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Campus Media Response: Intellectual Property Rights Keep the Music Playing

Jake Begun of Wisconsin/Madison’s Badger Herald thinks he’s noticed something pretty funny:

Every day tens, if not dozens, of albums are sold in record stores across America. And yet the average American musician represented by a major record label is forced to scrape by on only millions. Their only fault: Being born talented and with a marketable face. They are forced to criss-cross these United States in search of sustenance, peddling their wares hoping to provide for their backup dancers, many of which have never known the feel of a gold Jacuzzi filled with Dom Perignon or the simple pleasures of a personal jet. No one should have to settle for mere multi-platinum status. Won’t you help?

Begun is lampooning a recently passed provision of the Higher Education Act, which threatens to withdraw federal funding from universities who do not act to stop multimedia piracy on college networks. Mr. Begun regards the policy as self-evidently ridiculous, so much so that he does not bother giving an argument for his position. He simply laughs at the notion that glamorous pop stars are hard up for money—as if everyone had decided a long time ago that the wealthy have no right to control their intellectual property. But superstars and the industries that bring their work to the public do have this right, and protecting it is essential to ensuring that they continue to provide us with the fruits of their creativity. Writing in The Undercurrent in the Fall of 2009, Rituparna Basu notes:

The recording company saw the value in the artist’s talent, gave the artist the means to create his music, and then compiled this music for our enjoyment (on specific terms). Denying producers, artists, and distributors the value they seek, whether this is money, publicity, or recognition, in return for enjoying their products denies them the ability to enjoy the well-earned fruits of their labor. One of these fruits includes being able to produce more of the music that we love.

Read the rest of Rituparna’s piece. Students in today’s economy don’t have to resort to listening to 70-year old public domain records, as Begun sarcastically suggests, to refrain from stealing. There are numerous inexpensive ways to pay for downloaded music, believe it or not. But it’s hard to say how long music companies will be able to offer their services, if no one continues to pay. On the day the music dies, nobody will be laughing any more. Image from Flickr User Lunchbox Photography.

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.