Sunday, July 26, 2009

Respectable thievery?

My employer pays me to work. Big deal, right? It would be if he didn't...

I earned a degree, prepared for and passed state board exams, continually update my education, work hard, apply my knowledge and experience to the benefit of my patients and employer; for this I am paid, and I might add, fairly well. I'm not a millionaire, but we are able to pay bills, send the kids to private school, go out to dinner every once in a while; diligence and hard work have been fairly compensated.

My career is not limited to compensated services rendered. Friends, family, and sometimes complete strangers test my knowledge and keep me on my toes. I am not paid for this, nor would I expect to be. It is my joy to use my experience and education in this way, so I choose to do it. "Sunday Clinics" are my favorite - after Mass a line develops of those who have questions: "My doctor changed my blood pressure medication. What are the side effects?" Do you know what this rash on my arm is?" Can you look at my knee? Its bothering me" "How can I hook up my unemployed son with insurance?" My wife has come to expect this over the years, and quietly waits with the children until the last one is seen and satisfied. This is a highlight of my week. I am proud to do it, but, once again, it is my choice to do so. There are many physicians, nurses and other health professionals who rarely, if ever, share their medical knowledge outside the workplace. It is not required by their profession, and their choice is not to do so (the ethical implications of that choice are fodder for another time).

At the Mission there are many craftsmen, professionals, and talented individuals that provide a service at no charge because they choose to do so: the electrician who helped re-wire the church bells, the janitor who stripped and waxed the dining room floor, the flooring specialist who tiled the kitchen, the lawyer who provides timely advice, the mechanic who fixes cars - I could go on and on. We don't pay them, nor could we ever afford to; they are aware of this and choose to provide the service anyway, and we are blessed by their generosity of time and talent.

There is one profession, though, that many of us feel that we may partake of their services for no charge, even if they have not chosen to allow it. Perhaps we feel as though they are compensated enough for their job. Perhaps we feel the industry is well-off enough to take it. Perhaps we just want what they have to offer. No matter the situation, many of us feel perfectly entitled to steal their services without a thought or care. I speak of musicians. They have not chosen to allow their work to be distributed freely, and yet it is, every day, by well-meaning, respectable folks all over the world.

There are many who believe I make too much money at work, that I am part of the problem with spiraling health care costs. Yet no one would think to make me work for free based on their opinion. No one requires the electrician to work for free based on their belief that "they can afford a free job now and again". No one feels that they can break into a jeweller's shop and take what they like because jewellers are paid too much anyway. And we all know what happens to thieves who take things just because they want them. Why, then, do we feel taking the work of musicians is acceptable? Did they not have to learn and practice their craft for years? Did they not have to work hard, audition, fail, try and try again? Are they not entitled to being compensated, not only for their musical creations, but for the years of toil that led to it? EVEN IF we think they are paid too much, don't deserve it, can take the hit, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera?

Exodus chapter 20, verse 15 reads: "You shall not steal". If someone expects to be paid for a service or product, the law states they are well-founded in that expectation, and we take it anyway...well, let's just call a spade a spade.


  1. Praised be Jesus Christ!
    now and forever.

    I have said this exact thing in reference to music downloads..
    GO DAVE!
    you are speaking the truth..

  2. An electrician works on actual wiring and circuitry that you can see, feel, and touch. A jeweler makes and sells pieces of art in silver and gold that you can actually hold in your hand, lock in a box, or give away as a gift. Music, however, is intangible. You can't hold sound waves, nor can you lock them in a box. It is art, and the artists should be compensated for their work, true. But, for the most part, file sharing helps the artists a lot more than it does the record company. Let me illustrate here: If I'm listening to the radio, or catch a tune off of Youtube that I like, I'll look up the album and download it. Downloading the album usually means I'll end up with a poor quality rip, but it's good enough for it's main purpose. Quality control. If the album is great, I'll more than likely buy it since I know I'll be getting a better quality product, and support the music, even though in general, music artists get very little from CD sales. Most places won't allow you to return a CD once it's opened, and that's pretty much the only way you'll find out if it's any good if you don't download, by opening it up. But since I try before I buy, I can tell whether or not it'll be worth the investment beforehand, and by buying only the good albums, I'll encourage the quality artists to record more while keeping myself from buying crap music, thereby keeping the Darwinian process of music flowing. Survival of the rockin'-est.
    Now, downloading also has another benefit for the artists. Since they mainly make their profits by doing shows and performances, file sharing helps to spread the word, so to speak. Their music will reach more people, many of which won't be satisfied with just listening on their ipods when they can go see the group on stage. Which means more profits for the group thanks to a greater turnout with people who wouldn't have heard of them otherwise.
    Despite my relative youth, I remember a time when I would swap audio tapes of songs off the radio with my friends. We would record the latest hits from our favorite bands and share them with each other to just enjoy the music. It rather saddens me to think that the exact same thing, when digitized, can make people who love music into targets for the RIAA witch hunt.

  3. I respect your opinion, and you may even be correct in your hypothesis that file sharing ultimately helps in the persuit of fame and fortune. Nonetheless, it is against the law. Music, simply because it is auditory, is no less compensatable than arts enjoyed by any of the other senses.
    I, too, recall cassette tapes, sharing, dubbing, dual cassette stereo systems, and the like. We did record and share songs. Here's the difference I see: I had about fifty cassette tapes at any given time (most of which I bought). That was a large collection by anyone's standards. Today we can and do download THOUSANDS upon thousands of songs. MP3's can take it, and there is nothing lost in the quality, unlike dubbing cassettes. I can understand the industry's concern that its bread and butter, due to file sharing, may lose much of its value.

    I repeat, if the law states that someone may expect and require compensation for the distribution of a commodity, and we take it without compensation, it is stealing.


I am always interested and appreciative of your comments and thank you for taking the time. God bless you.