Copyright and Other Issues Regarding Digital Media and the Internet
In the old days when you wanted to buy your favorite artist’s new album you would head to your local record store to buy it. The artists and record label would each get a cut of the profits. But today more music fans are opting for 99 cent downloads or streaming free music on-line. Obtaining a new track or album is just a click away with iTunes, subscription services like Spotify, free Internet streaming sites like Pandora, or even YouTube where you can watch music videos. For most of us, at least for myself, downloading music is a favorite activity when on the Internet. Downloading music and other media files from the Internet may make it conveniently available. But does it have a negative effect on the music industry? Does it affect the earnings of the artists? What are the pros and cons of downloading music? There are a lot of questions revolving around the music industry and the advances of digital media technology. I will explore these questions and attempt to answer the big question of whether downloading, both legal and illegal, is a real threat to the overall music industry? The pros and cons of downloading music can be explored based differing criteria, with the most controversial being whether the downloaded music is legally acquired. Since Napster, the first peer-to-peer file sharing network, made its debut in 1999 and subscription and pay-per-download technology like iTunes exploded, debate has grown concerning the logistical, ethical and financial repercussions of downloading music. The main argument that record labels make about the advancement of digital media technology is that downloading music gives rise to copyright and piracy issues. When one uses the copied versions of these files, they are indirectly encouraging piracy. When downloading such media files, it does not go for the purchase of the original copies of music, which results in a violation of copyright law. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded between 2004 and 2009 (Adkins). Even with sites like iTunes offering legal downloads, peer-to-peer file sharing still runs rampant. Thus, illegally downloading music is believed to have a significant impact on the music industry resulting in a loss of profits and jobs, and changing how music is delivered to the masses. The RIAA reports that music sales in the United States have dropped 47 percent since Napster first debuted in 1999. The availability of free music has cost the music industry $12.5 billion in economic losses (Adkins). To make up for some of these losses, the music industry has filed lawsuits against individuals who have been found to have illegally downloaded music. In some cases, individuals have been sued for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. The problem is, when one illegally downloads music, they aren't just hurting music executives, who are often stereotyped as greedy businessmen exploiting the creativity of the musicians; they are also hurting the musicians. The huge popularity of illegal downloads is changing the music industry, reducing the incentive for musicians and labels to develop and finance new projects. Singers and bands are the public face of the music industry, but creating, recording and promoting a song takes a large team of people. As record companies have seen their profits decrease, they have had to cut positions they are no longer able to afford. This includes artists as well as engineers, songwriters, producers, and technicians. The RIAA reveals that more than 71,000 jobs have been lost as a result of illegally downloading music (MacMillan). The bottom line is that every piece of music downloaded without payment steals money that should be going to the musicians who created the music. Lastly, it is often left out that by downloading media files, it loses its originality. Though downloading makes it easily...
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