Intellectual Property: No One Understands Theft Better - Than The People Being Robbed
How Could You Steal From This Face?
I am a retired musician. I play three instruments and sing. And most important from a prospective remuneration perspective - I wrote the stuff we sang and played.
I never sold my goal of fifteen million records - so here I sit before you now.
But life’s rules are immutable. And writing about them - in song, or essay, or free verse or whatever - changes them not a whit.
I was a hopeful records-seller residing in Austin, Texas - “The Live Music Capital of the World” - when stolen-music-website Napster burst on to the scene. From which you could download tens of thousands of songs - without paying a penny for any.
I steadfastly refused to illegally steal any tunes from Napster. But in Austin I was surrounded by musicians - and I can not recall a single one of them who didn’t illegally steal from Napster.
I tried to explain to them how pathetically short-term their thinking was. “You realize you’re stealing from the one group of people who can walk into the bar/restaurant/retail store in which you work - and rescue you by saying ‘Sign here.’”
To no obvious avail.
I remember thinking at the time that this Intellectual Property (IP) conversion from hard copy to digital - of music, movies, software and the like - was going to be devastatingly detrimental to the definitions of “property” and “theft.”
I would bet that 95+% of the people who steal digital IP - would never walk into a brick-and-mortar store and steal the physical versions thereof.
There are at least two human nature reasons for this.
One is, of course - you are much less likely to be caught stealing digitally. The Digital Revolution has made a great many things very much easier - including being a cowardly thief.
The second is - the human creature is a tangible beast. We have a tendency to place more faith - and more value - in things we can touch. We can touch a CD or DVD - so many of us view it as more valuable than the corresponding MP3 or 4.
Which is, of course, patently absurd. A half second of actual intellectual analysis - clearly delivers anyone the truth. You’re not stealing the CD or DVD because you want the shiny plastic - any more or less than you are stealing the MP3 or 4 because you want the digital 1s and 0s.
You’re stealing both the physical and the digital for the exact same reason - you want the IP contained thereon.
But the human creature is a tangible beast. And many of us are cowardly thieves.
Someone who has sold WAY more than fifteen million records - is Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson. Iron Maiden is a heavy metal band - but Dickinson is no stereotypical metal head.
(I was never a huge Maiden [or metal] fan. But Casey - my touched-by-God omni-talented bassist in Texas - was, so I admired by association.)
Dickinson is also a pilot - who flies the Iron Maiden tour plane to gigs. He’s also an entrepreneur. He started an aircraft maintenance company. Which grew rapidly - and then expanded into also serving as an airline. He has written several successful novels - and a screenplay.
Dickinson and a brewer formulated a beer recipe - which Dickinson dubbed “Trooper.” Dickinson and the band collaborated with Robinsons Brewery in Stockport, England to produce it. How’d that go?: “As of May 2014, the beer has sold 2.5 million pints in 40 countries, making it Robinsons' most successful export.”
And Dickinson has the mental and physical discipline - to be a world-competing fencer.
In short - Dickinson is no dummy. When he talks about anything - it’s worth listening. When he talks about something he knows intimately - it’s worth recording. While taking copious notes.
Bruce Dickinson: The Guy Who Started Napster Should Be Locked Up. Napster Destroyed the Concept of Music Having Any Value: “The result of Napster and things like that - even though downloading is now kind of mainstream - Napster destroyed the concept of music having any value, which is terrible….
"I get paid when they sell a copy of my book. The difference is, I took two-and-a-half months to write this book, and I get paid a royalty, and, actually, it's very reasonable, it's very fair.
"If this book was a record and I took two and a half months to make it, I would have to give it away, because people will pay for a book, but they won't pay for an album. That is really sad and it's wrong….
“When you consider that most people, when they sit down and listen to an album, they might drink a pint of beer or have a can of an energy drink or something else like that. So they'll pay the price of a can of energy drink, but they won't pay the price for the album. And it's sad….
“I think the guy [who started Napster] should be locked up, and maybe he has been - he deserves to be.
"It was an act of pure selfish destruction. And what he did was he used the enthusiasm of the audience... Because the audience is not guilty - they could get all this great music for free. Why wouldn't they do that? They didn't realize that what they were doing was destroying an entire culture.”
“Destroying an entire culture” indeed:
“(T)he great thing with us is we can tour and make money by playing live. Other bands, bands who are coming up doing great music, they don't get that luxury….People who are brilliant musicians don't get paid for doing amazing jobs….And it's hard to see where a whole generation of musicians is gonna come from now.”
Aye, there’s the rub. You can take Dickinson’s last paragraph and change out “bands” and “musicians” - with any sort of creators you want to name. Like, say, “inventors.”
“It is hard to see where a whole generation of [inventors] is gonna come from now.” Indeed it is.
If we continue to allow intellectual property theft - of things far more important than music (I apologize to all of the music gods) - our lives will get a whole lot worse.
We have inventors spending years and years and billions and billions of dollars - to create a cancer cure, or the next components of the next great Internet breakthrough, or the cure for baldness, or solutions to the nine million variably awful things with which the human condition is afflicted.
Call it the Inventors Culture.
And if we’re not actively protecting it - we’re destroying it.
If we want the next generation of inventors - or musicians, or authors, or anyone creating anything - we have to copiously keep-safe this generation of inventors.
Bruce Dickinson understands this. I’d bet even Iron Maiden’s Eddie understands this.
We all should.
We have to.
Or else things will start getting very bad - very fast.
This first appeared in Red State.