Since the time of recording devices available to the public, people have been pirating movies and music. However, back then it was not as big of a deal as it is now. I remember watching a guest being interviewed on TechTV (now G4TV) about 8 years ago talking about piracy in the age of digital music.

TechTV 10 year reunion

TechTV 10 year reunion (Photo credit: magerleagues)

They brought up the topic of people in the past using their cassette-tape stereos to record copies of songs playing on the radio or television for their personal use or to share with friends. In essence this is against the copyright laws and is considered piracy. However no one was given so much as a harsh warning for doing it, unless they decided to mass produce for the purpose of resale. The guest said it was because the quality was low, and it did not fully satisfy the consumer. Meaning that the consumer would still feel the need to go and buy the original for a better listening experience. When CD burners became commercially available the problem started. People where making copies of entire albums at a time, sharing with friends (almost everyone growing up in the 90’s is guilty of listening, sharing or receiving a bootleg CD, myself included). The CDs were not only exact copies of the album (quality and songs) but far cheaper to acquire and that started to have a bigger impact on the music industry sales. I still bought the albums of my favorite bands, but I used bootleg media as a sampling tool.

When the MP3 format was created, EVERYONE began ripping CDs and making their own mixes and passing them onto friends, despite the copyright laws. There was a regulation that you are allowed one legal copy of your owned media, be it a digital (MP3) back up of your albums, or physical (CD), but that never stopped the sharing of MP3 files among friend – even strangers through P2P (peer to peer) software such as Napster, Kazzar, Limewire and torrents. McCourt and Burkart said that “while MP3 undoubtedly will be succeeded by systems that afford greater possibilities for copy protection, it currently has a momentum that diminishes chances for the immediate adoption of a different format.” This is true, the MP3 media age has no foreseeable end, we all know it will happen, but don’t know when or how. It is ridiculously hard to regulate digital media and as fast as copy locks are created on movies and music (games and software as well) cracks are created and it as once again free to be shared. This post says that the IFPI stated that back in 2008, 95% of downloaded MP3 files were illegal. This is a staggering number totaling to billions of illegal MP3s, at about 99cents per MP3 on iTunes… the potentially lost money adds up. It is argued that people who don’t pay for software and media, would not have paid for it even if it was not available for free / illegal download. This somewhat holds true for those who would not have the money to afford it otherwise.

Steinmetz and Tunnell said that the motivations of the pirates are as follows:
(1) to share culture=content,
(2) to sample,
(3) the inability to afford content and
(4) to undermine the current copyright regime.

I personally used the downloading of MP3s to sample music and albums to assist in making purchases I would not end up regretting later on. This is also because my budget is tight and I cannot afford to waste money sampling music. The digital MP3 media bought from iTunes, cannot be traded or resold like traditional CDs, so when you get bored of it, or what something new, you have to spend money to get it, and your current MP3s are literally worth nothing.
My suggestion is that they create some kind of trading system, to trade your ownership rights of MP3s of your choosing, to barter with friends, family and even strangers online. Reselling used CDs was not frowned upon, and this should be a viable option for digital media consumers.


3 thoughts on “Copywrong

  1. I think it’s an interesting point to say “It is argued that people who don’t pay for software and media, would not have paid for it even if it was not available for free / illegal download.” Even putting financial restrictions aside, I know for myself, not having to buy a CD or pay to hear a song, I’ve been exposed to countless artists I wouldn’t have been otherwise. If someone tells me they like a band, I’m not going to go out and spend $20+ to buy their CD, but maybe I’ll download and listen to a song or two. Maybe I don’t like them and move on, but maybe I do like them. Then maybe I buy tickets to their next concert. I don’t know if it excuses illegal piracy, but I think it would be interesting to see a quantitative study of some of the indirect purchases and revenue that result from free music downloads.

  2. That’s a good point about digital files being worthless when you are done with them. CDs and videos can be sold or traded, but not digital files. We either delete them or buy a bigger hard drive to store them all.

    I’m sure trading digital files is technologically possible. No doubt once the recording industry figures out how to make profits from it they will create the system! At least we don’t have to worry about scratches on the digital copy like we did with vinyl records!!

  3. Pingback: rc10pe | Summary: Music Copyright

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