Pirates pillage online
April 16, 2004
The average college campus is full of criminals, and so is the University
of La Verne.
They hide everywhere: in the dorms, in the classrooms and in the cafeteria.
They are pirates. Not the old fashioned kind as glorified recently in the
blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean.
Piracy has gone high-tech, and arguably lost its romantic touch.
Gone are the black beards, the eye patches, the parrot on the shoulder and
the quest for treasures of gold.
The black beards have become black keyboards; the eye-patches are flickering
monitors; the parrot on the shoulder has been replaced by the mouse in the hand
and the quest is not for gold but for free beats and bites.
Welcome to the age of music piracy. According to recent studies, programs
like Kazaa swap out over 2.6 billion copyright-protected songs a month into
the hands of anybody with Internet access.
Theater and music major Whitney Wickham has downloaded several songs from
the Internet in the past.
CDs are just too expensive, she said. The cheapest nowadays
is about 15 bucks, and most of the time I only like one or two songs on the
album. And as I hardly find single CDs anymore, I started loading music from
the Internet. At many bands homepages, you can listen to their music anyways.
Jeremiah Moersch, a business major at UC San Diego has another way of staying
under the radar. Most of the computers in America are PCs, so this is
where the Recording Industry of America Association checks, he said. So
I feel pretty safe, using my Apple computer.
Greg Willis, ULV communications major, uses file-sharing programs mainly at
home not in the dorms where the University has begun to monitor
file sharing activity. I mainly load singles, he said. If
I like a couple of songs from one album, I go to a record store and buy it.
I never buy online because I hate waiting and paying for shipping and I just
love shopping at record stores.
Those record stores are among these pirates major victims.
Even big chains like Tower Records recently filed for bankruptcy, blaming
piracy as one of the main reasons.
According to a 2003 RIAA report, sales in CDs have gone down by 21 percent
since the year 2000, contributing to an industry-wide loss of $ 280.8 million.
The Internet generation, ages 15 to 24, comprises 24.8 percent of record store
consumers.The demographics are the same for file sharing.
But ULV senior media analysis major Taylor Kingsbury said that not all music
retailers suffer big losses from file sharing.
Kingsbury works at Rhino Records, an independent record store in Claremont.
He said piracy doesnt hurt independent record stores, only the big chains.
People might check out songs online, but they still buy the album if
they are real music fans. Piracy mainly hurts the mainstream, where albums contain
only one or two good songs, and fans of those dont come for that music
to Rhino Records. We offer more than the big radio songs, and people still appreciate
a good album.
In fact, Kingsbury said, file sharing can benefit musicians.
As a band, you dont make big money from your albums anyway,
Metallica has the best record deal world wide and they make only about
a dollar per sold album. All the money from record sales goes to all the other
people involved in the production and sales process like songwriters, record
companies, studio technicians and record stores; those are the ones hurt by
piracy. The artists make money from touring and merchandising, and for this
all you need is promotion. And getting heard and distributed over the Internet
is a great promotion, he said.
From the ashes of destroyed file sharing programs like Napster, another threat
for the big record stores rises. Lead by the Macintosh program iTunes, more
and more former file sharing providers contract directly with the recording
industry to sell songs online for as cheap as 99 cents.
I would totally accept to pay a dollar per song, Wickham said.
At least, you dont have to be afraid of being caught and sued and
thrown to jail. You have a clean conscience.
I did it once, but for me it is still too expensive, Willis said.
I dont want to pay more than 25 cents per song, or $5 to $10 per
album. I still see a lot of additional value in buying real music in stores.
I dont think that the CD will die out, but it could happen that the focus
might shift to digital music. I could imagine loading up your iPod with songs
at a record store.
But some feel downloaded music is technically inferior.
When you download music illegally over Kazaa, you are always in the
danger of viruses, said Florian Funk, a business major at San Francisco
State University.You never know about the quality of the songs. The connection
speed is very slow, it can often take you days if you are looking for a rare
song, and sometimes songs are even listed under the wrong name.
In the Macintosh pay-per-song model iTunes, Funk found what he was looking
The quality is one-to-one, the same as on CD; it hardly takes me one
minute per song and the file is guaranteed free of viruses, he said.
The online song-selling solution is ideal for those users who do not agree
with music piracy or fear being caught and taken to court.
By downloading music illegally from the Internet, the user breaks two laws:
the copyright in the musical composition, which protects the lyrics and notes
on paper for the songwriter, and the copyright in the sound recording, which
protects the actual musical production for the record company.
The online infringement of those laws can be punished by up to $ 250,000 in
fines and up to three years in prison or, in case of repeat offenders, up to
six years in prison, according to a recent RIAA press release.
The RIAAs first step in its war against music piracy was educating the
public about the illegality of file sharing.
A 2003 survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that public awareness
of file sharings illegality increased by 24 percent during a two-month
Now, as a second step, the association has filed copyright infringement claims
against 261 individual members, including a lawsuit against a 12-year-old girl
from New York.
Nobody likes playing the heavy and having to resort to litigation,
said RIAA president Cary Sherman in a recent statement regarding the lawsuits.
But when your product is being regularly stolen ... you have to take
appropriate action. We simply cannot allow online piracy to continue destroying
the livelihoods of artists, musicians, songwriters, retailers and everyone in
the music industry.
In its first wave of lawsuits, the RIAA took major offenders to court, who
were averaging more than 1,000 downloaded copyrighted songs each.
All those subjects have received a warning and had the chance to escape their
punishment by pledging to stop illegally sharing music on the Internet. Detailed
information on how to apply for this amnesty can be found online at http://www.musicunited.org.
The RIAA promises that no user will be taken to court for past piracy activities.
Federal law and courts agree that it is illegal to make copyrighted work available
for download without permission of the copyrighted owner.
In last years decision in the case against the file sharing-provider
Aimster, the judge declared the ongoing, massive and unauthorized distribution
and copying of works as specious and unsupported.
In fighting piracy, the RIAA works together with the FBI, which is provided
with the power of the PATRIOT Act to control Web activities on private computers
and track down users for the content.
Besides threatening file share users, the RIAA also fights the main source
of file sharing as they address universities and colleges throughout the country,
which provide their students with high-speed Internet connections.
The University of La Verne states in its housing policy: No University
computing facility or service or any other University computing asset will be
used in any illegal activity (such as) distribution of illegal software or other
media, (and) the distribution of copyrighted material.
If caught with a running file-sharing program, students are warned once; repeated
policy infringement can be a reason for ending the students housing contract.
We dont want to put our students into trouble with the law or
intrude on their privacy, said Eugene Shang, assistant director of leadership
programs and housing at ULV.
But if illegal file sharing activities are found on students computers,
not only the student, but also the University has to face enormous fees.
What the users must understand is that illegal file sharing is not a
victimless crime, said Richard McIlvery, professor of music at the University
of Southern California.
And the victims are not the big celebrity artists, who have too much
power to take pay cuts. The victims are workers in independent record stores
or studios, songwriters and newcomers.
By stealing music, the user is stealing the future creativity they crave
The Songwriters Association International chooses the same tones.
Songwriters pay their rent, medical bills and childrens educational
expenses with royalty income, read a statement.
That income has been dramatically impacted by illegal downloading, so
many have reassessed their careers as songwriters.
It is heartbreaking that songwriters are choosing other professions
because they cannot earn a living in great part due to illegal downloading.