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Should Downloading Music Be Legal? Essay Sample

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Should Downloading Music Be Legal? Essay Sample

Should free- music downloading be banned? I believed that allowing free access to unlimited songs could eventually undermine the music industry; however, nobody wants to pay outrageous amounts just for a few good songs on a bad CD. When I looked up information regarding these stats, results shocked me. The people who never download files or pirate CD’s (about 54% of the population) make up only 39% of music sales. The majority of sales belong to the infrequent downloaders (46%); accounting for roughly 61% of sales. The last 22% of those surveyed buy approximately 36% of CD’s, the highest percentage within a given group. In other words: all those attempts by the recording industry to stop music downloads is in fact the cause of declining sales. The recording industry is shooting itself in the foot by eliminating file sharing programs.

The rise of Napster and the peer to peer (p2p) file sharing programs enable people all over the world to share music for free. In my opinion, shutting down the file sharing networks is the stupidest thing they could do. Furthermore, with all this hype about suing Napster and other such program manufacturers, the RIAA is denying the public from receiving factual information. I agree to the general downloading of music by the public, since far from destroying the industry, they in fact increase sales. I don’t believe downloading a couple of mp3’s falls into the category of theft or piracy. Stupid as it may seem, the record companies do. They reason that if you download even one song, you’re classified the same as if you downloaded hundreds of songs.

I don’t like it when I see advertisements for bootlegs and pirated movies and such. However, it is hard for me to not feel sympathetic to them when I see garbagey music selling for about twenty dollars each. What really drives me crazy is that these artists are making millions of dollars a year, and they still feel the need to overcharge for a lousy CD. I have bought many albums, only to find that there are only one or two really good songs and the rest is trash.

Understandably, this issue raises many questions among users of this system. What exactly is the definition of stealing here? Does mere possession of the song without paying for it become classified as theft? Ultimately, does downloading songs without paying take money away from the people who made them?

The NARAS claims that downloading music is not only hurting sales; it is destroying the music industry. However, many believe that this totally false. The fact is, most people are downloading because they want a particular song, or because what they are looking for is not available in stores. The main thing the RIAA is forgetting, is that programs like Napster create publicity for artists. The only way to ensure any success is exposure. People can’t buy an album if they don’t know it exists. Regarding exposure, many advocates for the recording industry argue that if anything, it makes the problem worse. If someone suddenly finds out about a new band by downloading other songs, he will merely have to download he songs of this new band instead of buying the CD. This will lead to a chain effect, and result in consumers killing sales, and driving up the price.

What does not make sense is the position of the RIAA. They claim that the people who are downloading songs like crazy are together taking away legitimate sales of music. If, according to them, people are in fact downloading this amount, it would mean that they are spending twelve hours a day downloading, with no time to eat, work or do anything but download and sleep. Furthermore, not many individuals can afford a T1 line, although there are the few people who download thousands of songs, they also hold the highest percentage of music sales. If downloading was the cause for the decrease in music sales, then the percentage difference would be much, much greater. This is not to say that there are no freeloaders. In fact, there is a not so insignificant portion of consumers who download tons of music and rarely ever buy it.

The RIAA reports that last year, “…over 50 percent of those music fans that have downloaded music for free have made copies of it …” This number is up from only 13% from two years ago. However, even with increased buying from
music consumers, general sales dropped about 15% from 2002. This is due largely to the recent economic recession, but partly also to the success of video and DVD entertainment, as well as to the increased usage of videogames.

When the lawsuit of the RIAA vs. Napster first came to public attention, I felt that even though many people were using Napster, the label companies involved in the suit were correct in trying to prevent what could easily doom the entire industry. Since then, I have come across reports and such that tell a better story than the RIAA. The record industry claims that illegal downloading of music was the sole cause for the drop in sales. The truth of the matter is that most of the hardcore downloaders are in fact responsible for the highest percentage of music sales. I agree that it might not be ethically or morally right to download songs without paying for it, however I cannot justify charging fifteen dollars for a single CD. If I am forced to make a choice between overspending and downloading free, I would probably choose to download. This is not to say that downloading is morally right. To take something which is not yours comes under the category of stealing; however, just making a copy may be entirely different. In a situation such as this, where the moral battleground becomes a gray blur instead of clearly defined black or white, it is hard to make a complete stand. However, as much as I argue against it, I can’t deny that downloading can be extremely useful. Being that the RIAA and other such groups have been trying to deny us correct information statistics, I make my stand as a pro-downloader.

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