Beyonce…click…Stevie Wonder…click…Ohhhh the newoutkast…click! Downloading your favorite songs can come with theclick of a mouse. However, they can also come with a heavy price.As “free” as it may seem, people across the nation from all agesare being prosecuted for downloading “illegal” music on theinternet.
We all remember Napster? Because of the Recording IndustryAssociation of America’s (RIAA) fierce and frightening litigationsuits, Napster and other Napster-like sites have folded due to theextreme costs of operation and fees involved in maintaining theirsites. These suits have had a domino effect on all online sitesthat provide people with downloadable music and even movies.
Rep. John Conyers from Michigan introducedH.R. 2752, legislation to enhance domestic and internationalenforcement of copyright laws. Under this measure, individualscould face up to five years in prison for online copyrightinfringement and fined up to $250,000 for up-loading a single songto a file-share network.
The RIAA is not playing games. According toInsight on the News, “The RIAA has gone so far as to bust a12-year-old pirate who “illegally” downloaded 1,000 songs, andforced a struggling mother to pay $2,000 for alleged illegaldownloading by one of her children – an act of the sort therecording industry claims has led to the loss of billions ofdollars in lost revenues.”
Insight on the News reported that onemother was sued and fined for her child’s actions, she voiced heropinion. “We are hardly in a position to pay the price to therecording industry as their sacrificial lamb,” she said. “We feelvictimized and angry, but mostly we feel hurt. We are good, honest,hardworking people. My husband works two jobs and I work one. Wehave never stolen anything, and to be touted as thieves is theultimate insult.”
The RIAA claims the 2.6 billion files beingcopied “illegally” and shared each month are causing them to losesignificant amounts of money. Now the Motion Picture Association ofAmerica (MPAA), is supporting the RIAA’s litigation tactics,claiming its industry is also being abused.
In a recent federal case, Kerry Gonzalez, 25,was convicted in New Jersey for stealing a preview copy of The Hulkand posting it online before the film’s release. He faces up tothree years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Though few are caught,the consequences are dire.
Although some argue that one should not be held accountable fortheir ignorance, in the eyes of the law and these large companies,downloading music is akin to internet shoplifting.
Studies from the Nielsen Soundscan show that 687 million CDs weresold in 2003 as compared to 693 million in 2002. After a littlemath one will find a decline in the past year of less than onepercent. Such numbers hardly make for “significant losses in theindustry.” One must ask a valuable question: Are musicians reallybeing affected?
In another interview, David Draiman ofDisturbed, a hard-rock band with a platinum debut album was quotedfor saying, “For the artists, my ass…I didn’t ask them to protectme, and I don’t want their protection.” He believes the RIAA shouldspend the money it is using to litigate against consumers onfinding ways “to effectively use the Internet” to promotemusic.