A curious piece on The Guardian today, by Richard Stallman. He mourns the loss of HMV, on the basis that what’s replaced physical music sales is a “disaster for freedom”. However, the arguments he makes are curious.

Once I had bought the records, I was free to give or lend them to friends. Under copyright law, I could even copy them, to audio tapes in the old days, and give those to my friends. All this without the state’s knowing anything about it.

Now, he was certainly free to give or lend records to his friends, and also to copy records to tape and give those away. However, he wasn’t acting within the law. Today, in the UK, you’re still not acting within the law regarding format-shifting; and even if copyright laws change in 2013, to introduce a measure of fair-use (as is fairly likely), it will be for purely personal collections only. In other words, it will no longer be illegal in the UK to rip a CD to MP3s (just as the CD format is dying off, usefully), as long as you’re making the MP3s for you, and not spreading them around the web or emailing them to your friends.

For those who love both music and freedom, today’s form of internet sales is out of the question, which leaves ever fewer opportunities for us to buy music.

From the previous quoted paragraph, the ‘freedom’ Stallman appears to be encouraging heavily involves rights infringement—unauthorised copying of purchased content. Such copying’s still perfectly simple with digital files, but that doesn’t make it any better. And if Stallman’s concerned about “fewer opportunities for us to buy music”, I’m more worried about fewer musicians able to make music, because people are making use of their ‘freedom’ to rip said artists off, copying their music rather than buying it—whatever the format.