Sunday, August 31, 2008

$0.00 vs. $0.99

Piracy: the unauthorized use of another's production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Common knowledge, one would have thought, but is it really?

When I first came across this term, I hadn't quite realized that I'd been a consumer of such products among millions of others, particularly in the land of "rightful" piracy - Russia. Back when we couldn't get original records and videos from abroad, the only alternative (and not a cheap one, either) we had at the time was a pirated copy of a foreign CD, VHS, etc.

One of my most vivid memories from the time my family moved to Moscow is a regular weekend trip to "the park of all pirates - Gorbushka" where one could literally get hold of anything that had ever been released in the west, or at the very least order a pirated copy from one of the "wiz" movers and shakers of Gorbushka.

Over the years, this venue has become one of the hotspots of Moscow and has, in fact, been featured in some of the tourist guides for foreign visitors.

Here's one such example: "Within a short walk from the metro station, this market located in the park around the Gorbunov House of Culture is very popular with both Russians and foreigners. You can buy any computer CD-ROM, CD, DVD and video film here, as long as you're not too bothered about copyright infringement. The prices are generally very cheap. Pirate copies account for more than ninety per cent of the CD-ROMs on sale, and more than half of them are translated in the Russian language."

You can only imagine the popularity of this music & film lovers' haven back in the days of Soviet Union - it was packed, to say the least! I bought all of my initial records at Gorbushka, from Maria Callas to Whitney Houston... It was my favorite weekend getaway with my dad - Saturday afternoon at Gorbushka was my ultimate dream come true at the tender age of 9!

Shortly afterwards, though, after the Soviet Union had completely collapsed and getting hold of foreign products became a matter of popping over to a nearby store, I realized that no pirated disk with faded artwork could replace a civilized CD with a colorful and informative album sleeve with liner notes, etc. You couldn't get an imported album for less than $15 but it was so worth saving up for that original copy!

Naturally, at the age of 9 (or even 12) copyright infringement was the last thing on my mind. But even when Napster became the coolest site among my classmates in the late 90's, I wasn't tempted in the slightest - what's the point downloaded an mp3 when I can buy an album with 12 tracks and a nice album sleeve with credits and "thank you's? That was my weak argument against Napster and its clones, but I meant every bit of it, although my friends couldn't figure out how a free download could beat a full priced CD bought at the Purple Legion, my favorite record store at the time.

Now, years later, before I've even released an album commercially, I realized that my upcoming single which is currently available for promo only - "Thinking of Someone Else" - is beginning to appear on various Russian websites for sale... Which is so odd because at the moment, it's exclusively available through compilation CDs for Promo/Radio/Press ONLY, so whoever is getting the 15 cents per download is clearly practicing the forbidden act of piracy!

It's childish to feel angry about this, of course, as one could argue that if your music is already circulating among pirates, it means that there's some sort of demand for it. So although technically it's a copyright infringement at its worst, the fact that at least a few of the people are willing to hunt for an mp3 download of the song is somewhat flattering, nonetheless.

No one has managed to really beat the system just yet, not even iTunes. People are still willing to spend that extra hour in search of the cheapest or even an all-around free download of their favorite song of the week...

It's human nature, after all: "If I can get this song for nothing, why should I pay 99 cents for it?" Unfair, I agree, and even cruel, for everybody is entitled to a share of the profits as a result of their own blood and sweat. But guess what? It's the reality.


Shannon said...

I agree with you but here is another side to the argument. I have been trying to find a website to download your song "Running Up The Hill" and well as any other I like but for some reason I can only find one or two of your songs. So it becomes a matter of how accessible an artist's music is. It would definitely buy it from ITunes if it was there but if it is not, then what are consumers supposed to do? So any help in finding more of your music would be appreciated.

Tinatin said...

Thanks for your note, Shannon!

I tried to reply to your comment personally but couldn't find your email address here... Please advise and I'll be in touch with you about the info mentioned in the comment....

Am so with you on that, though.....