Section Three: Literature Review Essay

Literature Review Essay Peer Review Draft #1:  

See here for comments: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aHhQFAbPVMoxaNbEph5J_QXvFV47QqVzMJO5XKcSUKs/edit?usp=sharing

Central Question: On a high level, what tactics (lawsuits, legislation, legal online  music stores) have been used (or otherwise helped) stop music piracy?

In the 1990’s people purchased their music on compact discs– tangible products that economist’s call “excludable”, meaning that people who did not pay for CDs could not consume the music that was on them.  

If a person wanted to, they could store the contents of their disk on their computer to play or modify it.  But since computers weren’t yet connected to form what we call the internet, there wasn’t anywhere to send the music. If a person wanted to, they could “illegally share” by purchasing cheap blank CDs to burn copies of their CDs to give to friends who had not paid for the music, but this was too difficult of a process for many people to want to do it.    

Then in the late 1990’s, computers became connected.  Music could easily be encoded into what was termed an “MP3” file, which could in turn be sent between computers.  People looking to make some money paid to set up websites where people could upload or download these free MP3 files in exchange for viewing a few advertisements.  

At first people could only listen to these MP3 files on their computer.  But right at the turn of the century, technology had gotten to the point that allowed parts to be small enough for an electronic device to fit in your pocket.  Apple capitalized on this breakthrough by developing the iPod, a device that enabled its users to listen to their MP3 files on the go.  The timing was perfect: people now had both a source and a demand for digital music.    

All of a sudden music was no longer an excludable good.  People who hadn’t paid for the product were just as able to get it as people who had.  This so called “piracy” disrupted the music industry.  With music available for free online, CD sales fell.  Artists and the complicated network of for profit companies that offered services to them– together known as the “music industry”– began to lose money.  

These “stakeholders” in music, or people whose wealth was at least partially invested in music, had to find a solution to regain their profits and livelihood.  

Their first instinct was to take legal action. After all, from their point of view people were stealing their property.  So they paid lawyers to try to convince juries that this file sharing was punishable under existing laws.  If all went well, the stakeholders theoretically could get illegal downloading sites shut down and even profit from the money they collected from lawsuits.  

Probably the most widely known case was against a very popular site called Napster.  Napster was started by a freshman at Northeastern University in 1999.  Napster was not a full “piracy site” where the company stores songs on its own computers (called servers).  Few such sites existed; those that did were often shut down because they were not at all defensible in court because they themselves held the possibly copyrighted music.  Instead Napster was the first of an increasingly popular kind, termed a “peer-to-peer” or P2P network because it allowed the users of the site to list their own songs for downloading and download songs directly from other user’s computers, with Napster simply acting as a passive facilitator.  Such a structure was more difficult to shut down as it was the individual users who violated copyrights, not Napster itself.  

But as Napster grew very popular and as stakeholders in music began to feel the financial burn it created, they became willing to invest money in lawyers to rid them of this bane.  Two popular artists, Metallica and Dr. Dre, found that not only all their past albums were being transferred for free on Napster, but also some of their songs were leaked all over Napster before their official release.  As a result, both artists sued Napster in 2000.  They settled for an amount that didn’t crumble Napster financially.  

This didn’t take away the fact that nearly all other artists besides these two still had songs being illegally traded without any compensation. The music industry’s major companies, what are known as record labels, united to sue.

Producing music is a full time occupation and most artists don’t have the time or know-how to effectively fund and market their own products, so recording companies (also known as record labels) have started up to do this for them.  Nearly all artists contract with a subsidiary of one of four major recording companies: Universal Music Group (UMG), SONY Music Entertainment (SME), Warner Music Group, and what used to be Electric and Musical Industries (EMI).  A great number of recording companies, most of them subsidiaries of the above, paid to have an advocacy group that they were members of, called the Recording Industry of America (RIAA), lead their efforts in suing Napster.   

This lawsuit certainly had the power to crumble Napster financially.  Napster gathered what money it had to assemble a team of lawyers to defend it against the powerful RIAA.  The case was held in a district court, which is the main type of court in the US court system.  The court ruled that Napster was infact breaking the law.  

Unhappy with the verdict, Napster appealed to the court’s ruling, sending the case up to a circuit court of appeals.  Napster presented a valiant defense.  First, its lawyers argued, Napster didn’t actually possess any copyrighted songs.  This case set a precedent in that both courts turned down this claim as a valid excuse: Though Napster not at fault for direct copyright infringement, it was so for “contributory” and “vicarious” infringement.  The court defined these terms to work within a gray area of existing laws that they used to say: Because Napster had knowledge of extensive copyright infringement on its site, facilitated this infringement, and could have done more to prevent it, it was infact liable for its user’s transfer of copyrighted materials.   

Napster’s lawyers didn’t give up.  They went on to say that these transfers of copyrighted materials were not infringements of copyrights according to “fair use” laws.  Fair use laws allowed the use of copyrighted materials without notification or compensation for the owner as long as the material was used in non-commercial area, such as education and did not hurt the copyright owner.  Napster claimed that since all of their songs were free, there transfers were not for commercial purposes.  The defense, called the Plaintiff, was able to pretty easily defeat this claim by referencing the large earnings Napster made from advertising and the losses made by record companies from its site.   

On the edge of the cliff, Napster’s lawyers made one final plea: that it be allowed to keep running if it bought or developed software to filter the songs on its site and remove any that the recording companies deemed copyrighted.  

This, the court listened to and allowed Napster to keep running if it could remove almost all copyrighted songs.  A few months went by and the recording companies agreed that Napster had not removed nearly as many songs as they wanted so they convinced the court to order an injunction that Napster be shut down until they figure out a solution.  Shortly after Napster went offline, with litigation debt, no more advertising revenue, and a massive impending lawsuit, in June 2002, Napster fell to bankruptcy and was eventually indirectly bought by its legal competitor, Rhapsody.  

So the stakeholders in music gained a large victory there.  But with all the legal fees, it was a costly one.  Not to mention that the internet was still strung with MP3 sites of all kinds. Just as the same military techniques that apply to fighting big armies don’t apply to rule-breaking guerilla militants, the same strategies that the music industry used to kill high profile downloading sites like Napster wouldn’t work against the elusive small scale piracy databases that kept popping up.  

Thus the the stakeholders felt the need to pay groups of people known as advocacy groups to lobby the government to alter existing laws to give them more power in fighting piracy.

Right as piracy was in its nascent stages, the music industry was able to anticipate its coming threat to a surprising extent.  In 1998, a bill was circulating through congress about copyrights called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  Though piracy was just coming about, the music industry and its content industry peers were wise in lobbying to get the bill past and adding in a few caveats of their own.  The final act included sections that implemented a notice and takedown procedure, where a stakeholder could notify a website that held its copyrighted material and theoretically have it shut down if it didn’t remove it.  The law also included sections that made it illegal to tamper with any digital rights management that the music industry might have used, which is actually an anti-piracy strategy of its own:

The music industry had a vain hope that they could fight their software problem with a software solution.  All the music files being illegally shared on the internet had to start with some user who legally bought the file.  If the industry could keep those people from ever sharing it, it could solve the problem. A few small companies thought they could specially design the files by modifying the 0’s and 1’s that encoded the song in the MP3 file in a way that prevented the legal users from copying or uploading it.  This “encryption” technique became known as Digital Rights Management (DRM).  While it was fairly effective at keeping users from directly copying songs (often to the extreme frustration of its users), it had one fatal drawback that was music’s intrinsic ease of copying: One could always play a song and use a microphone to record it into a separate MP3 file.    

Citations end here: (will add the rest in later)

As DRM first came out, several businesses made money off of anti-DRM products that easily overrode DRM.  But the DMCA prohibited such technologies.  So the music industry definitely did gain some benefits from the DMCA.  But nevertheless it did not stop piracy from happening on a large scale.  Furthermore, the notice takedown system wasn’t effective because it put all the legal costs on the music industry and it left them helpless against foreign sites such as the Pirate Bay, whom U.S. officials were not able to shut down.  

Not to mention the “whack a mole” problem of piracy sites changing their names only got worse.  The music industry could spend a huge amount to crush a small site called, for example, mp3downloader.com.  But within days the profit seeking hackers could throw up another site, freemusicdownloads.com in its place.  To fight this enemy, the music industry needed more weapons than it had access to under current law; it needed the ability to threaten not just the software companies that built the websites, but the individual consumers that pirated music themselves.  To do that it needed access to individual user’s private information.  

The music industry tried to lobby for a law that would grant them the ability to wage an all out war against piracy.  In desperation, the RIAA along with the Motion Picture Association funded the campaigns of numerous congressmen to convince them to support their interests. In 2011, they were able to get such a bill considered in congress.  Called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), it was exceedingly harsh.  If the law were past, with only a takedown notice and without going to court, a site could be shut down.  If a site refused to comply, even if it was from another country, the search engine would be forced to delist it, any payment companies such as PayPal that sold their services to it would be forced to cut off contact, and U.S. advertisers would be forced to no longer pay the site.   

Many criticized the law as meddling with the technical structure of the internet, something that had never been done before, as well as setting a precedent for internet censorship.  Technology companies, especially such companies that held a lot of possibly infringing user generated content that might be grounds for shutting them down, such as Youtube and Facebook, attempted to organize against it.  Many of these companies organized blackouts to protest against it.  When users tried to access their sites, they were greeted with messages about the possible law and how it would impact them.  In any case, the law proved very unpopular with pretty much all parties except the content industries and as a result, did not pass.

While all of these litigation and legislation battles were taking place, arguably the best solution to this piracy problem was manifesting itself in the background.  Interestingly enough the proponents of this solution were not the music industry stakeholders but rather large and small technology companies.  Infact, the music industry was against their efforts for years.

The solution was find a way to turn digital music back into a private good by offering a place where the consumer could buy  it rather than share it.  While free music was still available through piracy sites, these businesses provided an easier and more ethical way to obtain music that won over a number of consumers.

The first legal MP3 site was the iTunes Store, which was released by Apple in 2003.  There really was no great alternative to piracy before iTunes.  Selling music legally involved buying its rights from the music industry.  The music industry’s right owning record label companies were far from convinced that legal sales of digital music would benefit them and took a huge amount of convincing from Apple to allow that to happen.  Small companies simply didn’t have the bargaining power to do a deal like this and even big companies didn’t have the iPod to drive consumer demand for MP3’s.  Thus iTunes was the first of its kind.   

Pirating music was not a great experience: just to get one lower quality song you had to waste 10 minutes searching through slow, sketchy, advertisement choked sites and install torrent software that could damage your computer, all to feel guilty at the end of the day at taking money from your favorite artist.   

As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, put it: “We believe that 80% of the people stealing stuff don’t want to be, there’s just no legal alternative.  So we said, ‘Let’s create a legal alternative to this.’  Everybody wins.  Music companies win.  The artists win. Apple wins. And the user wins, because he gets a better service and doesn’t have to be a thief” (Isaacson 424).   

To conclude, the digital age of music has presented those who make and sell music with great challenges.   The music industry has responded with lawsuits, legislation, and encryption software when infact the best solution might be from eMusic companies, whom for the longest time it did not support.  

As written this paper has no argument.  It reads like a history piece rather than one of persuasive writing.  Though purely factual, it does set at least provide the framework for a case study comparing and taking a position on arguments both qualitative and quantitative on both sides of which of the anti-piracy methods was most effective.   

 

^Maybe you should add more about the effects of the legislation as opposed to the legislation itself.

 

Revision plan:

Central Question: On a high level, what tactics (lawsuits, legislation, legal online  music stores) have been used (or otherwise helped) stop music piracy?

 

Plan:

1) Shorten intro to piracy by 1-2 paragraphs

2) Shorten Napster case description by at least 50% (4-5 paragraphs)

3)Include a paragraph supporting government intervention (legislation and litigation)

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/01/ifpi-music-piracy-hurts-us-but-fighting-it-is-governments-job/    

 

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-901-inventions-and-patents-fall-2005/projects/online_fileshrng.pdf

 

4)Include a paragraph against government intervention (legislation and litigation)

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/05/18/3659914/study-says-government-attempts-stop-piracy-sites-dont-work/    

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/sunday-review/internet-pirates-will-always-win.html?_r=0

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/02/03/you-will-never-kill-piracy-and-piracy-will-never-kill-you/2/#2715e4857a0b5294113a484b

 

5)Include a paragraph that describes the pro’s and con’s of DRM

 

6)Include a paragraph that is against a private market solution

 

7) Include a paragraph for a private market solution

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/05/18/3659914/study-says-government-attempts-stop-piracy-sites-dont-work/  

 

8) Add an intro and link it to conclusion

 

15.2 (2002): 259-76. Web.  

 

Works Cited

 

Guldberg, Gustav, and Johannes Sundén. Pirates & Merchants – An Ongoing Struggle on the Hightech Seas. Thesis. Växjö University, 2004. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

Nieva, Richard. “Ashes to Ashes, Peer to Peer: An Oral History of Napster.” Fortune Ashes to Ashes Peer to Peer An Oral History of Napster Comments. Time Inc., 05 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

 

Bergen, Grace J. “The Napster Case: The Whole World Is Listening.” The Transnational Lawyer 15.2 (2002): 259-76. Web.  

 

H.R., 105th Cong., Copyright Office, Library of Congress (1998) (enacted). Print. THE DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT OF 1998 U.S. Copyright Office Summary

 

Layton, Julia. “How Digital Rights Management Works.” HowStuffWorks. InfoSpace, 03 Jan. 2006. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literature Review Essay Full Draft:  

See here for comments https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwVoMOuHZHixejdzSUlQb1JUS3c/view?usp=sharing   

The digital age of music has imposed on those who make and sell music the great challenge of piracy.  Two possible solutions arose to combat piracy: a public one where the government sues and legislates against illegal piracy sites and a private one where the music industry licenses out their music to legal eMusic sites.  The music industry and its sympathizers tend to believe a government solution is best.  Whereas the tech industry and many others believe a private solution is best.

In the 1990’s people purchased their music on compact discs– tangible products that economist’s call “excludable”, meaning that people who did not pay for CDs could not get CD’s (or otherwise consume the music that was on them).  If a person wanted to, they could store the contents of their disk on their computer to play or modify it.  But since computers weren’t yet connected to form what we call the internet, there wasn’t anywhere to send the music.  But then computers became connected.  Music could easily be encoded into what was termed an “MP3” file, which could in turn be sent between computers.  People looking to make some money paid to set up websites where people could upload or download each other’s MP3 files in exchange for viewing a few advertisements.  

At first people could only listen to these MP3 files on their computer.  But right at the turn of the century, technology had gotten to the point that allowed parts to be small enough for an electronic device to fit in your pocket.  Apple capitalized on this breakthrough by developing the iPod, a device that enabled its users to listen to their MP3 files on the go.  The timing was perfect: people now had both a source and a demand for digital music.    

All of a sudden music was no longer an excludable good.  People who hadn’t paid for the product were just as able to get it as people who had.  This so called “piracy” disrupted the music industry.  With music available for free online, CD sales fell.  Artists and the complicated network of for profit companies that offered services to them– together known as the “music industry”– began to lose lots of money.  

The industry’s first instinct was to take legal action. After all, from their point of view people were stealing their property.  So they paid lawyers to try to convince juries that this file sharing was punishable under existing laws.  If all went well, the stakeholders theoretically could have illegal downloading sites shut down and even profit from the money they collected from lawsuits.  

Probably the most widely known case was against a very popular site called Napster.  Napster was started by a freshman at Northeastern University in 1999.  Napster was not a full “piracy site” where the company stores songs on its own computers (called servers).  Few such sites existed; those that did were often shut down because they were not at all defensible in court because they themselves held the possibly copyrighted music.  Instead Napster was the first of an increasingly popular kind, termed a “peer-to-peer” or P2P network because it allowed the users of the site to list their own songs for downloading and download songs directly from other user’s computers, with Napster simply acting as a passive facilitator.  Such a structure was more difficult to shut down as it was the individual users who violated copyrights, not Napster itself.  

But as Napster grew very popular and as stakeholders in music began to feel the financial burn it created, they became willing to invest money in lawyers to rid them of this bane.  Two popular artists sued them in 2000 and settled for an amount that didn’t crumble Napster financially.  

This didn’t take away the fact that nearly all other artists besides these two still had songs being illegally traded without any compensation. The music industry’s major companies, what are known as record labels, united to sue under their advocacy group, the RIAA.

This lawsuit certainly had the power to crumble Napster financially.  Napster gathered what money it had to assemble a team of lawyers to defend it against the powerful RIAA in the district court. The court ruled that Napster was infact breaking the law.  

Unhappy with the verdict, Napster appealed to the court’s ruling, sending the case up to a circuit court of appeals.  Napster’s lawyers argued that Napster didn’t actually possess any copyrighted songs.  This case set a precedent in that both courts turned down this claim as a valid excuse: Though Napster not at fault for direct copyright infringement, it was so for “contributory” and “vicarious” infringement.  The court defined these terms to work within a gray area of existing laws that they used to say: Because Napster had knowledge of extensive copyright infringement on its site, facilitated this infringement, and could have done more to prevent it, it was infact liable for its user’s transfer of copyrighted materials.   

On the edge of the cliff, Napster’s lawyers made one final plea: that it be allowed to keep running if it bought or developed software to filter the songs on its site and remove any that the recording companies deemed copyrighted.  

This, the court listened to and allowed Napster to keep running if it could remove almost all copyrighted songs.  A few months went by and the recording companies agreed that Napster had not removed nearly as many songs as they wanted so they convinced the court to order an injunction that Napster be shut down until they figure out a solution.  Shortly after Napster went offline, with litigation debt, no more advertising revenue, and a massive impending lawsuit, in June 2002, Napster fell to bankruptcy and was eventually indirectly bought by its legal competitor, Rhapsody.  

According to many, including lawyer Grace Bergen who wrote much of the details of the case used in this paper, the stakeholders in music gained a large victory there, using this method of government mediation through lawsuits.Afterall, piracy did go down, if only for a while.   But as the many opponents of anti-piracy lawsuits will state: with all the legal fees, it was costly.  Not to mention that the internet was still riddled with MP3 sites of all kinds. Just as the same military techniques that apply to fighting big armies don’t apply to rule-breaking guerilla militants, the same strategies that the music industry used to kill high profile downloading sites such as Napster wouldn’t work against the elusive small scale piracy databases that kept popping up.  

Suing large P2P sites was one way of stopping piracy, but the music industry also felt the need to lobby the government to alter existing laws to give them more power in fighting piracy. Right as piracy was in its nascent stages, the music industry was able to anticipate its coming threat to a surprising extent.  In 1998, a bill was circulating through congress about copyrights called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  Though piracy was just coming about, the music industry and its content industry peers were wise in lobbying to get the bill past and adding in a few caveats of their own.  The final act included sections that implemented a notice and takedown procedure, where a stakeholder could notify a website that held its copyrighted material and theoretically have it shut down if it didn’t remove it.  The law also included sections that made it illegal to tamper with any digital rights management  that the music industry might have used.  (DRM was a type of software that content-makers often added to their media that could in theory make it difficult to pirate).     

While the DCMA was prescient of the coming threat, the rising losses of music companies made it clear that it was not at all capable of stopping nor even slowing piracy. Thus, the music industry tried to lobby for a law that would grant them the ability to wage an all out war against piracy.  In desperation, the RIAA along with the Motion Picture Association funded the campaigns of numerous congressmen to convince them to support their interests. In 2011, they were able to get such a bill considered in congress.  Called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), it was exceedingly harsh.  If the law were past, with only a takedown notice and without going to court, a site could be shut down.  If a site refused to comply, even if it was from another country, the search engine would be forced to delist it, any payment companies such as PayPal that sold their services to it would be forced to cut off contact, and U.S. advertisers would be forced to no longer pay the site.

Many criticized the law as meddling with the technical structure of the internet, something that had never been done before, as well as setting a precedent for internet censorship. In any case, the law proved very unpopular with pretty much all parties except the content industries and as a result, did not pass.

So is this government solution of suing and legislating to stop piracy truly a good strategy?  Some4  state that due to the scale of the problem, government intervention is required, while one author, Nate Anderson5, writing in an opinion section of a tech publication went as far to say “fighting music piracy is a government job” due to the cost of lawsuits for recording companies.

Nevertheless, what nearly all sources can agree upon is that government intervention has yet to work well.  Lawsuits using current DCMA legislation’s laws might be effective at shutting down large piracy sites.  But as N.Y. Times author Nick Bilton states in a simile, stopping piracy is like “playing the world’s largest game of Whack-A-Mole.” The music industry could spend a huge amount to crush a small site called, for example, mp3downloader.com.  But within days the profit seeking hackers could throw up another site, freemusicdownloads.com.   A Carnegie Mellon Study did find a 6% drop in piracy after two major sites were shut down, but the effect only lasted a short time.7

It seems possible that the author Anderson is correct that stricter legislation, such as SOPA, that would give government agencies the ability to manipulate the internet, might work.  But such legislation would restrict the freedoms of the American population to a point they’ve already made clear they won’t allow when the majority of congress turned down SOPA.  

While all of these litigation and legislation battles were taking place, arguably the best solution to this piracy problem was manifesting itself in the background.  Interestingly enough the proponents of this solution were not the music industry stakeholders but rather large and small technology companies.  Infact, the music industry was against their efforts for years.

The solution was find a way to turn digital music back into a private good by offering a place where the consumer could buy  it rather than share it.  While free music was still available through piracy sites, these businesses provided an easier and more ethical way to obtain music that won over a number of consumers.

The first legal MP3 site was the iTunes Store, which was released by Apple in 2003.  There really was no great legal alternative to piracy before iTunes.  Selling music legally involved buying its rights from the music industry.  The music industry’s right owning record label companies were far from convinced that legal sales of digital music would benefit them and took a huge amount of convincing from Apple to allow that to happen.  Small companies simply didn’t have the bargaining power to do a deal like this and even big companies didn’t have the iPod to drive consumer demand for MP3’s.  Thus iTunes was the first of its kind.   

Pirating music was not a great experience: just to get one lower quality song you had to waste 10 minutes searching through slow, sketchy, advertisement choked sites and install torrent software that could damage your computer, all to feel guilty at the end of the day at taking money from your favorite artist.   

As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, put it: “We believe that 80% of the people stealing stuff don’t want to be, there’s just no legal alternative.  So we said, ‘Let’s create a legal alternative to this.’  Everybody wins.  Music companies win.  The artists win. Apple wins. And the user wins, because he gets a better service and doesn’t have to be a thief” (Isaacson 424).

Private for-profit companies like iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify could be a far better solution to piracy then government intervention.  For a while many sources, including the IFPI (International Music Trade Group) claimed that legitimate digital music companies could not compete with piracy sites.  But this claim was easily disproved just by looking at the facts: even back in 2010, digital music was a $4.6 billion market, with large revenue growths every year.5  In his Forbes article, author Paul Tassi strongly supports a private solution over a public solution to piracy.  According to him, the music industry, in their reluctance in selling the rights to their songs to digital music websites at any price other than a ridiculously high one, has been far too slow in realizing that legal music sites are not a threat but rather their saving opportunity.

Opponents of the private market solution claim that piracy is still growing and record labels are still not prospering.  Last February, a U.S. Copyright Office Report revealed statistics that confirmed this.  Yet, as Tassi says, this relies on one key assumption: whether record labels even need to exist anymore in this digital economy.10  Just like the automobile made the horse obsolete as a means of transportation, the internet may have made the record label obsolete as a means of distribution.  So maybe record labels will continue to lose money, but that may just be a fact of economics, albeit exacerbated by piracy.  

Let’s face it, if the music industry refused to ever sell digital music and instead required customers to buy CDs, they wouldn’t be here today.  Suing piracy sites will never work.  They will just keep popping up.  There are only two solutions that have a good chance of working: releasing extreme legislation that destroys the freedom of internet users, or just letting the free market allocate songs to those who want to buy them.  The American people, apart from those who have financial stake in the archaic record companies, have made clear that they chose the latter.     

 

Works Cited

 

Anderson, Nate. “IFPI Fighting Music Piracy Is a Government Job.”Arstechnica. Conde Nast, 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

 

Alatore, Gabriel, Christina Huang, and Ethan Rigel. “Copyright Infringement Due to Online File Sharing.” 6.901 Inventions and Patents (n.d.): n. pag.MIT Opencourseware. MIT. Web.

 

Williams, Laurence C. “Study Says Government Attempts To Stop Piracy Sites Don’t Work.” ThinkProgress. Center for American Progress Action Fund, 18 May 2015. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

 

Bilton, Nick. “Internet Pirates Will Always Win.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

 

Tassi, Paul. “You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You.”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

 

United States. Copyright Office. Copyright and the Music MarketPlace. Washington D.C.: n.p., 2015. Print.

 

Guldberg, Gustav, and Johannes Sundén. Pirates & Merchants – An Ongoing Struggle on the Hightech Seas. Thesis. Växjö University, 2004. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

Nieva, Richard. “Ashes to Ashes, Peer to Peer: An Oral History of Napster.” Fortune Ashes to Ashes Peer to Peer An Oral History of Napster Comments. Time Inc., 05 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

 

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.

 

H.R., 105th Cong., Copyright Office, Library of Congress (1998) (enacted). Print. THE DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT OF 1998 U.S. Copyright Office Summary

 

Layton, Julia. “How Digital Rights Management Works.” HowStuffWorks. InfoSpace, 03 Jan. 2006. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.

 

Draft material:

 

The digital age of music has presented those who make and sell music with the great challenge of piracy. The music industry has responded with a government solution, while many believe the better solution is a private one.  The industry needs to realize that its best chance of prospering is not using government to sue and legislate against illegal music sites, but rather to become more willing to license their music to legal music sites.

 

General Structure

 

Pros Government

Cons Government

Pros Private

Cons Private

Comparison

Conclusion

 

Pro Government:

— Too hard to handle otherwise: (Nate Anderson, MIT paper)

— Even with legal music, (piracy is still a problem U.S. Copyright report + article you might want to include)

— Napster victory (J Bergen)

Literature Review Essay Final Draft:  

 

The creation of the internet imposed on those who make and sell music the great challenge of digital piracy. Two possible solutions arose to combat piracy: a public one where the government facilitates lawsuits and legislates against illegal piracy sites and a private one where the music industry licenses out their music to legal eMusic sites.  The music industry and its sympathizers believe a government solution is best, while many others believe a private solution is best.

A PhD thesis written by two Swedish researchers, Gustav Guldberg and Johannes Sundén, provided a detailed description of the history of how the beginning of piracy was linked to that of the internet: In the 1990’s people purchased their music on compact discs, which were tangible products that economist’s call “excludable”, meaning that people who did not pay for CDs could not get CDs (or otherwise consume the music that was on them).1  If a person wanted to, they could store the contents of their disk on their computer to play or modify it.  But since computers weren’t yet connected to form what we call the internet, there wasn’t anywhere to send the music.  But then computers became connected.  Music could easily be encoded into what was termed an “MP3” file, which could in turn be sent between computers.1  People looking to make some money paid to set up websites where people could upload or download each other’s MP3 files in exchange for viewing a few advertisements.1  At first people could only listen to these MP3 files on their computer.  But right at the turn of the century, technology had gotten to the point that allowed parts to be small enough for an electronic device to fit in your pocket.  Apple capitalized on this breakthrough by developing the iPod, a device that enabled its users to listen to their MP3 files on the go.  The timing was perfect: people now had both a source and a demand for digital music.    

All of a sudden, as law writer Peter Dicola concurs in his article about music’s new economy, music was no longer an excludable good.2  People who hadn’t paid for the product were just as able to get it as people who had.  This so called “piracy” disrupted the music industry.  With music available for free online, CD sales fell.1  Artists and the complicated network of for profit companies that offered services to them– together known as the “music industry”– began to lose lots of money.  The industry’s first instinct was to make lawsuits to get the government to solve their problem by shutting down the piracy sites.1 After all, from the industry’s point of view, people were stealing their property.  So they paid lawyers to try to convince juries that this file sharing was punishable under existing laws.  The stakeholders hoped they would not only shut down illegal downloading sites, but also profit from the money they collected from the lawsuits.1  

Probably the most widely known case was against a very popular piracy site called Napster.  A California lawyer named Grace J. Bergen published an article in a law journal called McGeorge that covered all the facts of the Napster case.  Napster was started by a freshman at Northeastern University in 1999.3  Napster was not a full “piracy site” where the company stores songs on its own computers (called servers).3 Few such sites existed; those that did were often shut down because they were not at all defensible in court because they themselves held the possibly copyrighted music.3  Instead, Napster was the first of an increasingly popular kind, termed a “peer-to-peer” or P2P network, because it allowed the users of the site to list their own songs for downloading and download songs directly from other user’s computers, with Napster simply acting as a passive facilitator.  Such a structure was more difficult to shut down as it was the individual users who violated copyrights, not Napster itself.3  But as Napster grew popular, stakeholders in music felt the financial burn it created, and became willing to invest money in lawyers to rid them of this bane. The music industry’s major companies, what are known as record labels, united to sue under a group they used to advocate for certain laws to be passed, called the RIAA.3 This lawsuit certainly had the power to crumble Napster financially.  Napster garnered what money it had to assemble a team of lawyers to defend it against the powerful RIAA in the district court. After several losing court battles and income statements, Napster was forced to shut down.3   

It is contested whether or not the Napster lawsuit was successful, let alone whether lawsuits in general are an effective means of combating piracy.  According to many, including lawyer Grace Bergen, the stakeholders in music gained a large victory there, using this method of government mediation through lawsuits.3  Afterall, piracy did go down, if only for a short time.3 But as an MIT research paper goes at length to say, voicing the opinions of the many opponents of such anti-piracy lawsuits: with all the legal fees, it was costly victory.4  Not to mention that the internet was still riddled with MP3 sites of all kinds.4 Just as the same military techniques that apply to fighting big armies don’t apply to rule-breaking guerilla militants, the same strategies that the music industry used to kill high profile piracy databases such as Napster wouldn’t work against the elusive small scale downloading sites that just kept popping up.

Suing large piracy sites was one way of using government to help stop piracy, but the music industry also tried to lobby the government to alter existing laws to give them more power in fighting piracy. Right as piracy was in its nascent stages, the music industry was able to anticipate its coming threat to a surprising extent.  In 1998, a bill was circulating through congress about copyrights called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).5  Though piracy was just coming about, the music industry and its content industry peers were wise in lobbying to get the bill past and adding in a few caveats of their own.  The final act included sections that, according to an official U.S. Copyright Office summary, implemented a notice and takedown procedure where a stakeholder could notify a website that held its copyrighted material and in principle have it shut down if it didn’t remove the material.5  The law also included sections that made it illegal to tamper with any digital rights management that the music industry might have used (DRM was a type of software that content-makers often added to their media that in theory could make it difficult to pirate).5     

So is this government solution of suing and legislating to stop piracy truly a good strategy?  The MIT paper, though it defiled lawsuits as an effective means of stopping piracy did claim that due to the scale of the problem, government intervention (in the form of legislation) is required,4 while one author, Nate Anderson, writing in an opinion section of an online publication went as far to say “fighting music piracy is a government job”.6

Nevertheless, what nearly all sources can agree upon is that government intervention has yet to work well. A European Union study in 2015 went as far as to call it futile.7  Lawsuits using current DCMA laws might be effective at shutting down large piracy sites like Napster.  But as N.Y. Times author Nick Bilton pointed out in a simile, stopping piracy is like “playing the world’s largest game of Whack-A-Mole.”8 As he explained, the music industry could spend a huge amount to crush a small site called, for example, mp3downloader.com.  But within days the profit seeking hackers could throw up another site, freemusicdownloads.com.8   With so many piracy sites, a user might at first pirate less when their favorite site was shut down, but soon return to their normal level using other sites.8  In addition to the European Union study mentioned heretofore that tracked the returning piracy levels after a German site was shut down, a study by technology school Carnegie Mellon confirmed this trend.9  After two major piracy sites were shut down, the study found nationwide piracy dropped by as much 6%, but the effect only lasted for several days.9  If that wasn’t enough the DCMA legislation (as specified in the U.S. Copyright Office Summary) didn’t give music companies any ability to target piracy sites based outside the U.S., such as the Pirate Bay.5

Despite the ineffectiveness of DCMA legislation and the limitations of lawsuits up to that point, the music industry was still intent on finding a government solution.  The music industry tried to lobby for a law that would grant them the ability to wage an all out war against piracy.  In desperation, the RIAA along with the Motion Picture Association funded the campaigns of numerous congressmen to convince them to support their interests. In 2011, they were able to get such a bill considered in congress.  Called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), compared to any law previously considered, it was exceedingly harsh.10  If the law were past, according to the official congressional summary, with only a takedown notice and without going to court, a site could be told it had to shut down.10  If a site refused to comply, even if it was from another country, the search engine would be forced to delist it, any payment companies such as PayPal that sold their services to it would be forced to cut off contact, and U.S. advertisers would be forced to no longer pay the site.10

The SOPA debate was heated on both sides.  Backers of this extreme government solution such as author Nate Anderson stated that it gave the music industry far more powers, in a way addressing all the weaknesses of the DCMA.6  Once the government could gain control of the domain name registry service (or DNS), Anderson claimed it could make it much more difficult for downloading sites to keep popping up.6 A widely read Stanford academic journal titled “Don’t break the internet” criticized the law as meddling with the technical structure of the internet, something that had never been done before, as well as setting a precedent for internet censorship.11  In any case, the law proved very unpopular with pretty much all parties except the content industries and as a result, did not pass.11

While all of these litigation and legislation battles were taking place, arguably the best solution to this piracy problem was manifesting itself in the background.  Interestingly enough the proponents of this solution were not the music industry stakeholders but rather large and small technology companies.  Infact, the music industry was against their efforts for years. The solution was find a way to turn digital music back into a private good by offering a place online where the consumer could buy  it rather than share it.  While free music was still available through piracy sites, these businesses provided an easier and more ethical way to obtain music that won over a number of consumers.6

The first of these “private solutions” to piracy was the iTunes Store, released by Apple in 2003.13  In his famous biography of Steve Jobs, author Walter Isaacson traces the history of Apple and points out that, before Apple, there really was no legal alternative to piracy.13  Selling music legally involved buying its rights from the music industry.  The music industry’s right owning record label companies were far from convinced that legal sales of digital music would benefit them and took a great amount of convincing from Apple before making any deals.13  Small companies simply didn’t have the bargaining power to do a deal like that and even big companies didn’t have the iPod to drive consumer demand for MP3’s.13  Thus iTunes was the first of its kind.  Apple recognized that pirating music was not a great experience.13  Just to get one lower quality song you had to waste 10 minutes searching through slow, sketchy, advertisement choked sites and install torrent software that could damage your computer, all to feel guilty at the end of the day at taking money from your favorite artist.13 As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, put it: “We believe that 80% of the people stealing stuff don’t want to be, there’s just no legal alternative.  So we said, ‘Let’s create a legal alternative to this.’  Everybody wins.  Music companies win.  The artists win. Apple wins. And the user wins, because he gets a better service and doesn’t have to be a thief”

For-profit companies like iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify are essentially a private solution to piracy. For a while many sources, including the IFPI (International Music Trade Group — clearly biased toward the music industry) claimed that legitimate digital music companies could not compete with piracy sites.14 However, according to Anderson, who actually is for a government solution but still refutes this argument, even back in 2010, digital music was a $4.6 billion market, with large revenue growths every year.6  This statistic corroborates Steve Job’s argument, that many people would prefer a better service where they wouldn’t have to steal. In his Forbes article, author Paul Tassi strongly supports a private solution over a public solution to piracy.15  According to him, the music industry, in their reluctance in selling the rights to their songs to digital music websites at any price other than a high one, has been far too slow in realizing that legal music sites are not a threat but rather their saving opportunity.15

Opponents of this private market solution claim that piracy is still growing and record labels are still not prospering.  Last February, a U.S. Copyright Office Report revealed statistics that confirmed this.16  Yet, as Tassi says, this relies on one key assumption: whether record labels even should exist anymore in this digital economy;15 Just like the automobile made the horse obsolete as a means of transportation, the internet may have made the record label obsolete as a means of distribution.  Record labels may continue to lose money, but that may just be a fact of economics, albeit exacerbated by piracy.15

In sum, there are two parallel solutions to piracy: a public and a private one.  Content industries and their sympathizers claim that public solution is needed, while all sources can agree that public solutions up to this point have been fairly ineffective against piracy.  Some sources say a more extreme public solution such as the SOPA Bill would be effective at stopping piracy, as it is much stricter.  The music industry is extremely supportive of such a bill, while the tech industry decries it.  The arrival of legal music sites can be seen as a private solution to piracy.  The recording companies argue that they are still losing money even with this private solution, but some argue that this may just be an inevitable fact of economics, true with or without piracy.  

 

Notes

 

  1. Guldberg, Gustav, and Johannes Sundén. Pirates & Merchants – An Ongoing Struggle on the Hightech Seas. Thesis. Växjö University, 2004. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

 

  1. “The Economics of Recorded Music.” Future of Music Coalition. July 16, 2000. Accessed January 27, 2016. https://futureofmusic.org/article/economics-recorded-music.

 

3.Bergen, Grace J. “Litigation as a Tool Against Digital Piracy.” McGeorge Law Review 35 (2004).

 

  1. Alatore, Gabriel, Christina Huang, and Ethan Rigel. “Copyright Infringement Due to Online File Sharing.” 6.901 Inventions and Patents (n.d.): n. pag.MIT Opencourseware. MIT. Web.

 

  1. H.R., 105th Cong., Copyright Office, Library of Congress (1998) (enacted). Print. THE DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT OF 1998 U.S. Copyright Office Summary

 

  1. Anderson, Nate. “IFPI Fighting Music Piracy Is a Government Job.”Arstechnica. Conde Nast, 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

 

  1. Aguiar, Luis, Jorg Claussen, and Christian Peukert. Online Copyright Enforcement, Consumer Behavior, and Market Structure. Rep. N.p.: European Commission, 2015. Print.

 

  1. Bilton, Nick. “Internet Pirates Will Always Win.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Aug. 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

 

  1. Danaher, Brett and Smith, Michael D., Gone in 60 Seconds: The Impact of the Megaupload Shutdown on Movie Sales (September 14, 2013).

 

  1. H.R. 3261, 112th Cong. (not enacted). Print.

 

  1. Lemley, Mark A. and Levine, David S. and Post, David G., Don’t Break the Internet (January 3, 2012). Stanford Law Review Online, Vol. 64, p. 34, December 2011;

 

  1. Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.

 

  1. IFPI Digital Music Report 2011. Rep. N.p.: IFPI, 2011. Print.

 

  1. Tassi, Paul. “You Will Never Kill Piracy, and Piracy Will Never Kill You.”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

 

  1. United States. Copyright Office. Copyright and the Music MarketPlace. Washington D.C.: n.p., 2015. Print.

Final Comments: Joe, This draft does a good job of clearly articulating the main idea and introducing you sources. Most of your paragraphs synthesize multiple sources to support your description of each of the arguments you lay out from your sources, and your paragraphs are focused around a single idea. Where things break down a little bit is in the connections between paragraphs and ideas. It’s not that I don’t understand the logic/organization here, but you miss opportunities in your topic and concluding sentences to make more explicit connections among ideas and back to your main idea. Your first Napster paragraph, for example, isn’t explicitly connected to your paper’s main idea, though I understand the connection. In your case study — in which you’ll get to make a specific argument — this will be even more important.

 

Section One: Course Reflection

Strategies/Writing Ideas gained by experiences and feedback during this course:

  • Weight the amount of available information much more than interest as a factor in choosing a topic. Any topic can be interesting with the right attitude.  No topic with little information can lead to a paper with a lot of information.
  • After finding a topic with a lot of information, look through some sources to figure out which side you will be supporting.  Then identify the best sources you can and list them with a summary and URL so that you can go back to them.  
  • Before writing, create a comprehensive outline of your paper that contains a bullet for each paragraph, with a list of sources you will be using in each paragraph.  In other words, do all your research, then identify what ideas/arguments you will be presenting, then create a paragraph bullet for each, listing the sources you will be leveraging for evidence/ information.  
  • Always make sure that your essay addresses the assignment as early as you can in the writing process.  Its much easier to redo an essay early on.  
  • When revising, focus on big issues like organization and flow of a paper and then slowly focus on smaller and smaller things until you get down to the sentence structure.  It makes no sense to spend 15 minutes perfecting word choice on a paragraph that you are about to delete.   
  • Assume every part of your writing can always be improved.   
  • Think of writing as an art; it is not a strict methodology but rather an intuitive iterative process.    
  • Read through each sentence to see how cleanly it reads.  Think about how you can structure the sentence better (e.g. make it more concise, put simpler information closer to the beginning, etc.) so that it reads cleanly without making you stumble over words.  

Course Reflection:

The first two essays of this course required the writer to effectively group paragraphs around sources that supported a specific idea.  At the beginning of the course, I struggled doing so and as a result received considerable feedback concerning this deficiency on my first assignment, the literature review essay.  After reflecting on how I could best address this feedback for my next essay, the case study, I thought of an outlining strategy that would greatly improve my ability to group my sources into paragraphs about common ideas.  This outlining strategy proved very useful to me in rapidly constructing the case study with the proper structure.  According to the feedback I received on the case study, poor structure and handling of sources was not nearly as significant of a problem as with the literature review.    

At the beginning of the term, I did not have a great approach toward handling sources and planning essays.  For the literature review essay, I researched by reading a bunch of websites until I had an idea of what points I would make in my essay.  Then I made a rough outline and wrote most of the essay making arguments that I thought I’d seen on websites, without immediately citing them.  Then I scoured the internet sometimes in vain to find websites that would support the claims I made.   This approach led to an uneven distribution of sources. Some of my arguments were heavily supported, while others contained little to no support.  You highlighted this by saying that, “each paragraph should rely on one or more sources, but many [of your] paragraphs don’t contain any cited sources” (Lit. Review Full Draft).   Since I was essentially building my essay in reverse in trying to find sources to defend my arguments, many of my sources didn’t match my arguments that well.  Thus my paragraphs did not seem to be built around a central idea because some of my sources seemed to relate to a different idea than the arguments they were supposed to be defending.  You pointed out that issue by asking me to  “look for ways of combining paragraphs to create coherent, cohesive paragraphs organized around a specific idea” (Lit. Review Full Draft).  So for the literature review, I didn’t do a great job structuring my paper correctly, and received a lot of constructive criticism as a result.   

In thinking about how I could address this feedback, I thought of an outlining strategy that greatly enhanced my ability to structure my essays and build paragraphs that each contained sources supporting a common idea.  For the case study, I kept notes in a Google Doc for every source I visited that I thought would work well in my paper.  You can view this outline in the early drafts in the case study section of this wordpress site. For each source, I listed its URL and a few bullets to describe it and explain what argument it would help support.  In the past, I would have waited until after writing the essay to look up each source, but after your feedback and my struggles with the literature review I knew better.  After listing the sources that would support my argument and acknowledge counter arguments, I made a numbered outline with a one sentence summary containing the idea I planned to present in each paragraph of the 3000+ word essay.  Most importantly, next to the sentence, I listed all the sources by number that I planned to use as evidence.  After completing this simple outline, I had planned the entire structure of the essay in the ideal format of paragraphs with sources supporting a common idea.  All that was left to do was provide the glue to hold all the evidence and ideas together.  

As a result of this strategy, the case study in my opinion ended up being a much better piece of writing then my literature review essay, especially in terms of structure.  Your feedback on my case study would seem to support this.  In the literature review, this appeared to be your most pressing concern, with numerous comments on the full draft, while in the case study full and final drafts, you rarely mentioned this problem beyond a sentence or two that didn’t seem to fit with its parent paragraph or a single paragraph that had an unclear meaning. (Case Study Full Draft)  Never do you mention the fundamental issue of failing to build paragraphs around sources that support a common idea that plagued my literature review essay.  Infact, in the final draft, in your feedback you state that I am using my “sources particularly well in the body of the essay.” (Case Study Final Draft)  Hence, I think it is clear that my outlining strategy really paid off in allowing me to create an essay with a much better structure.   

To conclude, after taking this course, I think I’ve made a lot of progress concerning my ability to properly structure a source intensive essay like a literature review or a case study.  By properly structure, I mean build the essay into units of paragraphs each built around an idea supported by sources.  Going into this course, I had some bad habits in handling sources and planning essays that was reflected in a lot of feedback on my literature review essay regarding poorly structured paragraphs.  Inspired by this feedback, I employed a superior outlining strategy in planning my case study where I identified all the sources and arguments I would be presenting in each paragraph of the essay, before writing a single word.  I think it is clear that this strategy paid off because while my case study certainly had problems, as is clear from your feedback, it did not suffer nearly as much from problems of a structural kind.  

Section Two: Writing Before Dartmouth

A personal/reflective piece: My Common Application Essay:

Essay Prompt: Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. ( under 650 words)

If you had told me in 6th grade that an author would change my life, I would have been shocked. Back then, I spent my time playing G rand Theft Auto 4 and looking at cars instead of doing school work. It wasn’t that I didn’t have intellectual interests; indeed, I was obsessed with cars. My interest in cars went far deeper than makes and models and into their inner mechanics. I just couldn’t see how school could help me further these interests.

Narrowly avoiding expulsion from the Albany Academy, I managed to pass my classes, but still despaired as many of my friends moved on to more advanced classes while I received poor grades in the ones I was in. On top of this, I was slightly overweight and rather than try to improve my body I told myself that it was of an inferior grade. I lived in a state of jealousy of friends with better grades and better bodies, unable to see how I could improve.

Then in 8th grade I read Michael Crichton and my life has never been the same since. Being a prolific reader at the time, I picked up J urassic Park a fter someone recommended it to me. After only a few pages, I was hooked. In total, I read eight of Crichton’s realistic science fiction novels. From C ongo to S phere, Crichton’s books pointed to the technological progress man could achieve through knowledge of math and science. They inspired me to believe that anything could be obtained by gaining knowledge.

On the last day of school in 8th grade I found a physics textbook carelessly abandoned by a senior who was probably too eager to be finished with his course. That summer I read it cover to cover. By the time 9th grade came around, my outlook on school was totally different. Conveniently, I had just switched schools to Voorheesville High School, so I had a blank slate, where no one knew me as a bad student.

In 9th grade I was still stuck in the least advanced classes­­ including Integrated Algebra, Earth Science, and 8th grade Spanish. Many more advanced students reminded me of that fact by talking only about the classes I wasn’t in.  Against universal protests from my parents and teachers who continually reminded me I must get above an 85 on the NYS Geometry Regents, I took Geometry on my own through an online course.

In doing Geometry, I had to make up for years of slacking off and work harder than I ever had before. To my excitement, I scored a 100% on the Regents and as a dream come true, was put into Trigonometry in 10th grade. After doubling up in science and taking two levels of Spanish, I caught up with and passed many of the advanced students in my grade. In 11th grade, I decided to go above and beyond and take calculus on my own and succeeded in scoring a 5 on the AP exam By this point, I had taken every math course in the school except for AP Statistics, which I am taking now.

The famous saying “Success breeds confidence and confidence breeds success” by Mike Tyson applied to me. After seeing how I improved my academics, I attempted to do the same with my body. After going to Voorheesville, I decided to join the Cross Country team. My body has never limited me since.

I love the reactions of old classmates from the Albany Academy when I tell them this story. They simply can’t see that someone who struggled in middle school could have done so well in high school. But now I know, turnarounds are possible. When people ask me how I did it, I reply, “I read Michael Crichton.”

 

An Argumentative Essay: AP English Research Project

17 August 2015  AP English

Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd was a poor Okie vigilante of the depression era.  In the words of Western historian Michael Wallis, Floyd was not at first a bad person; he only turned to crime after he could not find a job. Furthermore, it was his mistreatment by the justice system that made him resentful and more willing to commit crimes.  Throughout his illicit life, Floyd consistently tried to give back to the poor Oklahoma farmers he came from. All of this made Floyd a perfect allusion in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck was very concerned with the failures of capitalism and the corruption of the law system, which were perfectly portrayed in Floyd’s inability to get a job and experience with the imperfect justice system.  Thus, Steinbeck strengthened his message by including Floyd.  

Floyd experienced the “live fast, die young” life between 1904 and 1934. (Watts 148)  He grew up in a big family on a farm in Oklahoma.  His family, like many, worked hard and made little money.  At twenty, Floyd married a girl named Ruby Hargraves.  He had hopes of settling down and living a more relaxed life, but he could not find work to feed his family. He found crime to be a very effective way to obtain money and began to steal.  After netting thousands of dollars, he was finally arrested and sentenced to four years in an Ohio state prison.  During these four years, Floyd learned to be a serious gangster.  Also, his wife, Ruby divorced him, although their relationship remained mostly unchanged.  After he was released from prison, he was totally different.  He worked with heavily armed teams to rob major banks.  Eventually, Floyd was caught and sentenced to fifteen years of prison.  On the train to prison, while allegedly using the bathroom, he escaped out of the window.  He was never caught alive again. (148)

Floyd is a prime example of the failure of the justice system.  Floyd did not start out the ruthless person he died as.  One man described Floyd as a “pretty boy”: “The fellow. . . was a mere boy—a pretty boy with apple cheeks”(Craddock 121).  Even during his life of crime, Floyd was really feared only by deputies and bank tellers.  One man said, “But nobody was afraid or lived in terror [of Pretty Boy]. . . Infact, he helped my dad change a flat tire on the corner of Garrison Ave. one day.  We all knew that Pretty Boy wasn’t such a bad guy. . . . He was no crazed killer” (Wallis 321).  

Nevertheless, Floyd, a hardworking youth at the age of 18, who had no criminal background, committed a minor crime and was punished as if he was a trained professional.  After years of hard labor on their family farms and no monetary compensation, Floyd and his friend, Harold Franks became enticed by rumors of the ease of theft.  Floyd and Franks decided to steal from their local post office and netted a small sum of $3.50. “Any mail-related crimes were automatically federal crimes, and eleven months later Floyd and Franks were arrested for the break-in”(Craddock 121).  With a federal offense on his record, regardless of how minor the crime was that brought it there, what paltry chance of finding a job and a safe future Floyd had was now ruined.  The faulty justice system, charging overly severe punishments for small crimes, had dug Floyd into a hole he couldn’t get out of.  

Now with no chance of a legal future, to feed his family, Floyd had no choice but to turn to crime. Two years later he was sentenced to four years in a Missouri state penitentiary.  “Located in Jefferson City, the Missouri Pen had the designation of being the first U.S. prison west of the Mississippi River. It was. . . dangerously overcrowded.  [Floyd] listened to chatter from seasoned big-city racketeers and came to learn that there were crime “families” in most major U.S. cities, and those families had ties to one another. There were also certain places where cops, judges, and even elected officials profited by bribes and kickbacks paid to them by bootleggers, brothel-keepers, and illegal-gambling entrepreneurs” (Craddock 120).  If Floyd’s overly severe punishment that destroyed his chances of a normal life wasn’t enough, it was his prison time that changed him from a hard working farmer into a ruthless gangster that truly showed how much Floyd was wronged by the justice system.

It is clear that Steinbeck was attempting to comment on the justice system in the Grapes of Wrath.  Throughout the entire novel, the protagonists, the Joad family, face corrupt police deputies.  Steinbeck’s police deputies block off roads to the poor and burn down villages of homeless people.  Tom Joad’s own description of deputies is comical: “‘’them deputies—Did you ever see a deputy that didn’t have a fat ass?  And they waggle their ass and flop their gun around’. ‘Ma,’ he said, ‘if it was the law they were workin’ with, why, we could take it. But it ain’t the law'” (Steinbeck 279).  Furthermore, a strong parallel toward Floyd’s questionable first punishment exists in Tom’s life, where he was unreasonably imprisoned for defending himself in a bar fight.  Thus it is explicit that Steinbeck was trying to make a message about the justice system.

Knowing Pretty Boy Floyd’s background can now show us how Steinbeck successfully aided his argument of the failed justice system by alluding to Floyd.  The first and most major reference to Pretty Boy Floyd comes after Ma asks Tom if he was made “mad”, by his encounter with the faulty justice system.  She brings up Pretty Boy Floyd: “I knowed Purty Boy Floyd. I knowed his ma. They was good folks.  He was full a hell, sure like a good boy oughta be” (Steinbeck 76).  Ma’s description of Floyd is consistent with other sources relating he was at least initially a good person.  Then Ma says, “He done a little bad thing an’ they hurt ‘im, caught ‘im an’ hurt ‘im so he was mad” (Steinbeck 76). Ma here is probably referring to the overly severe punishment Floyd received for sneaking a few dollars from his post office that ruined his chance of getting a job and made him resentful.   Then Ma says “an’ the nex’ bad thing he done. . . was [when he was] mad” (Steinbeck 76).  Ma is probably saying how Floyd now had no way to live other than through crime and that resentment motivated him to be more ruthless in his crimes. This sentiment is confirmed in the next line: “An’ purty soon he was mean mad. . .They shot at him. . . an’ he shot back” (Steinbeck 76).  Thus Steinbeck’s allusion to Floyd was completely consistent with his argument, that the justice system was flawed.  

Probably Steinbeck’s most major message in The Grapes of Wrath was that capitalism is flawed. This is primarily shown in the lack of correlation between wealth and productivity.  The poor Okies worked more difficult jobs than the great owners of California or the creditors of the East, yet the Okies received a miniscule fraction of the latter’s wealth.  In Fact, many of Steinbeck’s characters could not even find a job. To Steinbeck, it seems high unemployment– when people who are interested in contributing to society are denied the opportunity to do so, is the ultimate indicator of a faulty system.  

Pretty Boy Floyd was a hard working, productive member of society: “Charles learned the work ethic of farming; children were expected to join in the hard farm labor almost as soon as they could walk. Raised in the Baptist faith of hard work, Charles did his part in supporting his family” (Moody).  Floyd’s diligence distinguished him from other criminals: “Unlike other gangsters of the 1920s and the Depression era, Floyd was known as a hard worker who might never have gone wrong if he had been able to find legitimate work” (Sifakis 180).

Despite Floyd’s productive capacity, he could not find work: “Floyd. . . tried to find steady work, but conditions in the area’s mining and smelting camps were brutal, with workers forced to live in filthy barracks for scant wages” (Craddock 120).  Once Floyd had a family, his lack of income started to be devastating.  His only choice seemed to be crime (Charles). Thus Floyd makes a great analogy toward the failure of capitalism, where resources are not allocated efficiently.   

Even after Floyd was mistreated by the justice system and denied a job, he still never forgot to give back to the poor Okies he came from. According to the Carnegie Public Library, Floyd used much of his ill gotten money to feed the poorest of families. Banks were much of the poor’s greatest enemy.  When bad seasons stripped farmers of their harvest and thereby their ability to pay their loans, many were forced to foreclose on their land.  Knowing this pain first hand, when Floyd stole from a bank, he would destroy all the mortgage documents he could find, freeing the poor from their debt (Carnegie).  

These “Robin Hood”-like deeds immortalized Floyd to the Okie poor and showed his true character.  It is this good character that Steinbeck capitalizes on his book.  Without it, we could not sympathise with Floyd and Floyd’s reference would not serve Steinbeck’s argument.  Lastly, Floyd’s death further compounds this sympathy.  In 1934, five years before The Grapes of Wrath was published, Floyd was brutally shot to death when he lay helpless, wounded and unarmed in a similar corn field to what he had spent the first few years of his life on (King 208).  

In The Grapes of Wrath, Pretty Boy Floyd acts as a weapon in Steinbeck’s arsenal by providing an excellent allusion to support two of Steinbeck’s main points.  Steinbeck was very upset about the corruption of the justice system and the failings of capitalism.  Floyd could have been a very beneficial member of society, had he not been subject to the poor justice system and inability to get a job that forced him into a life of crime and infamy.  Floyd’s numerous examples of good character allow the reader to feel sympathy.  It is this sympathy that ultimately makes Floyd so effective for Steinbeck because as long as we are familiar with Floyd, we can feel the pain he went through from the deficient systems that Steinbeck tries so hard to criticize.

Works Cited

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Federal Bureau of Investigations. “Kansas City Massacre—Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd.” N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/kansas-city-massacre-pretty-boy-floyd/kansas-city-massacre-charles-arthur-pretty-boy-floyd>.

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Walbert, David. “The Depression for Farmers.” Learn NC. University of North Carolina, 2009. Web. 9 Feb. 2015. <http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-worldwar/5955>.

Wallis, Michael. Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

Watts, Linda S. Encyclopedia of American Folklore. New York: Facts On File, 2007. Print