Re: [rumori] Programmers vs. Musicians

From: The Evolution Control Committee (
Date: Thu Feb 01 2001 - 22:15:27 PST

     Ooh, this is a good topic.

At 08:21 AM 2/1/01 -0800, you wrote:

>Then someone said, "For myself, I've been using computers since 1982 and
>I've NEVER paid for software in my entire life, and I never plan on it in
>the future"

     Just to state my background before stating my positions: I'll admit
that I'm pretty frikkin' horrible with paying for my software...
personally. However, when I've worked professionally, I've always made sure
my employer/company is properly licensed for things. There are some things
that I've paid for personally though, but lately I've had so little money
to my name I really haven't been able to pay for anything major. Believe it
or not, I actually have had licenses donated to me... I've always liked
Cool Edit Pro, not only because it's great software, but because years ago
they actually donated a license to me because, in their words, the NEA is
totally inadequate.

     There are so many points in the Programmers vs. Musicians arguments
that overlap... and so many that don't. Like Steev said, it takes a lot
more effort to make good software than good music. Software is also
scalable, in terms of authorship -- most music is only made by a band of
about 3-6 people; more than that and it's the too-many-chefs syndrome.
Sure, sometimes you can have studio engineers and other participants, and
sometimes software is made by a small core team, but usually it ain't that
way. Also, software can be improved upon later with successive versions;
music has no parallel (no, remixes and cover versions just don't cut it).
     But perhaps the most important difference is that programs are tools.
You can do something -useful- with a program. Now I'm all for music therapy
and so on, but on the whole music is pretty strictly "for entertainment
purposes only". Yes, software can be elegant and have style, but for
certain things you must have some sort of software to get anywhere. A car
analogy here is probably good: Music is the stereo. Software is tires.
Sure, mag wheels are cool, but you could get by with more basic tires. The
radio you could live without.

>Do any of you think it's somehow unethical for this fellow to not pay for
>ANY of his software? If you're a programmer who charges for software,
>would you be pissed he's running a hacked version of yours?

     Not really. Like Steev, I'm a programmer (well, less so these days)
that never had a shrink-wrapped product on the shelves. If I did... well,
my answer would probably depend on things like what the program does, am I
rich off it already, does this guy have a lot of money, etc. If I were
pretty poor (er, come to think of it, I am) and this guy wasn't, I'd feel
that he's being greedy.

     Now that I'm thinking about this more, I'm seeing that this has some
similarity to the issues brought up in that article about Brazil's
copyright violations against the US pharmaceutical companies. If you didn't
read it (it was long; I wouldn't blame you), Brazil is officially
manufacturing illegal copies of AIDS drugs because the US drug companies
are charging first-world insured-patient prices for them, and in Brazil
(and many many other countries) that's simply impossible to afford. The
manufacture of AIDS drugs is almost identical to software -- the main cost
is not the per unit cost; it's the cost up front of research and design of
the drug, which must then be spread out among the cost of the individual
doses. Each pill might only cost 50 cents, but you might spend $26,000,000
designing and testing the drug before you manufacture the first bottle of
them, and as a result the company charges an extra $20.00 a pill to offset
     In some ways this is justified, because after all the drug wouldn't
exist unless somebody made it in the first place. The fault here is that
not everybody should pay the same price. Myself, I have some meager
catastrophic health insurance which barely pays for anything... I can
barely afford it given my self-employed status. But other people work
regular jobs and have health coverage which pays for 90% or more of their
prescriptions. This means that a drug that they pay $10.00 costs $100.00
for me, and ironically I can afford it less than they can. But in other
countries, it's even worse. Convert these costs to how long you need to
work to afford them. Those insured people could afford that drug by working
for one hour; for me, it might take 10 hours, but when you get to other
countries where the money exchanges poorly with the US and people generally
make less money anyway, you're taking weeks or even months of work just to
afford something like that.
     Obviously having the right drugs to curb your AIDS symptoms is a
little more critical than running the most current version of MS Office or
Quickbooks, but the causes for disrespect for intellectual property are
similar. How can you stay legal for your software licenses when they cost
(in terms of work-hours, not just exchanged money) 10 or 100 times what
they do here? For that matter, the disparity here between what a
corporation can afford for software versus what a mortal human can afford
are similarly vast. And there's few alternatives to MS Office since they've
more-or-less forcibly dominated the market and killed the competition (just
like the pharmaceutical companies have reserved rights on their drugs,
preventing generics).

     The bottom line: Corporations can afford $600 for MS Office. I can't.
The average Brazilian computer user is similarly unable. Until prices take
that into account, piracy is a necessity.

     Boy am I prolific today. But I can't stop! There's more to say:

>Another friend of mine has been using cracked music software for years,
>using the argument that he is not a "professional" (in the regard that he
>doesn't make any money from his music) and thus should not have to pay the
>$3000+ that a major studio would've paid to legally own what he has.

     I agree with this standpoint, to a degree. As a non-professional, if
there was some way to truly keep a person from using a piece of software
without buying it, he never would. Thus, no loss in revenue for the
software company. But another element of this is what Jay said:

Every single man in the universe:
>Like right now, you're using a web browser of some sort...and each
>time you run it, chances are, you see a splash screen reminding you
>of your choice. Further, you may get asked "What is your favorite
>web browser?" Your answer may sway that person's decision based on
>their technical trust in you.

     A reasonably progressive company would realize this as an advertising
potential, especially if you have some mild amount of fame that you can
somehow justify to them. I've heard of DJs getting free Technics turntables
by convincing Technics that it's free promotion for them. Since Cool Edit
gave me a license for their software, I've quoted their name for every
interviewer that's asked me what software I use and to numerous other
individuals that have asked. I have no doubt that I've paid back that
license ten times over.

> but to answer really quickly on a personal level: i make a
>living as a freelance programmer. but i don't sell a
>shrinkwrapped product. i sell my expertise, my consulting
>services. musicians and other artists should start thinking
>of ways that they can treat their work in this way also.
>key example: as an artist, when i perform live i make a lot
>more money than i ever have selling CDs or other tangible
>things, like many (most?) performing artists.

     Since music isn't as commercially viable as software (as I mentioned
earlier), this is a tougher thing. However, there are things if you don't
mind sucking the corporate rod: background music for advertising and/or
radio and/or TV is a big moneymaker. I remember shaking my head at seeing
Jim Thirwell's (aka Foetus) name on MTV extreme sports show credits until I
found out just how much you can make doing that. If you play an instrument,
being a session musician can get you some cash; if you convince someone
you're good enough with sound editing, being a remixer can also get you a

     Okay, that's plenty for now... thanks for the good topic...

- Mark

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