I’m early for my interview with Chris Ruen, author of Freeloading: How Our Insatiable Hunger for Free Content Starves Creativity, and going over my notes at the bar. Eventually I circle one question from my list, the inquiry I kept penning into the margins of my review copy: why do people believe music should be free?
Ruen never thought about the ethics surrounding downloading until he was directly confronted with the reverberations of its impact. He got a job slinging coffee in his Brooklyn neighborhood and began serving many of the local artists that filled your iPod a decade ago. Up until that point, like most of us, he had never thought much about the ethics behind downloading. It wasn’t until he began hearing their stories, the inability of many popular musicians to make ends meet, that he began realizing the contours of the debate were completely skewed. “I pirated hundreds of songs during my college years,” he writes, “but I sensed disposability and devaluation infecting my relationship with music.”
Ruen’s book is a detailed look at his own personal relationship with the music industry, as well as an investigation into how and why our culture views the practice as it does. He interviews the very artists whose lives influenced his shift in thinking. “I don’t know why the angry armchair quarterbacks would pick this issue,” the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn tells Ruen, “…music is being separated from the rest of commerce.”
Of course it’s great that so many different kinds of music are now readily available and people around the world can be readily exposed to them, but what about all the great bands who were forced to break up, over the course of the last decade, because they couldn’t afford to keep making music? Why do indie-rock fans, and websites, loudly celebrate Record Store Day, instead of simply encouraging people to buy more records? You vote with your dollar, the saying goes and, yet, the cliché holds no weight in the modern music industry.
Ruen believes the downloading phenomenon begins with an original sin and, subsequent, shoddy media analysis. “Napster wasn’t a company based upon revolution or innovation," he writes. "It was based upon opportunism, employing the legal protections of copyright when it suited them, ignoring them when it didn’t. The company wasn’t the band of young do-gooders some remember it as, but shrewd businessmen who sought to manipulate public opinion in order to expand their user base.”
This flawed vision of opportunistic revolutionaries continues to this day, “If we can agree that artists have legitimate rights to their own work," he says, "it follows that we have some duty as individuals and as a society to respect those rights—which means reasonable copyright enforcement. Online black markets, such as The Pirate Bay, deserve to be blacklisted.”
Read more: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/chris-ruen-is-taking-back-the-anti-piracy-argument-from-the-music-industry#ixzz2PAw2xF1e