If It Looks Like A Duck, Music Industry Edition

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Joel Tenenbaum has been ordered to pay $675,000, or $22,500 per song, for downloading and sharing a few dozen songs on Kazaa. That sounds unfair because it is. It’s also incredibly stupid. The Recording Industry Association of America’s litigation strategy can only work for so long. Soon, electronic storage capacity will be so great that you will be able to fit every song ever recorded onto a single flash memory drive. You’ll be able to hand your friends every song ever over lunch in the school cafeteria. That kind of piracy won’t be legal, but it won’t be traceable, either.

The music industry’s big problem is that its business model relies on selling copies of something that can be copied for free. If you could duplicate Lexuses in the comfort of your own home for free, Lexuses would be a lot harder to sell, too.

Journalism has a similar problem. The marginal cost of reproducing a newspaper article on the internet is zero. Command-C, Command-V. But you don’t see the New York Times suing grad students who are printing out its articles or copying and pasting them into Word documents. And you definitely don’t see the Times convincing juries to fine people hundreds of thousands of dollars for sharing its articles with their friends.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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