In the Hat came by my place today and gave me a huge amount of music. He has a tremendous (80+ gig) collection that he carries around with him on a portable drive and I got him to recommend some things to me and then pillaged his collection like a loot crazed buccaneer. Of course buccaneer might not be the appropriate term here... perhaps pirate is the most apt.
Wendy and I had some very heated discussions about music piracy over the past few years. She often found stories on the internet about some huge record company that was suing a grandmother for enormous amounts of cash because her grandkid downloaded a few songs on her computer complete with heartbreaking personal details. I usually responded that if people knowingly break the law in order to secure a luxury then I have very little interest in rescuing them from their plight. Certainly the grandmother in question may be absolutely innocent but stories on the internet are neither unbiased nor representative. People who break the law to secure themselves basic rights or necessities need protection or assistance not lawsuits or jail time but music is no such necessity.
To be sure, DRM has been a complete boondoggle by and large and I won't buy anything knowingly if it is DRM protected. Companies that think that they can charge extremely high prices for DRM protected music while supporting constant legal battles against small scale pirates are foolish. There are many very lucrative business models in music distribution that do not rely on going after people who download music from illegal sites but just because a company has a business model you do not like is *not* an excuse to break the law. If you really want to protest the way a company does business then write letters, picket their office, buy from the competition or refuse to use the product at all. Downloading music illegally isn't a protest.
My main gripe here is with the righteous pirates. I must fight the evil corporations, and I do this by downloading music for free and listening to it! When it is impossible to distinguish the actions of a conscientious protester from a heartless opportunist aside from the rhetoric I put little stock in the protest. Of course, I download music illegally and for free. I do buy videos and music from time to time as I have no problem supporting artists whose work I enjoy but I am quite willing to copy music from a friend without going out and hunting down the artist in question to give them their just reward. I am often greatly concerned with ethics in everyday actions and I cannot find a convincing reason to condemn free exchange of music but I do find myself irritated with naked opportunism disguised as righteous indignation.