Wednesday, 2 November 2011

“Don’t steal music”– Townshend

imageIllegal downloaders of Rihana and Lady Gaga were pinged overnight by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ), who asked Internet Service Providers to send copyright infringement notices to 42 customers that the association has accused of internet piracy.

The first of many such notices that will be sent out as a reward for stealing music.

Almost at the same time, The Who's Pete Townshend used his inaugural John Peel Lecture in Salford, England to attack illegal music downloaders as thieves, which they are, and Apple as

a "digital vampire" that is "bleeding" artists and "destroying copyright as we know it.”

Townshend, who first began dreaming about the internet back in 1971, urges Apple's iTunes “to use its power to help new bands” in a similar manner to the late John Peel, and the independent record labels he helped champion.

But he reserved the greater part of his ire for today’s bedroom pirates who demand a right to the fruits of his and his colleague’s labour without paying for it.  Townshend, who has deservedly earned a small fortune from royalties, concedes that many a creative person much earlier in their career than he “would prefer their music to be stolen and enjoyed than ignored.”

This is the dilemma for every creative soul – he or she would prefer to starve and be heard than to eat well and be ignored.”

It is not them he blames (far from it) but the thieves, the pirates, the the music “fans” who illegally download music and starve those they claim to admire. Says Townshend, accurately:

They may as well come and steal my son's bike while they're at it… I wonder what has gone wrong with human morality and social justice."

Here’s The Who:

The Who - Music Must Change 1979  (posted by IvorTheEngineDriver)


  1. I don't really understand his hatred of Apple/iTunes? They offer artists a far better deal than traditional models, don't lock artists in to exclusive contracts (so far as I am aware), and provide pretty massive exposure. I don't see why he equates them with illegal downloading? It ain't free!

  2. I don't get his Apple point either. AC/DC don't like iTunes, so they choose not to use iTunes to sell their music. The Who catalog and Pete's solo material is available on iTunes. Maybe Pete doesn't own all of his publishing and is upset about that.


  3. It's not that he's equating Apple with illegal downloaders. Not at all.

    If I understand his point (not to say I agree with it), it's that once upon a time an A&R department would sign a young band and groom them and promote them to success--whereas Apple just sells their stuff without any of that stuff that, ironically, bands once used to complain about.

  4. Less people are paying for music, but more are paying to go and see musicians live in concert.

    This is how it should be, particularly considering the music
    industry uses cartel-like behaviour.

  5. @V: "Fewer people are paying for music," (i.e. more people are stealing it instead)...

    "This is how it should be..."

    Yes, thanks for making your opinion on theft very clear.

  6. My apologies for the completely OT question PC, but I've been trying to find a video that you posted on the libertarian view of requiring a father to pay child support, my google has failed me :/

    I think it was probably a few years ago that you posted it. If you could track it down I'd be grateful, but if it's too much trouble I'll try again on my own.

  7. Yes it is wrong to download but it is also absurd that recording companies try to force the world to abide by 20th century distribution mechanisms while failing to provide a useable alternative.

    In effect the music world has reverted to a pre 1877 state before the phonograph was invented when people paid to watch musicians perform.

  8. Ahh, if only there was music worth buying. I have been known to download the odd album online to 'try' it. Usually if I like it, I'll buy it, and on CD more often than not (I like having something in my hand with the booklet etc).

    It's been a while though since there's been anything worth listening to.

  9. There is a case for trying before you buy. I have downloaded, for example, Floating Into The Night by Julee Cruise because no shop had it. I bought her other CD when I saw it. (Easy listening, 6/10)

    Is buying from Real Groovy immoral too as it too deprives the copyright owner?

    I bought The Fountainhead DVD after first downloading a low bit version.

    That makes it moral, btw, at the point amends are in fact made.

    Townsend remains a dinosaur. I never bought anything by The Who.

    Artists such as Prince or Radiohead understand the modern business model.

    And that is that, for almost nothing in promotion costs an artist can come from nowhere and if they are popular enough can make more money than under a typical stale record company arrangement. In which many seemingly successful artists were not making money because the upfront money had to be payed back. So they were forced to live performance to pay it back. Unwitting slaves.

  10. For the last time, 'illegal downloading is NOT THEFT its copyright infringement!!!
    Stealing a bike is theft- a Crime under the Crimes Act 1961, illegally downloading music is copyright infringement under the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011- not a crime- a civil matter.

  11. Anon,

    Theft is the taking of another's property without their consent. The form of that property, whether it be a bike, a CD, or a music download, does not alter the immoral act that has occured.

    That is why taxation is theft, even though it is legal. It is the forced taking of one's property at the point of a gun (i.e. without the victim's consent).

  12. @PC

    No problem.
    But please explain to me how it is that a drug company who makes a completely new product only has patent rights for 10 years. Whereas a musician has copyright for 70+.

    Also you fail to explain why a cartel should be protected by the state?

  13. Amazing - those accusing others of "stealing" music (Metallica, Collio, etc) are themselves taking (STEALING!) CLASSICAL songs and making them "their" works.

    There are over 473 R&B, Rap, Metal, and Pop songs that are DIRECTLY from CLASSICAL songs. NOW who's stealing??

    I am a Classical musician, so don't try to fool me, Townsend (and others)!

  14. "Is buying from Real Groovy immoral too as it too deprives the copyright owner?"

    I borrowed this argument from a friend and it doesn't stack up.

    The first use paid the copyright.

  15. PC: you seriously need to get your head out of your arse on this subject.

    Julian: Theft is the taking of another's property without their consent.

    Precisely...hence "copyright violation" is not theft, since no actual property is involved.

  16. Theft is the taking of another's property without their consent.

    Good thing downloading music doesn't involve "taking" anything, then. To use the example of a bike, it's analogous to using a universal fabricator to create an exact duplicate of someone else's bike. In the end, the original possessor has a bike, and you have a bike. Likewise with downloading music. To quote Thomas Jefferson:

    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

    The "light" analogy is also a good one. From here:

    I, for one, am glad to see justice finally served. I mean, think about it. You go through all the work to create a fire, and someone comes up to your fire and pokes a stick in it. They can then walk away, having stolen your fire, and use it for anything. Say they use it to light the ore smelter at a metals processing plant. They'd be making millions off of your fire without having to give you a DIME!

    Such a "copyfire" would meet the property right test that PC has approvingly linked to in the past. If such a thing were implemented, PC, would it be a legitimate form of property, and hence would poking a stick in someone else's campfire constitute "stealing" their fire?

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. There's no intellectual input into the fire itself (as opposed to the making of it), as it is a natural chemical reaction that can arise spontaneously in certain conditions, and can be repeated in lots of different ways with the same effect.

    There *is* intellectual input into the unique creation that is a copyrighted work.

    Fire is more accurately comparable to the notes that make up a piece of music, which aren't copyrightable, versus the particular arrangement of them, which is.

    Perhaps you should think more carefully before putting forward examples that you know aren't analageous to support a point that is indefensible with reasonable logic.

  19. Why should there be "intellectual input"? If I create a fire, that fire is mine. If I hock up a ball of phlegm, would you deny that it's my property simply because there's no "intellectual input"? When I rub two sticks together to make fire, I've made something new and unique. If someone pokes a stick in it, they've copied my fire. Why shouldn't I have the right to stop them doing it?

  20. a point that is indefensible with reasonable logic.

    There's the important word: "reasonable logic", as opposed to just "logic", where of course "reasonable" is defined to mean "agrees with whatever wild notions I feel ought to be right." And logic that isn't "reasonable," well, we can just ignore that.

  21. Bizarro, your fire isn't unique, clearly, which is my point.

    Greg, perhaps you'd like to put forward an argument, rather than just abusing someone because you don't have anything useful to say.

  22. twr: perhaps you'd like to read the argument Stephan Kinsella makes in Against Intellectual Property and save me some typing...

  23. Murder isn't theft. It's murder.


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