Last week, I had a great conversation with Mr. Rob Spectre at Durty Nelly’s about Lincoln, FDR, war, China, Irish jokes, and engagements. We also discussed the corporitization and consolidation of the music industry. Gone are the times of small and multiple labels accountable to their artists, and it has been replaced by giant and greedy record execs and the mass-production of mediocrity. How greedy? Well we only need to ask Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who now has to pay $1.92 million for the “crime” of uploading 24 songs to Kazaa.
A forgotten aspect of the rise of this music industry fascism are “intellectual property” laws, which the recording industry used to justify its federal case against Rasset, and the power of the State to enforce these ridiculous laws. Companies like the one extorting Rasset use the government’s intellectual monopoly to suppress competition and hunt down private and voluntary actions. We should be letting artists and fans connect to each other directly, as many already do, and we would start to see the death of this archaic industry’s bullying of both artist and consumer.
Supporters of intellectual monopoly argue that the government needs to protect copyrights and patents, otherwise people would be free to steal anything that they wanted and put their own name on it. This justification ignores the case made by the great Lysander Spooner, who explained the difference between a vice and a crime, and the costs of the government blurring this distinction.
While crimes involve aggression or the threat of aggression against another person or privately owned property (like murder, rape, or theft), vices include things like uploading music, abusing yourself with drugs, not showering, addictions, buying way too many clothes, slander, libel, wearing those hideous crocs, not keeping commitments, and girls who wear pajamas and sweatpants to Starbucks. Annoying and irritating, yes, but not crimes that should be punished by the State, which is the heart of the anti-intellectual property argument.
In a free society, something the U.S.S.A. hasn’t known for many generations, vice is controlled through decentralized social enforcement of ethical norms. IP laws, especially when considering its effect on the music industry, has also made everyone too unwilling to admit our reliance on imitation on emulation as institutions that foster progress. It has made people too shy to stand on the shoulders of giants, where we all live with this impossible burden on our shoulders that everything we do must be completely original and must never be drawn from other sources. I will openly admit that my intellectual influences include Nietzsche, Mencken, Jefferson, Hayek, and a constitutional doctor, and when I borrow their work and ideas, I am only helping those libertarian ideas they held and hold so close to their hearts become reality.
The repeal of intellectual property laws, including copyrights and patents, does not mean a crazed, free-for-all anarchy in which no one is sure who wrote what or who deserves credit. In the absence of the government’s grant of monopoly privilege over IP, we gain a greater sense of distinction between what is sin and what is crime, and a better means for dealing with both.
The record industry is filled with slick-haired and slick-talking con men with the power to sick federal thugs on anyone it sees as a threat. Without this ability, the corporate Goliaths would be powerless to compete against the revolutionary power of the internet, music sharing, and the beauty of free people interacting out of the sphere of government control.
We should repeal all intellectual property laws. The future of our music, and our liberty, depends on it.