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Music Piracy Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by onyinye, United States Jul 31, 2003
Culture , Creative Commons   Opinions


The problem of music piracy has been of interest to me since I came across it in my Social Informatics class at the University. I have to admit that I have been watching with amusement the war of words raging between the music industry and the consumers over this issue.

The music industry got the courts of the United States of America to enact a law making it illegal to download music from any peer to peer (p2p) file swapping service like Kazaa, Morpheus, Aimster or Napster. Some of these services have been defunct for awhile due to laws or bankruptcy. By enacting these laws, consumers are now liable to huge fines or worse yet imprisonment if they are caught downloading any music from any P2P service.

Being a recent graduate from University, I know there was probably a painful groan heard around the campuses since a huge number of students download music, movies etc from these services. There are several reasons why they use these services and they are:

a) Control: the consumers can have the music that they want on their CDs not the music that music industry executives believe that they should like based on some market research.

b) Convenience: There is no need to stand on a queue at the store to get your favorite CD. You can get the music straight from your dorm room or your home. This is an advantage for students who are generally very busy studying and do not have the time to go out. Yes, I know that you can also get music shipped to you but one has to take into account the shipping and handling charges.

c) Extras: By downloading music, consumers could gain access to unreleased songs from their favorite artists.

Reading of these advantages, I am quite sure that in the mind of some, the music industry is going to seem like a gluttonous monster out to eat every single penny of the naïve, ignorant consumer. The music industry has tried to refute these claims by putting up some arguments as to why they would like to crack down on these petty thieves.

Some of the arguments that they have put up are that downloading music creates a loss for the industry, which leads to a loss in the only source of income for some artist. They also argue that downloading music could hurt the creative process of artists in the long run since only those who are established enough in other fields would be able to go into the music business because they can afford to make music. They also claim that downloading music could lead to fewer choices for the consumers. If only those artists that can afford to go into the music industry make music, then we would be limited to these artists. That would be really boring!

Though these are good arguments against music piracy, it does not really take into consideration the interests of the consumers. As a result of this, some people have come up with the alternate idea that we pay some money (generally less than the CDs) to download music from these services. Some companies offer these services, for example Apple's i-tunes. But though this seems to be a compromise between the needs of the consumers and the music industry, reality proves that this has not been economically viable. Many companies that offer these services have become defunct since people prefer to either download music for free or buy the CDs or cassettes. This shows that consumers seem to want an either-or option, not really a compromise.

Realizing that the option of downloading music for a fee might not be economically viable, some other ideas have been brought up to deal with this problem. One solution is the Get 'Em Young program. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) claims that it works to educate corporations and universities about the evils of piracy. Another solution that has been brought up is educating younger children about the evils of piracy. This method ensures that the future generation would be wary of downloading and this could make the new law unnecessary.

Having brought up both the consumers and the music industries perspective to the table, it is up to you (the consumers) to decide what your next move is going to be. I do not believe that downloading music has such a huge effect on the music industry. I believe that there are other issues involved in the slump in sales. One reason for this slump in sales might be that consumers feel that there is nothing original in the market and so they see no reason to spend their money buying these CDs. I believe that the music industry needs to find some way to communicate with the consumers and through communication they can find out the needs and wants of consumers rather than blindly creating music that does not appeal to them. This might make the consumers take the extra step of buying music and therefore eradicate the slump in sales.



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Simon Moss | Oct 23rd, 2003
What a rare case of someone actually trying to take on the subject matter, rather than bowing to the interests of the Recording companies. In my experience, here in Australia, the move to mp3s and downloaded music happens for two reasons - 1) because we can, and we have a society that doesn't frown upon it and 2) there's a perception that record companies are greedy. We can buy a CD album for $30 (Aussie), but only $1.50 or so goes to the artist. It's great that we have a strong industry that employs people - but we don't need the marketing machine that produced such high quality "talent" as Brittany, Christina and the Backstreet Boys.

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