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A New Age of Music Piracy

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Andrew Vaccarezza

Dr. Keith Bohm

Music 129, section 2

12 July 2007

A New Age of Music Piracy

A thief can be defined in many different ways. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language states a thief is one whom commits theft. So one might ask, what exactly is theft? Theft is defined as вЂ?the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language).” Now most people who participate in music piracy do not consider themselves thieves. The definition of a theft is flawed in many ways. Most of the time people do not contain on factor of being a thief, this factor is depriving the rightful owner of the property stolen. Although theft is being committed, one’s intent is not to deprive any artist of their music. It is hard for people who participate in music piracy to make the connection to theft and their actions due to the item not being tangible. Most think of theft involving tangible items although it includes copyrighted and patented items. Music artist are all protected by copyrights and patents, and therefore music piracy is a crime. The music industry is loosing billions of dollars each year due to this new epidemic while it is continuing to prove to be a growing problem.

According to the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) in 2003 the record industry was loosing about $4.5 billion dollars a year, worldwide, due to music piracy (Hart-Davis). The American Federation of Artists claims that on-line music piracy has caused some record store sales to drop by twenty percent and about twenty one billion illegal downloads occur every month (AFM). Many experts believe that music piracy is currently the number one threat to the music industry. RIAA sources claim 278 million people, worldwide, use peer to peer networks such as Kazaa and Grokster to illegally trade music files. RIAA and AFM are fiercely fighting music piracy and enlisting government support to put and end to this crime. Congressional committees are currently addressing on-line music piracy and are generating bills to make the punishments for committing this crime much more severe.

Many people do not understand why music piracy is such a serious subject and see it is a victimless and harmless act. Contrary to this belief, there are many people who argue there is a wide range of victims who suffer the negative effects of music piracy. The actual music artists are those who suffer the greatest losses of all. These artists are starting to gain a lot less of a reward for their talent than artist did in the past. Anyone with a computer, or access to a computer, can download entire albums without paying a dime to the music industry. Copyright laws and intellectual property laws are being completely disregarded and ignored by the twenty three percent of Americans who download music illegally (McLeod). Music artists are not receiving the royalties they are entitled to for sharing their talent with the world. This creates a lack of incentive artists need to continue creating new music and feed the lacking industry of music.

The truth is the artists are not the only one facing a large impact in the finical aspect of the situation at hand. The government and our own economies are suffering greatly due to this situation. According to a report created for the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) in 1999, the copyright industry accounted for $348.4 billion in value to the U.S. economy, approximately 4.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (Hinduja). The IIPA estimates that the American copyright industry loses twenty two billion dollars annually due to music piracy. Internet music piracy cancels job positions for Americans and thus creating a lack of job positions harming the economy. The government loses millions in tax revenues and copyright fees thus the economy is deprived of consumer investment in music product.

One main group which is being affected by this situation more publicly than other is retail outlets of music. Tower Records filed for Bankruptcy in 2006 and closed all eighty six of its locations nation wide (McLeod). This however only accounted for a small fraction of the 800 music retailers that closed their doors in 2006 (McLeod). This shows just how much of music is becoming digital and leaving the tangible market.

Other groups affected by this dilemma are consumers and record producers. Consumers will feel an increase in concert ticket prices and legitimate album sales to compensate the artists for lost revenue due to music piracy. Record producers will also have a new financial restriction which limits their ability to scout and produce new talent. Ultimately, the consumer is hurt again due to less money being readily available to fund new talent. Therefore, the music pool does not grow and music becomes stagnant and dry along with American society.

Many associations and companies are taking a leading stand in the fight against music piracy to ensure this situation does not get worse. The RIAA represents many major recording and is one of the largest players in the fight against music piracy. The RIAA feels educating the public of the consequences illegal music sharing has on the industry, will be key to decreasing the amount of music piracy. The RIAA, along with other groups, has launched a major public awareness campaign which includes labels on product, short clips in films, and commercials on television.

The RIAA is also working together with Congress to enact new bills which would specifically give legal power to prevent music piracy. One act to prevent music piracy in America is the consideration of HR 2517. This is the Piracy Deterrence and Education Act that is being considered in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. This act would mostly attack peer to peer networks and force the FBI and the U.S. Copyright Office to develop anti-piracy programs (AFM).

Since 2003 the RIAA has aggressively pursued music pirates on the internet who have contributed to a substantial amount of illegal downloading. They have won hundreds of guilty pleas averaging a reported $3000 per case settlement (Dean). RIAA President, Cary Sherman stated “the legal actions taken by the record companies have been effective in educating the American public that illegal file sharing of copyrighted material has significant consequences. Consumers are increasingly attracted to the host of compelling legal online music alternatives. These lawsuits help to foster an environment that provides a level playing field for these services

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