While the RIAA and file-sharers have been slugging it out in settlement agreements and high-profile legal actions in recent years, at times the voices of the artists themselves have been drowned out. Some, however, have been so loud it has proven impossible to ignore them. Whether they love file-sharing, hate it, or sit happily on the fence, the opinions of artists matter.
Over the years we have covered dozens of artists who’ve spoken out on piracy. From Lily Allen, through 50 Cent to Radiohead, all have voiced their opinion on the topic. While quotes on piracy were relatively rare 5 years ago, nowadays artists are commenting on the issue weekly, reaching a point where we stopped covering every artist who does so.
There is, however, someone who plans to keep on going. Our reader Miranda B has created Pirate Verbatim, a platform where she hopes to document the voices of artists tied up in the file-sharing debate.
“Something I noticed is that most of us hadn’t heard a single word from any of the artists themselves,” she explains. “The label executives tell you how they think the musicians feel, and the torrenters tell you how they feel themselves. One large part of the debate was missing…I did the research so you don’t have to.”
Currently the site has the opinions of 72 different artists, from the very large to the comparatively small. Miranda tells us she’ll keep adding more as they appear and may even branch out to offer twice-weekly links to artist-approved downloads. Below are some notable quotes, and we’re looking forward to see many more.
Let’s start with KISS frontman Gene Simmons, who was subjected to a DDoS attack from angry Anonymous members last week.
“How are you going to get paid for it if people can just get it for free? The record industry doesn’t have a fucking clue how to make money,” said an angry Simmons back in 2007.
“It’s only their fault for letting foxes get into the henhouse and then wondering why there’s no eggs or chickens. Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid’s face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning.”
Roll forward into 2010 and it seems little has changed for the KISS frontman.
“Make sure your brand is protected. Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. Don’t let anybody cross that line.”
His uncompromising stance made him a target for Operation Payback, but not all artists with an anti-filesharing stance get punished in such a public way (except perhaps Lily Allen), but many do believe in punishing others.
“I hope he rots in jail. It’s going to affect the sales of the record, and it’s not fair,” said Slash from Guns N’ Roses when he found out that Kevin Cogill had made Chinese Democracy available on the net. “The Internet is what it is, and you have to deal with it accordingly, but I think if someone goes and steals something, it’s theft.”
The notion that copyright infringement is the same as theft is nothing new and was even touted way back in 2002 by Britney Spears.
“Would you go into a CD store and steal a CD?” questioned Spears in an industry-funded advert. “It’s the same thing, people going into the computers and loggin’ on and stealing our music.”
While it is very easy to strongly take one side or the other in the piracy debate, some artists are much more pragmatic. Although he hadn’t adopted a pro-piracy stance by any means, in 2009 MC Hammer cried for a stop to the music industry lawsuits against file-sharers.
”The approach that the music industry took to fight piracy was the wrong strategy,” he said, adding that the RIAA’s legal battles against file-sharers only alienated paying customers. Hammer also went on to criticize efforts to make ISPs responsible for their users.
”When there is a murder done with the gun, do they go back to the guy who sold the gun at the store and arrest him? No they don’t. They arrest the person who did it. So in this particular case, somebody is stealing content using the freeway. You can’t go back and sue the construction men.”
While Hammer carefully sat on the fence throwing stones down on either side, other artists haven’t bothered with such a balancing act.
“We all grew up in the age of downloading music illegally, we’re products of that culture,” said Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij in a CNN interview. “I personally believe that if you want music to be free, then it should be. Because people should do as they feel.”
Of course, what many music downloaders love the feel of is pre-release material. It should come as no surprise that many artists despise the fact that music can be made available this way on file-sharing networks, but surprisingly some of them positively encourage it.
“We leaked the whole record before it came out,” said Green Day’s Mike Dirnt about their album 21st Century Breakdown.
“We couldn’t stand people not hearing it anymore. At the end of the day, if you write a good enough record, people are going to pick it up. Steal the damn record, I don’t care. If some kid doesn’t have any money and his buddy gives him a copy of the record. . . he’ll pick it up when he’s 20.”
Want to know if your favorite artist has spoken out on piracy? Head over to Pirate Verbatim.