Monday, September 29, 2003

FindLaw's Writ - Hamilton: Why Suing College Students for Illegal Music Downloading Is the Right Thing To Do

FindLaw's Writ - Hamilton: Why Suing College Students for Illegal Music Downloading Is the Right Thing To Do I am going to cover copyright today in my LIB 197 class. Since the advent of wide spread music piracy online, teaching about copyright has become a lot easier. I know many of my students steal music and think there is nothing wrong in doing this. Further, many are belligerent towards the music industry. They want MP3 files and they want them for free. Many say they would pay a small fee for the right to do this legally but I am not sure if they really mean it.

From the article, "In a society that enjoys the benefit of a strong, enforceable copyright law, it is too easy to forget what life would be like without it.

While my son went to space camp in Huntsville, Alabama last week, the rest of us went to Nashville, the home of country music and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The museum is excellent at many different levels, but my favorite element was the film of television clips showing country music over the last 50 years. Now, my mother is from Wyoming and my father from Kentucky, so I was destined to be a country-western music fan. The film brought back a million childhood memories; it also reminded me why copyright is such an absolute necessity.

Were it not for copyright's ability to build fences around intangible goods like lyrics and melodies, a performer like Loretta Lynn would not have been able to leave Butcher Holler, Kentucky, and share her gifts with the world. The list of country music stars that have come from humble beginnings is long, and the best country music never forgets its origins.

The world would have been a lesser place but for copyright's ability to pave the road for these stars to travel from rags to riches, from hillbilly country to the big lights. The Country Music Hall of Fame gives you a real taste of that story as it displays the humble beginnings of some, as well as the gold-plated piano Priscilla Presley gave to Elvis on their first wedding anniversary.

In a culture without copyright, only the rich, or the government-sponsored, could be this culture's full-time creators. Poor artists like Loretta Lynn would have to flip burgers long into their music careers - and might even give up on music entirely.

For these reasons, imagining a world without copyright wouldn't just impoverish the musicians. It would also impoverish the museum, the culture, and music itself.

If the class of creators were winnowed down to the rich and the government-sponsored, and the free market were thus to be replaced by a patronage system, the ability of art to speak to the American people would dwindle precipitously. Artistic works would cater to elites; classical music might survive, but rock and country would encounter grave difficulties.

In the end, then, there is no such thing as cost-free downloading. It may be fiscally free today, but it will cost society dearly in the future." Full article at: