[Dixielandjazz] File Sharing - redux

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 6 07:41:02 PST 2004

Below is an article about file sharing attitudes via the first ever survey
OF 2755 AMERICAN MUSICIANS, by Pew Research Center. Wonder if any OKOMers
were asked? :-) VBG

Steve Barbone

December 6, 2004 - NY Times - By TOM ZELLER Jr.

Pew File-Sharing Survey Gives a Voice to Artists

The battle over digital copyrights and illegal file sharing is often
portrayed as a struggle between Internet scofflaws and greedy corporations.
Online music junkies with no sense of the marketplace, the argument goes,
want to download, copy and share copyrighted materials without restriction.
The recording industry, on the other hand, wants to squeeze dollars - by
lawsuit and legislation, if necessary - from its property.

The issue, of course, is far subtler than this, but one aspect of the
caricature is dead on: the artists are nowhere to be found. A survey
released yesterday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, an arm of
the Pew Research Center in Washington, aims to change that. The report,
"Artists, Musicians and the Internet," combines and compares the opinions of
three groups: the general public, those who identify themselves as artists
of various stripes (including filmmakers, writers and digital artists) and a
somewhat more self-selecting category of musicians.

Most notably, it is the first large-scale snapshot of what the people who
actually produce the goods that downloaders seek (and that the industry
jealously guards) think about the Internet and file-sharing.

Among the findings: artists are divided but on the whole not deeply
concerned about online file-sharing. Only about half thought that sharing
unauthorized copies of music and movies online should be illegal, for
instance. And makers of file-sharing software like Kazaa and Grokster may be
unnerved to learn that nearly two-thirds said such services should be held
responsible for illegal file-swapping; only 15 percent held individual users

The subset of 2,755 musicians, who were recruited for the survey through
e-mail notices, announcements on Web sites and flyers distributed at
musicians' conferences, had somewhat different views. Thirty-seven percent,
for instance, said the file-sharing services and those who use them ought to
share the blame for illegal trades. Only 17 percent singled out the online
services themselves as the guilty parties.

"This should solve the problem once and for all about whether anyone can say
they speak for all artists," said Jenny Toomey, the executive director of
the Future of Music Campaign, a nonprofit organization seeking to bring
together the various factions in the copyright wars.

Ms. Toomey, whose group helped draft part of the survey, believes that
artists are usually underrepresented in the debates about the high-tech
evolution of the industry.

"These decisions need to be made with artists at the table," she said,
adding, "it's not enough for both sides to reach out and get an artist who
supports their position."

Indeed, big-ticket acts like Metallica and Don Henley have famously
denounced illegal file sharing. And the Recording Industry Association of
America, which has filed thousands of lawsuits against individual
file-sharers, often invokes musicians as prime movers in its crusade.

"Breaking into the music business is no picnic," its Web site reads. "Piracy
makes it tougher to survive and even tougher to break through."

File-sharers, on the other hand, often point to high-profile performers like
Moby and Chuck D who acknowledge that the online swap meet has provided them
with valuable exposure.

"I know for a fact that a lot of people first heard my music by downloading
it from Napster or Kazaa," Moby wrote in his online journal last year. "And
for this reason I'll always be glad that Napster and Kazaa have existed."

Without questioning the convictions of artists who feel strongly one way or
another, however, the Pew survey appears to show that the creative set is
both mindful of the benefits the Internet promises and ambivalent about the
abuses it facilitates.

"The overall picture," said Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Project, "is
that the musician-artistic community has a much wider range of views and
experiences than folks who watch the Washington debate about copyright might

Whether the survey will help speed a resolution to the copyright wars,
however, remains an open question.

"The goal is to build a new structure that doesn't repeat the failures of
the existing structure," Ms. Toomey said. "But," she added, "these things
don't change overnight." 

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