Your stealing; my swapping

Jul 162003
Authors: Christopher J. Ortiz

About to download a song from the Internet instead of paying for it? Don’t let the Recording Industry Association of America make you feel guilty. There’s a revolution occurring in music, and it’s on the consumer’s side.

The controversy over swapping or sharing music over the internet is not news to a lot of people; especially college students with easy access to broadband internet access or to music label executives who are trying anything to stop people from listening to music without paying for it. But what is the controversy over?

The controversy is bigger and more important than paying or not paying for music; it is over power and control. Music labels are losing it and music listeners are gaining it.

Since the beginning of recorded music, the people and companies who had control over the medium (records, cassette tapes, compact discs) of how music was disturbed had the power to determine who made music and how much people had to spend to get that music.

The RIAA and its president, Hilary Rosen, will try to make you feel guilty when you download the new Dave Matthews Band’s song without buying the CD by telling you are you keeping money away from your favorite artists, but for the majority of artists signed to major music labels, they are not paid on the number of records they sell; they are paid on the number of records they produce for the label, so in actuality, you’re keeping money away from music labels most of the time – something RIAA does not want you to know.

And the RIAA wants you to feel guilty when you download 50 Cent’s music but it wants you to forget in the late 1990s the five major music labels were accused of fixing the price of CDs with retail stores and a recent court case found the industry guilty, but consumers will most likely not see the $143 million settlement because the payout would be too little to distribute to the millions who were stooped into buying overpriced music. Is it stealing when I download a 50 Cent song instead of purchasing the album? Maybe, but I argue it is more of a crime cheating consumers by fixing the price of CDs.

The figure, $4.2 billion, is thrown around about how much music labels are losing due to music “pirates” – which is misleading because music labels are not “losing” that money, executives did not wake up one day and check their accounts and notice millions of dollars missing, it simply means they are not making that much more money from consumers. I find it hard to believe that the majority of people who do download music would actually have paid for it otherwise. I know I would not have paid for all those Brittney Spears songs that I downloaded – of course, if I had downloaded them…right.

The moral of the story is it is up to you to determine if downloading music is wrong or illegal. If you can’t sleep at night because of your downloading actions there are legal alternatives. Apple is making headlines with their digital music store. Customers can pay $.99 for singles that have been licensed by the music labels.

For myself, I am tired of purchasing CDs with two listenable songs on them and having the rest of the tracks be fillers and until the industry (artists included) prove to be that they deserve my hard-earned money, I’m going to keep downloading – unless the RIAA is reading this and in that case, I do not endorse music piracy, swapping, downloading or trading.

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