Illegal Music Downloading Irrevocably Changes Music Industry

Dani Vignos

As the world rapidly advances, the music business is slowly being unraveled and driven to oblivion. This change is inevitable, but has been severely hastened because of increased illegal music downloading since the Shawn Fanning Napster case in 2002. In this case, Fanning, the creator of Napster was sued by multiple artists for freely distrusting their music. While some advocates fight to maintain the traditional industry, there is no clear-cut solution to this growing problem.

Despite the Recording Industry Associations of America’s (RIAA) lawsuits, the music industry has already changed. No one will ever sell as many records as Michael Jackson’s “Killer” 1982 or AC/DC’s “Back in Black” 1980.  Since the invention of online music databases, including legal sources like iTunes, the music industry has irrevocably changed.  People no longer buy a whole album, but rather buy individual songs; they count number of songs in a library rather than the number of CDs on a shelf.

Of 180 Miramonte students polled, 96 students admitted to using illegal sources to download their music, which is roughly 53% of students.  This splits the Miramonte population nearly in half on the practice of illegal downloading.

Students understand that the sources are illegal; they just don’t seem to care or understand the severity of the punishment if they are caught. There is no fuzzy line between illegal and legal. If you buy it, it’s legal and if you do not, it’s illegal. Sharing, swapping or borrowing files on non- licensed internet sites or burning music on CDs and giving or selling them to friends is illegal. Despite the harmless sounding names, they all translate to stealing.

Juniors Ross Andrews and Chad Zakskorn choose to use illegal sources because they “like to break the law and are badasses.” The truth is music costs money and people don’t want to pay the high prices. iTunes recently changed the price of a $0.99 cent song to $1.29. Not only is this ridiculously high, but it makes no sense. How can a song on a hard copy CD cost less than a song that doesn’t involve packaging, manufacturing or distribution, but is simply purchased through the internet? If the music industry expects people to purchase their music, they cannot charge $1.29 for a song. “I don’t care about the artists. They are rollin’ in dough. They are all caked up,” said senior Tyler Townsend. “It’s free and on Limewire you can get songs that aren’t published on iTunes,” said junior Isabelle Shapiro.

If the average student has about 5,000 songs on their music library and spent $1.29 on every single song, this adds up to $6,500. So you are either spending $6,500 if you choose to use legal sources or you are stealing around $6,500 if you are using illegal sources. Neither option seems desirable.

Artists also have mixed views on music downloading. Shakira, an advocate for illegal downloading, told the UK Daily, “I like what’s going on because I feel closer to the fans and the people who appreciate the music…”

Similarly in a different era, John Lennon said, “Music is everybody’s possession it’s only the publishers who think that people own it.” In today’s world, conceivably, Lennon would advocate the free distribution of music. This is somewhat hard to believe given the millions of albums sold and dollars made by the Beatles.

Non-mainstream artists believe illegal downloads project and publicize their music.  Some artists give permission to Sites such as Last FM and Pitchfork to freely distribute their music.

When Radiohead released In Rainbows 2007, they released it online for free and instead were accepting donations. They did in fact receive donations. People don’t have the intentions of stealing. They respect the artists and the music, they just don’t want pay the full price to listen to the songs.

However, another group of artists believe the illegal music downloading industry’s popularity is disgusting.
“Our industry must take a very strong position against the stealing of our writing and music or else those writings and music will become as cheap as the garbage in the streets,” said Stevie Wonder.
A significant portion of Miramonte also feels this way. “I don’t approve of it. I know it exists and it’s hard to crack down on it but I choose not to be a part of it,” said sophomore Tamar McCollum. “I just don’t think it’s fair to the artist. You can always just listen to a song on YouTube. You don’t need to have it in your possession, so I don’t understand the need to have it in your library when it is illegal.”

Senior, Katherine Pierce, a proponent for legal music downloading said, “When I like a band, I want them to make money.”  If you really like a song or an artist, it doesn’t seem gracious or respectful to steal their music.

Other than the moral disadvantages to illegal downloading, those who partake in this practice risk retrieving viruses onto their computers. But, far worse, they face the specter of a lawsuit costing up to hundreds of thousands of dollars such as Shawn Fanning’s.

It doesn’t feel like stealing if you take it over a wire in a digital format. That is, there is nothing tangible like a candy bar taken from a grocery store but rather a somewhat magical receiving and replaying of a song in a digital format. There is nothing to touch, only the sound to embrace.  As the illegal music downloading industry continues to flourish, the debate goes on and a solution will hopefully be adopted.