Music, The Man and the P2P Rebellion: Are Copyrights the Vietnam of Today’s Youth?

Where once pop music was the soundtrack of the revolution, now it’s the revolution’s object.  Clearly this is not your daddy’s sit-in.  But today’s youth  may be in for a rude awakening when they realize what they are really rebelling against– their own freedom.

Moses Avalon

I grew up in the aftermath of the “hippie” era; the one that made political protests into a social activity.  You risked arrest to end the Vietnam War– and met girls. Music was the rallying point. It gave the movement momentum.

Today, it seems, music is at the center of a different kind of youth revolution, one whose values are far different from their parents. Where once pop music was the soundtrack of the revolution, now it’s more or less, the revolution’s object, manifesting as the “right” to free music. Or as the P2P culture would put it: the right to access information and liberate music from the shackles of “Big Content” who can not accept the death of copyrights.

“Big Content.” Even the term positions artists and their team as part of “the establishment”— the way a cop would symbolize Big Brother.  Those who like to bit-torrent music libraries through P2P services have cast record labels as the Nixon Administration, while they, the illegal P2P users, are the hippie liberators, fighting for what they perceive as the basic human right to share that which should be free in the first place.

I get it. I understand their frustration. Content is pricey.  A lot of it is junk too.  And many in the culture seem to think that the music industry is as big and rich as utilities, oil, or aerospace. They are probably not aware that the music business is composed mostly of creative types and if you added up the revenue from the all US entertainment industries for a year it would barely reach what energy companies earn in a month.

At the heart of the anti-war movement was the hope to stop bloodshed. Hippies rebelled against something serious– the draft. What is today’s P2P “sharing” movement about? Free tunes? Cheaper flicks?  And what are the parents of today’s youth movement thinking? They have to be hoping that their offspring will pursue a cause more deserving of jail time than over-turning the copyright regime?  What will today’s rebels do when the wholesale illegal sharing of music comes to an end in the Americas. Which it will.

Ahh…  I can hear the angry fingers of illegal–steaming, bit-torrentering fans typing hate mail to me right now. Within an hour my blog will be populated with comments waiting for my “approval” with things like “Moses, you don’t know crap” and worse. Far worse.

But I do know crap. Lots and lots of crap. For example, I know history.  And history says that all movements come to an end, not because the “war” ends but because the revolutionaries grow up and get comfortable. You get married, buy a house, have kids and suddenly the idea of a virus in your new tablet doesn’t seem worth the risk of just paying 99 cents. You tell yourself you’re only gonna sell-out to d’Man this once, or for this small thing. But within a few years you find yourself emerged in all kinds of establishment activities that you never thought you’d do. Like most Hippies, you become Yuppified.

So forget these new studies that claim P2P is down because of Limewire’s disbandment. That’s probably true, but there is more sustainable reason that I feel the “free content” movement (when it comes to stealing music) will be severely diminished; the founders of illegal P2P are turning 30, more and more each year. This will ultimately be the end of “Generation Free.” Everyone eventually grows up, and when you do you realize that in America everyone deserves to control and get paid for their creation, whether it’s a song or a piece of software.  Everyone.

Last week the Obama Administration’s recommendation that Congress felonize illegal streaming of content put a big reality-check in the illegal P2P movement. I theorized, in my Moses Supposes article that if this happens you wont be reading much on P2P Lifestyle sites about how cool it is to steal music, because promoting a felony is also a crime called, “solicitation.”

An army of 14-29 year olds posted 100s of insults leveled at me on TorrentFreak and other sites. They either completely mischaracterized my theory of law or were just blindly shooting the messenger.   This shows you how much of the illegal P2P Kool-Aid many have drunk. And when it wears off what will the sobering morning light look like?  What will the P2P generation look back on with nostalgia when they become tomorrow’s establishment, I wonder?

“Ah, the good ol days. We used to chat on Face Book, your father and I, and flame at anyone who tried to tell us that we had to pay for music. We were part of a force that revolutionized the music business and helped it to develop into a place where artists were free once again to make music without the shackles of corporate money to brand them.”


If they thought Big Content was exerting undue influence over Washington, just wait till public policy is controlled by people who sit in a room all day and write code.  Imagine a Mark Zukerberg as President.  You can forget about privacy and the Fourth Amendment.

To the many readers who’ve been with me for years and years, who use Moses Supposes as a referendum and a rational filter in an ocean of negative music biz spin, you should know that despite attacks on me and hacks to my website, I am not going anywhere. Y’see I have a secret weapon that the illegal P2P crusaders don’t have– I am already over 30. And unless someone invents a new gene therapy, I’m planning on staying as such.

Those who cling to youthful values and dreams of changing the world, often find themselves outnumbered. Their peers move further way from them philosophically, morphing into a life of adulthood and responsibility. It’s only a matter of time.  Only a matter of time.

Mo out

30 responses to “Music, The Man and the P2P Rebellion: Are Copyrights the Vietnam of Today’s Youth?”

  1. ahungrymusician says:

    over 30 Mo? Bah, you’re but a spritely 25, I’m sure!

    I would like to see some figures re this suggestion though, I’d like to see how the new generation are consuming their music to see if it really is a one generation issue, for that I’m not convinced – a BPI report in December last year suggested that piracy was still on the rise in the UK, which to me would suggest that the younger generation is getting pulled into it, over this side of the pond at least.

    On the other hand I read something quite interesting for the pirates to dig into while they claim the laws won’t work – PRS released figures a few days ago that showed piracy down over 5% in 2010 on 2009 in France – it is of course coincidence that the HADOPI anti-piracy law was introduced in January 2010, pure coincidence.

  2. Simon Higgs says:

    Sorry pal, but outlawing P2P isn’t going happen. If it could, Betamax and VHS would have been outlawed years ago. Years ago I wrote a few laws regarding convergence and one of them is applicable:

    Technology is a tool. It does not discriminate between good uses and bad uses. (Legislating against technology to prevent crime will have the adverse effect of making legal uses of technology completely illegal.)

    The federal government and most of the Fortune 500 use P2P for legal uses, and like you say, their economies overshadow the paltry sums in the music industry.

    The public know the labels exploit and don’t pay their artists fully (think of all the equity deals for content licensing online that the artists have zero share in).

    Add onto that the fact the industry has trained the public for decades to expect free content (radio), and made these freebies not only promotional deductions from the artist’s pay, but also royalty-exempt for the performers that made the music (i.e. they don’t get paid).

    Sure, some of those things are being addressed, like Sound Exchange, but face the facts – cars, guns and baseball bats kill people, but they aren’t anymore illegal than P2P.

    • Moses Avalon says:

      @Simon Higgs

      I think your comment is a perfect example of why this debate goes on and on. I write an article about the generation gap and how they see music, and a P2P person writes a comment about how P2P will always be legal. As if the legality of P2P has anything to do with my piece. Simon says he has written a “few laws regarding convergence.” Good for you. That’s great. I’ve actually advised law-makers (the ones who work for our government) on the drafting of actual law, and I can tell you that if you’re going to help write laws on anything, you need to pay attention to the subject. Better attention than you, Simon, are paying right now.

      Now, pay attention: I never said in this piece that P2P would be illegal. I wrote that the Obama Administration is trying to make “illegal streaming of content” a felony. that sir, is an immutable fact that has nothing whatsoever to do with guns being legal or anything else you just responded to.

      So, do you have any comments that are relevant to the topic of the article, or are you just another “P2P will never die” broken record? Cause I think we’ve all heard this type of response enough on this forum already.

      • Simon Higgs says:

        Here’s the reality Mo’ – I’m still 17 (and several hundred months)…

        Firstly, I told everyone, in writing, in the music press, that this was coming down, long before P2P was even invented. Paying attention isn’t exactly a problem. And now I get to say “told you so”…

        The first law maker I met with on the subject was Bruce Lehman, who was, at the time, United States Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. At the time, Jim Clark hadn’t discovered Marc Andreeson, and if that had been a traditional record deal, you wouldn’t have the web today. Period.

        That said, you can look at this from the myopic view of the music industry, or you can look at this from the wider perspective of a single technology within a culture.

        Within that culture, we have lessons from other technology, that have had similar laws applied and overturned. Cryptography was a munition (aka WMD) that carried felony charges for export just like a rocket launcher or a nuke. If these laws were still in place, everyone leaving the USA with a copy of Windows 7 on their laptop would be charged with a felony as even higher grade cryptography is now built-in. That’s just one example.

        Next, every piece of intellectual property in human history is in the public domain, except for those protected for a limited time by geo-centric legislation such as the US Constitution.

        Now, let’s put this in perspective. Can you, for absolute certainty, right now, identify a stream, who the IP belongs to, and the identity the recipient? Now ask yourself, can you do it without violating the 4th amendment? The answer is, no, you can’t. Now ask the artist if they want to reach the recipient and what are they are willing to give up to reach them? Better still, what does the artist have to upsell the recipient? Do they know a 12 year-old that can code this up so $$$ land in the band’s bank account?

        Lots of name artists I’ve spoken to thought DRM was hampering their careers. They wanted their fans to share to create more fans. The labels won’t agree to anything they can’t control, even if it benefits (especially if it benefits) themselves. Now DRM is gone from the largest online stores and the labels have to suck it up. Even Apple are building more peering and sharing technology into their ecosystem.

        Not that there’s EVER been rebellion with felony consequences in the music industry. That’d be like the pot calling the shrooms… um… medicinal.

        The bottom line is old hippies are always going to whine and 12 year-olds are going to write code that makes them whine even more. In the meantime, we all have music to promote and sell, whether P2P exists or not, and whether it’s legal or not.

        Focus on the business that works, and not the antiquities in the RIAA’s mausoleum of ineptitude.

        • Moses Avalon says:

          @Simon Higgs

          You’re still not paying attention. This article is about a generation gap, not P2P or the politics of it. How come everyone else can follow the subject? I think you want to post these comments on another article. Try this one:

          • Mason C says:

            I discovered file sharing through my father, who was an avid user of the old Bearshare, and Napster. The generation gap isn’t as difficult as you make it out to be.

            Technology has changed dramatically, which makes it significantly easier to obtain pirated material. It also makes it easier to detect, and increases the scale on which it is done. Today you will find most of your pirating done through the internet where it’s as easy as typing a keyword into a search engine to acquire, and as easy as looking at how many downloads the file(s) have received to see how prevalent the piracy is. Previously pirating copyrighted material was physical, (as in buying a burned DVD/CD off of a blanket from an individual selling the product on the street, or by other methods.) Such analog methods of spreading the material are not capable of becoming as wide spread and popular, and are not capable of being tracked to the degree as online file sharing is.

  3. Ed Dell says:

    I think you would enjoy Lewis Hyde’s book “Common as Air” which is a sensible look at the history of copyright in the USA and an enlightening discussion of the “common” concept. He things we live in a shared pool of our culture which is available to all, but is owned by none. The open source software is a wonderful example.Value open to all with clear regulations, a semi-copyright as it were.
    Enjoy your blog very much.

  4. Tom Thomas says:

    Mo, I find your thoughts on this subject to be basically inarguable. We must both be broken in the same way.

    Thieves do not function in the best interest of the society in which they enjoy occupancy.

  5. sam kleinman says:

    I think you are wrong

    p2p may disappear only due to the fact that there are new and better ways of moving the “free” music around
    2 months ago I was at a mini lecture by VP of piracy at Paramount and he showed us that from just p2p for Movies, now there are 5 different ways to get movies for “free” and there is no answer , only one answer: make the films available for free , against ads , so its on equal footing
    Anyone who dreams that the people over 30 will refuse free music because they now became righteous people is wrong!
    Spotify in Europe has proven this point, they let you listen for free to any song, but there are ads, this company is now priced at one Billion Dollars! Within 2 years of being in business!

    Sam Kleinman

    Craze Productions
    10 Great Russel St
    London WC1B 3BQ U.K
    +44 207 993 8548
    USA Tel: +1 718 701 2942
    USA Fax: 1-310-388-3994

  6. Rob says:

    Preach on Mo! While I myself have gone the torrent route for music, for myself, it’s alot easier then contacting a friend of my that’s a PD for a hiphop/rnb station and have him send me an actual disc, which have piled up at this point.

    People are always quick to speak and slow to listen (read), so preach on!!

  7. Rod Kirkpatrick says:

    Great blog Mo!

  8. JJ Biener says:

    I wish I was as optimistic as you. What I see coming behind the twenty-somethings ranting about revolution are a bunch of teens who don’t know that downloading is even illegal and don’t seem to care when they are told. I don’t see this problem going away soon unless some concrete actions are taken.

    One problem is the absolute denial of reality that seems to be the currency of people like the TorrentFreak crowd. I have been hanging out there debunking some of their myths and I’m sure you can imagine the abuse I am taking as a result. So many people claimed that infringement is not a crime that I finally looked up that actual copyright law and posted the relevant sections.

    Not only are we dealing with an assault on the rights of creators everywhere, we are also in the middle of a propaganda war. The level of misinformation and disinformation is worthy of a third-world dictator.

    I believe copyrights have to be actively defended. I think we need government enforcement of criminal infringement on a widespread basis, and we need public education program on behalf of copyright holders so the public understands the situation.

  9. CTMartin says:

    It all makes perfect sense until the last few lines.

    Indeed, you may well be over 30 and fully subscribed to “adulthood and responsibility” vs. “youthful values and dreams of changing the world,” but then again, you’re not an artist… or a technocrat.

    This is perfectly ok, of course. We artists need people to live vicariously through our work, and technogeeks need real live humans to use their WordPress blogging software.

    (Well, it seems they’ve also been selling their blogging software to monkeys, who are at this moment furiously typing away as part of the “million monkeys” future wherein all [intellectual property] that was ever conceived by the mind of Man will be reborn from the fumbling fingers of frustrated Orangutans.)

    From my perspective as an artist, I think the issue here is a battle between two seemingly opposed expressions of “youthful values and dreams of changing the world.” But I write “seemingly” because there is no denying the transformative/disruptive power of either “naive” expression.

    It might be said that all great works are conceived in a cloistered environment… within the confines of the studio or alone in the dark room lit only by the computer monitor. Let’s not denigrate the pimply, pale 16-year old at the computer, or the blunt-smoking oversexed guitarist/surfer; great power lies at their fingertips. And both probably have dark ugly bags under their eyes.

    So… artists… technonerds… don’t lose your youthful values and dreams of changing the world. Your willingness to cling to your youth will be indispensible in the coming battle against the monkeys.

    But, technoLMFAOers… umm… don’t steal, ok?

    CTMartin out.

  10. Don Coyer says:

    I have a hard time understanding why certain people are so pro-p2p. They fight and fight about how great it is. And they don’t even begin to see the ramifications of this mode of thought, though they claim to.
    We are in the information age. If copyright becomes untenable, and if intellectual property ownership becomes impossible, all human progress will stop. Some people would like that, namely the ones who are trying to keep the status quo, keeping us enslaved to oil, for instance. Is that what you want? Music REPRESENTS freedom, but nothing in this life is free. And it shouldn’t be, because if it’s free, it’s crap.
    And regardless of whether people THINK it should be free, it’s not free and it IS illegal to steal (rip, as in ripoff) other people’s property. I think it would be hilarious to hear the person who is screaming the loudest that music should be free and I’d love to break into his house and steal everything out of there. Then well listen to his screams change to screams of outrage. Free car. Free girlfriend. What else ya got????

  11. Today it seems everybody wants something for nothing. P2P is just a part of a potential demise for an enlightened society. Positive change is good, when it’s everyone’s interest. Music has value just like anything else we buy and creators should be fairly compensated, so long as financial economics are an integral part of life.

  12. Val Gameiro says:

    As a libertarian, I don’t believe more government intervention is a good idea… new laws make new criminals, and they’re, at best a stopgap, and at worst a totalitarian dictator… either way, laws don’t stop social problems. A criminal has become such because he’s lost all self-respect… no law has ever reformed a criminal, and putting them behind bars (with other worse criminals) has tended to make for… more crime.

    The only real solution is education… which is also tough when all parents want to do is give the kids some Ritalin so they can watch their TV and carry on their single-lifestyle in peace. Same goes for teachers.

    Some of the generation-Free-ers may only really get why illegal downloading (not P2P as a technology) is bad, when their sole livelihood comes from music/film for which they’re not receiving anything in exchanged, and they starve, or are forced to stop creating music because they need to pay their bills.

    Ultimately, it’s up to us as individuals to tell each other that stealing is not OK, and just because the Internet makes it easy, doesn’t mean it’s good… might be good for the pocket of the person downloading, but that is costing someone else their livelihood.

    And justifying the harmful by saying the Labels are bad is only that… the lessening of a harmful act in the hopes one doesn’t feel as bad about it.

    Ultimately, understanding the concept of fair exchange and respecting other people is the only way illegal activity will stop.

    At least, that’s my opinion!!

  13. Chris Rich says:

    It is kinda pathetic that ‘the big cause’ is looting.

    The most galling part is how one bunch of particularly dull code monkeys who want to be software millionaires through their own Intellectual property protections want to confiscate those of others to flog some ‘bitchin’ app.

    It is an interesting socio-pathology.

  14. Marc Eric says:

    You are right on with this Mo! I’ve tried to teach my son about stealing songs from P2P.

    Even though he was directly effected do to his (single) father being a independent recording artist didn’t seem to stop him at first, untill he saw me struggling to pay for simple things like groceries.

    My new (independent) album took me 1 year to write all the songs and 6 weeks of 10-14 hour days to record and master it. The cost came in around $15,000 which includes studio time and gear. This is a humble amount.. there are artists and labels spending much much more than this.

    Imagine if you worked that hard and long building a custom Hotrod from the ground up for a client, and in the end he took it and never paid you… would you build another?.. could you afford to build another?

    My son now pays for his music. He even got a duped CD from one of his friends and I had him go on Amazon and buy all the songs on it.

    I miss music stores and that whole experience!

    .99 cents a song to keep music alive for everyone to enjoy.

  15. Moses… I find your emails quite refreshing…FINALLY..someone with all the facts speaks out against this insane idea that all music should be free.

    Our small company has suffered from counterfeiting and piracy losses since we first plugged in a tape machine 44 years ago. We have for many years taken the fight to the thieves, and won a few battles by getting down in the trenches with the scrofulous misfits. First, it was counterfeited vinyl discs, the manufacture of which was quite difficult and technologically demanding(at the time, of course), then along came the 8-track cartridge, and its relatively simpler production requirements. I always thought the Ampex tape rep was caught in a conundrum…selling recording tape to me at the same time openly selling bulk spools of tape for 8-track manufacturing to the “bootleggers”…and he sold huge amounts of tape.. Then came the cassette..even easier to pirate..but, like the old 8-track, still requiring expensive machinery and bulky raw materials and supplies. We breathed a short-lived sigh of relief when the CD came along and retired the older devices for sound recording. Then..(a big “Oh Shit” here)…then…Recordable CD’s…inexpensive and not very technologically challenging. What next..? How about all this along with rampant large-scale counterfeiting of everything conceivably recordable by our “friends” in China.

    All of these historical affronts to legitimate music and record business operations shrink to insignificance when compared to illegal internet downloading. This practice, effectively (key word here is “effectively”)unchallenged for years now, has almost killed our business, right along with the rest of the record industry.

    After being on the front lines for over four decades, we stood by and watched helplessly as our federal courts dropped the ball time after time when faced with cases in which plaintiffs were attempting to defend their copyrights.

    When intellectual property rights are trampled, intellectual properties will cease to exist. Go buy a ukulele and play your own music.

    When I hear someone say…”But it’s only music”…I start thinking seriously about exercising my 2nd amendment rights.

    Keep up the good work


  16. Chris Rich says:

    I just realized that the big conflation here is the difference between agreeing to waive rights which is creative commons the childish notion that everything should be free.

    I don’t care about making a buck writing. The whole thing is stupid in this day and age so I waive my right. I opted out.

    That does not mean, nor shall it EVER mean that I forfeit all rights for all things. It just means the things I write now when I write them just aren’t worth much to me and if they are useful to share, great.

  17. Digital music and it’s distribution is the work of the major record labels.Now independent artists have little or no visibility(how can a consumer weed thru 6 million songs)When i was a teenager i went to the independent punk rock record store.It was there i learned what was good and new.Without mom and pop stores,the independent artist can’t afford to buy ad time on Google , YouTube,etc.And can’t compete. Every time you log on an add for some shitty pop artist(that includes Hip-Hop which is now mainstream pop music)comes up.Things are no different than before.Most people are stupid sheep who buy what they are force fed.This is also the bait and switch.Youtube in Europe is a good example.When a civilian posts a video(lets say Led Zepp)There were no repercussions.Now they are going to charge a public performance royalty payment to said civilian.If the civi.has a million HITS,thats a huge ammount of cash.Don’t be fooled.Meet the new boss same as the old boss.

  18. […] The P2P Rebellion: Are Copyrights the Vietnam of Today’s Youth — The always entertaining Moses Avalon compares the P2P crusade against “Big Content” to the 60′s youth opposition to the Vietnam War. One notable difference between the two: “At the heart of the anti-war movement was the hope to stop bloodshed. Hippies rebelled against something serious– the draft. What is today’s P2P “sharing” movement about? Free tunes? Cheaper flicks?” […]

  19. “What is today’s P2P “sharing” movement about?”

    “Free tunes? Cheaper flicks?” – if you’re a cynical, but devout copyrightist, you can comfort yourself with that aspersion.

    It’s actually about liberty – man’s primordial freedom to share and build upon his own culture.

    The only ones intent on paying artists as little as possible are the incumbent and immortal publishing corporations – the copyright cartel. The audience of mortal individuals on the other hand is generous to the artists it likes, it’s just that today there’s very little means of an audience paying anything without the lion’s share ending up in the pocket of someone other than the artist. It will take time for the copyright based revenue mechanisms to die out and become replaced by far more economic disintermediated ones.

  20. tony cortese says:

    Interesting perspective…

    I like what I hear, I want it, I don’t want to pay for it, I can take it without paying for it, you can’t stop me, so I should…


    It’s one thing if I’m creative and I choose to share what I write. It’s something else altogether if YOU make that choice for me, without my consent.

    Having a hard time differentiating between this approach and some 700 pound Gorilla type deciding that if s/he wants what you have, they should take it because you can’t stop them. I’m sure from the Gorilla’s perspective you have more than you need… you are greedy, and you should not be able to “hoard” whatever it is that you have that the s/he wants…

    This is a bit like the current intellectual property challenge we have with countries that refuse to honor copyrights, patents, trademarks, etc… They won’t get it until it starts to happen to them. Will be interesting to see what happens when someone starts ripping off these folks…

  21. D. Wison says:

    Here is a song that I thought clearly reflects the current attitude of today’s copyright infringers. Pleas don’t hurt the messenger.

  22. Dex Vegas says:

    P2P will just change. The Napster/Limewire type networks are all dead. BitTorrent took over, and is now under attack. Next will be encrypted torrent streams, then, a new thing that circumvents the minefields and opens up another can of worms. Seems to be the nature of the beast.

    Meanwhile, deep on the outer fringe of the net, lurks an ancient technology, that has existed since the very early days of the internet, when nothin but geeks and brainiacs even knew it existed.

    Strange places with names like ‘alt.binaries.dvd’ or ‘alt.binaries.bluray’ where terabytes of content are up for grabs, for those with the know whats. Everyone will stay focused on torrent and whatever supersedes it. Meanwhile many folks over 30 use the old arcane, forgotten paths (there are several) that allow them to obtain what they are curious about…….beware the power of the geek!

    Most of the youngsters I know (13-25 Years Old) all have ITunes and/or one of the others, and pay for the stuff they are into. This is supplemented by trading stuff amongst themselves, just like me and my friends did (and still do on occasion). I don’t see that much of a gap, at least with this issue.

    Don’t let all the jack-offs on that torrent site get to you. There is no way quality content can ever be free, most all of them peeps know that. The music and film industry have got to innovate, legislation and litigation is not the way to go, just pisses people off. A record company should have been the ones to launch iTunes, not Apple.

    ‘Course, could be, with like four companies controlling the countries (worlds?) media, maybe constantly kicking them in the nuts is a good thing.

    What a screwy world we now live in…..

  23. tyson says:

    P2P can never be outlawed, Where there is a will there is a way. As people figure out a way to block one style, another one will always pop up

  24. Jeannie says:

    Moses, you make a lot of sense. Yes some of the younger generation see nothing wrong with sharing music, ebooks and etc. Getting songs free where they can…

    Not all, and I am thankful for this, Part of how I see it, is many have a sense of entitlement – I want it and I will get it this way, because I can.

    Laws are being set in place, but many have no “why” that is strong enough to change what they do. I think parents need to play a part in educating kids in younger years of paying for what they get, and doing to others as they would want done to them.

    I doubt this is going to happen.

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