In the latest salvo in the recording industry’s battle against those who think music should be free (count me in), Joel Tennenbaum has been court-ordered to pay $675,000 for sharing 30 songs, or $22,500 a pop. He got off cheap: in another recent case, Jammie Thomas-Rasset had to pay $80,000 per song for a total of $1.92 million.
Tennenbaum pushed the envelope, kept on with his criminal activity even after being warned and hit with a bill for a lot less than $600K. He doesn’t always say so in tv interviews, but he is intentionally challenging the industry’s policies.
I myself don’t engage in file-sharing, though I confess I tried. It became too technically cumbersome and was putting a strain on my computer. I considered buying a doodad for music only, but as Chuck Berry sang, this was just “too much monkey business for me to be involved in.”
Despite my lack of involvement, I support Tennenbaum a thousand percent. When I think of all the money I have spent on music, as have we all, the industry’s refusal to let us freely access it now seems greedy and mean-spirited. If the money was going to my beloved musical artists, I might feel differently, but it’s for the benefit of corporations–who’d be better off adapting to the changing landscpe by figuring out new ways to increase profits, as the porn industry is doing now that so much of their product is freely accessible.
I can’t begin to figure out how much money I’ve spent, first on 45’s, then LPs, and onward to tapes, CDs, and digital downloads, plus concert tickets, not to mention having had various forms of music stolen from me over the years. There are some songs I absolutely cannot live without, therefore I’ve had to pay for them over and over as the platforms changed. I figure by now I deserve a freebie or two .
The musical groups from the 50s didn’t protect themselves, and many were left poor and unacknowledged at the end of their lives. The great Jackie Wilson died destitute in a county hospital. The next generation of musicians learned from their forebears’ experience, and took care of business. If I thought file-sharing cheated them, I’d condemn it. But many, including Nine Inch Nails and what’s left of the Grateful Dead, are all for it.
A leading Internet lawyer, Charles Neeson, supports free music too, and is managing Joel Tennenbaum’s appeal, along with a team of student assistants. Tennenbaum says he expects no support for what is his self-created situation, but some people have been sending funds for his defense. To read more on the case, see a Q&A under “Joel Fights Back.”
Update August 5th: In a related issue, on the very day I wrote the above, hearings were held regarding royalties for performing artists, i.e., singers who, in contrast to the songwriters, don’t get paid when their songs are played on the radio. Not that Nancy Sinatra needs it, but she has a point.