Music Piracy

Illegally downloading or copying copyrighted music for personal use or commercial gain is stealing, plain and simple.

Most of us would never ever consider stealing something from a friend’s or even a stranger’s house. We have a sense of right and wrong which keeps most of us from doing something like that which is against our conscience.

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However, when it comes to stealing digital recordings of copyrighted music, we somehow feel remorseless, thinking that the rules that apply to stealing or thievery do not apply to downloading music without charges. The reason for this is not that people are unaware that music is copyrighted, or that unauthorized copying is illegal. It has something to do with the fact that it is perceived as a victimless crime.

Our reasoning is that if someone copies a copyrighted song, the owner of the copyright is not left without something he or she once possessed. We reason out that the copyright holder is no worse off materially than he or she was prior to the piracy anyway, so it doesn’t bother our conscience.

However, we must really consider the many forms of music piracy to understand the implications and consequences of our actions not only to the industry but also to ourselves.

Music piracy comes in many forms. There is what is called as simple piracy which is the packaging of the pirated copy to make it different from the original. These are often compilations of popular mp3s of our favorite artists which we upload to our iPods. When a person records a live performance and distributes it to others, this is called as bootlegging. There are also instances when the pirate copy resembles the original as closely as possible to mislead the consumer into believing that they are buying an original product. These are called as plain counterfeits.

Music piracy is generally defined as any form of unauthorized duplication and/or distribution of music. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and under current copyright legislation, downloading music for free is definitely theft under the letter of the law. Whether using the downloaded music for personal use or commercial gain, the law broadly describes it as stealing

There are many reasons why music piracy cannot be condoned.

First of all, stealing music is basically the same as stealing from the songwriters and recording artists who create it. Sites that facilitate person to person (P2P) file-sharing have proliferated on the internet, resulting in millions of dollars of lost revenues by artists.

Another reason is that stealing the music of new artists and up-and-coming bands dampen the rise of their careers. This essentially kills off new talents that the world has yet to appreciate. A reason that hits more to home is that when you use P2P software that facilitates illegal downloading, your computer becomes the vulnerable target of viruses, unwanted pornography, and breaches of privacy.

A stronger reason is that illegal downloading and file-sharing is subject to federal prosecution. As of March 2004, almost 2000 individuals have been sued by the RIAA for illegally downloading copyrighted music.  Unauthorized downloading is depriving the artists, composers, and record companies of the right to choose the value of their creative property in a free market. It is also depriving governments of income from sales and excise taxes, which could go back against us.

Hence, music piracy is not only illegal; it is also a scourge not only to the recording companies or artists but to society as a whole. Let us not be the reason for killing off our own creative music industry.

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