Could Piracy Kill The Music Industry?

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Digital music has become increasingly popular with the availability of music apps and streaming services for mobile devices. Being able to have your music at your fingertips is much more advantageous than having to buy CDs. Downloading that music has also become popular with newer, advanced technology and software making it much easier to do.

So, if digital music apps and streaming services are available, why do people still feel the need to pirate music? This is a question the music industry, recording artists, and law enforcement have been asking for years and still continue to ask. Cost is a huge factor when it comes to people making the decision to download from an illegitimate site or app. P2P file sharing software, such as BitTorrent (and Napster in the 90s) makes it possible for people to upload and download free pirated music. “I do not have money to pay for software.” “It doesn’t hurt anybody when I do this.” “No one has ever told me not to.” These are responses from young people when they’re asked the question, “Why do you download illegal music from the Internet?”

Particularly, the younger generation sees no harm in downloading illegal music. 88% of youth are aware that the music they download are copyrighted, yet over half of them illegally download music anyway. And, it doesn’t stop at music. They upload and download a variety of digital media from books, to games, to movies. It’s not just the young people of today’s generation. I’m sure that many of us that attended college (after the Internet was invented) can relate to partaking in the pastime of downloading music from popular free file sharing software and sharing it with our friends.

Along the way, it has become the norm…the “everyone does it” phenomena. Not to just single out the younger generation, but most people that download free pirated music know that it’s illegal. However, they continue to do so and don’t feel as though they are affecting anyone.

So, what’s the harm? Record labels put out artists’ music for their fans’ entertainment and to make a profit for themselves and the artist. Without a profit, there would be no motivation or finances available for artists to continue to produce music. Can you imagine the world with no music?!? Artists value their music and they don’t appreciate their music being devalued by those who feel as though it’s not worth paying for and choose to download it illegally.

So, how can music pirating be stopped? The answer is that it can’t be completely stopped. It’s almost impossible for law enforcement to track down every person that downloads digital media illegally from the internet. A key component to slowing down the pirating issue will be increased education for our youth on the effects of pirating and online ethical behavior. Streaming services, such as iTunes and Spotify, have helped in some ways with the battle against pirating. Some of these streaming services give users the option of using the service for free or paying a monthly fee. When it comes down to it, although there are some who are willing to pay for the music they want to listen to, there’s still a percentage that would rather not. How do we convince the latter that paying is just the right thing to do?

Angela Martin, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland 

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