You are what you hear…. what are the ethics?

I’m back after a bit of a summer break and this one has been on my mind for a bit.

I came across the blog “You are what you hear” ( ) , initially because I noticed an automatic link to something I’d written about John Taylor. If you go there you’ll see what it is – essentially an awesomely huge library of mp3s.

My impression is that they are mainly bootleg recordings of live performances.

I must admit to struggling with it a bit. For a ‘jazz head’ there is the undeniable wow factor of all those goodies posted up there. Not far behind was the thought “ that legal?” and just behind that the thought “is that ok?”

I’m ambivalent! So I’m going to rehearse some arguments.

The things of which I’m sure: There is a huge library there of live recordings. Some may be ‘official’, by which I mean authorised by the band and possibly released by them, many are not. They are down loadable and no charge is made so urge2burge is not profiting from the blog (at least not in that or in any other obvious way).

Some supposition: I’m not a lawyer so I’m not going to assert confidently who owns the copyright on the recordings, but I’m pretty sure its not urge2burge and I’m also reasonably sure there are recordings there of which the performers are unaware and have not given any sort of consent to.

Where does that leave me? Legalities aside, and concentrating on ethics, for want of a better word, I think it boils down to a ‘head to head’ between some philosophical preferences for which there isn’t really a referee.

One goes something like this: You can’t control or assert rights easily over electronic media, and anyway making creative ideas, moments, sounds etc freely available means that more people can access and ultimately more value will be created. More people may buy recordings, attend concerts by John Taylor (say) if they can hear what he’s like through some free stuff.

The other, which is music industry certainly, but also many many performers: their creation is being taken, without their consent and distributed and they are not deriving any benefit, when they have a right to do so and at least to decide for themselves whether to give it away.

So where do I stand? I think, on the whole, this particular blog isn’t doing much harm. Its certainly lovingly curated. More generally though, I do think the artists/ muscians themselves should be involved in the decision as to whether to post live recordings of their performances on the web for free.

my mind is not closed on this – I’d love to hear another view.


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