January 24, 2009

An Open Letter To Jona Bechtolt...

by Chris Randall

Dear Jona:

While it was kind of you to write me personally expounding on your comments in the previous post, I'm afraid I take issue with some of the points you made. I've chosen to print my thoughts publicly, both for the theraputic value, and in the hopes that future generations will find some small value in this missive.

First things first. I will say up front that I do not accept your apology. I do appreciate the fact that you requested we send you a bill for the products you stole from us, but we won't be doing that either. I'll get to the "why" of that towards the end, so you have that to look forward to.

Anyhow, since this is an open letter, Jona, I have to provide the backstory for the people just joining us; I realize you already know all this stuff, but it's important for posterity. You, in your role as the leader of the group Yacht gave an interview to Waferbaby in which you stated that you willfully and happily used cracked software, and specifically Audio Damage plug-ins, to aid in your musical endeavors. Since I raised a certain (and I believe justifiable) objection to that in the previous entry, you or Waferbaby edited that interview. Of course, Google cached the un-edited one, and I grabbed a PDF, which interested parties can read here.

So, now that everybody knows where things stand, we can get on with our discussion. I will set aside the obvious and annoying hypocrisy of the whole light and happy rainbows trip you're on, because I'm not interested in discussing the relative merits of the genre in which you choose to express your creativity. In that interview, you essentially gloat over the fact that most all of the software you use to make music is pirated. Leaving aside the ethics of that for a moment, let's address the wisdom or lack thereof about gloating in public about committing a crime. While it may be the charge of the Hippy Dippy Light Brigade that information wants to be free, etc., it usually isn't free. Just because it feels free doesn't change the fact.

I realize that you're young, and perhaps a bit stunned by the fact that someone might take offense to your words or actions, but know this: if someone creates something, and chooses to hang a price tag on that thing, if you decide to take said thing without paying for it, you are de facto a thief. There's really no grey area. People are welcome to talk (or even yell, wave their arms, and run in circles) about changing things, leveling the playing field, rolling around in the fields of egalitarian bliss, but bad luck, you live in the United States of America, which is a capitalist nation. As such, most people that create things choose to charge for them, given the option to do so.

Since a metaphor is usually called for at this point, I'll give it my best shot. I don't suppose you walk in to White Hen Pantry and steal candy bars, do you? It's really not that much harder to steal a candy bar than it is to steal a plug-in. What makes that candy bar more real than a copy of Dubstation? The threat of immediate repercussions? If Dubstation was a real hardware unit instead of a group of ones and zeros arranged in a meaningful fashion, would you walk in to Guitar Center and slip it in to your pocket when nobody was looking? Interestingly, the penalty, should you be caught taking a candy bar, is far less than getting caught stealing software. That alone should give one pause. However, I'm far from naive, and I know just as well as you do that as long as someone doesn't, say, put a record of their actions in a public medium, they're not going to get caught taking the software.

Just so we're clear, Audio Damage, Inc. is not going to sue you, or file a complaint with the Multnomah County Sheriff's department. We would be well within our rights to do either or both, and most other software companies certainly would do so. In actual fact, I believe you do have a couple summonses to look forward to from some of the other companies you mentioned in your thoughtless rambling. But that's not my concern.

My true desire is to show you that the group of ones and zeros you took from us, and others, are meaningful creations. Adam and I put months, and in some cases, years of work in to those plug-ins. They are very real to us, and selling them is how we put a roof over our heads and keep our heat on and our refrigerators full. Is Dubstation (or Kombinat, Reverence, and BigSeq, the other plug-ins you stole from us) helping you make music? That is actual real time that Adam and I spent coding, modelling, designing, porting, testing, and selling. I sat in the second bedroom of my rented house (which is, I'll mention, roughly 30 miles from yours) and worked on the design of Dubstation. Adam sat in the basement of his house in Boulder and turned my idea in to a VST and an AudioUnit. Following that line of logic to its obvious conclusion, Adam and I spent time making something, and put what we thought was an extremely reasonable price tag on our time, in the hopes that others would see our creation and think that our time was useful, and would help improve their own creations. While it is somewhat unsavory to insist on payment for our creation, we have to do so in order to enable the act of creation in and of itself.

If you choose to use what we make without compensating us for our time, we'll grant that there's very little we can do about it. (Unless, of course, you say in a public medium that you've done so. Which, I'll mention again, you most assuredly did.) However, know this: wrong is wrong. If you have to ask whether you're a bad person or not, that alone should be all the answer you need. We are willing to accept piracy as a fact of life in the business we're in. We've never done more than pay lip service to copy protection, and we've tried to put a value on the product of our creativity that makes that product easily attainable, to the point where piracy simply isn't worth the trouble.

In conclusion, I promised to tell you why we wouldn't be sending you a bill. On the one hand, I'm happy with the fact that you're beginning to grasp that your words and actions have meaning, and therefor value, which essentially puts you in the same boat as Adam and I. On the other hand, when you justify your actions with the old standby "well, everyone else is doin' it" then you mark yourself as a follower, not a leader. If you want to be a leader, your example has to be righteous, not petty.

So we won't send you a bill, but know this: you'll end up paying for our software one way or another. I imagine you'll want to book a show at a club where I'm friends with the owner, and you'll need that date to wheel part of a run. But that owner will know that you're not to be trusted, so he'll pass on the date. Or you'll want to license one of your tracks on an episode of television, but the music supervisor has a 15-year relationship with me, and he values that more than he needs your song. Or you'll finally get an interview with that magazine that will put you in front of the kind of people you need to be in front of, but come to find out Audio Damage spends $1500 a month advertising in that magazine, and that company needs our $1500 more than it needs to fill column inches with your pondering out loud whether you're a bad person or not.

I am sorry that the Google footprint of this site is roughly 1000 times that of your name alone, and thus this will be the first thing that comes up whenever anyone searches your name directly, but there's nothing I can do about that. I hope this has been a valuable lesson to you, and food for thought to others. Thanks for taking the time to expand on your original comments, and I look forward to your reply. Just so you're aware, if you reply to me privately, I will absolutely post that reply verbatim here, so you might as well just put it in the comments of this post.



Page 1 of 12

Jan.24.2009 @ 1:36 AM
As a former police officer, I saw Jona's type all the time. They're very sorry for what they did...once they'd been caught.

He's the kind of person that hates all lawyers, except his lawyer. He hates the government, until it "owes" him something. He hates the police, until he needs one to save his ass. He hates corporations (like AD even though it's two people) because they charge for things that should be free, yet his music is for sale on Itunes. People should gladly pay him for his efforts because, well, because it's different when it's him! He's pro-rainbow!

Is everyone a pirate? No Jona they aren't. All my money goes to medical bills right now, so I can't buy even one AD plug-in. I really want a couple of them and I even know where to go get the pirated copies, but I'll wait until I can pay for them. Not because I have to but because I want to. Anyone providing a valuable product or service should be paid for their efforts or those providers will disappear.


Jan.24.2009 @ 1:41 AM
Wow...I am speechless. Chris, your articulation is refreshing. I have been reading this blog for sometime, never posted...mainly because I really enjoy your humor, and while this WAS funny, in the matter of fact way you presented your reply...the subject of why you wrote it is not. I agree with bird...not everyone is a pirate, and the ones that are I don't think are quite as dense as you. I have never come across such a blatant confession to piracy...or anything like it.


Jan.24.2009 @ 1:46 AM
i've read things that yacht (jona bechtolt) has written before where he talks about using cracked versions of Live and the thing that strikes me as insane is that he is good friends with fellow Oregon indie software developers Panic ( makers of transmit, coda, candybar ). what must they think of all of this? i am sure that they would be pretty bummed to read an interview with someone basically bragging about ripping off their products.

here's a quote from his web site...
(link [www.teamyacht.co...]">link [www.teamyacht.co...])
" I use pirated software. I'll be the first to admit that. The certain audio software of my choice has been historically hard to crack and has been sort of an unreliable program to use due to its "I could stop working for you at any time" nature. They are smart over there in Germany. No one knows why it stops working. No one knows how. It's not calling home to the internet and shutting itself off. It's not creating an invisible file that tells it to stop working. It's not even embedding some sort of copyright violation code into the song files... I don't know what it's doing, but it stinks. Luckily I have two computers and they are Apple computers. The iBook has never had a problem with the audio software (knock on wood, literally), so I put it in FireWire target mode and selected it as the startup disk for the iMac. Totally weird; the iMac uses its own CPU, RAM, screen, keyboard, mouse, etc., but uses the iBook's hard drive. Well, it worked. We finished the album with this weird setup and I promised myself that one day, when I can afford it, I'll give those smart Germans $500 for their fancy software."

it's hard to feel bad for the guy.


Jan.24.2009 @ 2:08 AM
Hmm. I didn't read the original version of the interview before I posted on the last thread, or I probably wouldn't have been so nice.

Also, according to Wikipedia, he's not that young, either. Only a couple years younger than me, in fact. I think that's already a fair bit past the usual range where I'm inclined to cut young guys slack for their inherent tendency to act like complete fucking idiots.


Jan.24.2009 @ 2:12 AM
Funkish Bass
Fricken Pirates.

Hey, I heard the crackers and pirates are the student IT guys who streamline and bulletproof porno site's credit card service for organised crime bosses and then, in the off-time (which is about 90% of the time) they use the supercomputers their bosses supplied them to crack code for stuff they're interested in, like music and video software. And they charge the bosses time 100% for the 10% they actually work for. How would the boss know they're goofing off? Gee, just like the real world, huh?
A totally moral-free zone.
So, if this is not true, could someone explain the true motivation of these secretive prcks?
Also, one IT head told me these crackers plant viruses in the code because they're totally antisocial and dysfunctional. And planting viruses one of their 'trade mark' activities because they really don't care about the end user.

That's all I have to say about piracy.

From a proud 1s and 0s owner of Cubase 4 and Komplete 5 and Ueberschall and Korg.

All the best Chris.


Jan.24.2009 @ 2:12 AM
Standing ovations. A very well written article.

Jan.24.2009 @ 2:33 AM
Chris Randall
@space_monkey: he's 29, which seems pretty young to a MAWG like me. But you're right in as much as "old enough to know better" would be an applicable phrase, should someone choose to apply it.

Personally, I've seen way older people (including myself) do way stupider things, so I don't really think the age part has much significance. He's in that special place where he's a kind of famous, but not _actually_ famous, like Bill Leeb or me. We're not household names, but in the circles we travel in, we're high on the totem pole. So it _seems_ like we're famous, to ourselves when we look in the mirror.

This has the effect of amplifying our own actions in our heads. I feel I'm just as important as Jona thinks he feels. I, however, had probably done about 5,000 more interviews than him by the time I was his age, so I took my knocks and learned my lessons about what someone can say in print (and by print I mean real printy print and not the webtubes) and on the radio. Things that don't seem like a big deal _really_ don't seem like a big deal, and things we take seriously we _really_ take seriously.

Such is the life of the self-obsessed. This industry is a magnet for the type, and since I am one, I know it when I see it. "Look at how handsome and charming I am. Isn't that other guy so not handsome or charming?" The age-old pissing match between alpha males; different names, different times, but we're all just marking trees when you get down to it.



Jan.24.2009 @ 2:36 AM
congratz on five years and a awesome come back to that jerk. I was sorta into his music NOT THE SCENE. I pay for my plug ins and hardware even if it ends up being not so useful (never the AD ones though usefull and fun ) if i dont use it that much but jeez i dont know if i could listen to it much more after that rant of "hey music should be free" sorry kid it costs money because people put hard work into these albums and or plug ins.
good job yet again chris

Jan.24.2009 @ 2:39 AM
Funkish Bass
Ha ha ha
All the best guys.

Jan.24.2009 @ 2:47 AM
well played, sir. well played.

Page 1 of 12



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.