Opinion

Music piracy should be punished

After reading Nick Moran’s article “Pirate Punishment,” I became very disappointed in his attitude toward the music industry and their efforts to prosecute music pirating.

Music pirating is a rampant problem. In my opinion, it is less of a problem concerning the “antiquated business models” used by the music industry and more one about our culture’s attitude toward “free music.” The music that consumers purchase does more than pay the salary of record company executives, it also fuels our economy in numerous ways. The $10 you pay for a CD or the 99 cents you pay for a song in turn pays for the minimum wage employees at the few CD stores left in this country, the engineer, the drummer, and the low-level record company employee who spent hours collecting and compiling information to type up the disc slip with all the correct information. The entertainment industry is responsible for six percent of the United States’ GDP and millions of jobs.

What you don’t realize is that by not purchasing your music you in turn do not give the record label or “independent company” any revenue. Whether you change the models or not, a company cannot function without money. A company, which is investing money in an artist, expects a return of some kind. If an artist sets itself up as an independent corporation, it still needs to find investors to sponsor its music. In case you are unaware, it takes money to make music – hiring musicians, engineers, producers. Why would a company even bother making a product if it expected making no return on its investment?

Record companies, publishers and artists put forth a lot of effort to produce the music that you hear on the radio. They are entitled to be compensated for their work. You wouldn’t work for free, now would you? So why should they? You wouldn’t walk into a store and take a shirt without paying for it? So why are you so comfortable with downloading a song for free?

Music piracy is more than illegal; it is a poison that is ruining the music industry. Music piracy is stealing, whether your attitudes towards copyright have you believe that or not. The next time you illegally steal someone’s music by downloading it online, instead of patting yourself on the back for teaching those evil record companies a lesson, think about the sales clerk who just missed out on the record sale, or the young intern who slaved for hours to get in her materials before the deadline. I urge you to reconsider your attitude towards the industry and taking someone else’s property.

April 26, 2009

Reporters

Victoria San Pedro

Contributing Columnist


9 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Music piracy should be punished”

  1. Nick Moran says:

    My last words:

    Veronica, our opinions are on a idealized level not so far from one another. I don’t hope for anybody to be cheated out of money or for anybody to lose their job. I do, as I said in the last sentences of my above comment, hope for a solution to this issue in which artists can profit, but consumers can continue to get their music for free.

    To me, this is not a hope that is beyond the realm of possibility, and I think that’s adequately evinced in the various comments from Mr. Hunter and Mr. Ekman.

    Presently, internet piracy is a fact of life. Arguments against it both inside and outside of courts have no effect on whether or not the sites will continue to operate. The numbers you just shared about the overwhelming popularity of illegal downloads also supports this claim.

    What I propose is simply that rather than fight against this distribution of free music, labels adapt and find new ways to capitalize on their clients’ work. As Mr. Hunter made clear, there’s still plenty of money to be made in the music industry, it’s just coming as a result of things other than CD or song sales.

  2. Victoria San Pedro says:

    WOW.

    We really started an intense debate.

    My first response is to Nick: a) I did not choose for it to say that mucis piracy is ruinous to the economy, but I did point out that it does lead to a loss of jobs and I would just like to point out for a matter of debate that you nick in YOUR article stated that you had not paid for a CD since high school and that you were happy you hadn’t paid for it. I can guarantee you that a vast majority of the music you downloaded, and did not pay for, was put on the internet without the consent of the artist, songwriter, record label and/or music publisher.

    I wrote that article while sitting in one of my classes and wrote it because i was OUTRAGED that you were encouraging the rest of our student body to download music without paying for it. I found your article to be promoting values which are contradictory to the beliefs of our University which does its effort to prevent music piracy and some of your peers who are studying to become part of the entertainment business.

    I did not correctly express my argument because I was under the deadline and was unsure about the number of words or spacing available for the next issue. My beliefs in MUSIC PIRATING (which is defined as any form of unauthorized duplication and/or distribution of music) is wrong. If an artists willingly distributes his or her material at no cost to the consumer (As Mr. Garcia has mentioned) than that is their personal choice. My issue is with servers who without the consent or authorization of the copyright owners allow people to download files/ exchange files/ find locations where they can get the file. This is wrong. It is even worse when these servers make revenue from advertising and refuse to pay any due royalties.

    I have no problem with servers and programs like Pandora’s box on ipods/iphones. This service has advertising but pays the licensing fees associated with using copyrighted material.

    I hope I was able to better defend my stance now that I actually had the time.

    Nick I urge you to sit in a music business class with your peers who are all aspiring to become part of the music business industry. I am a music business minor and if you knew that thousands of songs are illegally downloaded every second and that 95% of all downloads from 2008 were illegal download you’d also feel the dissapointment I read that one of my very own classmates is advocating more of the same.

    You can promote the LiveNation approach all you want. Honestly if if your opinion it will work and salvage the industry that I really hope it does. But I find it unfair that an entire society steals its music and the revenue that is due to several companies and artists and then a record company takes the revenue from an artists touring income. In 1999, a record label would barely touch the touring income from an artist because they were breaking even and making profits from record sales.

    In my opinion, I believe that a new server needs to be created. One that doesn’t rip you off by forcing you to pay 99 cents a song or a 1.29 cents a song, but rather one that charges enough of a fee so that everyone can make their money.
    Whether than fee be 39 cents or 50 cents or whatever everyone can decide on, the point is that the owners of the product are being paid for it (which I would say most artist would be happy receiving some kind of income from their music sales, it is very few artist who are absolutely uninterested in making money from their digital/physical music sales).

    Either that or in my opinion, broadcast stations need to work as they do in 70% of other countries where artists are paid for having their music played on the radio. As of right now in the United States, only songwriters are paid a minimal, absolutely minimal fee for having their music on the radio and this needs to be fixed. Sadly the broadcasters lobbying efforts have been stronger than that of the record companies.

    And to Mr. Elkman: I remember actually buying a Jack Johnson CD at Virgin Megastore when it actually existed in Miami. There’s a difference between promotional materials and deliberately being defrauded out of your money, which is essentially what Pirate Bay did. And record companies don’t purchase those things, they advance an artist there money and they can do with it whatever they please, just like you can buy whatever you’d like with your own money.

  3. Nick Moran says:

    [Some part of me feels like I should sit back and watch these arguments unfold as they are without intervening on my own behalf. For this reason, I’m going to withhold any of my own comments after this one unless they’re absolutely necessary.]

    Mr. Garcia, your argument is very lucid, and you’re not about to hear me announce my support for cheating out artists or those who’ve helped them along their career paths. However, I do feel that an important point which I admittedly did not put into my original opinion piece for space constraints, nor in my above comment for sake of directness, is that I view this legal clash as a temporary, though warranted, offshoot of the tensions between resolute record companies (“the antiquated business models”) and changing times.

    Indeed, the artist should have the ultimate say in the release and distribution of their art. Those that have done so for free in recent months are commendable in my mind for embracing the potential the internet has to offer them. They have adapted to the emergence of new technologies and used them to their benefit.

    Of course then there is also the issue of the databases making available .torrent files which are still under copyright, or were uploaded without the approval or even awareness of their creators. This is illegal, obviously.

    But it is also the natural next step of many listeners who, aware of how easily they just obtained one CD (the free-release one) have grown hungry for another: “if you give a mouse a cookie…”

    Now please don’t misinterpret what I am about to say or attempt to put it in different context, but it is my belief that as more and more progressive record labels and artists embrace the free and unencumbered distribution of their product to the consumer markets (not, importantly, for unlicensed commercial use), those that oppose such releases will fade out.

    After all, on a practical level they have to. While you take a moral stance that “we as a society must not condone” this piracy, the fact of the matter is that it is at present beyond the reaches of the law to do much about it. As I noted in my original argument, The Pirate Bay continues to run at full capacity. Individual downloaders are beyond the realm of prosecution. It has become logistically impossible to enforce file-sharing. Those who oppose such a reality should not waste their time in such witch hunts as recently occurred in Stockholm, they should change with the times and find ways to adapt to this distribution method – a method which brings with it bountiful rewards for those artists and labels which do it intelligently!

    As artists get their names out there, and the benefits are observed, then I predict that more and more musicians will follow suit. Whole businesses can in turn adapt and establish themselves in such a new atmosphere.

    In this last regard, I think one of the major problems in Ms. San Pedro’s piece, which myself, Mr. Hunter, and Mr. Ekman have seemed to allude to, is her implication that adopting these new models would result in a tremendous loss of jobs. [In the print issue of The Hurricane, it was blurbed on the cover to the tune of internet piracy being ruinous to our economy.] Such is flatly not the case. These jobs would have to change, but there would still be employment opportunity.
    It’s difficult to have this discussion without waxing nostalgic, much as is it is similarly difficult to talk about bookstores closing and newspapers going out of print, but the overall point I’m trying to make is that the only industries that die in such ways are those that cling to past conventions instead of adopting new ones.
    While I concede that “piracy” is presently illegal, and what I am encouraging is technically a crime, I am also (in a regrettably roundabout way) saying that the voice of the masses is quite clear, and that thorough changes are necessary. My opinion, therefore, is that such changes should be both free for consumers, and profitable for the artists – which as myself, Mr. Hunter, and Mr. Ekman have pointed out, are not mutually exclusive concepts.

  4. Marcos Garcia says:

    I think those of you supporting the online download model vs the traditional CD/record store model all seem to think that it’s ok to download it for free online in all instances, while Ms San Pedro was simply attempting to point out – and rightly so – that you’re more than welcome to download online as long as you pay for it.

    It’s NOT antiquated or outdated for people to get paid for what they dedicate their careers and lives to. If a group like Radiohead make the decision, as they recently did, to make their album available at no cost for a limited period online – that’s entirely up to them and we should all feel more than welcome to download to our heart’s content.

    However, if a “pirate” style website makes an artist’s music available online for free or for a fee without the consent of the artist, record label or publisher in question – then in my view and in the view of the law – they are committing a crime as are all of those people who are happily downloading the music without any concern for what the long-term effects of what they’re doing are.

    Yes, it’s true that albums and singles are increasingly becoming more of a calling card for recording artists to promote their “brand” and sell tickets to their live performances. A perfect example of just how important the live music market has become is the decision by major superstars like Madonna and U2 and others to sign with Live Nation and leave behind their traditional music labels that made them famous.

    It’s those kinds of moves that will change the business model of the music industry and they will eventually possibly lead to more music being made available for free or for ever-more-modest fees online in a legal fashion.

    However, what we as a society mustn’t condone is this free for all mentality that some of you seem to be espousing is wrong now and will continue to be wrong in the future. The fact that record labels have been short-changing artists for years or the idea that since everyone is doing it so can I do not make it right no matter how much you try to muddle up the argument in your favor.

    Mr Moran seems to have confused or mixed up two arguments into one in his response to the article.

    Ms San Pedro appears to be more than well informed about the fact that the way people listen to or purchase music has been drastically altered by the advent of the internet.

    Nowhere in her piece is she proposing the shutting down of I-tunes or any site that operates legally and that has reached some sort of agreement to make the music available online.

    She’s simply stating that whether online or at the store or from your iphone or whatever device emerges in the future – those downloading or buying music should pay whatever has been agreed between the online service or store and the artist/record label or publisher.

    And, she’s highlighting the fact that some “pirate” services have such little shame that on top of the fact that they are making someone else’s music avaiable at no cost of any kind – artistic or monetary – to them, they have the unbelievable nerve to be charging for advertising and are turning a profit off of their illegal activities.

    Surely, that’s not something Mr Moran, Andrew and the others tooting his horn on here support….

  5. Paul Ekman says:

    I agree, we’re past the point were musicians are making money solely from selling CD’s. Popular musicians are now brand names and their revenue comes from the recognition of that name. Jack Johnson would not be where he is now if he hadn’t started off by giving away his CD’s at surf tournaments. Money for singers and musicians in general does not come from the people that buy the CD’s but from the quinceanera’s that convince their parents to drop twenty thousand dollars to have Lil’ Wayne at their party, or the clubs that spends 10 times that much to fly in Tiesto or Van Dyke.

    The music industries inquisition for music pirates has become redundant. In this day where iPods and iPhones allow us to carry up to 120 gigabytes worth of music and video (about 30,000 songs according to Apple) it would be unreasonable to think that everyone who bought a 120 gb iPod would spend around $30,000 on music. Apple’s stock would have never dipped below $300 if that were the case. Gone are the days of the 8-track and cassette, even the time of the 6-CD changer is long gone. Our society today is all about how much more can we have and how much faster we can have it, and if there is a way to get it faster and cheaper then we’ll take that too. And as it stands today, the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to get music is to download it illegally.

    Further more, if music companies are really that strapped for money to spend on buying 50 cent a new helicopter, or getting Young Jeezy some new diamond studded gucci embroider air force ones to match the paint on his house, well then they might want to reevaluate their spending. I mean if music is good people are going to listen to it whether the musician lives Coral Gables or Kendall.

  6. Nick Moran says:

    Andrew very effectively vocalized the points I was trying to make, I hope you find them clearly.

  7. Andrew Hunter says:

    Victoria,

    What you neglect to realize is that the free downloading of music has, in many cases, led to substantial increased revenue for record labels who have intelligently decided to change with the industry rather than proudly fight against it.

    The music business now makes money in two ways: live music and publishing. Because of this, you are seeing many labels, both large and small (everyone from your precious indie label to Jay-Z’s deal with Live Nation) sign artists to all inclusive deals which net the label money from the artists’ tours and the synching of their music in other media formats such as movies, commercials, and video games. Free music creates awareness for new bands at a rate we have never seen before. This awareness leads to more tour and publishing revenue.

    We are past the argument that artists should be compensated for their music from the direct purchase of their albums. We are ten years past this. I don’t think Mr. Moran would argue that musicians should not be compensated for their illustrious talents. I think his broader point is that what should and what can be done is much, much different. By arguing in favor of this archaic model you are doing the same, horrible disservice to musicians that EMI, Warner, Sony, and Universal have been doing since digital music was introduced. We all have to be able to change.

    Free music, in whatever form it is acquired, will ultimately be the savior of the music industry as long as record labels change their models accordingly. This need for change to keep up with the times is no different than any other business.

    -Andrew

    PS: The guy at the independent record store is not seeing a cent of my .99 cent song purchase.

  8. victoria san pedro says:

    dear nick:

    we can get into an intense debate about this.

    Havign to pay for CDs may be outdated, but you have to pay for your music. You can’t just steal it online. Parrot Bay made a million dollars in ad revenue in one day, that’s nothing. What if the millions of songs that were ILLEGALLY downloaded were charged at even 50 cents each. That number would’ve been ten times as high. Plus, who is Parrot Bay to collect the revenue. What did they contribute to the music? Nothing! They just posted someone else’s product on the internet and charged paeople to post ads on their server.

    Bit Torrent Companies, I would have no problem with, if they paid anything to the songwriters or artist. They don’t!!! That’s why I am not supportive of these illegal servers. You cannot charge and make a profit off something that isn’t even yours in the first place. They should have to pay royalties and licensing fees like everyone else.

    They complete defraud the industry. I can’t believe you support them!

    I agree that live music is the heart of the industry and has kept it alive, but at the end of the day, the industry needs more than just that to survive.

    Don’t be so proud to support thieves. It’s insulting to the rest of the industry.

  9. Nick Moran says:

    You make solid points, which at first I’m inclined to agree with, but you neglect to consider that it in fact DOES boil down to an argument about business models even with your logic.

    Why should we cling to physical record stores when iTunes and the like provide more convenience and a wider selection? Without becoming nostalgic, consider how an embrace of internet music culture — and that is to say, free music distribution — can also create an industry with comparable employment potential.

    Recall in my article how I noted that The Pirate Bay raked in over a million dollars in ad revenue last year. TPB is but one of a multitude of BitTorrent databases, and each one is raking in similar profits. Is this not an employment base?

    There is business to still be had, but it is a DIFFERENT business. Just as newspapers and book stores are becoming outdated, so too is the concept of having to pay for CDs.

    And besides, no matter how big your iTunes collection becomes, there’s still no replica for attending a band’s live performance, which is — again, as I said — where most of their money comes from (and is indeed also a thriving employment provider: roadies, security, venue planners, etc…).

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