back to article Roll up for the freetard smackdown

Next Thursday, 9 October at 7pm, our very own Andrew Orlowski will be tackling the perennial issue of digital piracy - live and dangerous at the highbrow Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. He'll be taking on New Media consultant Matt Mason, author of The Pirate's Dilemma (How Youth Culture Reinvented Capitalism), …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Geraint Jones

    "loss of economic autonomy among artists"

    Loss of economic autonomy among artists? I dare say the artists are the least to be hit by pirating (granted, by definition they lose money) due to the tiny percentage they actually get for what is arguably the largest and most important part of the work done... writing/composing the actual product.

    As usual big business is scared by losses on their (hefty) margins, jumping to draconian measures to try and stop pirating, and failing miserably and shooting their own toes with ridiculous DRM attempts. Add to that trying to scare prospective pirates by setting lawyers onto individuals who rarely get the right person and when they do go through the courts win disproportionately high damages.


  2. dreadful scathe


    as others will no doubt point out. The setup line includes "Is there something to be said for the creativity of this kind of theft" which is bias right away surely. It is not theft. It is a copyright violation that MAY deprive the copyright owner of some revenue but without a physical loss of any sort. To suggest it is as simple as "theft" is not helpful, and certainly not a neutral position to start from.

    If only we had DRM free options at a reasonable cost, there would be little need for piracy. But of course we are now getting into an age of "renting" rather than owning our media which removes control from the people who spend their money. Renting means continual revenue - screw the consumer who's used to buying to keep.

  3. Paul M.
    Thumb Up

    New Media freetard consultant?

    I wonder how much this New Media tw*t gets paid for preaching The Freetard Gospel? Probably a lot more than the artists he's writing about.


    "If only we had DRM free options at a reasonable cost"

    Do you live in a cave? We've had DRM-free music for a year now. You're just finding excuses not to pay.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    I hope that Andrew will introduce his part of th e proceedings by letting people know that copyright infringement is not theft because the owner has not been deprived of the use of their copyright (it has only been infringed upon) thus making the organisers look stupid.

    Oh, and get them to wear pirate hats and wear badges saying 'I like to pilage and burn, not download and burn - because I am a pirate and not a freetard'.

    Or make them wear badges saying 'Fcuk the MPAA and RIAA'.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    @Paul M.

    "We've had DRM-free music for a year now. You're just finding excuses not to pay."

    Well I'm not. I don't need an excuse, although I do have a reason.

    The reason I do it is because I can.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only we had DRM free options at a reasonable cost

    You mean like a CD?

    Or is the cost not "reasonable" enough for you?

  7. Ade Vickers
    Paris Hilton


    "*For the record, neither Andrew nor El Reg will make a penny from this."

    That was a bit careless, wasn't it?

    At least ask for beer tokens next time...

    Paris...because she wouldn't do it for free.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @"*For the record, neither Andrew nor El Reg will make a penny from this."

    Yes you are, after I read the article, I clicked on a couple of the adverts on the page for the shear hell of it. :-)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    get it right

  10. Anonymous Coward

    There IS no debate

    "Is there something to be said for the creativity of this kind of theft,"

    Am I the only one who's so damn bored of people proposing stupid "debates" about this as if they're wonderfully clevar to have made an observation that things are going tits up in publishing?

    What's "to be said" has already been said a million times before! Firstly, it's obscurity, not piracy, that's the biggest threat to artists. Secondly, those who pitch their tents on the side of a volcano don't deserve our sympathy when it erupts.

    I for one will NOT be attending this waste of everyone's time. There is no debate.

  11. dreadful scathe



    "Do you live in a cave? We've had DRM-free music for a year now. You're just finding excuses not to pay."

    Big assumption there. I'm no freetard. I pay for all my music. There is still DRM music out there, it is far from dead and what DRM free music there is, is not yet CD quality. But yes, I did word that badly and I am out of touch :)


    "You mean like a CD? Or is the cost not "reasonable" enough for you?"

    yes exactly like that, thats why i get all my music on CD. It would be hoped that the quality and "ownership" a CD gives you would not be compromised within new digitial music distribution channels. But so far, both have been.

    Its certainly getting better but i would expect the huge distribution cost savings to be passed onto the consumer as well as the author.

  12. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: get it right

    It's my debating opponent who uses the word "piracy", not me.

    Sensible people stay well clear of the word "illegal", too, and I prefer "unlicensed". These reflect the history a bit better.

    Remember that when a new media technology comes along, it's often used to store/record/play media for which the license has not been granted. These licenses eventually get granted - when some way of monetizing the anarchy has been agreed.

    One small part of the music business has held this up longer than it should, but we're getting there:

  13. W

    Here we go again...but I'll bite.

    >"If only we had DRM free options at a reasonable cost, there would be little need for piracy." - dreadful scathe

    ...Agreed. Either the cost is higher than the customer is willing to pay, or protectionist barriers are in place. That'd be the DRM.

    >"Do you live in a cave? We've had DRM-free music for a year now. You're just finding excuses not to pay" - Paul M.

    ...The only DRM-free service that I'm aware of that has a full scope of labels is 7digital. Their prices are within a gnats chuff of buying the CD outright. Which is an absolute nonsense.

    >"You mean like a CD? Or is the cost not "reasonable" enough for you?" - JonB

    ...As it happens, I still buy CDs exclusively, rather than paying over the odds for an intangible MP3 download or delving into the murky & choppy waters of P2P. But 90% of my purchases come from Amazon Marketplace (shipped! from the US!) for less than the price of a download. So neither the artist or the label get a penny. I get a tangible artefact. No need to faff around with shared folders on a home WLAN and diligent backups. And the private sellers have probably ripped the CD before selling it (if they've got any sense). Supply and demand, innit? (admittedly a little skewed by those that buy, rip, and sell on).

    FACT: had it absolutely bang on. Choice of quality of the download from a range available and pay accordingly. Cavernous back catalogue. A realisation that a. downloaded. album. of. 12. MP3. tracks. is. worth. no. more. than. a. £5. and. more. like. £3. I repeat: a. downloaded. album. of. 12. MP3. tracks. is. worth. no. more. than. a. £5. and. more. like. £3.***

    SUGGESTION: Once the "legit" arrives, rather than a /tax/ on storage, there could be a /discount/ on big ol' hard drives if you sign up to a subscription or pay for X-amount up-front. That way I can more easily back up the stuff that I'm buying.

    ***Once upon a time, selling recorded music required the following:

    a) Specialist equipment & studios,

    b) Specialist labour and technicians,

    c) Specialist printing plants to make up the black/shiny slabs of plastic,

    d) Specialist distribution networks to deliver the product to the shops,

    e) Specialist shops to sell the product,

    f) Specialist media channels to plug the product in the shops, &

    g) Specialist peeps to push or discuss the music (pluggers or journos).

    Today, a)-f) and arguably g) are an irrelevance. Anyone with:

    h) an affordable computer, and

    j) the inclination,

    can get their recording to the end users/consumers.

    Perhaps you could go with some paid promo from someone with the biz contacts if you to go for fame and glory. Or you could slog it out on tour and chance your arm that you've got the talent to build up a loyal enough following within an enthusiastic scene to support you doing it fulll time (as in nearly every day, rather than 3 gigs a year at some enormo-dome). That route requires the same transit van and tolerance for questionable personal hygeine that it always did.

    New technology makes prior technology obsolete. Deal with it. Stages a)-f) & h) above are all reliant on the tech for their income. Unless they can use current tech, they're knackered. Cos there is always an army of enthusiasts that will be able to, simply for the sake of it. Only those that j) make music that folk want to pay for the privilege of hearing or can g) sprout enjoyable enough chit-chat about j) will stand a chance in the long run.

  14. W

    "*For the record, neither Andrew nor El Reg will make a penny from this."

    Victims of them there freeloading debate-tards?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Six million file sharers out there?

    So did someone just pull this number from their arse, or was there actually some file monitoring from Phorm to back this up (since by definition we KNOW the ISPs wouldn't even THINK of monitoring your traffic....cough.....cough)

    Since the horse is out of the barn already, the music industry has a problem trying to round it up and the freetards and driving it away as fast as they can...think of it as a joyride as opposed to a horse-jacking.

    The sad part of all of this, of course, it that the performers and writers really will never see most of the money collected in any way, shape or form since it's only in the interests of the large corps to stuff their noses with white powder and party day and night...erm, I mean, make a decent return for their shareholders....yeah, that's what I meant.

  16. The Other Steve

    A pirate did what now ?

    "burgeoning global industries"


    I haven't got my pocket OED to hand* (and the fat bastard certainly isn't my pocket), but don't industries like, make stuff, and sell it, and otherwise create value and jobs and shit like that** ? And if copyright infringement actually does that, isn't that like, bad and illegal and good probable cause for the FBI to kick your door in at 4 AM and ship you off to prison with the all the crims, where you will be married to a man named Bubba who says "You're my puppy now!" ? You know, like the bad kind of piracy ? Minus the rum and the lash, but certainly including the sodomy (hi Bubba, miss you, x) ?

    In all fairness I have already opened the plonk, and so my eye tracking is a bit wonky, and I may well have missed something ? Seriously, did I ?

    And "The Pirate's Dilemma" ? I agree, piracy is a loaded word, and shurely just now the actual pirate's dillema is "shall we keep trying to blackmail $SOME_AFRICAN_GOV, or should we just leg it quick sharp before Ivan's battle cruiser gets here and blows us up all the fuck to kingdom come ?"


    *Actually, I just can't be arsed to stand up and reach it off the top shelf, but hey ho, there you go.

    ** Except the financial industry, bwahaha, bwahahaha, bwahahahahahahah OH MY GOD WE'RE ALL GOING TO STARVE TO DEATH <sob>

  17. Solomon Grundy

    Pirate Section

    El Reg should have a 'Piracy' section under "Odds & Sods" that tracks "real" pirate activity. This will help people understand the difference between Piracy and piracy...

  18. jake Silver badge

    The real problem

    The real problem that the industry bigwigs are shying away from is that they no longer control the distribution channels. And they never will again. Discussion over.

  19. Ian Rowe


    Maybe the widespread disdain for so called pirates boils down to the fact of them being unlawful. Being lawful is nothing to be proud of in itself, using law as a moral compass is admitting that you lack either the will or ability to determine your own actions. Such is the choice aspect of choice and consequence.

    Law can skew consequence quite severely, though not always in the same way and often different from one country or state to the next. This means that just because you disagree with law does not mean you are likely to break it. You make a choice based on the consequences and the chance of them getting enforced upon you. Unless you are someone who puts more faith in the law than in themselves.

    Copyright infringement has potentially high consequences but lottery like chances when it comes to getting caught. The fact that so many people partake in copyright infringement gives me hope that maybe not all of them but at least some unlawful file sharers do it because they have faith in themselves and make an informed choice to do whatever the hell they damn well like.

    I could go on but it would probably involve analogies and other unpleasant uses of language. Here's hoping the debate isn't a complete waste of time and at least keeps the participants quiet while they practice their witty retorts.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Brakes applied rapidly and firmly ...

    When I got as far as 'illegal'.

    Whilst downloading Copyrighted performances without paying a license fee is a civil tort and by definition morally wrong, its not 'illegal'.

    'Back in the day' you could go into any small independent record shop (try finding one of those now) and ask to listen to pretty much any record/tape/CD in the inventory, if you liked, you bought.

    Now all you get is huge organisations pushing whatever teen-pop cr*p some pundit has deemed worthy listening material.

    I know that's not even approaching a legitimate reason for unlicensed downloading but if the big organisations want to keep getting our music-pennies they should try and learn something from artists that have enough confidence and savvy to give downloads away for free (NIN for example).

    Mines the one with the memory stick in.

  21. Andus McCoatover

    I should get out more...

    'Cos I have no interest whatsoever in downloading music. Or buying CD's unless it's good stuff.

    In my temporary (work experience, for Fuck*s sake! - I've been employed 34 years continuously - blame Finnish (un)employment law) place of work, I have to backup computers before a full reinstall.

    What I've seen would whet the RIAA's lawters appetite. Plus make Gary Glitter cream his pants.

    Let the Freetards continue. They'll soon get bored with the shite out there.

    (How about an "I should get out more Icon", pretty-please? Maybe a pub sign? Or a forest? Or, Paris in drag?)

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Any excuse

    You thieves make me laugh. Go back 10 years you might just have had some kind of point about `gettin back at der man` when he pwned the artist and screwed you for the price of a CD. Now the man is peddling his old crap you wouldn't want unless you collect Brotherhood of Man CDs, and the artist you're stealing from is likely independent and doing and paying for it all themselves and charging you a massive 99 fuggin cents for something that gives you a buzz - and you still say you're `screwing the man`?

    You're either lairs, or stupid, or both - either way, you aint clever and you aint anarchists anymore - just thieves. Pay your own way like 99% of the artists you're stealing from do. More power to anyone who screws you in any way possible.

  23. Watashi

    It's the economy, stupid

    Don't bother going, the argument is redundant and the future is already clear. Radiohead made more money and sold more albums from their 'freetard friendly' pay-what-you-like pricing structure than they could ever make thorugh the old fashioned pricing structure. This is what will soon become the norm.

    You see, from an economics point of view the Radiohead model is actually quite attractive. At the moment, a music lover has two options; pay £10 for an album or download it for free off P2P. However, most albums are only worth, say, £5 to many people. The Radiohead model allows these people to buy the album for £5 if they are prepared to 'jump the hurdle' (economics term) of going to the effort of visiting the website and downloading lower than CD quality tracks. Those who are not prepared to put up with the lower quality files will still pay £10 or £15... which will include pretty much everyone who was going to buy the album anyway.

    Basically, what Radiohead did was get the full whack from the well-off Radiohead fans, but also get a smaller price from many hundreds of thousands of tentative Radiohead fans who would otherwise either not have bough the album, or would have downloaded it for free. Radiohead kept the value of the traditional market, but also tapped the huge amount of money available from the supposedly non-paying 'freetard' market.

    The whole 'freetard' myth has centered on the assumption that most people will take something for free if it is available for free. However, this doesn't reflect the reality of human nature - basic economics means that if you provide price sensitive people a moderately easy way of paying less, more people in total will buy your product. Rather than 'freetards' being freeloaders, most 'freetards' are just price-sensitive consumers who have, until now, been denied the option to pay what they want to pay.

    Of course, there will always be people (genuine freetards) who do pay nothing for music they really like and can afford to pay for, but because the new system works better, economically speaking, the losses from genuine freeloaders will be lower than any possible variation of the current system.

    Once we get over the idea that an album is equivalent to a physical item with a fixed price, we can free the music industry up to use a sales model that both generates more money AND enables more people to own music. Not only this, but because people can give less money to music they want but value less, it creates a clearer pressure on artists to improve their music. Also, it allows new artists to break into the industry because the potentiall cheapness of the music makes it easier to get word-of-mouth sales without having to pander to the big labels and rely on big adverising campaigns that take money out of the artists pockets.

    Basically, its a win-win-win scenario - and as economics is so powerful it will win out in the end.

  24. Alfazed Bronze badge

    Danger Freetard @ work

    Maybe it's because the Reg readers have all bought into this technology life that they appear to live on a planet where everyone has enough money to buy all the things that they fancy this week. Like renting a piece of music.

    Come on you people, there are a hell of a lot of people who don't have your disposable income. These are your freetards.

    Maybe we should just send round the troops to wipe out these potential criminals before they download some music, and have done with it, no debates. You're a potential freetard 'cos you're under 16 and you come from a single parent family on Benefits.

    Otherwise we could implant some fuckoff super chip in the little bastards while they are in the hospital, having just been born. It could put them off appreciating music, films and art for life, or until their bank balance goes out of the red.

    Maybe that will make some of you DINKY f*ckers a bit happier and maybe then you will get around to debating something interesting, like why the hell are we still bombing third world countries, or torturing animals so that we can live healthy lives where we are free to hire out our favourite music track - again ?

    It's only blinkered thinking you nonfreetards. Don't worry. It looks to me like Tony B's dumbing down of the masses has worked. Well at least on those with an income.


  25. Chika

    The only thing that needs to be considered whether the people suffering are really the creators and whether the people making to most noise about piracy are the people that should really be making the noise. There have been so many examples of artists being ripped off by media companies over the years, yet they never get anything out of complaining about it. Now the media companies are getting screwed, especially as some fairly big and successful artists are now finding ways to bypass them and get control of their stuff. If that gives the various media companies a problem, then tough luck to them!

  26. Graham Marsden

    @Paul M

    I don't live in a cave, but, unlike you it seems, I do know that the amount of DRM free music legitimately available out there is only a *fraction* of the total output available from music producers.

    I'd be quite happy to pay for the music I wanted if I could actually buy it and, of course, at a reasonable price, instead of paying inflated "rip off Britain" charges.

    And, no, I don't want to buy a ten quid CD simply to get one track either.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @W : The price of sound...

    >a. downloaded. album. of. 12. MP3. tracks. is. worth. no. more. than. a. £5. and. more. like. £3.***

    How do you arrive at £5 or £3?

    Why not 50p?

    Hell why not 2p? 1p for the label and 1p for the artist.

    At least the 2p suggestion has some reason to it, other than "I'm not willing to pay that much and I can steal it quite easily".

    If you think it's overpriced then don't buy it.

    There are numerous small/unheard of bands that you might like and might be willing

    to sell for the pathetic change you're willing to toss to them.

    As for your record industry, try it, you could stand next to buskers with your laptop and inclination and put them online.

  28. Washington Irving

    music sharing - the ultimate free market economy

    Once upon a time, many moons ago, the recording industry was born and killed music.

    Before then, a very large percentage of people could play instruments because that was how you entertained your guests. There were also large numbers of employed musicians who made a decent living at social gatherings being paid to play as there was no other way of having music otherwise.

    This changed with the introduction of technologies that enabled music to be recorded by a small number of musicians and then distributed so it could be heard without the tedious learning of an instrument, or having the expense of hired musicians cluttering up the place and making it look untidy.

    This recording industry was an industry because recording and distribution of music was prohibitively expensive in terms of capital expenditure and it operated on the basis that the only way to keep unit costs at an affordable level was to have a few musicians who sold a large number of copies.

    This has now changed.

    We live in a world where the costs of recording and distribution are so low that the minimal basic equipment required can be sourced out of skips in many of our richer towns and cities and the distribution channel is given away free in pubs and cafes to attract custom.

    There is no recording industry anymore.

    An industry requires a technological niche in order for it to exist. The recording industry's niche has now gone.

    All that is left is a limping husk, bleeding the vast amounts of money it made throughout the 20th century, screaming for protection from the state as it realises that it can support itself no longer.

    Any right wing free market economist can tell you what should be done for an industry that no longer supports itself. Nothing should be done. It should be allowed to die.

    For there is still a music industry. There is a vibrant live music industry that uses free downloads and streaming as it's principle means of promotion. Should the live music industry's promotional channels be targeted and monitored by the state so that the remains of a dead industry can squeeze money through the courts out of those it blames for its unavoidable demise?

    And what is it called when an industry, that has no industry, is supported blindly by the state, is allowed to tie up the courts, has reams of new laws drafted in for it's protection, is given powers of mass surveillance and treated as something that must be allowed to exist, whether it has a market or not? Last time I checked, this was called Soviet economics.

    However it is apparently plain to everyone that music sharers must be communist pirates and that the music industry is a shining jewel in the crown of capitalism, so I must have got something wrong somewhere... silly me, I'll get my coat.

    Mines the one with the mp3 player in the pocket.

  29. Paul

    "For the record, neither Andrew nor El Reg will make a penny from this."

    Well of course not, making a penny for an evenings work really wouldnt be worth it.

    However, free beer, that's another story altogether!


  30. W

    Some copypasta the bit's you must have missed.

    >Me: "a. downloaded. album. of. 12. MP3. tracks. is. worth. no. more. than. £5. and. more. like. £3."

    >JonB: "How do you arrive at £5 or £3? Why not 50p? Hell why not 2p? 1p for the label and 1p for the artist. At least the 2p suggestion has some reason to it, other than "I'm not willing to pay that much and I can steal it quite easily"."

    ... I repeat: "The only DRM-free service that I'm aware of that has a full scope of labels is 7digital. Their prices are within a gnats chuff of buying the CD outright. Which is an absolute nonsense."

    ... If the music industry wants to charge a smidge less than the £8/9 that a new release CD costs for the equivalent MP3 data, they're fools. With an MP3, I've gotta pay for the delivery, storage and backup. I'd rather just pay the smidge more for the CD and rip it at my leisure.

    ... I've got an Amazon wishlist that's 50-100 items long. Even though I've got a 1000+ (paid for) CD collection, my wants /still/ far outweigh my purchasing power. So I wait for a price I'm willing to pay. My outlay is the same as ever but I'm willing to wait for supply and demand to balance out a little until the price to hits an optimal point. Loads of stuff hits £5/6 just a couple of months after release. Diminishing returns means you'd perhaps need to wait a couple of years for another £1 saving. So, for me, the £5-6 mark seems the best balance of getting hold of as much music as possible in a legitimate fashion. And it seems to be able to sustain more artists than I can afford to buy from.

    ... The 2p suggestion is just being facetious. 2p per album comes no way near covering anyone's costs other than those who'd do it purely for free and subsist on goodwill. But I suspect that tehre aren't enough of these folk around to satiate the many and varied wants of the music buying public. £10 per CD album seems to be enough to fund the MTV cribs lifestyle. Sod that. So somewhere inbetween seems to be sensible.

    >JonB: "If you think it's overpriced then don't buy it."

    ... Like oh so many folk, I don't buy download MP3's. And I don't P2P. As mentioned, I buy the occasional new release CD on it's release. But I mostly have the patience to wait until it's reduced to ~£5 in the shop sales or on Amazon Marketplace. A ~£5 price that the industry seems able to make some sort of living from. If they were making a loss at that price they'd be sunk by now. Thus bolstering the notion of a downloaded MP3 album being worth no more than £5.

    >JonB: "There are numerous small/unheard of bands that you might like and might be willing to sell for the pathetic change you're willing to toss to them.

    ... Pathetic change???!!! A fiver? Do you gladly shell out £10+ per CD or something? There are numerous bands that I see at gigs and will willingly give ~£7/8/9 to in exchange for their CD. £10 for a CD from a gig is a bit much (in addition to buying a ticket, remember), even for the warm, fuzzy feeling of buying straight from the artist. Any more than that and something's screwed. Either their label has 'em over a barrel or they're gettin' greedy and I'll just do the rational thing and head to Amazon.

    >JonB: "As for your record industry, try it, you could stand next to buskers with your laptop and inclination and put them online."

    ... I've never claimed to be an aspiring artist or producer. But /millions are/. And they're doing exactly what you've suggested and operaqting outside of the confines of the established industry. They're doing it for 'emselves, gigging their arses off and making a go of it rather than the sadsacks who flounce around waiting for "a deal" that will allow 'em to play a handful of gigs a year and sit back while some marketing folk try to convince us that they're better than the other band that another marketing bod is shouting about.

    ... I've commented alot on the price of CDs, but the simple, indisputable fact is that a CD justifiably costs more and is worth more than an MP3. Because an MP3 album has none of the physical benefits of a CD and an MP3 backup/portable version can be created from a CD at a nominal cost of zero, MP3s need to fall in line with the established precedent of CD pricing.

  31. W


    what Washington Irving said.

This topic is closed for new posts.