June 11, 2005 | By Fred von Lohmann

Ode to "Stealing"

glenn mcdonald is the former author of the "Internet-famous" weekly music column "The War Against Silence." Although he hung up the column last year after 500 consecutive installments, he's back for an encore that is well worth reading.

Dearest Industry,

I write today in what began, at least, as a conflicted mixture of resignation and alarm. Probably you do not recognize my name, but it's both embossed and encoded on my credit card, so possibly you should. I have been one of the staunchest defenders of your copyright ever since the virtualization of music distribution began to challenge them, and I've been one of your most dedicated personal patrons since I was old enough to spend my own money.
But I have also now started stealing your music. I haven't stolen much, but I'm sure you will agree that the moral issue is not merely one of quantity. I have been one of the last independent apologists for a moral kernel, elusive now to perhaps the point of imagination, in your corrupt and desperate retreat, but now even I have given up. I still buy, but now I also steal. You have forfeited your right to my loyalty.
If you copy-protect CDs knowing full well that law-abiding listeners want to play them on laptops and iPods and Linux boxes, you precipitate morally correct resentment and defiance. If, with the resources of an entire industry of full-time workers and decades of catalogs and data and precedent, you serve music listeners less well than listeners and their hacked-together tech kludges serve each other, then you are defeated by your own market forces, and by your own market.

Unauthorized filesharing will only taper off, and things for the music industry will only improve, if and when it starts making music fans happy again. More punishment (whether in the form of "consumer-friendly DRM" or lawsuits aimed at college kids) is not the answer.

Otherwise, the most committed, loyal fans will continue relying on "their hacked-together tech kludges" to serve each other.

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