How many of you have downloaded music, shows or movies for free?
As consumers, we have a growing ethical acceptance of free possession of music. The recording industry is trying to prevent this behaviour by enforcing copyright laws on what they perceive to be ‘piracy’, but consumer behaviour is leading to difficulties beyond their control (Condry, 2004).
The recording industry found great appeal in using the internet to deliver their product (McCourt & Burkart, 2003). For obvious reasons, the internet allowed them to reach countless individuals while eliminating material costs (McCourt & Burkart, 2003). With the ability to access music files on the internet, the development of the MP3 outside of their control, allowed consumers to retrieve free MP3 music files due to the lack of copyright protection (McCourt & Burkart, 2003). This challenged the recording industry, they earn their profits by controlling intellectual property rights of music artists through retail sales and licensing of content for use in other media (McCourt & Burkart, 2003). This lead to lawsuits aimed at consumers who pirated music, in an attempt to protect the property of the artist (Condry, 2004).
So far, this all makes sense. However, RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) started initiating lawsuits against it’s own consumers in 2003! In 2004, RIAA initiated close to 2000 lawsuits (Condry, 2004). To put this into perspective, intellectual property cases have more than quadrupled in some law firms, intellectual property has become more about the money and less about it’s creativity (McCourt & Burkart, 2003). The RIAA perceives online file-sharing like shoplifting (Condry, 2004). However, it is clear that downloading is different than stealing, if you download a CD from someone, they still have to original copy!
Napster was a file-sharing website for music files which created a community that thrived on music and had a transformative effect on the circulation of music (Bradley, 2006). Napster ceased operations in 2002 due to attacks by recording companies because it challenged their success(McCourt & Burkart, 2003). However, Napster was a great at introducing consumers to new music and was more of a form of free advertising than free music.
Nowadays, even though there is the possibility that music can be free, many of us, including myself, will often pay for music. Whether it be to support favourite music artists, avoiding inconvenience, or out of fear of copyright infringement (Condry, 2004).
I think record companies should retract the notion that file-sharing and downloading music is illegal, in some aspects. Users should be allowed to freely download music to sample it. If at any point, those users want to use an artist’s work for commercial use, copyright laws should be enforced. Otherwise, those users can potentially be a form of free advertising if they enjoy the music, and could increase recording companies and artists profit margin by eventually buying CD’s, t-shirts, posters, or going to concerts.
Thanks for reading! Stay healthy San Diego.
Condry, I. (2004). Cultures of music piracy: An ethnographic comparison of the US and Japan. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(3), 343-363.
McCourt T., & Burkart P. (2003). When creators, corporations and consumers collide: Napster and the development of on-line music distribution. Media, Culture & Society, 25(3), 333-350.