Monday, November 06, 2006

Mine: You Can't Take It

Many have covered the hit song with the famous lyric, "For once I can say "This is mine you can't take it...'"

For the many who try to steal the song, "this is mine, you can't take it" means the file is deleted, and increasingly, the blog is deleted, too.

Recently visitors to various sites at wordpress, myopera and blogger have seen "violation of terms of service" where the free downloads once were or a 404 notice or a "banned user" logo.

"Mine, you can't take it," is what YouTube bloggers are discovering. Recently Comedy Central forced YouTube (owned by Google, which also owns Blogspot) to suspend offending members and remove copyrighted TV, movie and music clips.

I happen to enjoy YouTube. I like being able to find the best clips of some TV show or news show laid out for me to watch any time I want. I like being able to view music videos, too. But you know what? If it's not there for me, I understand why. It's the copyright owner trying to make a statement.

That statement is that if YouTube wants to make a name for itself and make ad money they should do it with licensed material.

Bloggers who want to make a name for themselves should do it by providing something of their own, and not by stealing from others.

"Mine, You Can't Take It." Shouldn't an adult be ashamed not to understand that simple five-word sentence?

God Damn The Blogger Man?

A classic song damned "The Pusher" who led people to ruin. How about the whole-hog blogger who causes the destruction of record stores? Some reckless bloggers are doing to the music environment what gas-guzzling SUV-drivers are doing to the ozone level.

A blog or forum where rare needs are met probably does little harm. A blogger who posts out of print material might cause mininum damage.

But the massive level of blogging is beyond the bounds of what anyone could consider "comfortable." It's the difference between shoplifting and looting.

The next big holiday is Christmas. How ironic is it that bloggers are offering Christmas music? God says "Thou Shalt Not Steal" but bloggers think they are being noble by "sharing" albums that can be bought as gifts at any Best Buy or Target store.

Bloggers think they are saintly and good when they offer up Christmas albums that are copyrighted and marked "all rights reserved." Shouldn't these albums be sold on CD and decorated with red ribbons and given as gifts? As in, "I thought enough of this artist to BUY YOU THIS GIFT..."

If somebody can download every Johnny Mathis and Johnny Cash album of Christmas favorites, there will be no nicely wrapped CD under the tree. The record store owner will have a bad Christmas. Songwriters will get less royalties. The department store will shrink its space for records because they aren't selling. Who is the Scrooge? The RIAA for deleting the links, or the blogger who says "Merry Christmas, look what I've stolen for you..."

God damn. The Blogger feels he's performing an act of Christian "sharity."

How difficult is it to know right from wrong, and knowing this, resist temptation? Lord knows it is difficult.

"I think that we perhaps naively hoped that the Christian teens would have been taking the moral high road," says John W. Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association. "Among teens, they just don't see it as a moral issue. Ninety percent of them don't see illegal downloading as wrong. It may be illegal, but everyone is doing it." The number of self-avowed Good Christian teens pirating music on the Internet turns out to be the same as the headbangers, rappers and Marilyn Manson crowd.

The Gospel Music Association has mounted a campaign with this slogan: "Music Piracy: Millions of Wrongs Don't Make It Right."

Styll defends his words and adds more. "It's more than just illegal. It's immoral. It's breaking the laws of the land, and it's stealing from people, and you shouldn't do it," he says.

He must realize that part of the problem is that the parents are doing it, too. Some of the worst bloggers out there are old enough to have children and grandchildren, but they'd rather get a "thank you" from a downloader than a "bless you."

The L.A. Times recently reported that many a Christian teen, like "Matthew, a 13-year-old who attends Red Hill Lutheran Church" does not believe piracy is wrong: "No, because the artists are making billions of dollars anyways."

It is hard for children, and child-like adults, to know or to care about right or wrong. Whether it's keeping the planet free of pollution, or keeping the Internet free of corrosive and illegal activity, many are just too selfish to do the right thing. Many actually throw as much music as possible on a blog because they get higher traffic for a Google ad, or might make a few bucks with a Rapidshare or Megaupload reward plan, or a Paypal donation. They're selling out the musicians they love real cheap, but are too blind to see it that way.

Now, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I am not damning all bloggers or all people who download and upload. Not at all. Not everyone is near a library and not everyone has a lot of music-owning friends who will burn an extra CD. A little bit of "sharing" is not such a mortal sin.

Some Christians believe that offering up Christian music for free, or Christmas music, isn't such a sin because it's "spreading the word." This is nonsense as an excuse, but we all commit little sins, white lies and minor thefts. "We are all conflicted, it's true," says Styll, but he knows that paying for music is the best way to assure its future.

Styll's bottom line is this: "It's like stealing. You wouldn't walk into a Christian bookstore and steal a Bible off the shelf…. some fans say, 'This music is made to spread the Word, and I'm just helping.' Well, this is also about people's livelihoods."