When we first mentioned the term “piracy” in class, the first thing that came to my mind was file sharing and as we know it, downloading free music. Considering that the majority of our class has some sort of experience in downloading music online and file sharing, I thought it was an appropriate topic to discuss in this blog. In Lawrence Lessig’s book, Free Culture, he defines piracy as “using the creative property of others without their permission”. So necessarily, this term isn’t only directed at the illegal music downloaders, it is also directed at the artists themselves. This includes industries of film, radio, cable TV, and probably the most prevalent industry of piracy we see today; recorded music.
In Lessig’s chapter titled, “Pirates”, he argues that “The Beatles have less control over their creative work than Grisham does.” Time and time again we can see this exampled in the music industry today. While authors of books have almost exclusive rights of their written work, recording artists face very limited rights to their music. For example, the hit hip-hip song of last year “Black and yellow” by Wiz Khalifa. There were countless numbers of remakes to this song using the same beat and similar lyrics while none of the artists remaking the songs got permission from Wiz Khalifa (the recording artist) or Stargate (the producer). Although Wiz had virtually no control over this, the remakes were being made faster than you could watch them. However, even though these artists were using the same beat as the original “Black and yellow, they weren’t breaking the law because they weren’t making any profit.
This is seen on a daily basis in the music industry, especially that of hip-hop. This lack of control over your creative work in hip-hop can actually be viewed as a good thing. It allows a gain of popularity of the specific song, artist, or producer. I can guarantee if you ask Wiz Khalifa how he feels about all of the remakes of “Black and Yellow”, he would say it is a good thing. “Black and Yellow” was his first big hit and now thanks to some of the remakes (Lil Wanye’s Packer remix) he has since became one of the biggest stars in the music industry. artists seem to make the “your song gets popular, my song gets popular” approach. In essence, the lack of control over your songs has turned into what i like to call a ‘mutual respect piracy.’