Lily Allen vs. the Free World
Lily Allen

There's a really funny "war" going on between TechDirt and Lily Allen.

If you don't know, Ms. Allen is a British songwriter who had a moderately successful hit named "Smile." She's started speaking out against filesharing, first posting a blog entry on MySpace, then starting a Blogger site about it called It's Not Alright.

Her basic argument is that if record labels don't sell CD's, then smaller artists like her won't be able to pay back their label debts. (This sounds to me like an argument against major labels, but whatever.) She doesn't just ignore people like Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and 50 Cent, who use downloading to help sales; she actively says they're wrong, and the only reason you could think it's OK is because you're a "big artist at the back end of your career with loads of albums to flog to a new audience," with "the biggest Ferrari collections in the world," and that if it continues, "British music will be nothing but puppets paid for by Simon Cowell."

This is especially ironic considering that she herself comes from show-business royalty, and became famous by giving her music away on her MySpace page.

She also ignores tons of studies that say that people who share files buy more music than those who don't, that the music industry is actually growing, and that weaker copyright promotes creativity. Despite this, she's come out in favor of a proposed law to force ISP's to kick people off the internet if they're simply accused of filesharing.

Well, she has a right to her bad ideas. She's posted plenty of correspondence from other indie acts that feel the same way, so she's not alone in her opinions.

But here's how TechDirt got involved. She recently wrote a post on It's Not Alright about 50 Cent, and how his ideas are wrong. Here's the problem: In the post, she reprinted an article from TechDirt in its entirity, without permission or credit. In other words, she committed copyright infringement, exactly the same "crime" that filesharers commit.

It gets better. Ms. Allen's album, "Alright, Still," she samples eleven other artists - including, ironically enough, 50 Cent, whose song "Window Shopper" she satarized wholesale as "Nan, You're A Window Shopper."

And just today, TechDirt discovered that she's offering MP3 "mixtapes" for download on her (EMI-run) website, where her own songs are mixed in with other artists' music. Many of those artists are not on EMI, so it's doubtful that either she or her label have the copyrights.

By her own standards, she is making music available "illegally," and should be fined and kicked of the internet.

Now, nobody involved really things her actions are unreasonable - even TechDirt was OK with her posting of their article. The problem is that she's a total hypocrite, and one that isn't even knowledgable enough to be aware of it.

It just goes to show how completely people have swallowed the bullshit that major labels have dished out. Of all of the folks who go on about how filesharing is "stealing," I've yet to see one talk about notions like Fair Use. I've yet to find anyone who understands that copyright exists to promote innovation, not to protect authors and creators.

Few recognize that the major labels themselves steal from artists more than filesharing ever could. (Courtney Love and Steve Albini have written about this better than I can.)

And why should people realize this? After all, the major labels have lobbyists inside Congress, and want to have their propaganda shoved down children's throats in public schools.

But it's one thing when the general public isn't aware of the facts - it's not really their job to be informed. It's quite another when the artists themselves believe the lies.

Hasn't anyone learned from Metallica yet?


Update:

Less than 24 hours after I wrote this, Lily responded on her blog. Why can't I link to it? Because she took her entire blog down. She's citing "abuse," but really I think she just knows she lost.

Here's an article about it from the Daily Telegraph:
Lily Allen drops fight against filesharing after Techdirt spat

...and here's the latest TechDirt article, which replies to her (now-deleted) post:
A Teaching Moment For Lily Allen [Update: And *Poof* Goes Her Blog]

Update #2:
There's a really funny (and amazingly vitriolic) blog post about this by Alan from Kick Up The Fire, who is a band that is actually struggling:
Dear Lily Allen
Here's a sample:

You don’t give a shit about musicians, they’re just the dudes who stand behind you while you churn out under-average performance after under-average performance. You are not a musician, you have never been in a band, you have never struggled, you have no passion for music, all you wanted was for your dad to make you one of the cool kids. You fucking corporate pig. Good old Dad, getting his mates to spend weeks in the studio writing you a bunch of tunes so you could be famous. You weren’t even there! I know, because I was the fucking runner! Mayfair studios, in Primrose Hill, bringing your dad and Alex James tea and biscuits for a hundred quid a week. Fuuuucking sweet job!