I don’t really know how I ended up on this blogpost by Jason Robert Brown from 2010, but I did and I read it and then I clicked some links (like the one to Georgia Stitt’s blog and also this post over here. I also read some comments from people stating that illegally trading sheet music online is not so much of a crime, but basically everyone should be happy about this trading, because basically it is free promotion of work. An important point to these comments was also the assumption of the changings a society is going through because of the internet.
And yes, of course – the internet (and our non-stop of using it) pretty much gives us an impression of unlimited information being accessable ALL THE TIME and basically for free. I mean – who actually goes ahead donating something to Wikipedia like they suggest each time you read an article over there?
I am critical about just streaming stuff online (although, of course, I’ve done that – I’m a German girl with very limited access to British/American TV shows in their original form – but I remeber streaming being not as illegal as downloading, although it still is sharing of something you don’t own. Today I’m not comfortable with that anymore, especially since the iTunes store and things like Watchever (a kind of German Netflix) and other streaming concepts you pay for changed the situation so much) – right now I’m in the very blessed position to be able to pay for any kind of intellectual property (of others) I want to have a part of.
I adore most of the people making art, creating something and I don’t know why I shouldn’t pay them. I know, that one day when I might create something to my make living with day, I definetely will hope that people want to pay for what I created – because otherwise I just could go home and be sad and eat the books and CDs I own.
Coming from Europe copyright issues and intellectual property used to be a crucial thing to think about a few years back. When a somewhat new political party, the “Piraten” (pirates), suddenly appeared and made its way into four communal governments (Berlin, my city and my county, being one of them), everyone was buzzing about paying for stuff on the internet issue. What the Piraten wanted was basically: Everything on the internet (in terms of information, media, etc) should be free. Back then I identified much more with the idea of being a writer than I do today and I was shocked about how people could ever have ideas like that in the first place. There are artists who (partly) are making a living off their intellectual properties, the things I created – and most of them aren’t like “Let’s make ALL the money!”.
During my studies and writing essays and papers about performances I’ve asked a number of artists if they were able to give a video or a certain picture to me. They were all terribly helpful and they’d gladly send the things I requested to me. I actually once contacted a publishing house/agency/licensing company for theatre plays and musical theatre librettos, because I wanted to write a concept for an admission exam of one of the things they have the rights for. I explained myself and asked for the German piano score – and they actually send me the piano score and the libretto in both German and English and a CD (I had to give it back after I finished working with it). What I want to say by telling these stories: People are helpful. While so many pro-trading-people state “But that’s the only way we can get things we can’t buy!”, I have to say: We can ask. Most of the times. And if the creators don’t want us to have certain things, we should respect them – we want their stuff, because we like and respect* them as artists in the first place, right?
While I was reading through all these comments and articles about piracy and intellectual property (again, most of them from 2010 – which mostly is for me something like: not that long ago….when I started my undergrad studies….but then it’s like: dang! four years ago!) – Playbill.com shared a news on their twitter that the Dramatists Guild’s anti-piracy commitee will host a first anti-piracy awareness event. For me as not being a part of the cultural environment of US theatre/music artists that name might sound weird (like cancer awareness day….only that people can die of cancer, while online piracy is “just” a crime and totally rude), but I am glad that people and artists stand up for their rights against a front of economists and internet-ideologists and this “everything for free”-mentality.
* A little thing off topic regarding the mentioning of respect. On a German musical theatre message board I just had a fight about respect because I critized an (ex)record producer living in New York who writes about Broadway shows for a German musical magazine. Me and him are not on the same page regarding many – to me – crucial points like Gender, emanzipation and directing of theatrical performances (as far as I can tell from his writing in that magazine, which is the only way I can know and critize “him”). Anyway, the fact that I was criticizing him kind of created a (very small, but still) kind of shit-storm on me about how I (as the the prococious 23 year old I am) on earth could even think about critizing him who is not only is more than 50 years older (and therefore wiser) than I am, but also knows Broadway – basically I was lacking respect. This part of the discussion was the nicer one, this morning I woke up to a post about me being part of “Generation hubris” and thinking of me as THE musical theatre pro because I’ve been to NYC twice now in my life. And when I was like: Wait, you’re telling me I should pay respect to this critic (which I do for everything, but not for his journalism….I simply don’t agree with the kind of journalism he does – which should be no problem, right?), but what are you doing here? Do you even know me outside of the 88 comments I posted on this message board? I guess not. When I addressed these things, all I got was: Yes, and this hyper-sensitivity is also a big part of this generation!
And I’m like: Respect people! Aren’t we all one community? Aren’t we all theatre people?
I also wanted to state that (for me) respect is actually very different from criticizing. I can respect someone and still criticize him/her, because that’s how each and everyone of us can become a better person. No-one will ever respond to criticizm expressed in a disrespectful manner.