Ok, I doubt anyone is going to take all the time to read all of this, but I figured I would put this up because it pertains to the Music Industry I figured I would put it up.
NOTE: This was my freshman year Exploratory Research Essay. I had to keep it to a page limit, so I had to leave out some of the facts. Hopefully over time I can make the potential edits to it that are necessary.
tl;dr: Peer-to-Peer file sharing is affecting the music industry, but with the right kind of pirates, it would be incredibly beneficial. Also, there are potential solutions to copyright infringements and other shit.
Music Piracy, Internet Anarchy, and Record Labels Walking the Plank: How Peer-To-Peer File Sharing Is Affecting The Music Industry
Open. Search. Click. Download. Four, easy, steps. They can be for anything, from downloading programs like Microsoft Word or programs that people play for fun. However, they are also the same steps needed to download music illegally. Over the past 10 years, illegal downloading has swept through the music industry like the bubonic plague. Ever since I found the program Kazaa, I began to download music illegally. I always thought that what I was doing was harmless. Years later, in a library at Drexel University orientation, I listened to the computer department talk about how powerful the network was. Eager to play various games and talk with friends from back home, I listened carefully. He then went on to talk about Drexel’s Acceptable Use Policy, which basically outlawed all students from downloading music illegally. I was floored by the severity of the punishments. My biggest outlet for discovering new music had just been completely severed. But this had me thinking, if Drexel has such a strict rule against illegally downloading music, how serious of a crime is it to download it illegally? How far down does the rabbit hole go?
For us to understand why downloading music for free is illegal, we must understand what copyrights cover. Jared S. Welsh, author of the journal article “Pay What You Like- No, Really: Why Copyright Law Should Make Digital Music Free for Noncommercial Use,” states in his article that "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Basically, whatever the artist copyrights becomes his or her property. Welsh goes on to list that the "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. It provides for six exclusive rights of copyright owners: reproduction, preparation of derivative works, distribution, public performance, and public display.” With these rights reserved by copyright holders, were does downloading music for free fall?
Out of these six exclusive rights, the one most violated by people who illegally download music is distribution. The first case against programs that distributed music illegally was Napster. Napster was created by a Northeastern University student named Shawn Fanning. He wanted to make it easier for college students to find and send each other music. The new program spread across the country like wildfire. His new program, which was given the name “peer-to-peer file sharing,” was not only sharing college programs, but everything and anything that made its way onto the Internet. The rise of peer-to-peer file sharing led to massive legal cases dealing with illegal mp3 distribution.
Then the record labels stepped in. They believed that their copyrights were being infringed upon. Napster didn’t stand a chance. Because they used basic tools such as search engines, it meant that they had some way of regulating materials that had copyrights, but did not take action for them. What this means is that Napster was knowingly facilitating the illegal distribution of mp3 files and other intellectual property. By this time, however, Napster had a network of a couple million people, and the program was out of control.
Although Napster had been stopped, the rise of other peer-to-peer file sharing programs began to pop up everywhere. The record companies were unable to fight all the cases in a timely manner. The internet’s speed and capability outmatched the entire music industry. So, one may ask, “What is the damage?”
To understand how much peer-to-peer file sharing affected the music industry, let us take American boy band NSYNC’s release: “No Strings Attached.” This album, debuting in March 2000, came out of the gates in Australia at number one, selling well over 70,000 copies of the CD. This does not include the 2.42 million copies sold in the U.S. in the first week alone. These numbers are almost unheard of these days.
Lets continue during today’s market. As mentioned, NSYNC sold 70,000+ copies of “No Strings Attached” in 2000. Last month, England’s Metalcore band Bring Me the Horizon released “There is a Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There is a Heaven, Lets Keep it a Secret.” Like NSYNC, their album debuted at No. 1 as well on the Australia countdown. But the scariest part for artists is the number of copies sold for BMTH. They only sold 3,600 copies of their album. This information shows that album sales from 2000 to last month are down more than 1900%. Needless to say, peer-to-peer file sharing is crushing the music industry.
With consumers sharing music illegally, who is affected by it all? One of the largest legal distributors of music is iTunes. This small branch of Apple Computers has proven to be a titan in the music industry, selling over ten billion songs alone. iTunes allows the purchase of single songs or whole albums at set prices, much like standard record stores. According to the compiled information on informationisbeautiful.net, if someone buys an album on iTunes, 54% of the profit goes to the record label, 9% goes to the artist, and 37% goes to iTunes. If record sales are down 1900%, peer-to-peer files sharing is still taking a very large cut of the music industry’s potential profit.
Now, we have identified how the music industry has been affected by illegally downloading music, but what about the consumer, or the pirate? Do they both have anything in common? Are they as evil as the record labels make them out to be? First, we need to understand why someone would deliberately steal music from artists. As someone who has pirated music, one of my biggest concerns is risking the money on something I may or may not like. Back during the time when CDs were 12 dollars, I barely had any money to my name. By pirating music, I was able to listen to CDs before buying them, therefore letting me make a purchase based on previous observations. Another reasons I have downloaded music illegally was for discovery. New music is easy to come by these days, but finding new music you like is much harder. As this goes back to taking the risk out of buying CDs, it makes it easier for others like me to find new bands to listen to. These are the perks that are shared by music pirates.
With all this stealing, is there a good side to any of this? The surprising answer is yes. According to studies done by torrentfreak.com, people who pirate music are 33% more likely to buy music from other means than a digital store. It proves that people are still willing to buy music, but not all of it. Why would someone cut corners on buying music? The obvious answer is that the amount of music we would have to buy to receive all the music we want would exceed a normal music’s fan budget. According to James Lewin’s article, his title says it all: “The average teen’s iPod has $800 of pirated music.” On one end, one can argue that the music stolen is a travesty, but for music fans, the travesty is the price. For teenagers, $800 is hard to come by without working for months. Illegally downloading music provides a mean for kids to continue to listen to their favorite bands.
With all prospects considered, the record labels think of “pirates” as no-good, lazy thieves who do not want to put up the cash to buy albums. But, according to studies, it seems like they have it all wrong. Music fans and pirates alike are still willing to put the money out there to support the artists they approve of. It seems that pirates are misunderstood by the music industry. However, the copyright laws still remain and legal action can still occur. What tactics are the record labels taking to fight this piracy?
The answer, as of right now, is scare tactics. Record labels are suing music pirates for their wrongdoings. Instead of trying to come to a conclusion, they are trying to fight the pirates. For example, a woman named Jammie Thomas-Rasset has been successful sued for $1.5 million dollars for downloaded 24 songs illegally. This comes down to her paying $54,000 dollars a song. These kinds of numbers would make anyone squirm at the thought of paying this much money. The reality is that people are still downloading music illegally, even if it means hefty fines. What kind of conclusion can everyone come to?
There are many different ideas to fix the music industry. One idea consists of heavy taxes on items that can facilitate illegal downloads. Such items would include blank discs, iPods and other mp3 players. The flaw of this is that the taxes could be seriously distorted. They could range from being so outrageous that it would be unaffordable, or too low as to continue to hurt the music industry. Another solution could be to promote monthly subscription uses for music. What this would do is charge people for a monthly service fee while letting the masses have hold at all the music that they can get their hands on. This is viewed as one of the leading cases because it could be affordable for any household member while allowing the amount of music downloaded to be unlimited and the record labels can continue to make a profit. The downside of this is that illegally downloading music is still an issue. It would still exist at the same rate that it does today. My personal, favorite solution is to do away with it altogether: rewrite the copyright laws in order to make music that is used for noncommercial uses free for everyone. If pirating is so out of control, would it just be smart to do away with the copyright laws? This way, there would be no lawsuits, no ridiculous fines and no problems with the music fans. People can safely afford to download music at their leisure. This would also be fortunate for artists too. With the music free for giveaway, it would allow music to reach the masses and otherwise unnoticed bands can create more notoriety. The only downside is that, like mentioned before, the record labels take in 63% of CD and songs downloaded off of iTunes. With that much income gone, how much does it affect record labels? Even more so, the exposure may not be worth the price to some bands, as they would want their cut of the money. If a law for noncommercial uses passes, unsigned bands would struggle harder since they would have to continue to pay for things like recording, engineering, mixing and music equipment with no reparation for what they had paid before.
So now I find myself reviewing my iTunes Library. I see many bands of which I had pirated music from. Starting from the very first 4 albums on my library and ending with the last 2, I realized I spent no money on any of those 6 records. In the end, I feel somewhat guilty. Groups of men and women worked very hard over the course of years in order to create such a fan base as they do now, and their work is up for grabs on the Internet for free. But then I think about how I have compensated for this. The album On Letting Go by Circa Survive was one of the first I ever downloaded illegally. Since then, I have bought all of their CDs, posters, vinyl records and 3 tickets to see them live. I have to think to myself: Would I be condemned for stealing a ten dollar album or commended for spending over $200 supporting their music? So again, I ask myself: Could music pirating be a necessary evil for the music industry? My belief is yes, even though music pirating affects the music industry negatively, but, with the right people downloading the music, it could possibly make the music industry more money than it ever has before.
Welsh, Jared. "PAY WHAT YOU LIKE - NO, REALLY: WHY COPYRIGHT LAW SHOULD MAKE DIGITAL MUSIC FREE FOR NONCOMMERCIAL USES." (2009) <http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic/?shr=t&csi=7383&sr=TITLE%28PAY+WHAT +YOU+LIKE-NO%2C+REALLY%29+and+date+is+April,% 202009>