Free Art. Free Music. Pissed off Musicians.

"I think that's a soup kitchen over there"

There’s an interesting discussion going on in – of all places- Germany. The recent rise of the ‘Pirate Party‘ has created a rather heated confrontation between ‘content creators’ (although they prefer to call themselves authors) and the generation that grew up with all of the content that they ever wanted at their fingertips (whether it is via youtube or via illegal file sharing). The whole long burning discussion has gained some urgency with the success of the Pirate Party in two state parliaments. Their manifesto reads:

“[..]we demand not only legalisation, but the explicit encouragement of non-commercial copying, saving, using and accessing of content.”

Now if I were an artist, I would find that quite offensive. I am happy to admit that I have done my fair share of downloading in the early days of the net (with then advent of Napster) but since Apple and Amazon have made it so easy to get hold of legal content, I am happy to pay my share of for the works of my favourite artists. I have a few friends whose livelihood depends on their fans paying for the years they spent in a studio, and I can understand their fury about the proliferation of their blood, sweat and tears on illegal download sites. The digital environment of course gives you a plethora of choices how to distribute your content. I marvelled at Radiohead’s guts to premiere ‘In Rainbows’ as a ‘pay what you like’ download but their success certainly vindicated their decision, but how many bands can actually buy their toast and jam from schemes like this.


If you encourage the free distribution of any content, then you will have to accept that all artists will have to become part-time artists, as it is unlikely that the vast majority would be able to live off the fees that people would voluntarily pay. With other words, the amazing breadth of art that the internet is currently showcasing would shrivel and become the domain of the amateurs and the wealthy.

I think the ‘pirates’ have a policy gap there.

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