Imagine a world in which you are able to acquire any piece of knowledge or work of art without paying for it; a world where information is freely given, theatrical performances and music are the property of no one and everyone. This world is not much different than what the internet is like today, but all is confined, in a way, to its respective worldthe internet world and the real world. A piece of writing printed out on eight and a half by eleven sheets of paper is nothing like a book. By no means does a downloaded divx avi movie even come close to the quality of a DVD, and likewise, the quality of an mp3 converted to CD audio and burned to a disc does not compare with that of a legitimate recording. The RIAA, which represents the major recording companies, would have you believe that the sharing of music online is destroying the music industry (The Internet Debacle), yet there are several artists including Janis Ian, Limp Bizkit, Offspring, and Public Enemy who see it a different way. Indeed, music distributed within the internet community allows people to sample available music in order for them to decide what to purchase in the real world.First Id like to look at the legality of downloading copyrighted music.
Obviously it is not legal as the courts have shut down Napster for this very reason. Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey believes there is no middle ground in the issue saying that it is pure and simple theft (Costs 31). If you take something from someone who wishes you not to, youve stolen it (Clay). Thats easy enough, but should the music industry support free music on the internet instead of prohibiting it among its artists?The RIAA claims that it is acting in the artists best interest when it lobbies Congress to help put an end to the downloading of copyrighted music (Its All about the Music). Singer-songwriter Janis Ian thoroughly disagrees and asserts that if a music industry executive claims I should agree with their agenda because it will make me more money, I put my hand on my walletand check it after they leave just to make sure nothings missing (The Internet Debacle). The contract that is given to an artist in no way looks after his or her best interest but rather the wellbeing of the label. Of the twenty-five or more albums Ian has created with major labels, she has never received a royalty check that did not show that she owed them money (The Internet Debacle).
The normal contract for an artist lasts for seven albums with no specified end date, and the label can deem an album-in-progress unacceptable, trash the album, and extend the length of the contract an additional record to make up for the undesired one (The Internet Debacle). The contract also limits a singer-songwriter to seventy-five percent of the government mandated minimum publishing royalty amount of 7.1 cents on the dollar (Major Label 27).
When a record goes out of print, the artist does not get the rights to it, nor are they allowed to re-record the songs with another label until many years after the end of the contract (The Internet Debacle). All of this shows that if the artists best interests were really at the heart of the RIAA or its members, the contracts would not be so detrimental to the artist by limiting the profitability of his or her works.According to Hilary Rosen, head of the RIAA, more than 1.
8 billion songs were illegally download on a single peer-to-peer network system in one month (The Internet Debacle). Did this really hurt sales? There is no way of telling how many of those people were trying out new artists and may have ended up purchasing an album due to their experience. Many of the people would not have bought the CD even if the songs were not available for free. Numerous people may even own the record but do not have the know-how to rip a track off of their CD in order for them to play it on their computer without needing to change out CDs for each new selection of music.
Several of them were probably looking for music that is out of print or not available in their area. Some of these may not have been technically legal downloads, but countless numbers also did not result in a decrease in sales. In some cases, these downloads may have even caused sales to increase.Another argument of the RIAA is that CD-R sales have gone up tremendously and if only half were used to copy a music CD, the number of CDs copied would equal that of the CDs bought (The Internet Debacle). This is assuming that half of the CD-R sales go to copying music, which is hardly the case. Many people make weekly backups of their data and may also make copies of their legally purchased music for use in different areas of their house and in their car (The Internet Debacle). I myself have a CD burner and have purchased 50 CD-Rs, most of which sit inside their container.
Surprisingly enough, none of them has gone for the use of copying music, though there was one failed attempt at replicating a Playstation game.What is the reason that people go online to download music? Is it because they are selfish and just dont want to pay for the efforts of others? Many people download music to find songs that are not commercially available or for obtaining music from a great variety of artists (Market Data 3). I have downloaded songs from an album of one of the artists that I regularly listen to in order to test its quality. One of my friends said that their latest record wasnt any good, so before I took his word on it, I downloaded two or three of the songs from the album to see if I liked it for myself. It turns out that I did and I ended up buying it.
I imagine others have had similar experiences and whatever the outcome, it was best for the consumer.As I am writing this, I am listening to a couple CDs worth of Mp3.coms 103 of the Best Songs Youve Never Heard, which has a variety of genres, artists, and songs that I have truly never heard of. Now, I havent rushed out to get the latest Insecto album just because I heard their song Hippie Chick, but it was a very good song. I am now more likely to go to their website and see what they sell, possibly listen to more of their songs, and maybe even buy an album. I have never heard of them before now, and none of their music is played over the radio. There is very little chance I would have even known their band existed if they hadnt let Mp3.
com put one of their songs on this CD that was sent to me at no charge whatsoever. There are also many other songs by this artist available for free on the Mp3.com website as there are for countless other bands that few know exist.Exposure is very beneficial for artists; it allows them to be known, which aids in the sale of their music. Ian spends many hours each week keeping her website up to date and writing articles in order to gain more exposure (The Internet Debacle). That is also the reason she now offers free downloads of some of her music that has no associated label (The Internet Debacle).
The exposure she receives facilitates the selling of her music. She explains, every time we make a few songs available on my website, sales of all the CDs go up. A lot (The Internet Debacle). Chuck D. of Public Enemy foresees, You will have more music on the outside of the industry than on the inside, so fans will find a lot more music. There will be more money in the pot than ever before and there will be millions of hands in it.
Artists are going to have to work a lot harder and not expect things to fall in their lap. (qtd. in Costs 92)Free exposure works for book writers in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. Many of the nominations for the Hugo and Nebula Awards are put on the internet for any and all to read. Members have access to even more woks and there are several links to writers websites who have online stories available (The Internet Debacle). Having all this available for free allows those who would not otherwise buy one of these books the ability to read through the works of several writers. This gives readers an idea of whose books they will enjoy so that they can purchase accordingly.
This works very well for these authors; I see no reason why it shouldnt work as pleasantly for musicians.Instead of welcoming this means of unbridled exposure, the music industry and several of its artists have attempted to destroy it through legislation and copy protection. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, gives unprecedented rights to copyright owners. Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia thinks this will lead to a pay-per-use policy as opposed to the current fair use legislation (97). The DMCA also makes it a criminal offense to circumvent technological protection measuresfor any reason (Boucher 97-98). This means that you would not be able to legally make backup copies of your material or copy anything for other common fair use practices.
Boucher makes it clear that fair use laws are is intended to keep intellectual property regulations in check and to keep copyright owners from having a monopolistic control of their material (96). Law professor David G. Post exclaims that if Metallica wants to lock up its performance in completely unbreakable cryptographic envelopes, and charge me outrageous prices to access them, I say: more power to them, but he also believes that the world of unprotected information will grow much more luxuriantly than its counterpart (119).What should be done about all this? What can the music industry do to embrace this new technology of being able to distribute music easily and inexpensively over the internet? Representative Boucher feels that most Americans are willing to pay a reasonable fee if they can get something that meets their legitimate expectation of its being a permanent download and something that is portable and not tethered (103). He believes that the music industry should create a service that gives consumers these benefits.
Instead, it is attempting to control the distribution and format with its current online services (Boucher 103). These services require a monthly fee to continue to play downloaded music, but the songs cannot be transferred to other devices. This means that music downloaded in this manner could not be played away from the computer. The popularity of the portable mp3 player shows the fact that people want to listen to music in places other than just in front of their computer screen.
Ian proposes a slightly different approach to the same general idea. She believes that an experiment should be made in which all the record companies come together for one year and create a huge website with all of the out-of-print music available for download (Fallout). Each song would be reasonably priced at twenty-five cents to encourage consumers and to help repair the record companies credibility (Fallout).
This would spread good old music around as well as give the music industry an idea of what the market is like for such a venture (Fallout).John Dvorak, opinion writer for PC Magazine, thinks that the answer lies in music CDs that are not overpriced. Too many people are asking why they should buy a CD for $16 when they can copy one for 35 cents (Dvorak). He claims that an album should cost $1.40 since it is reasonable and profitable considering the cost of mass producing a CD is less than 25 cents (Dvorak). The $1.
40 mark is attained by comparing how Edison lowered the price of his prerecorded cylinders to 35 cents from $4nearly a ninety percent decreaseand applying this percentage decrease to that of the price of a CD (Dvorak). If the industry were to adopt Dvoraks pricing, it could still make millions of dollars, just not billions (Dvorak).All three of these views are possible and viable solutions to the part of the music industrys problem. The main problem with the music industry, though, is greed. Bouchers idea is good that all music should be available online for a reasonable fee, but it does not solve the problem with costly CDs.
It does, however, make it so that if an artist only has one good song on a record full of garbage, a person would be able to legally purchase the song they want. This would make artists think twice about releasing albums containing only one high-quality song if they expect to make money off of it. Ians solution is helpful to those who are looking for out of print media. I actually dont think that most of the people downloading songs are looking for this, though this would be a good way for the industry to make money of off old music.
The proposition of having $1.40 CDs would solve much of the problem, but lets be realistic. Would an industry that is selling CDs at sixteen bucks a pop really go for a ninety percent decrease in selling price? I think not.A price reduction in CD prices is definitely in order, but not in the magnitude suggested by Dvorak.
I would personally buy much more music if the price was lowered to $6 or even $8 for a brand new album with lower prices for the older ones. And for the CDs where there were only one or two songs I liked, I could legally purchase and download them through Bouchers plan. Im sure the music industry would have no trouble making plenty of money at this lowered price. Even with selling individual songs over the internet, the artists would still be left to concerts for making the majority of their profitsjust as they currently are.Under existing laws and prohibitions imposed by the major labels, downloading music recorded by them is illegal. Many smaller labels allow less restrictive contracts, yet there are many artists self-releasing albums to avoid these restrictions all together. Janis Ian has seen a 300% increase in sales after offering free downloads of her songs on her site (Fallout).
Though several artists see this as down-right stealing, which it is if no permission is granted by the author, others see it as an opportunity to get their music out to those who have never heard it before. The more fans there are, the more that will show up at concerts, and that translates into more money for the artist. The fans are happy and so are the musicians; what more could you want?Works CitedBoucher, Rick. “The Future of Intellectual Property in the Information Age.” Copy Fights. Ed.
Clyde W. Crews Jr., and Adam Thierer.
Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2002. 95-105. Clay, Steve. Napster attack was misguided. 6 June 2000.
25 Nov. 2002 . Dvorak, John C. One Buck Forty or Die. 24 Sept. 2002. PC Magazine.
24 Nov. 2002 . Ian, Janis. Fallout – a Follow up to the Internet Debacle. 1 Aug.
2002. 24 Nov. 2002 . Ian, Janis. The Internet Debacle – An Alternative View. May 2002.
24 Nov. 2002 . It’s All About the Music. RIAA. 5 Dec. 2002 .
Major Label Recording Contract. Loyola University 22 Sept. 2001.
5 Dec. 2002 . Market Data. 20 July 2001. RIAA. 5 Dec. 2002 .
Post, David G. “His Napster’s Voice.” Copy Fights. Ed. Clyde W. Crews Jr., and Adam Thierer.
Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2002.
107-124. United States. Cong.
House. Costs of Internet Piracy for the Music and Software Industries. US 106th Cong., 2nd sess. Washington: GPO, 2000.