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January 16, 2013

Pirating or advancing; Debating illegal music downloads

Stealing intellectual property is still a crime
  The Duquesne Duke

By Julian Routh

I have a computer with an internet connection. I like music. Therefore, I am entitled to all the music I like for free via the internet.

That’s the mentality the music industry is up against. Bands and artists, who are already struggling to pay for gas money traveling across the country on tour, are forced to fight a separate battle to receive compensation for what is, after all, their intellectual property.

One hour and six minutes.

That’s the amount of time it takes to download Metallica’s entire thrash-metal discography for free, with live albums included, onto the hard drive of a MacBook Pro from

The same package, without the live albums, can be purchased on Amazon for $229.09. For those who want every one of the band’s 11 studio CDs, it’s a small price to pay as an alternative to tracking down each of them individually.

But why do that when, in essence, the group’s entire 25-year career can be condensed into 1.6 gigabytes of information in 66 minutes of time for zero dollars and zero cents?

It’s a shame that even though the practice of pirating is illegal and is a violation of every copyright law in the United States, people continue to do it. Stealing the creative works of your favorite artists is also a disrespectful act.

Equally shameful are some of the obvious contradictions that surround the idea that piracy contributes to society in a meaningful way.

Keep in mind, this is the same society that berates those who rely on entitlement systems for their wellbeing. This is the same society that follows the motto, “if you want it, work for it.”

It is quite interesting that the people who spit out those phrases are the same ones with hours and hours of illegally-downloaded music on their devices. These are the same people who feel robbed when they have to dish out a little over a dollar for a track on iTunes.

Of course, they will point to the celebrities donning million-dollar dresses on the night of the Grammys and reason that they are stealing music to get back at the ones with all the fame and fortune.

But in serious discussions of music piracy, it’s necessary to take the Biebers, T. Swifts and Rihannas out of the equation. Though celebrities of their stature are the easiest targets with the deepest pockets, they are the outliers in this argument because they are making their millions predominantly from advertising deals with giant marketing teams. The broad majority of artists, those who weren't lucky enough to latch on to these perks, are the ones most affected by the estimated $6.9 billion drop in music sales from 1999 to 2009, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Pirates can’t seem to understand this, though. They continue to believe that by pirating an album, the greedy record labels are the ones who are suffering. In actuality, the labels are hurt minimally.

The artists who rely on album sales as their only income are suffering. The workers and owners of the few remaining CD stores in each city also suffer. Piracy has given people a lazy alternative to supporting small businesses because of the little effort and money it requires to sit at home and download. As a result, record store owners are forced to close up shop, a fact verified by the Institute for Policy Innovation’s report that suggests that because of sound recording piracy, the economy loses 26,680 jobs that would have been added in the recording industry or in downstream retail industries.

And as soon as websites begin streaming live concerts in HD for free, there won’t be any need to buy concert tickets. If that happens, and it certainly looks like it will within the next two decades, venues like Mr. Smalls will have to fight to stay open just as the record outlets are doing now.

It must not be all bad, though, if the system still allows for a few breakthrough artists to capture fame. That may be true, but because of illegal downloading, the fame they grasp is diminishing and short-lived. According to a study done by New York Magazine, the number of albums sold since 1999 by the number one artist on the charts have dramatically decreased each year.

The debate against music piracy has also decreased in popularity. Illegal downloading has become a socially accepted practice and as friends talk about what music they recently downloaded, they forget that they are discussing a crime.

Because of piracy, the music industry is in a downward spiral. And when the time comes for our favorite musicians to pack up their instruments and cancel their tours, we will look at each other, dumbfounded, wondering what could have caused such misfortune to manifest. We will blame the labels. We will blame iTunes. We will demonize Justin Bieber and denounce greed.

But what is really holding the industry back isn’t the greed of the structure. It’s the greed of the people who believe they have the right to all the music they want without paying for it. For the love of music, buy the album and appreciate it for what it is worth.  


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