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Illegal Music Downloading: Look At The Facts

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The music downloading phenomenon has spread throughout the world. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is extremely concerned about illegal downloading from the internet. The RIAA believes that decreasing CD sales are caused directly by illegal downloading. As a result, the RIAA began using controversial methods to attempt to combat the problem – it has been pursuing lawsuits against average citizens who it believes have obtained music through illegal downloading. The RIAA blames these music “pirates” for the losses incurred by the RIAA and its members. However, a look at the facts tells a very different story and indicates that the methods used by the RIAA to combat illegal downloading are not solving their problem

In order to understand how we got to this point, we must look back to the beginning of the music downloading phenomenon – Napster. Napster was an online music sharing service started in June of 1999 by Shawn Fanning. It was the first commonly used music sharing system on the Internet. While it was not a true peer-to-peer network as the content (a list of files provided by each user) was stored on a central network of servers, the actual transfer/sharing of files occurred directly between individual user’s machines. Why did people use Napster to download music for free? Users of the Napster service said that the music industry had let them down, only publishing a few hit songs per CD and leaving the rest of the album with “filler”. Napster users that had purchased CD’s have made them available to other Napster users through the file sharing service. Then, a Napster user could selectively download specific songs that they liked from artists they enjoyed listening to without having to commit to buying an entire CD. In essence, the Napster users were “sharing” their music. This, however, constitutes blatant copyright infringement. Infringement occurs when someone reproduces a work that is subject to copyright protection without authorization. The individuals that were the recipients of the “shared” music were violating the copyright protection of the artists and the record companies – getting copyright protected material without paying for it. The music industry spearheaded a copyright infringement suit against Napster in 2001. Napster was found liable for copyright infringement because it facilitated the downloading of music and was shut down.

Interestingly, an examination of the RIAA’s marketing and sales charts shows that the real decrease in CD sales actually began in earnest after Napster ceased operating. In fact, during the 2 1/2 years that Napster was operating, CD sales increased by over $500 million dollars from what they were in 1998. Since 2001, CD sales have continued to decrease steadily.

In an effort to cut expenses and increase profits, since 2001 the music industry has continually reduced the amount of music released each year. However, they have continued to increase their legal expenses – the practice of filing lawsuits against average citizens continues unabated. Perhaps the music industry should spend more money developing talent and less on suing the consumers whose business it covets. These lawsuits are not a successful business model for increasing their lagging profits. In fact they are very cost intensive and bring very little return. According to Jonathan Lamy, RIAA’s senior vice president of communications, they identify the individual consumers that they sue as follows: “We can identify the IP addresses associated with the user engaging in the illegal activity,” he says. The Internet service provider “is able to match a specific IP address with the account holder.” This is a flawed method of targeting “violators”. An IP address is very similar to your home address. It is a number of digits that are assigned to you by your Internet Service Provider when you sign up for internet services. However, most IP addresses assigned by your ISP are dynamic – meaning they change. A certain IP address may be assigned to your account one day and a few days or weeks later a completely different one is assigned.

These lawsuits are generally not very profitable. Many, if not most, of the individuals the RIAA has pursued are not only unable to afford an attorney to defend themselves, but are unable to pay any money judgment awarded against them. As result, in most instances these cases do not go to court. Instead, they are settled for a few hundred dollars – most likely less than the cost of bringing the lawsuit.

Another way the music industry has attempted to combat the illegal downloading of music, is by making digital downloads available through numerous online services. One of the most successful is Apple, Inc.’s iTunes music store, which to date has sold over 1,000,000,000 songs worldwide at 99 cents per song. However, the RIAA’s inability to grasp the idea that it should not treat its customers as thieves, but rather as paying customers has left the iTunes music store with several major flaws. For example, the issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM) is one of the major points of concern for many people. DRM restricts a consumer’s ability to play the music he/she purchases through the iTunes music store on anything other than an iPod or iPhone. While this is certainly beneficial to Apple, it is frustrating to consumers because they can only play music they purchase on a limited number of computers and devices. Apple does not make much of a profit from its music store. In fact, its profits arise from sales of iPod’s and iPhone’s. While Apple has indicated its willingness to provide free downloads to its users by charging a premium for the iPod and iPhone when purchased (a portion of which would be paid to directly to record companies as a royalty), the music industry currently opposes any business model that would provide such free downloads. It remains to be seen if the music industry will see the light and embrace this model in the future.

The problem of illegal downloading faced by the RIAA is definitely a legitimate concern. However, most of the RIAA’s problems and frustrations arose from poor business decisions on the part of the music industry and not from the loss of revenue due to illegal downloads. Lost sales resulting from illegal downloads is not as great as the RIAA would have the public believe. The music industry is making money. While its profits might not be a large as they would like, the problem is not so much that illegal downloading is causing a decrease in sales but rather the fact that the number of new releases greatly exceeds the number of releases that are played on the radio. In other words, only an extremely small percentage of music gets airplay today. People are simply not being exposed to the same amount of new music they were years ago when music directors and DJs created the playlists and gave more new artists airplay. Today, radio station playlists are formatted by the marketing and advertising departments of large corporations. The majority of music played on today’s airwaves is the same generic sound that has been recycled time after time. Additionally, CD prices are at extreme highs, in some cases $15 or more, while iTunes sells the exact same content for $9.99. It is a fundamental principal of economics that when the same product is available from two different sources at differing prices, the place selling it for less will have greater sales. Certainly the cost of producing a CD is not that much more than the cost of providing the content electronically. According to Emiko Terazono of the Financial Times Information Company, “Legitimate music sales on the web continued to grow last year. In the UK, downloads grew fourfold to 26m single tracks, with Apple’s iTunes accounting for about 70 per cent of the traffic.” It is also to note that, the IFPI also said that despite a 26 per cent rise in broadband take-up, illegal file sharing had remained flat over the past year.

The music industry can only keep up this flawed strategy for so long before it leads to its demise. The very people who make them money, the artists, will move to another platform to provide their music to their fans. In this day and age, you do not need a record label to spread your music. While a record label is definitely a helpful tool for artists, if the RIAA continues on its current course, more well-known artists will sever their ties with the record companies. In fact, artists like Madonna and Jay-Z have recently signed multi-million dollar deals with concert-giant Live Nation which deals cover recording, touring, merchandising and other production rights. Such deals are likely to become more commonplace in the future. When this happens it will have significant repercussions for the music industry in that it will lose its consumer base and artist support as well as its creative influence, thereby transforming the artists into the people with the power and control.

— Jeff Weisbein

Jeff is the founder & CEO of BestTechie. He has over 10 years of experience working with technology and building businesses. He loves to travel and listen to music.

  • http://www.graficz-r-us.webs.com brad


    so…. d’ya think they’ll ever stop ilegal downloads??

    also…. i know its off topic, how do you add this comment box?

    thanks.

  • Desktop-Kyle


    Yeah.. okay.. obviously at this rate illegal downloads will never stop… iTunes is the best to use and yeah.. like im going to waste $15 on music at a store when on iTunes i can buy a song for $0.99 yeah.. lol i think i’ll stick with iTunes

  • http://www.audiomecca.com Audio Mecca


    Many artists are going out on their own without the support of record companies. The Internet has opened up vast avenues for direct marketing. People use blogs and video sharing sites to promote their music and it is working. Also providing free downloads to listeners helps their music to be heard by the maximum number of people. These tactics are helping them garner the initial fame and publicity.

  • Jako


    many people think that EMI made the biggest failure in music history, for suewing napster…

    And yes indeed there are actually many artists whom have a possetive view about illegal downloading… They think it’s some sort of publicity. People listen too some of the downloaded songs and if they like it..they buy the album.
    Many people complain about the atributes you get with a cd… they are getting more dissapointing by the day

  • http://aredownloadsgood? Cody


    I think they are. why waste hard earned cash when limewire can get it free? limewire is cheaper than musicstores for sure,but it may have a negative impact on the record companies and music stores.

  • Daniel


    why would u go on to itunes and pay $0.99 when u can go on to limewire and pay nothing for a song!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    • Brian


      cause its illegal

  • Greg


    @Cody: @Daniel: You said why pay hard earned cash. well the artists hav worked hard and they deserve the cash but if you download it then they dont get any money. and you may say they have enoguh money as it is but only 20% of artists make money through sales.

  • billy


    omg for real y would they do that i just dont get it no like its just plain stupid and for real i just think illegal music is bad for real omg im just not even joking downloading illegal music is horrible i just dont get it when u could help artists out by just paying a dollar instead of stealing their money because of illegal downloading of music

  • liliana


    the piracy doing is bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • b. lee


    okay while i get the fact that it is fun to download music for free you are also making fools out of the music industries. they pay thousands to have their artists songs made into a cd and as soon as they come out you put it on limewire and then you see that cd go down in value. it is just a stupid idea to down load it when you can spend like 9 dollars on a cd at walmart.

  • Daniel


    Just to let you know, in January 2009, Apple removed the DRM management from most of it’s songs.

  • http://www.besttechie.net/ Jeff Weisbein


    @Daniel: Yes they did! I’m very pleased about that.

  • Cody (Cballa)


    If iTunes can tag all of the songs you buy and not allow you to save backups, what keeps them from purposely bugging there software so you have to re-buy all new songs again.

  • mrcoolcm


    You pay for Napster, it's not file sharing, they sell napster cards just like itunes cards. They lisenc their music also, it's not like limewire.

  • D.W.


    Why don’t they sue the likes of Clear Channel? It is their fault that today’s music is so wimpy–radio stations are no longer free to play whatever the local market will bear.

    I can remember times past, before 1996. Radio stations would get requests from the people, and would play the requested songs. If the songs were good enough, people in nearby cities would hear those songs and start hounding their own stations to play them, and so on. Eventually, the label would pick up on it, and release the single. Before long, the song is a national hit. It didn’t matter whether it was country, rock, adult contemporary, soul, disco, or what–if it was good enough, it was requested and played on the radio. And people would then go out and buy the record.

    These days, with a few companies owning all the radio stations, if people request a song, they need to seek permission from the station to play it. Usually, unless they get paid enough, they will deny permission. The song stays in the dark, with no way of being singled out from the filler songs. Good talent is not promoted, and the records are never produced. What good music there is out there is not promoted, since requests are no longer honored on radio stations. And, people do not buy those albums.

    The suit should go after these big companies and force them to allow DJs to take local requests. That would allow these songs to be exposed to more people. Today, the only way many people even hear the songs at all is by “stealing” them. Since today’s radio refuses to play them, services like LimeWire have stepped up to fill in the gap. People will steal one song, and if they like it enough, they will buy it (there is never a guarantee that they are getting the full version on these P2P services). If they do not, they will do what they did with the radio: delete the file and forget about the song.

    Let’s get rid of the whole pay-for-play system, the “indies”, radio stations that are owned by one or two people, and limited playlists. Let’s return to the days when radio DJs were free to play whatever they wanted. This situation, not “stolen” songs, is the real culprit in declining music sales. If people hear of good songs, they are going to buy them.

    Also, people should use the honor system–if they steal a song and don’t buy it, that is a disincentive for artists to continue putting out good music. If you like the song, support the artist and buy the album. In the meantime, return to good radio stations will help by allowing good songs to be played there–and the advertisements will help support the artists. Which would in turn encourage new artists to put out additional good music.

  • larissa


    i agree.

  • Greg


    Almost everybody i know illegally downloads music. i dont do it, but thats because i use my dads computer for music. Why pay when you can get it free. They cant sue everybody, and i dont see y u would hav to pay a fine if u get caught yet there are millions doing it elsewhere. 

  • nutty


    iI think that downloading  music should be illegal because at every turn it makes a loss.

  • jman


    yepp it does

  • jman


    all yall are laaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeee do somethin wit ur lifes

  • Anonymous


    Yah why would you pay $13 a cd that has max of 8 – 10 songs, when you can get all the same songs on iTunes for 99 cents a song?

  • Anonymous


    this article is dumb

  • Guest


    i agree

  • Guest


    i think that this article has a smaller dick than me

  • Anonymous


    lol go die.

  • Anonymous


    hha pwned

  • Anonymous


    waka waka eh eh

  • Squidney


    i think this article is good

  • Squidney lallalal iloveponies


    what r u guys talking about

  • jayme
  • Anonymous


    hahaha this artical is crap im not paying $0.99 for one song :( itunes sucks

  • Anonymous


    hahaha i told apple and they are going to sue you. haha your getting fined!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous


    thats not true you dont even know thir phone number

  • Anonymous


    Chuck norris can only download free music and be able to get away with it.

  • Anonymous


    I’m 19 and living like it’s 1998. I don’t own a stupid i-pod and still buy cd’s. Heck I still listen to cassettes. A very good article; and if I were RIAA, I wouldn’t allow any music on the internet so they can’t be downloading, legally and illegally. 

  • Anonymous


    if they take music off the internet then they will be losing a major profit AND that is literally impossible anyone can put anything on the internet they want. You have no idea what you’re talking about stick to the cassettes.

  • Anonymous


    Check out Webceleb.com buy music legal and make money

  • Larry


    You know, back when I was 19, we had programs like iTunes that were called grabbers. Rumor had it, back then, that they were illegal, cause they allowed you to download music to your computer *gasp!*
    You can live the way you want, but that does not warrant ignorance… People will do what they want. You can try to force them, but in the end it’ll be like speed limits. If anyone wants to go over, they’ll go over, and the consequence is slim to none, as is the chance of getting caught… 

  • Larry


    wow… really? read up on your history… the current napster has nothing to do with the original… its using the name/image… thats all… 

  • Anonymous


    HEY COLBY

  • Anonymous


    WATS UP IM SITTING NEXT TO YOU BOARD A S HALL IN THIS CALL IM PISST

  • Anonymous


    FUCK YOU AL YOU FUCKIN PUSSY LETS FIGHT NIGA

  • Anonymous


    COBY DO YOU LIE COCK????/?

  • ERIC


    ILL IKILLLLLLLL YOU

  • ERIC


    CHUCK NORIS CAN PUNCH A BABY IT A VAMPIR AND RAPE SOME1 AND GET AWAY WITH IT

  • ERIC


    HAVE SEX WITH A BABY

  • …:)


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  • cameron


    its not a big deal if there not selling the dowloads i mean if there just dowloading it on there i pod whats the big the artists just talked into a mic and there sewing for plagurism!!

  • Anonymous


    i think your all stupid for stealing music (: mwahahahaha

  • kuro tenshi


    i think that people should never illegally download music cuz people should just buy whatever cd the song/songs are on. it doesnt matter if there are songs that really suck on them, someone else might like them and you could get rid of the songs that you dont like. why people illegally download nusic i have no idea!

  • ogdaddyfatsack


    i think its stooped how people illegally

  • misshottie13


    i think people think that they will get away with it but after awhile YOU WILL GET CUAGHT stop doing what you are doing cause the money is not going to the websites they only getting 30 % of the money so STOP!!!!

  • Anonymous


    hey dont say that

  • pimp dady


    this site is for fags you are all nerds ho ho ho

  • john bell


    the download you are looking for has been reported and deleted

  • Anonymous


    Wow some of u have reslly stupid usernames!!

  • Anonymous


    illegally downloading is fun

  • Anonymous


    your cool

  • Anonymous


    what a head^

  • Anonymous


    im to poor to aford itunes so i do it illegally… ill risk it

    • im the rich one


      lol

  • Anonymous


    k buying a cd is more than buying the song u fliddiot!

  • Anonymous


    false i can too!

  • Guest


    O.o

  • IMaFREAK!!!


    HAHAHA SLACK TO READ THIS SHIT MAKE IT FREE FOR EVERYONE PLEASE :)

  • Anonymous


    you can’t even spell, you dumnbass

  • HAY


    You spelled dumbass wrong you dipshit.

  • Anonymous


    I’m in a band and I would love for someone to illegally download my music.

  • Guest


    Don’t know about you guys, but I was the original Guest…

  • bigDickWillie


    202-718-9566

    • Joel Ruscinski


      hey fuck you man

  • Anonymous


    Hirah Hirah

  • guest


    your such a dumb but

  • guest


    911

  • PUSSPUSS


    Cats.

  • PUSSPUSS


    LOVE YOU.

  • Anonymous


    Swag doyushes

  • Anonymous


    its my bday

  • funky


    hhhiiii

  • seara


    im in class being bored

  • pizza


    hi

  • Jeff Weisbein


    Cool. Thanks for being bored on my site. :P

    How did you find your way here?

  • Jeff Weisbein


    Hellooooooo.

  • Anonymous


    me to :D

  • Kalebsenotes


    MUSIC SOUNDZ BETTER FREE. it’s kinda like how ice cream tastes better when its free d-_-b

    • Dildonio Johnson


      Cool. I’m glad I spent $200k on a recording studio so assholes like you can rip me off. You’re a bad person, and you should be publicly lynched.

      • toni


        NO, your company is the true asshole and maybe some artists themselves. You make a majority of your money from touring not CD’s. But, people will buy CD’s if they are actually worth buying.

  • Ubgyubn


    hi

  • Adam


    jobbies

  • Killer2245


    anyone else gotta write a paper

    • Kandygirlbella


      yup I do haha

    • MkPa


      me too

      • mynigga


        hahahahahahaha me tooo dipshit

  • Colin17557


    you’re not cool

  • Jtingley1994


    writing a stupid paper and i cant fnd what they are looking for hahaha gay school

    • http://www.besttechie.net/ Jeff Weisbein


      What’s the assignment?  Maybe I can help.

  • Ohmega Ferguson


    writing a speech about where we should buy or download music. taking in concideration the artist, the consumer, and the recordingindustry
    hheelllpp

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Bueltel/512768553 Michael Bueltel


      Whether the music/entertainment industry likes it or not…illegal downloading/copying of material is a part of their business world itself.  It’s been going on ever since entertainment was invented.  People would sneak into a movie to see it for free.  However, if the movie was really good…then it benefited from word of mouth by the kids who snuck in to see it for free,  But, if the penniless kids didn’t sneek in because they had no money…then the movie would not have benefited from their word of mouth advertisement.  Now of course, the activity of getting into a movie for free MUST stay illegal and treated as such…otherwise if it was legal…then no money is made at all.  So it is a delicate balance.  But as long as it stays illegal and people do it and get away with it..it is both a small price to pay and it can actually help.  But if you turn it into a witch hunt and make your cause to find offenders your priority…you WILL lose your paying customers.  If a theater owner sold 30 tickets to a film, counted 31 people leaving the place and then shut down his theatre so he could dedicate time to finding the one thief…he has shot himself in the foot.  On average there are 8 rat hairs per candy bar…and why is that?  Because the candy industry would go out of business trying to make it zero…yet there is little to no reports of anyone dying or getting sick because of a rat hair in a candy bar.  Life is about taking the good with the bad…it’s the only way we can function,

    • Darronfanning


      Illegally downloading music is not okay. I don’t care what logic you use. Yes, it does help their music get heard but not in the right way. If artists want their music to be heard or to be free then they make mixtapes. This is what mix tapes are for. If the artists want to make money off their music, which most of them do, they create albums and make their music available for purchase NOT FOR FREE!!! And if illegally downloading music was completely stopped I am pretty sure the music industries would still make money. Illegally downloading music is the same as theft. Quit stealing music!

      • toni


        “Not the right way”??? lol. We hear music free when we listen to radios stations, in malls, etc…Illegally downloading music is not as bad as people make it seem. It’s bad because record labels are greedy, BUT other than, no. Artists get paid from tours not albums sales. Radiohead gave their fans the option to download their music for free or buy it–the fans bought it. The reason the industry struggles is because of harsh control of the product and ridiculously priced CD’s not pirating. It would be one thing if most of an artists income came from CD’s, but it doesn’t. This is why artists are steadily becoming entrepreneurs more and more. If you want to be successful, you cannot make a living off of being just an musical artist.

    • Franco.


      Is it ok if I copy that and use it in a feature article I’m writing?
      That raised some fantastic points, and all credit and referencing will go to you of course. 

    • im sick right now bcuz of ya


      that whole rat hair thing on the candy bar just made me puke |@~@|
      ( >< )

  • Dickface


    booobies ( . ) ( . )

  • AD#32


    whos doing a debate on this i know i am

    • http://www.besttechie.com/ Jeff Weisbein


      What kind of debate?

  • carol


    hey