Sharing is Caring?

The music industry is in a strange place right now. Only a few years ago a few giant record labels ruled the land and no artist could ever see their work published unless it was through these BIG 3.

Enter the internet and cue Sean Parker and Napster. This fueled the still burning fire that is file sharing. We all know how it started. Napster started doing the peer to peer file sharing thing then the music execs got wind of it and sued his ass so hard only Facebook and Justin Timberlake could save his image. Then came a slew of normal (not rich) people being sued for millions of dollars for downloading music. But this hasn’t really changed much of anything.

People used to use Bearshear and Limewire, now the whole world is on Bittorrent. But people are still stealing music. iTunes changed the way we buy music by making single songs purchasable through the iTunes store. Now the $.99 a song thing is the standard and buying a whole album is as easy as clicking a button. Then it’s on your iTunes, on your MP3 player and in your iCloud (if you so choose) and then everywhere you go. Technology is an amazing thing.

BUT no matter how a person gets their music, when they don’t pay for it, it’s stealing. There’s no way around it.

Section 106 of the Copyright Act specifies 6 different rights a musical author has. The act states that the owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize any of the following:

1. to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonerecords;

2. to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

3. to distribute copies or phonerecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

4. in the case of literary, musical,dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

5. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictoral, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

6. in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of digital audio transmission.

These are referred to as the bundle of rights.

[p. 84-85 Baskerville, David and Tom. Music Business Handbook and Career Guide. 9th ed. Sherwood Publishing 2010.]

Number three is what concerns us. The law states very clearly that only the copyright holder has the right to distribute their work. So when you torrent or illegally download a song or album, you’re blatantly breaking the law.

Now, is it a big deal and is it wrong? That’s the real issue here.

For me, it’s a moral issue. I illegally download music. I won’t lie about it, but I do it because I’m broke as fuhh. But as I watch the percentage bars rise I can’t help but harbor a sense of guilt. I know in theory how much work goes into recording an album; hours and hours in the studio, blood sweat and tears; but I can’t imagine what it feels like to birth that musical love child and have it stolen away from me. As often as I can, I buy a whole album on iTunes. It just feels better that way. But sometimes a favorite artist drops an album and I barely have money for sandwiches, so I steal it.

But if it was my music there would be a part of me that would want all my broke ass fans to steal it. If it’s my passion, all I want is for people to hear and love it, not to make 7¢ on every download. But the other half of me would be pissed that I dedicated months, maybe years to making this album that then makes absolutely no money because everyone is downloading it illegally.

For me it’s a double edged sword. Be a good fan and keep up with new music by stealing it, or be a good fan by buying new music, but not as much as I wish I could.


  1. sks10 said:

    i have to say that i feel same way about downloading stuff illegally. i’ve never torrented anything, or taken stuff from 4chan like my boyfriend does. however, i always feel less guilty if i get illegal music indirectly, such as a friend burning me a cd or filling up my ipod for me. most of the time though, i take advantage of sites like grooveshark, 8tracks, and of course, youtube, to get my music needs. do you think that listening to music on these sites is a morally neutral alternative for all of us broke college kids?

    • chillzorz said:

      Grooveshark and Pandora pay a license for the right to use the songs they play. So the artist is seeing money, albeit maybe a cent and a half each time. So I definitely think those are good alternatives. I don’t know about 8tracks, I’ve never used it. The thing about online music streaming is it allows the companies that collect and distribute royalties to know exactly what songs are being played and how often. That allows artists to be absolutely sure they’re being paid for every play of their song. I wish there was a Netflix but for music. I’d pay $9.99 a month for that.

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