John McLaughlin Speaks Out Against "Pirates"
Legendary jazz guitarist John McLaughlin has posted an essay entitled “Pirates” on his website. In this commentary McLaughlin shares some rather strong words about “the havoc created by those well meaning people known as internet ‘pirates.’” The complete text appears below…
Dear friends, it has been quite some time since my last words in print, but I feel the need to write just a few words about the musical world in its business sense, and the havoc created by those well meaning people known as internet ‘pirates’, that is the people who in their uncontrollable desire to make music in general, and CD’s in particular, available free to the global public. When asked about their activities, they frequently speak about their ‘noble’ aims to make music accessible to all and sundry, for free naturally, although not all of them are ‘noble’: to the contrary, they charge people and of course, never pay the artist or the intellectual royalties which are due to the song writers.
When we speak about the act of theft, which is what in reality it is, this no longer seems to bother anyone who is not affected economically by the actions of these people. The questions of ethics and the morality of theft, have lost their fundamental meaning to many people when it comes to ‘finding stuff on the internet’. I however, would like to put this new view of values in the context of killing and murder.
Naturally enough, people who kill other people are still considered a menace to society, and either they will be imprisoned or executed depending on which country or which state in which country you live in.
But what about the killing of an industry? The record store is dead. Effectively dead from the deadly actions of the pirates. I grew up in record stores, they were one of the joys of my early life. What about the murder of the music industry? It’s clear to me that if the ‘pirates’ know about their fatal blows they have given to the music industry, they couldn’t care less. Do they realize the havoc and damage they have wreaked upon musicians, their lives and families, and the industry? Do they care? I think not.
Having spent the greater part of my life working with record companies, I am fully aware of their innate arrogance, and above all, their insatiable greed. Since the vinyl LP, they have systematically overcharged everyone for recordings. In a certain sense, they share the responsibility in the sorry state of affairs that the music industry now finds itself in. Even though technology has made home recording a reality, and has played a role in the demise of the recording studio, the knock-on effect of pitiful amounts of record sales can be traced directly to the continuing downloading, mainly free, of CD’s. How many recording studios have closed their doors forever? World-wide the number is spectacular.
What to do? What I fail to understand is the attitude of the respective governments of the ‘west’. Do these governments realize how much tax revenues they have lost, and lose daily from the actions of these ‘people’? We know that there are ‘pirates’ operating out of quite a few eastern bloc countries, Romania, Bulgaria, the Russian Federation to name just a few, where control from our point of view is out of the question. There are unfortunately, ‘pirates’ operating in many countries in Europe and the USA. What could be done here in the ‘civilized’ west, is that the governments take on the telecom companies. If they are found to be hosting ‘pirates’, they need to be sanctioned. The telecom companies know all too well who is doing what, and if they find themselves hit with large fines, for example, they will terminate the ‘pirates’ very quickly.
Perhaps I’m just naive, but having suffered for many years at the hands of ‘pirates’ who act with impunity, and I’ve seen the damage they have brought upon many people, not just musicians. I speak with authority. To be followed…