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Lily Allen Invents The Criminal Commons License

November 24th, 2009 | 6 Comments | Categories: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians |

Wow, now this one we didn’t expect! Lily Allen, following her heartfelt protestations that Mandelson’s plans to cut off the internet connections of ‘persistent file sharers’ were destroying opportunities for hard-working record labels to put money into young bands, has flipped to the polar opposite position.

No, she’s not saying file-sharing is OK. She’s now saying that it’s only bad if you DON’T charge for it. Yup, she’d rather you bought bootleg copies of her album from the crim in your local market than got it from a friend who bought it legitimately.

She has, in effect invented a whole new “license” – The Criminal Commons License: “please only breach the legal copyright on this work if you intend to profit financially from it.”

Words. Fail. Me.

I honestly have no idea at all what kind of bone-headed, moronic thinking could possibly lead to her thinking that a person – or indeed, a criminal syndicate – counterfeiting copyright materials is a better solution to the issue of

“how the production of music and the cultural and business environment in which musicians create, perform and distribute their music can thrive in an age when everything had changed

than people listening to music because they love it and paying for it because they’re grateful for it, or want something physical, something that can’t be downloaded. 

After all, that is the question, right? It’s not

‘how can anyone – criminal or otherwise – make money from selling physical music, regardless of their connection to the art itself.’

Is it?

Her ideas represent a very peculiar form of anarcho-capitalism, that sees the exchange of currency as the only real value in any action, and that the right to do that should be promoted and upheld in spite of any negative social, creative, criminal or legislative consequences. So if that means protecting the rights of media conglomerates to exploit the assets of legacy works that by most reckoning ought to be in the public domain, then so be it.

And, indeed, if it means the suggestion that “illegal” transfer of music is only valid if the person doing the transfer is personally profiting from it, then so be that as well. Just so long as the unworthy scum that are actually listening to her music realise that it’s worth some cash.

It takes Mandelson’s plans – which aren’t that dissimilar in that they value the right to monetize assets over any multi-currency measurement of the cultural value of shared music – to a whole new place, where anyone can charge for anything, just so long as they charge.

Great music is worth a hundred times what anyone can physically pay for it. Bad music isn’t worth the investment of time it takes to find out that it’s bad. Free distribution of music works because it doesn’t cost anyone anything for the sharing to happen but has the potential to accrue enormous value that can be turned into cash to pay the bills and make more music in myriad ways.

I wonder what Lily’s chums at the FAC think of this one?

(Oh, and I bet the bloke who wrote the article defending her in Word magazine that quoted but completely (intentionally?) misunderstood my blog-post about Lily now feels a bit of a berk too…)

While you’re here, if you’re a UK resident, go sign the Open Rights Group’s Petition against Mandelson’s insane plans.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • caro

    well reflected steve..keep lobbing the spanners in the rusted ole works :>

  • Peter Darby

    Sounds like Lily has finally finished the record industry kool-aid:

    “That’s right Lily: it doesn’t matter whether YOU get any money for your music, as long as SOMEONE does.”

    Because the important thing is that the consumer pays, not that the producer gains.

    Suddenly reminded of an old song…

    “Robin Hood, what a crook!
    Gave away what he took!
    Charity’s fine, subscribe to mine,
    Get out and pick a pocket or two…”

    And bearing in mind how Lionel Bart was treated by the business, doubly apt.

  • Luke

    Has Lily ever chatted with fans at the merch table? It would seem not.

    The value of your music from the individual’s perspective is not at all connected to how much they are willing to spend. It would seem that Lily needs to ask her fans direct – i.e. put on a gig herself, and assuming that everyone there ‘values’ her music – she will no doubt see that a good proportion of those fans might not have bought the record, download, etc – and may instead have received it for free (i.e. from a friend, or illegally downloaded).

    …I’d like to see those figures, actually.

  • Andy Gilmour

    Maybe, just maybe, rather than a carefully-thought-out, nuanced position that she’s arrived at only after hours of wrangling with the ethical implications of a variety of stances, this is Ms. Allen opening her gob and “speaking her brains” to that low-quality musical dishrag, the NME?

    She’s never given much evidence of extreme cleverness in any other interviews, so why break the habit now…?

  • Mikael Suomela

    Oh, Lily. This is hilarious:)

    But the serious side of this is the sort of consumerist thinking – that you have to somehow be a music consumer and not be able to share music except if you are doing so for a profit – for decidedly nonmusic goals.

    Ok, so everyone knows that Lily is a tool or a fool. But how do you tell people that they don’t need to have sales metrics in order to know what is good music to listen to. That you can enjoy music whether it is selling tons or it’s not selling at all – that the proof of the value of music is in the music itself. In fact, come to think of it – many of my most valued listening experiences as a music student were live bootleg tapes of superior musicians jamming and those tapes were strictly passed from friend to friend with no monetary compensation whatsoever…

  • steve

    Andy,

    I’m not suggesting this is a well-thought out position from her :)

    I’m guessing – hoping – that she’s entirely inconsistent in it. That when an old lady thanks her for helping her cross the road, she doesn’t demand cash in return. That when someone tell her they love her, she doesn’t send them a bill representing what she thinks that love is worth…

    of course not. She’s as multi-currency as the rest of us. She just has an industry-induced blind-spot when it comes to music. I wonder if she refuses all free CDs from friends in the industry. Again, probably not. And neither should she, if no-one else in the industry does. She’s not a music industry rethinker, she doesn’t appear to have studied this. She’s someone who when interviewed says whatever comes into her head, and sometimes those things sound insane.

    Which makes it all the more embarrassing for the FAC and the journalists who defended her nonsense file-sharing stance, I guess…