Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Friday, June 18, 2004

Why I Quit Kazaa

Up until this year, I must admit that I was, like many others around the world, a Kazaa fanatic. If I was listening to the radio and heard an artist I liked, I'd type his name into Kazaa's search engine and download all of his songs. If I saw an album coming out that I'd never think of buying but kinda wanted, I downloaded it. I recall feeling like such hot stuff when I downloaded a copy of Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" before it was released.

What made me change? It's sorta embarrassing, but I'll mention it anyway: Country Yossi magazine. It's embarrassing enough that I even read anything in there aside from the ads, but that it even had an impact on me... Anyway, I've always found Eli Teitelbaum's column to be very interesting. I often disagree with him, but I must admit he usually does a good job proving his point, always displaying plenty of evidence. He wrote an article about Kazaa, and compared it to the people of Sodom who would do gezailah in a covert fashion. He mentioned the fact that the artists worked really hard to produce the album, so why should we rip them off? I don't remember the rest of the piece too well, but it was a very lucid argument. And if Country Yossi ever updates the site, I'll try to put up a link.

One thing that I liked about the article was that R' Teitelbaum didn't give mussar like "you shouldn't be listening to the stuff anyhow, but..." When I've asked other rabbeim questions like, "can I tape my show on Friday night," it became a whole mussar shmooze. I can definitely hear why goyish music and TV should be avoided, but if you're writing about halacha, stick to he point! Which R' Teitelbaum clearly did. Nicely done.

Usually, I can hear the other side of the argument. But this time, in trying to defend my practices, I found myself stuck. I thought, "hey, the guy has a point." And that was it for Kazaa.

One of my friends quoted another friend who asked a shailah about Kazaa and was told that it's muttar. That's something I clearly don't understand. I've always been told that I can't borrow my friend's CD and burn myself a copy. So why is Kazaa any different? (And with many downloaders being sued for using Kazaa, perhaps there's a dina d'malchusa factor as well. I don't know enough about that so I won't elaborate.)

And even if Kazaa is different, put yourself in the shoes of these artists. You've worked tirelessly day and night to produce an album, and you're ready to sell it and make some well-deserved cash. But nobody's buying it, everyone's copying it, and all that work has turned out to be for naught! That's not a good feeling at all.

So you'll tell me they're greedy? That they're millionaires anyway? That they charge $20 an album in Sam Goody? Okay, but that doesn't make it right.

One guy told me, "the music is assur anyway, so you can make a copy too, because you're already doing an issur." Okay. And based upon that logic, you can eat treif, be mechalel shabbos, etc. because hey, you're not a perfect Jew. So you can do whatever the heck you damn well please! This is easily one of the worst arguments I've ever heard.

Many of us think of dinei mammonos as only pertinent to businessmen and the like. Not to teens and others. But the scary thing is, it applies to all of us. And a kid downloading music from Kazaa is developing some very bad habits.

9 Comments:

Blogger velvel said...

FYI,
The artists don't make the lion's share of the profit. That goes to the distributors and manufacturers by way of price fixing.

And unless you're MBD or Avraham Fried, Jewish musicians don't make anything from CD sales. All the money is in performances. And the money from performances come from big donors, not ticket sales.

Stealing is stealing. Whether from the artists or big businesses. And whether you "deserve" a bargain or not.

Support your local artists and buy CDs straight from the artists whenever possible.

4:07 PM  
Blogger BL said...

I am not arguing against your main point, rather I want to point out that theoretically speaking in halachah, the entire concept of copyright law, IP, etc. is not clear at all. Some have argued that there is no such concept at all except for hassagos gvul which would allow copying (unless your reselling it). Others argue that ein geneviah l'kol - "a voice cannot be stolen" (in regards to using a stolen shofer on Rosh Hashanah). Rabbi Bleich in his "Contemporary Halachic Questions" has something on this. There is also a sefer called "GreyMatter" and a shiur at OU's website.HOWEVER, the bottom line in all of this is that dina d'malchusa dina might still apply and EVEN if it does not (some argue it only applies for taxes), there is still a problem of possible hillul Hashem (just imagine an Orthodox Jew being sued by the RIAA).

5:37 PM  
Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

velvel & BL: both you guys raise very good points.

to velvel: if anything, i would say based upon the point you raised that copying music is more severe that how i put it in my post--- after all, one's not only stealing from the artist, but the other parties involved as well! The more pockets involved, the more (possible) acts of gzailoh. Scary stuff.

to BL: assur or muttar, I can't see how anyone who's sensitive to Torah ethics (as all of us should be) can feel comfortable downloading the stuff.

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