Guitarist Marc Ribot -- whose résumé includes working with the likes of Elvis Costello and Tom Waits -- has responded to comments Steve Albini recently made concerning copyright law, calling it an "expired concept."
Albini, who's notably produced Nirvana’s In Utero and the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, has been consistently outspoken about the state of the music industry and is regularly called upon to offer his thoughts, which have ranged from defending streaming services as the inevitable next step and arguing that Tidal's lossless sound quality and exclusive content won’t help it rise to the top of the pack.
The Shellac frontman spoke at the Primavera Pro conference ahead of his band’s performance at Primavera Sound in Barcelona at the end of last month, this time addressing copyright law and calling it “not realistic” (via Billboard):
That old copyright model of the person who wrote something down owns it and anyone else who wants to use it or see it has to pay him, I think that model has expired. And people who are trying to defend that model are like people on horseback trying to fight against the automobile…I think the term piracy is absurd. Actually, piracy is people boarding a ship with violence and killing people and physically stealing material goods that are then no longer available to people who used to own them. I think equating somebody downloading something on his iPhone with that is preposterous.
His words captured the attention of the Content Creators Coalition, a non-profit organization -- which includes Costello, Waits, David Byrne and Rosanne Cash among its members -- dedicated to protecting artists against the economic challenges posed by the industry's digital landscape.
Ribot has penned an open letter on behalf of the organization, going so far as to call Albini a “lousy hypocrite”:
If you truly believe that ‘Ideas, once expressed, become part of the common mentality. And music, once expressed, becomes part of the common environment…', are you willing to sign a Creative Commons license placing your entire catalogue in the public domain?
Or are you just another lousy hypocrite shilling for Google and other huge tech corporations who have made billions in ad-based profits while using our work, often without paying us or asking our permission, as click bait to increase their advertising rates?
Working artists and musicians, at least those of us who can’t afford to make another record unless the last one paid its production costs, await your response.