If your friend gives you a mix tape, is it “piracy just between friends?” When a stranger gives you a mix tape, have you entered a completely different ethical universe?
The video jukebox on my TV showed a famous quote on piracy from the Barenaked Ladies, saying “”When the Gap went online, T-shirts didn’t become free.” This is undoubtedly true, and I need to remember to keep my anti-authoritarian instincts in check when I see rockers, who I expect to be rebels, saying things about obeying the rules. (And no, I would not really call the Barenaked Ladies rockers…)
But what makes interactions among strangers categorically different than interactions among friends? If I host a party and make a “Jed’s Party ’04” mix tape as a party gift, is that categorically different than creating a free download site with all my iTunes playlists?
Is friendship a private space, with some penumbra of implied safety from surveillance or prosecution, like the untaxed tip passed from patron to doorman in a quick handshake? Do the weaker ties of affinity not carry the same implied mores of privacy?
All this only came up because I was watching the Music Choice channels on cable. And I only get this commercial-free music because I pay for my cable service. Am I paying for a privilege non-subscribers can’t get without breaking the law, or is subscription so different from ownership that the analagy collapses? It certainly feels like ownership after you’ve heard “My Happy Ending” and “She Will Be Loved” twice each in less than 3 hours.
Speaking of which, the Maroon 5 site has a pop-up asking you to vote for their hit tune on MTV’s TRL. Talk about “network-driven” advocacy.
… but of course the Maroon 5 promo 404s when you try to follow it. Par for the careening course of digital progress.

1 Comment

  1. Well, there are some differences here. Giving a mix tape to friends is probably just as illegal as giving a mix tape to a stranger. There is something called fair use, which allows you to make a “reasonable” number of copies for yourself (think copying a CD to cassette to play in your car), and I think you’d be much better off trying to argue fair use if you’re giving a mix tape to a friend, but either way you’re not acting legally. The thing with giving the mix tape to your friend, though, is that your friend may be more likely to take your advice in music and buy a CD by an artist s/he likes whose song you placed on the mix tape. This last piece may be why artists like Jim’s Big Ego are starting to use Creative Commons Licenses, which say, go ahead and share my work, but my name better be on it.
    In terms of sharing your playlist versus distributing an “event CD,” well, the distribution of the CD is illegal (unless of course you licensed all the songs or legally recorded them at a concert that allows such activity). Playlist sharing, though, is not illegal, because you’re not actually letting people download files. When I sit down in the library and pop open my laptop, the dozen or so people who have sharing turned on for the iTunes or Winamp playlists show up in my iTunes. I can listen to the playlists, but not copy the files to my hard drive or write them to CD.
    Oh, and someone must have heard you, because the link from the Maroon 5 site to TRL is no longer broken.

Comments are closed.