Tuesday, March 07, 2006

the modern pirates

Not too long ago I wanted to purchase a music album by a popular female artist. Much to my chagrin, thirteen skanky songs accompanied the one song I really liked. That song could be obtained in three ways: a legal download, an illegal peer to peer music sharing network, or an illegal free download.

80% of teenagers have been involved in some kind of music piracy in the last six months, said a statistic from The Barna Group. An ever growing problem, worldwide theft causes the music industry to lose about $4.2 billion annually.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) provides a definition, “ ‘Piracy’ generally refers to the illegal duplication and distribution of sound recordings.” Technology has made it easier than ever to burn CDs or download music.

In a speech from RIAA representative Hilary Rosen, personal recordings aren’t a problem. “We have always been supportive of the ability of consumers to copy a CD for the gym or for their car. . .The problem is with the student who burns 100 copies for his friends in the dorm or makes available hundreds of files for uploading onto Kazaa.”

Bottom line: there’s nothing wrong with a personal copy of an album, as long as you purchased it. The problem lies in actions that cause loss of profit: illegal or counterfeit recordings, bootleg records, and online piracy.

Don’t assume that you won’t get caught. The RIAA, AFM (American Federation of Musicians), and IFPF (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) are working to fight music piracy by suing violators and seizing pirated music. The crime is punishable by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

PC World announced a new policing method—an embedded watermark that tracks pirating from peer to peer networks back to the originator.

If the RIAA doesn’t catch you, spyware will. When a person agrees to the terms for ‘free’ file sharing, they often agree to allow a third party to monitor them, says Tom Stafford from the University of Memphis.

Colleges and universities are working to crack down on peer to peer music sharing networks. They’re especially affected by music file sharing, because the illegal activity clogs up college network bandwidth.

That leaves the broke college student with a dilemma: where can they find legal, inexpensive music? Personally, I listen to the radio a lot. It’s free and there’s a lot of variety. However, I buy most of my CDs off http://www.amazon.com/, where I’ve been able to purchase most of albums for $7 or less.

Some people might not make that big a fuss about music piracy, which can be easy and free. That doesn’t justify stealing. Somewhere down the line, somebody pays for this illegal activity—the user in fines, the artist because they’re losing profit, or the music industry, because their contributors can’t afford to stay in business.

Thou shalt not steal is still true.

And what did I do about the one good song in a sea of sleaze? I guess I’ll just keep enjoying it on the radio.

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