In 1999, an 18-year-old college dropout named Shawn Fanning revolutionized the music industry with the program he invented called Napster. Napster was an internet program that made it possible for users to share music files for free. His product gained instant interest across America which brought an opposite response from the Music industry. In 2001, as expected, Napster was sued for copyright infringement by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and shut down at the peak of its success. The media industry wanted the technology halted because it was terrified of how it would affect the economy. Nonetheless, new programs are rising to take Napster's place and history is repeating itself as the music industry is killing its chances for a potential profit.
With so many active participants downloading music, there is always going to be another site to find free music, so attempting to rid the internet of all downloading is nothing more than a hopeless situation. No matter how many download programs have lawsuits filed against them and are forced to shut down; another site will take its place. “This is the age of technology”, the RIAA stated, “It's not realistic to wipe it out entirely but instead to bring it to a level of manageable control so a legitimate marketplace can really flourish.” There will always be a way to get around barriers that may get in the way and therefore the war against piracy will never be over unless a common ground is established. So instead of trying to rid the idea of downloading music all together, more emphasis should be put on the regulation of sharing of files or at least the supervision of the files. This movement to progressive downloading is being made, as the RIAA is seeking to create “legal” alternatives for access licensed music files. Looking at the main headlines for downloading that originate from the RIAA, it can be noticed that the word “illegal” is replaced by “unauthorized”. This is because the courts state that the word “illegal” is considered to be a false statement when making reference to downloading music. When the topic is brought to discussion, two typical responses are shouted from the opposing sides. Supporters of downloading and lobbyists alike both have very opinionated views on the situation. Some people are arguing that stealing is stealing and wrong no matter what. But is the downloading of music considered stealing per se? Providing a copyrighted source of material without charge may sound ludicrous, but when comparing the downloading of music to radio broadcasting, very few changes are present. Radio broadcasting is allowing listeners to sample copyrighted material free of charge and is known as a great are kept up to date with the latest media releases. So if "free" listening is the problem here, then the radio is much more a factor to be feared. Music downloading functions in the same motion, but with more benefits to the artist. Without the free listening opportunity presented by downloading, many new bands would never have the chance to extend their music on a large scale, from a lack of funds. As quoted from a survey of Vintage Cask, “85% of profit does not come from the selling of music CD’s believe it or not, but from the selling of merchandise like band shirts and posters.” So as lobbyists’ disapprove of downloading music, they are only closing the door to the introduction of new potential media into society. Besides, copyright infringement happens over a billion times every day. “Without the embrace of copyright infringement, there would be no photocopying machines, VCRs, TiVo, "ripping" software, CD burners, and high-bandwidth cable and DSL lines, to name just a few…Does that mean those technology providers are facilitating copyright infringement to their customers buying and using their products?” (Roger Arnold, USA Today) This situation is once again compared to a time in history where the industry attempted to get rid of a new product whose potential was not fully understood. This product is known today as the first Betamax VCR.
The studios attempted to destroy the Betamax VCR before the circulation could be performed and if this event would have aspired, the entire home-video market would have never occurred. Think about it, if there would have been no VCR, then there would be no DVD, and without DVD, there would be no access to any movie on the market because there would be an absence of necessary technology. The point being explained here is that the downloading of music is still in the infancy stage and its true effect has had no opportunity to be fully discovered. If the entertainment industry would simply embrace the new file-sharing technology, it has a better opportunity of reaping the benefits with time. The MPAA along with the RIAA quoted simultaneously that without the VCR, the entire music and movie industry would be completely different because of the limitations. Building home libraries of movies taped from television, and the issue of "time-shifting" taping a TV show so that you could view it once, at a more convenient time, and then erase the files after use. Both of these issues are the main purpose of downloading music. In the words of Justice John Paul Stevens, “The courts should not stifle potentially beneficial technologies in their infancy, before their usefulness might be fully understood.”The true effect of the VCR wasn’t realized until after the device had been placed into the production line for around a decade and so it leads someone to believe that downloading should be viewed to the same stipulations. If downloading music is to be removed from existence, then so should all VCR’s, DVD’s, photocopiers, Radio and DSL cables because they all fall into the same category. In the search for legality, there is no viable option but to accept the ability and determine personally whether the service will be utilized or not, easy as that.
Why should legality or illegality hinge on such a delicate situation? Advances in technology shouldn’t be determined on the restricting views of what seems to be right or wrong. (Howard Edinburgh, Vintage Cask) “We no longer view ourselves as eccentric for standing behind what we don’t understand, but as visionaries for standing up for the better cause.” Pulling back the restrictions of music downloading is the only way to fully realize the long term potential. If the pressure was removed from unauthorized downloading services, then who knows what media breakthroughs could come as a result. For these reasons, all music downloading should be termed legal and accepted.