Music Smackdown

Apr 052007
Authors: Hilary Davis

It is no secret that college students enjoy free stuff. Free food is almost always good. Free T-shirts rock because, even if they’re ugly, you can still wear one to the gym to work off the free food. And free music is the best.

When burning CDs became cool in, oh, seventh grade, free music abounded. Now, 10 years later, the ability to digitally share music has taken its place. But what if you can’t find that specific song you want on Limewire? Or the song you want is so new it hasn’t hit the music black market yet? What do you do?

You shell out 99 cents, that’s what you do. And good thing, too, because spending those 99 cents may save you $5,000.

The Recording Industry Association of America has mailed out 400 pre-litigation letters to students and personnel at 23 universities across the country. The letters demand as much as $5,000 in damages for illegally downloaded music. The letters are part of the effort to stop illegal file sharing on college campuses.

So far, Boston University wins the award for having the most felons – the campus has received 50 letters. Runners-up include the University of Massachusetts with 37 letters and our good friends to the northeast, University of Nebraska, with 36 letters.

Luckily for us, CSU is not on the list. Yet. But the anti-college campaign has only just begun and if life in the residence halls is as I remember it, illegally downloading music was an activity second only to afternoon naps. And sometimes morning naps.

I know there are some who will make the argument that illegally downloading music is just as bad as swiping the actual CD from a store. I agree. There are also some who say artists work hard to produce music and should receive all the financial benefits. I don’t think Jessica Simpson needs any more money, but I guess I would be mad if I could have bought just one more Louis Vuitton bag with all the proceeds from my music that was illegally downloaded.

But, all aforementioned information aside, I think the music industry should stop being such whiners. Yep, I said it. I am not directly advocating for the illegal downloading of music, but I think on some level the artists can be helped by file sharing.

After all, for anyone else as pop-culture oblivious as I am, the only way to know about a new song is when someone gives it to me via the Internet. And if I get one free song and I like it, I am more likely to buy the rest of the album legally. And for new artists, file sharing can be the best advertising. Because my money is precious and also practically non-existent, I am not going to pay an entire dollar for a new artist unless I have heard a few of his/her songs.

Once again, I am not advocating theft. I am advocating for safety in downloading music and if you’re going to do it, don’t get caught. Because getting a pre-litigation letter in the mail is almost as embarrassing as being caught taking an afternoon nap.right after your morning nap.

Hilary Davis is a senior journalism major. Her column appears in the Collegian on Friday. Replies and feedback can be sent to

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