The life of a musician and recording artist is hard as it is, and to make any kind of revenue in the music industry today is even harder. I have personally been involved in this industry for quite some time now as a recording engineer, performer, and recording artist. It takes a lot of work, dedication and money to start any kind of professional project. Some of my friends own independent record labels and have confessed to me that they make less than $500 a year with their entire force of signed artists due to the lack of interest in today’s market and online piracy. Some of these internet piracy sites have allowed people to download music files (MP3's) without paying a single penny. In most cases, the money used to entirely produce an album comes straight from the artist pocket, and if they are not obtaining any kind of revenue there is no way for them to be able to afford a recording studio. If piracy is affecting the profits or expenses of the artist, recording studios, labels, managers, etcetera. Then why continue to do music? The purpose of this blog is to find out the effects of online piracy and to see if it’s really destroying the music industry or actually helping it. This might be difficult to grasp at first, but information will be analyzed to understand the needs of different user segments to broader our perspective on this subject.
Everyone knows that our current economy is hurt and people want to save as much money as possible. Therefore, if a consumer listens to a new artist on the radio or a song that they really like but is unable to afford it, an alternative idea on how obtain that product at a minimum cost will come into place, and the easiest way to save money is by not paying anything for that product. Even though piracy is illegal in the US, certain people are willing to take risk and keep “sharing” files online. In the past, companies like NAPSTER where sued by the members of the group Metallica for copyright infringement – more specifically drummer Lars Ulrich was the one to read his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (Borland, 4). Metallica vs. Napster, Inc. was the first case that involved an artist suing a peer-to-peer file sharing ("P2P") Software Company (Borland, 2) in the year 2000. Metallica sought a minimum of $10 million dollars in damages, at a rate of $100,000 per song that was illegally downloaded (Borland, 3). In July, 12 2001 Napster was forced to search through its system and remove all copyrighted songs by Metallica and several of their fellow artists, a number of record companies, own which led to the termination of Napster and then forced to file for Chapter 7 and liquefy its assets (Borland, 5). In this interesting feud, we have to ask, is Napster responsible for keeping track of what is being uploaded and downloaded to their website? Or the user who is “sharing” files online? Who is really responsible here? There is a lot of redundancy in this scenario, and many people will have their own opinions about this, some of them might be even controversial.
In the article “Don’t Think Twice, it’s All Right: Music Piracy and Pricing in a DRM-Free Environment”, the authors propose a model that theorizes the concept of hardcore piracy in an attempt to resolve this problem. Based on experimental studies and a validation exercise with a large group of 2000 college students or more, the model results indicate that the music industry can actually benefit by removing Digital Rights Management (DRM) because such a strategy has the potential to convert some pirates into paying consumers. In addition, a DRM-free environment enhances both consumer and producer welfare by increasing the demand for legitimate products as well as consumers’ willingness to pay for these products. The authors find that producers could also benefit by lowering prices from currently observed levels. DRM is the technology that controls what people can do with digital media and the devices they own (Sinha, Machado, Sellman, 41). When a program doesn't let someone share a song, read an e-Book on another device, or play a single-player game without an internet connection, it’s because they are being restricted by DRM (Sinha, Machado, Sellman, 41). In theory, “DRM enables music publishers to sell digital music that is difficult or impossible for end users to duplicate” (Sinha, Machado, Sellman, 41). “In June 2007, iTunes began selling part of its catalog DRM-free, and exactly a year later, the online music store Rhapsody teamed up with Verizon, Yahoo Music, MTV, and iLike to strip DRM entirely from their catalog” (Sinha, Machado, Sellman, 40). This enables us to see how quickly DRM-free music became popular after iTunes saw a significant positive change in sales after fewer restrictions were applied to the music. This means that by people sharing files without restrictions, they are creating free publicity for their product. Removing DRM facilitates pirates to keep sharing files online, but consumers may prefer to pay for that song even if they have the option to obtain it for free at a pirate website (Sinha, Machado, Sellman, 40). It is obvious to see that very popular artist are making a significant amount revenue from different type of sells, even though consumers have the option to download their music from a pirate website or from a retail store – proving that piracy can be beneficial to artists in its own way.
The video “Face The Music - A Documentary About Music Piracy” provides interviews done to music producers, artist, radio hosts, and regular people on their own personal views about piracy and how they are currently being “affected” or “benefiting” from it. This documentary explains a short-version on the births of piracy and how it was done since the 1960’s, and at the time people were not buying records if they didn’t have the money just like today (Lewis and Gloor). With time people started recording those songs into cassettes and sharing them with their friends; which could be perceived as the birth of “piracy”. In my opinion, this is the same thing consumers are doing today with their music files - the only difference is that now is being done on the internet instead of a cassette. Radio Host Dylan Lewis mentions that we share music to enable others to experience it; this has been part of our culture for a long time already (Lewis; Gloor). In one of the interviews done to emerging artist Davy Simony, he mentions that “If my music was pirated, it’s not a big issue for me because I am aiming for exposure…” (Lewis; Gloor, 1:11) This means that piracy could be used to promote emerging artists like him by providing much needed exposure that could lead to people even impulsively showing up to live shows. But the problem of paying for costly recording studios still exist, and even if you have your own music studio and avoid paying an engineer, how can you afford to pay for all that very expensive professional equipment? Radio Host Dylan Lewis says, “They (the record labels and artists) are making money out of all every single one of those people (consumers) by getting inspired enough to buy a mug, T-shirt, a key-ring - ranking it in with merchandise” (Lewis, 2:27). His comment refers to the music labels making money from every single artist being exposed on social media and piracy websites (YouTube-mp3.org, Facebook, The Pirate Bay, Tweeter, etc.). Once the artist or song becomes a social trend, consumers will get inspired to buy merchandize that actually makes more revenue than a full-album. Instead of making money from selling a $1.99 single on iTunes or an album for approximately $14.99, consumers will pay +$30 for a ticket to go see a live show. Some of them will even end up buying the merchandise offered to them after the show that could cost around +$20 depending on the product. Merchandize makes up for the money lost by pirated music, and piracy provides free exposure to the artist – online piracy does not look as bad anymore.
The government has tried various ways to put a stop to online piracy, the article “Action on PIPA, SOPA Postponed in Wake of Protest; Both Sides Vow to Continue Work on Online Copyright Bills” discusses the postponement of the legislative bills “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA)” and “Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)” in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, as protest against the bills increases. Topics include an overview of PIPA and SOPA, which are aimed at reducing copyright infringement on foreign websites and internet protests from several information websites such as Wikipedia. “Bills in both the House and Senate aimed at reducing copyright infringement on foreign websites have been put on hold as many co-sponsors withdrew their support in the wake of a widespread, vocal protest that included the ‘blackout’ of prominent websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit on Jan. 18” (Lynn, 3). Additionally, the hacktivist group “Anonymous” is doing whatever is necessary to put a stop to this. According to them, these bills are flawed and puts some civil rights at risk. There have been other websites charged with copyright infringement since the case of Napster, “The Justice Department on Jan. 19 announced that it has charged Megaupload Ltd., operator of content-hosting website MegaUpload.com, along with seven of its employees and a holding company used by MegaUpload’s founder…” (Lynn, 7). Following the shutdown of the Megaupload website, the website of the United States Department of Justice and a number of other websites were taken offline following concerted denial of service attacks attributed to Anonymous (Lynn, 7). Gizmodo (a technology weblog about consumer electronics) concurred that it was “almost certainly the result of a quickly assembled DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack—and easily the widest in scope and ferocity we've seen in some time”, commenting that “if you had any doubts Anonymous is still a hacker wrecking ball, doubt no more” (Williams, 3). Links posted in chat-rooms and on Twitter, when clicked on by unsuspecting Internet users, ran a web version of the application known as the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (Williams, 4). On 19 January 2012, Anonymous released a statement on Pastebin.com claiming responsibility for the mass attacks on websites including those of RIAA, MPAA, BMI, FBI, and others (Williams, 10). According to the RT network, Anonymous described the attacks as "the single largest Internet attack in its history" (Williams, 25). According to the “hacktivist” group Anonymous, the founders of Megaupload where sent to jail based on ridiculous charges. There are videos posted all over YouTube with announces of what they will do if this continues and charges are carried over. They mention that they will continue to attack US government websites and anyone that supports any of the proposed bills as a new law. Therefore, other alternatives are being offered to stop online piracy:
“The Justice Department’s announcement came the day after a widespread online protest of proposed legislation that would enable the Justice Department to obtain court orders directing Internet service providers to block domain name system (DNS) resolution of Internet addresses for foreign websites that courts have deemed to enable copyright infringement” (Lynn, 7).
Either bills (SOPA and PIPA) apply to foreign countries, allowing for HQ websites to be operating in countries where international piracy laws are not enforced or able to work around its legislature to somehow comply with international copyright infringement. Consequently, an effort has been done by the US government and Internet Service Providers (ISP) like Virgin, Verizon, Time Warner Cable to at least – theoretically – prevent people to access any websites that allow piracy in the US like the Swedish based website “The Pirate Bay”, that continues to share pirated files without any restrictions to this day.
The article "The Pirate Party and the Pirate Bay: How the Pirate Bay Influences Sweden and International Copyright Relations" provides a view on the birth of the Swedish website “The Pirate Bay”. It gives a detailed history of how it was established, the purpose of it, and how they utilize certain laws or non-existing laws to keep their website up and running challenging the idea if the Pirate Party may actually change International Intellectual Property Law. “From the roots of the Pirate Bay came the Piratpartiet (hereinafter ‘Pirate Party’), a political party within Sweden (and elsewhere) which advocates for reform of copyright laws” (Li, 283). The Pirate Bay itself was originally formed from members of the Piratbyran, a think tank devoted to the subject of lax copyrights. These new entities are unprecedented in the history of copyright protection; one can only imagine if enforcement should be undertaken against the Pirate Party and its affiliated organizations. There is a catch to this, since Sweden’s Constitution requires that any international agreements approved by the legislative body (‘Riksdag’) will create a duty to impose legislative revisions to implement those agreements (Li, 291). This has a great deal of relevance for Sweden’s Intellectual Property laws, as Sweden has consistently adapted its legislation to meet the requirements of international agreements (Li, 291); of course the Pirate Bay utilizes this for their own advantage. The hacking group Anonymous forced the Virgin Media website offline in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that lasted for one hour, after the ISP blocked access to The Pirate Bay file-sharing site following a court order from a High Court ruling in London (International Business, Times). The attack took place at 5pm UK time on 8 May and was a protest at Virgin Media's blocking of the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay. The Anonymous group of hackers took responsibility for the attack, several major record labels followed with a lawsuit including Sony, Virgin and EMI (International Business, Times). The Pirate Bay responded via Facebook to these actions with:
“…We'd like to be clear about our view on this. We do not encourage these actions. We believe in the open and free internets, where anyone can express their views. Even if we strongly disagree with them and even if they hate us. So don't fight them using their ugly methods. DDoS and blocks are both forms of censorship” (International Business Times, 7).
Even though the hacktivist group Anonymous is supporting the Pirate Bay movement, they still inform the public that they don’t agree with these actions since they are doing the same thing they are fighting against. The British Phonographic Industry, a lobbying group on behalf of artists argued during the legal case that “Sites like The Pirate Bay destroy jobs in the UK and undermine investment in new British artists” (International Business Times, 7). This gives a different perspective on how piracy is affecting jobs around the world, but after analyzing all this data we can see that corporations can actually obtain benefit from piracy if they use it for their own advantage. In my opinion, by not doing so their actions can be interpreted as a case of corporate greed – which is very common in the US.
While copyright holders attempt battle Bit torrent and other peer to peer applications, often times with technological innovation and stronger digital rights management technology (hereinafter “DRM”), Bit torrent websites will continue to spring up (Li, 282). It seems that no matter what laws are passed or how many websites are blocked, piracy or Bit torrent sites (file sharing applications) will keep emerging no matter what. It seems almost impossible to put a stop to this “problem”; instead we should use it to our advantage and find ways to obtain a positive result out of it.
As a musician, I have noticed that getting the right exposure can take virtually anybody to be successful in this industry even if the music is not that great. If online piracy is able to provide that to me for free, why not allow it and make the most of it? Before doing this research I was spectacle about this subject, not because of the “greed” for money or success, but the fear in knowing if anybody including myself, could continue to do what they love the most (music) without getting paid for their work entirely. When I decided to be a musician, I did it for the love of music – for people to listen to my message and relate to it in their own way. In my own personal opinion, when people are absolutely in love with your music, they will support you no matter what and buy your albums without illegally downloading them. Therefore, I wouldn't mind for my own music to be pirated since I am a new emerging local artist looking for that exposure. Obviously there is a lot of redundancy, and that everything will come down to personal ethics, morals, and opinions to decide whether support the musician or just get it for free neglecting all the issues mentioned in this blog. What do you think?
Borland, John. “Napster Boots Dr. Dre Fans from Service”, CNET News. Web Article. May 26, 2000. February 18, 2013. http://news.cnet.com/2100-1023-241159.html
Borland, John. “Napster, Universities Sued by Metallica”. CNET News. April 13, 2000. February 18, 2013 http://news.cnet.com/2100-1023-239263.html
Gloor, Alaneo; Lewis, Sean. “Face The Music - A Documentary About Music Piracy” YouTube, Jun 4, 2012. Free Documentary. Web. February 18, 2013.
International Business, Times. “Anonymous Hacks Virgin Media in Revenge for Blocking The Pirate Bay”. International Business Times Sept. 0005: Regional Business News. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.nu.edu/eds/detail?sid=d07327ba-138b-48c1-ada0-91aad0acdbe8%40sessionmgr113&vid=15&hid=106&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=bwh&AN=338924.20120509
Li, M. “The Pirate Party And The Pirate Bay: How The Pirate Bay Influences Sweden And International Copyright Relations”. Pace International Law Review 21.1 (2009): 281-308. British Library Document Supply Centre inside Serials & Conference Proceedings. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.
Sinha, Rajiv K; Machado, Fernando S; Sellman, Collin. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right: Music Piracy and Pricing in a DRM-Free Environment” Journal of Marketing, Vol. 74 Issue 2, (2010): 40-54. Electronic Print. Web. February 18, 2013.
Stanton, Lynn. “Action On PIPA, SOPA Postponed In Wake Of Protest; Both Sides Vow To Continue Work On Online Copyright Bills”. Telecommunications Reports 78.3 (2012): 3-7. Business Source Premier. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.
Williams, Christopher. “Anonymous attacks FBI website over Megaupload raids” The daily telegraph. Web. 20 Jan 2012. 19 Feb. 2013.
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