Music Piracy: A Closer Look into the Industry

“I download music all the time, and I don’t understand howand why so many people are being sued,” junior accountingmajor Marvia Webber said. “I mean what’s the difference fromme sharing a file via internet and going next door to borrow theCD. It’s all the same thing.”

Webber’s statement outlines much of the publicsentiments regarding music file sharing. But, according to theRecording Industry Association of America (RIAA) downloading, filesharing, and CD burning all fall under the same category, musicpiracy.

“Piracy generally refers to the illegalduplication and distribution of sound recording,” the RIAA’swebsite said.

IFPI, the global organization housingthe RIAA, goes further and divides music piracy into 3 categories;simple piracy, counterfeits and bootlegs.

Simple Piracy involves unauthorizedduplication of an original recording for commercial gain withoutthe consent of the owner. Counterfeits, on the other hand, arepackaged to resemble the original item. Finally, bootlegs areunauthorized recording of live or broadcasted performances. TheRIAA most recent lawsuits have been against those committing simplepiracy.

The RIAA has most recently filed copyrightinfringement lawsuits against 532 individual users, with one of thesuits against an 80-year-old grandfather who didn’t know hisgrandson was sharing files.

“I feel the RIAA was wrong when theyfiled a class action suit against an 80-year-old grandfather andhis preteen grandchild,” sophomore public relations majorCarmen Muhammad said. “The only individuals that are liableare the manufactures of the


However, senior musical theater major DarenJoseph thinks the actions taken by the RIAA are necessary.

“I think the RIAA was wrong in suingindividuals who do not understand the logistics behind downloading,but I think the actions are needed to manipulate thesituation,” he said. “I mean I’m a college student so Iunderstand the need for cheap music, but the music industry is abusiness before anything else and downloading is depleting funds.Its unreasonable for people to think that the industry is going tosit back and does nothing while money is taken out of theirpockets.”

Joseph speculations are correct. According toDarcie-Nicole Wicknick of musicbizadvice.com, many consumers failto see the connection between sales and the artist’s future.”Low sales mean fewer new artists get signed,” Wicknicksaid.

“Furthermore, if projections are low, thechances that the artist’s options will be picked up are greatlylessened. And even when an artist’s popularity is way up, theartist may not get as much tour money, forcing the artist to loosehalf a year’s salary.”

RIAA head Cary Sherman said the impact ofmusic piracy has been devastating to the music industry. He quotesa 31% decline in music sales between 1999 and 2002.

“More music is being consumed than at anytime in history, it’s just that less of it is being paid for,”Sherman told BCC News at a Financial Times New Media andBroadcasting conference in London.

To counter these attacks the industry isattempting to license downloading providers and

initiating educational campaigns that spellout the legal and ethical wrongs with downloading.

Consumers who knowingly download theartist-copyrighted material are committing the greatest unethicaldeed. 

Students’ opinion on whether music piracyhelps or harms the artist depends on whether the artist is famousor relatively new. “Big name artist are more likely harmed bypiracy, since there music is highly sort after and CD’s are pricedto high, consumers have no incentive in buying the CD,”Muhammad said. “However new artist can use downloading as away to distribute their new song.”

Regardless of the means senior politicalscience major Christian Dorsey views music downloading as apositive change for the music industry. “File sharing forcesartist to put more effort into their production because artist nowhave to give the consumer an incentive to go out and buy theCD,” Dorsey said. “As long as the artist remembers theconsumer rarely substitutes quality items, the artist in actualitycan never loose.”