Why we love Paul Williams

An excellent post on Huffing & Puffington by Paul Williams, ASCAP president and gifted songwriter. Here’s a key part:

“A growing number of creative people — those talking from experience as songwriters or performing artists — are speaking up. They’re sharing legitimate perspectives on why taking content and ignoring copyright hurts those creating the music more than anyone else.

The list of these talented, respected and often critically-admired individuals constantly grows. Check out the thoughts of folks like Billy Bragg, Prince, Lily Allen, Bono or Krist Novoselic. Reach back to Metallica’s stance at the dawn of Napster. (And it’s not just songwriters or performing artists talking; digital pioneer, Jaron Lanier, makes many similar points in his new book, You Are Not a Gadget).”

A long time ago, when I lived in Frank Lucas’s New York (see Ridley Scott’s American Gangster), I got mugged one night by a junkie. During the attempted mugging I thought to myself that New York was in a nose dive of permanent decline and that there was no pulling out. They may as well just push it into the sea. Even so, there were sparks of people fighting back–which is why it was an attempted mugging–and looked to their civic leaders for guidance. None came, and it was that supreme disconnect between the street and City Hall that I think I was responding to. That all changed a few years later, and looking back I realized that I was wrong to lose hope that the situation would ever turn around.

Having survived Frank Lucas’s New York, I think I’m better prepared to survive Eric Schmidt’s Internet. One day, decent people will rise up and this blight will become “youthful indiscretion”, something people did in college, like wide ties and platform shoes. They’ll all deny actually downloading, just streamed did they, like they didn’t inhale.

The exact path is a bit fuzzy, but what I do know is that we need to all lead each other out of the problem. Trust me–the government won’t do it until we do. Until this behavior becomes a confirmation question, it will not have risen to a level of appropriate seriousness. We will continue to be told “Don’t Be Moral“, nothing to see here, move along.

As long as the government allows Google to print money in the public markets to fund litigation over its massive infringements, artist’s can’t fight Google’s money with money–not even other countries can win that battle–so we will have to do it by other means. And that doesn’t even count Megavideo, Rapidshare and the other Children of the Lessig God.

I commend Paul Williams for taking a leadership role in speaking out on these problems.

See also: Why We Love Lily Allen, Bono and Krist Novoselec

See also: An Inconvenient Truth: Songwriters Guild President Rick Carnes talks about the effect of piracy on American songwriters