1. Introduction: Downloading free music should not be considered piracy.
2. The real purpose of copyrights is to promote artists to make good music not for the record labels to generate profits.
3. Downloads enable artists to reach to a wider audience and this increases their fan base which promotes sales and revenue in general.
4. The concern of piracy seems to be more associated with the record labels wherein their very existence is threatened by the accessibility that listeners have today.
5. There has never been a documented incident where downloading of music resulted in the financial bankruptcy of an artists.
6. Technology has evolved resulting in listeners resorting to media other then CDs to listen to music.
7. Downloading of music enables listeners to share music genres amongst different countries and cultures.
Music and copyright laws need to adapt with the changing needs of listeners.
Music Downloading and Sharing
I do not have a parrot on my shoulder, nor an eye patch or a wooden leg; yet if I were to download free music today I would be classified as a “music pirate” or someone who has conducted music theft. The fact that downloading free music is considered piracy is beyond my comprehension but at the same time does not come to me as a surprise. File sharing has been a controversy which was widely publicized after Metallica (a rock band) sued Napster in the year 2000 for music piracy. Subsequently other musicians also sued the company and lawsuit was ultimately settled. But this did not settle the question of why sharing and downloading music is considered piracy.
The basic premise behind such downloads being considered piracy is the concept of copyright, wherein, the right to reproduce such music is the right of the person who owns the copyrights. But what we don't understand is the purpose of copyright. The purpose of copyrights is to encourage artists to make good music but if so many restrictions are applied to the usage of such music it becomes difficult for the artists to enhance their fan base and eventually their quality of music.
Record sales and CD sales do not benefit the artists directly. Most of the income and proceeds from the CD and record sales goes to the record companies, and not the artists. This in return provides publicity to the artists to let them carry out successful concerts and tours with large audiences. However, the $10 price tags on the CDs limit this process and many people who are not willing to pay this money remain unaware of the artists' talents. Free downloads allow people to discover their stars and eventually promote the artists in the long run.
One might even think that it's the record labels that are more concerned about piracy than the artists themselves. As such the existence of the ability to download music questions the need of record labels. If artists could set up websites where fans could have unlimited access to the artists music at a nominal fee would enable the artists to tap into millions of listeners without the banner of record companies. Similarly, record labels can also promote such access to the listeners throughout their websites and lure these listeners by adding certain perks such as merchandize etc. The whole controversy about piracy makes you wonder if the issue is more about the threat to record labels than the integrity of copyrights.
There has been no incident when an artist was financially crippled as a result of such downloads. Artists have several streams of income such as concerts, merchandise sales, endorsements etc. The option of downloading music provides a platform for new artists and gives them the opportunity to be discovered by the public. More downloads means more popularity which will result in more people wanting to attend concerts and purchase their merchandise.
To say that piracy has reduced the sales of CDs cannot be attributed to the free music downloads. Media has evolved over the past decade wherein people now prefer purchasing music online such as iTunes stores etc. instead of purchasing a CD which has lesser portability. People have moved to the internet for all sort of consumer products so why not music? CD sales will obviously decline as people are more inclined to use much more portable media and with larger data storage possibilities. Having said that CD sales cannot be expected to die completely as there will always be collectors and enthusiasts who would like to maintain a library of such CDs.
Another “benefit” of having accessibility to downloading music is the cross border sharing of different music genres. Where certain cultural music from around the world was limited to people who had either experienced the music first hand or had interest in exploring other cultures, is now available for millions of listeners. These are the listeners who in ordinary circumstances would not even have considered a $10 CD for music they have never heard of. Repetitive listening of the music on the internet enables the user to get accustomed to music which they otherwise would not get an opportunity to listen on the radio.
In conclusion, as media and internet have evolved, the copyrights and other legal matters associated with it also need to change. To implement copyright laws that were developed for outdated media in the current millennium seems quite unreasonable and unfair to those artists who do not have the means to promote themselves. Music should not be a privilege but a necessity for all who want it.
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