get is another mediocre record?
    Change is always fun I say. I think we should make like surfers and ride the waves, with grace and style.
    Cheers,

  34. At the risk of sounding like another “musician,” one can’t break this issue down in a concise matter on a short response here. At this point, an ISP tax seems to be the logical short term solution. For Lily Allen to beg her fans to buy CD’s and download from itunes sounds like spilt milk to me. Why should I care about those at EMI who lose their jobs any more than the ones that lost their jobs at the company that marketed 3.5 inch floppy disks. Economic evolution is at work here. There is a place for the “music business” but now that consumers dictate how they consume music, artists and labels will simply need to supply it in a way that can be monitized. You guys can debate this but unfortunately for us all, the paradigm will never land in a place where this all makes sense. Technology will always be 2 steps ahead and the consumer 1 step ahead of the slow moving “BIZ.”

  35. Hmmm filesharers ARE part of the market, recent surveys suggest people who pirate are the ones who consume and spend the most

  36. David and the RIAA want to reeducate the youth. What was once considered illegal and immoral is no longer considered as such. Marijuana was once legal, then made illegal, and is now decriminalized in certain places. Victorian era sexual codes have ‘eroded’ and we now have different standards. I’m not suggesting a liberal or conservative platform, but simply noting that laws are an instrument of society. To say that file sharing is immoral is an opinion. Legality is a loose parallel at best. Lawyers turn will into instruments and then into law. Lawyers must pass an ethics exam proving that ethics do not interfere with the ability to practice law. Please, lecture me on integrity, morals, ethics, and the law. I will get around to you as soon as I’m done with the ‘no dancing’ legislation.

  37. I use a lot of bandwidth because I work form home and my job requires large data files. I already pay more for internet than the guy who just checks e-mail because I pay for the premium high speed option from my ISP. I don’t download music or videos because I’m just not that interested in them. Why should I pay a tax to support music I don’t like and have no interest in?

  38. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m thinking — people would view it as essentially a mandatory subscription service. Why pay for music twice?

  39. Piracy can never be fully stopped.
    The only thing you can do is fight it!
    You start by checking pirate bay and other torrents.
    Another thing you can do is to encrypt music cd’s so people cannot copy material from cd to computer!

  40. Like someone said in response to Matt Bellamy, if you work freelance on the web / in digtal design, you’re moving enormous amounts of data around for your work. There are probably many other examples where perfectly legal high bandwidth usage is necessary – in normal jobs, such as those that don’t involve being in Muse. Should you be effectively taxed twice?
    Also Matt Bellamy has a jetpack and lives in a solid gold house (probably) so, please, come on.

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