I remember listening to some great music on borrowed records when I couldn’t afford them myself. We had Elvis Presley and Pat Boone and Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at home, but then came the hard times. I first listened to the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival on LPs borrowed from friends.
Just as well we were limited to vinyl those days. I shudder to think what the consequences might have been had we been able to share them online. The record companies wouldn’t have been amused and would have sicced the cops after us, just as they are chasing the pirates now. Pirates? Hell! Some of them must be kids.
But you don’t have to grow a beard and brandish a cutlass and attack ships and towns to be a pirate these days. All you have to do is share some music files. That’s a criminal offence.
Police in Singapore are investigating 33 home Internet users for illegally distributing music files online. If convicted, they could be jailed up to five years and fined up to 100,000 Singapore dollars (nearly $59,000). That’s a heavy price to pay, but so are the charges against them. They allegedly distributed a few hundred to a thousand songs each. The record companies which hoped to sell the songs themselves, of course, see that as eating into their business. And the law calls it stealing intellectual property.
One has to respect the law, of course. But I am glad I grew up in more lenient times when there was nothing wrong in sharing music. It’s true by sharing or borrowing music we were depriving the record companies and the musicians of the money they might have earned. But lots of records went gold, lots of fortunes made.
The problem these days is artistes don’t sell as well as they used to — but is it only because people can download the music for free from illegal file-sharing networks? I don’t know. I have never even tried to download music from the Net.
Caroline Lennon in the Guardian on Tuesday wrote: "Despite the popularity of downloading, which accounts for half of all singles sales, most of it is done by teenagers who have never known a world without the Internet." My generation grew up before the Net, and when I want to listen to music, I either turn on the radio or play a CD. What I actually yearn for are the vinyl albums I couldn’t afford to buy with their lovely covers and detailed liner notes.