If It Looks Like A Duck, Music Industry Edition


Joel Tenenbaum has been ordered to pay $675,000, or $22,500 per song, for downloading and sharing a few dozen songs on Kazaa. That sounds unfair because it is. It’s also incredibly stupid. The Recording Industry Association of America’s litigation strategy can only work for so long. Soon, electronic storage capacity will be so great that you will be able to fit every song ever recorded onto a single flash memory drive. You’ll be able to hand your friends every song ever over lunch in the school cafeteria. That kind of piracy won’t be legal, but it won’t be traceable, either.

The music industry’s big problem is that its business model relies on selling copies of something that can be copied for free. If you could duplicate Lexuses in the comfort of your own home for free, Lexuses would be a lot harder to sell, too.

Journalism has a similar problem. The marginal cost of reproducing a newspaper article on the internet is zero. Command-C, Command-V. But you don’t see the New York Times suing grad students who are printing out its articles or copying and pasting them into Word documents. And you definitely don’t see the Times convincing juries to fine people hundreds of thousands of dollars for sharing its articles with their friends.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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