The Artist is Ripped Off

“In the role-playing activity Starving Artist, for example, groups of students are encouraged to come up with an idea for a musical act, write lyrics and design a CD cover only to be told by a volunteer teacher their work can be downloaded free. According to the lesson, the volunteer would then “ask them how they felt when they realized that their work was stolen and that they would not get anything for their efforts.” NY Times, Sep 25, 2003

What is hilarious about this little scenario, of course, is that it is a complete fantasy. It is a comic fantasy. The most hilarious part is where they convince the students that they would actually have received any of the money that should have been paid for the CDs.

A real world scenario would run thusly: the students come up with an idea for a musical act, write lyrics and music and create a CD cover, and get signed by a major record label.

While in the recording studio, the producer, assigned by the record label, makes some suggestions for the arrangement of their best songs.  Then, of course, he convinces them to give him a co-writing credit.

Their CD sells very well because it is played on the radio– for free– and they perform on television promoting the CD– for free. They have a big advance from the record company and sign a complicated contract they don’t understand. They spend all their money in one year.

The next year, their accountants –played by a volunteer teacher, if you will– tell them they are broke.

They find out that the record company has been deducting all the expenses of recording, packaging, shipping, and promoting their CD against all their royalties. They find out that a whopping bill came from an image consultant hired by the record company on their behalf and at their expense. Then they find out that the image consultant actually works for the record company for a pittance.  They find out that the image consultant, sound engineer, label designer, photographer, and graphic artist all did the same work for several other artists signed to the same record label but who didn’t sell very many CDs at all.

They find out that they owe the record company millions of dollars.  They find out that the producer has collected a huge chunk of their song-writing royalties.

They write and compose a follow-up CD.  This time, the producer brings in a “rhythm consultant” who also takes a co-writing credit.  A record company executive doesn’t like it and demands changes. He wants it to be more pop, less art. The students don’t like the changes at all and demand artistic freedom. The record company tells them that they must change their music or they will not be allowed to release the record. Nor will they be released from their contract and allowed to switch labels to work with a producer who understands what they are trying to do.

Their CD is released on Spotify.  It is downloaded 100,000 times.  They receive a payment from Spotify of $12.53.

They find out that their work was stolen and they would not get anything for their efforts.

Now they know what it feels like to have their hard work stolen from them.

You may now resume downloading.

“He didn’t act like someone who was unjustly accused.”

“He didn’t act like someone who was unjustly accused.”

Robert Lazzaro, one of two prosecutors of Kirk Bloodsworth, who was convicted of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl, Dawn Hamilton, July 25, 1984.

Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted twice of the 1984 rape and strangulation death of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton outside of Baltimore. He was sentenced to death. His appeals were denied. The justice system works.

A lot of people were confident in Bloodsworth’s guilt, including the prosecutors who, even after DNA evidence had cleared Bloodsworth, asserted that he must have done it. He still must have done it. Well, he could have done it. Case closed.

The DNA was extracted from Dawn’s underwear.  Bloodsworth’s DNA was not found.  Someone else’s DNA was found.  That would lead most rational people to the conclusion that Mr. Bloodworth did not rape Dawn Hamilton.

Now every prosecutor will tell you that suspects will concoct remarkably preposterous stories to try to escape responsibility for their crimes. How is this for preposterous? Dawn must have left her panties in a clothes hamper where they came into contact with her father’s underwear, which might have had semen stains on them, which explains the wrong DNA, and then she might have put them on again without waiting for them to be washed.

So the DNA evidence is irrelevant. Bloodsworth is still guilty.


It must be very difficult for any person to admit responsibility for putting the wrong man behind bars for a heinous crime for 9 years. How nice for Kirk Bloodsworth to know that reputable justice officials continue to assert you might have done it, as you try to rebuild your life.

Bloodsworth is now a fisherman– he owns a boat and works hard for a living. His taxes help pay the salaries of the Baltimore district attorney.

So it must have been eating away at him for some time, until the police recently found the real killer. If DNA doesn’t match the suspect, of course, there is always a possibility that the real match can be found. It was found. Kimberly Shay Ruffner was a perfect match. Bloodsworth knew Ruffner– they had served some time together (Ruffner was in prison on other charges at the time). Bloodsworth was the librarian in prison and sometimes delivered books to Mr. Ruffner.

For the rest of us, a lesson to be learned. Study innocent men. Learn how they behave. Make sure, if you are ever charged with a crime, that you know how to put on the right act, so it cannot be said of you:

He didn’t act like he was unjustly accused.