Most have done it, whether it is downloading a movie to watch with your friends and family or if it is downloading the top song on the radio to blast in room, we all partake in piracy. I always hear the line “I only downloaded one song. How bad can that actually be?” The answer is simple, very bad. If every person in the country just downloaded “one song” that is over 300 million songs illegally downloaded and the company or the artist would bring in no money, which is a big lose that could put a company out of business. Also, once you have downloaded one song without paying a dime and at the convenience of your couch you are more likely to do it again when you find your new favorite song. Since the explosion of the Internet it has sparked a booming business called piracy, which I’ll simply define as illegally downloading, reproducing, and selling copyrighted works. Both the music industry and Hollywood have taken significant hits since the beginning of piracy. Now anyone with a camera, computer, and Internet connection have the ability to act as pirates. This issue is something that law enforcement attempts to control but it is difficult when anyone and everyone have the opportunity to be a pirate.
Hollywood has provided individuals and families with entertainment for a long time but could be forced to pull back based on the financial hit they take from piracy. 60-Minutes sat down with Steven Soderbergh regarding piracy and he stated, “Piracy is costing Hollywood $6 billion a year at the box office”, resulting in “fewer projects get made, which means fewer people go to work”. In this interview he talks about if piracy continues to increase and cost Hollywood billions that it could be the end of Hollywood, as we know it. I personally cannot imagine life without Hollywood. No movies, no actors, no entertainment. The video did talk about what law enforcement is doing to ensure Hollywood exists for years to come. They have increased the number of checkpoints before entering a movie theater where bags, pockets, and your person are searched for camera or other devices prior to entering the theater. Also, they perform weekly raids on people they suspect are reproducing and selling pirated movies. I know it is much easier to click a few buttons, wait for it to load, and watch the movie but please just go to the theater and pay the fee so Hollywood can continue to produce more movies for our entertainment!
The music industry has experienced a similar impact as Hollywood. The New York Times article “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t” sat down with lead singer of Metallica, Lars Ulrich about the effects artists and record labels have witnessed from illegally downloaded music. The topic of music piracy was really brought to light with the company, Napster, which allowed people to download any song at their convenience for no charge. Napster was eventually shut down but music piracy continued. Although some people argue that these artists and companies pull in large profits regardless of piracy they are wrong. In order to produce a song you must pay for space, crews, producers, equipment, editing, filming, and promoting, which are a lot of checks that must be cut. Ulrich states, “Our record releases are
supported by hundreds of record companies’ employees and provide programming for numerous radio and television stations. … It’s clear, then, that if music is free for downloading, the music industry is not viable.” As consumers it is difficult to see the economic impacts that go along with simply clicking “download” and having unlimited access to all music but there are many economic implications associated with a click of the mouse. Ulrich and many other artists are willing to pull back and not release music if piracy continues at the rate it is going, which would mean the end of music as a form of entertainment.
So as you read this you know there are two-entertainment industry that could crumble from piracy. But now I will touch on a different issue, “fair use” according the to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. A case that was recently put to rest after 7 years in court is what the world has come to know as the “Dancing Baby” case. In this case the issue was Stephanie Lenz posting a video of her kids dancing to Prince’s song “Let’s Go Crazy”. Prince’s publisher attempted to sue using the “notice and takedown” section of the DMCA and requested that YouTube and Lenz takedown the video. However the court deemed this as ‘fair use’ according to the DMCA and Lenz won the case. This caused an up roar within the music industry and could result in more ‘fair use’ defenses moving forward with these issues. In the New York Times article “YouTube Dancing Baby Copyright Ruling Sets Fair Use Guidelines” Jonathon Lamy, a spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America stated “We respectfully disagree with the court’s conclusion about the D.M.C.A. and the burden the court places upon copyright holders before sending takedown notices”. There is a clear divide between users and the music industry and this adds fuel to the fire. Although I do not necessarily disagree with the decision from the court it is still a pressing issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. This case not only causes problems for companies but also journalists. It is a “double-edged sword” with journalists because they will be able to use more copyright work but not their personal copyrighted works are subject to the same problems.
The issue of media piracy is something that is growing as technology and innovation continue to grow. The articles and videos I discussed show the on-going struggle between entertainment industries, pirates, and consumers. This topic demands an answer to two very important questions: What would we do if music and movies suddenly stopped? Is downloading these copyrighted works worth losing the entertainment they provide for us?
Master of Arts in Emerging Media
Loyola University of Maryland