Canadian Composer: “Pirates Killing Musicians, Popcorn Vendors”

Canadian Composer: “Pirates Killing Musicians, Popcorn Vendors”

Loreena McKennitt says the creative community isn’t creative enough to figure out how to distribute music online without risking failure to recoup its investment, and that when you buy a CD all you’re buying is a license to listen to it.

Loreena McKennitt, a self-described Canadian singer, composer, and head of her own record label, Quinian Road, is taking aim at piracy in the country by emphasizing what she sees as the negative effects it has on everybody from musicians, composers, and lyricists to record store employees, printers, and even popcorn vendors.

“As illegal downloads of music have soared, sales have dropped,” she writes in the Winnipeg Free Press. “In addition to the composers, lyricists and designers who provide true creative content, there is a vast and complex ecosystem of expertise (such as studio engineers, technicians, musicians, printers, administrative staff and record store employees, etc.) that has been profoundly affected by large-scale theft and distribution of copyrighted material over the Internet.”

McKennitt complains that it has been difficult for artists to justify creating new ways for music fans to enjoy their works online while piracy makes it uncertain if they will ever recoup their investment. She wants the govt to ensure they’ll be protected from the uncertainties of the capitalist marketplace by reforming copyright law to reduce illegal competition.

Too bad the “reform” wouldn’t turn people into paying customers and will probably have little effect on P2P as a whole. All it would do is push people from a less secure to a more secure method of sharing content online.

“Some people suggest that artists can make up their losses by touring all the time or hawking T-shirts,” she adds. “But this is viable only in a few specific instances and creates huge challenges for those with family obligations. Even now, parts of the touring industry are also starting to see their business erode.”

To blame P2P for ones economic woes in the midst of a now years-long economic downturn is simply ridiculous. People’s disposable income has declined dramatically and it’s improper to link a decline in business with illegal file-sharing in this context.

The best part is when McKennitt notes how “even popcorn sellers are all struggling to stay alive.” It’s reminiscent of how NBC Universal’s Rick Cotton lamented back in 2007 about how if it wasn’t for P2P “movie theatres would sell more tickets and popcorn” and thus “corn growers would earn greater profits and buy more farm equipment.” It’s nice to see she too is concerned about the welfare of “struggling” corn farmers.

She also takes aim at what she refers to as “so-called ‘user rights,'” calling it “crafted language” created by “activists and academics.”

Well, unfortunately for her, as Michael Geist points out, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that users do have rights like the fair dealing exception, and that “user rights are not just loopholes.”

“When folks buy a CD (or a legitimate download) they are actually buying a licence to listen,” she adds.

Too bad we artists like McKennitt don’t appear to have a license to listen of their own. If they did they’d realize that one illegal download does not equal one lost sale and that the rise of single digital track sales has more to do with the decline of the full physical album than anything else.

If the creative community is as creative as the name would imply then surely it can think of ways to deliver music to fans online that wouldn’t create substantial monetary investment. How about a donation-based BitTorrent tracker site for example? Users could donate as much or as little as they want. It’s better than getting nothing from sites like the Canada-based isoHunt.

Stay tuned.

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