Customary usage

In early February, a total $2.2 million in pirated goods were confiscated from four adults. The goods included 104,844 CDs and 39,000 DVDs.

In early February, one of the largest property seizures in history happened in Gresham, Ore. A total $2.2 million in pirated goods were confiscated from four adults. The goods included 104,844 CDs and 39,000 DVDs.

These figures are hard to wrap the mind around. How much must these items have been selling for to net such an enormous value? U-haul trucks had to be brought in to tow the merchandise, as well as several storage units rented to stow for evidence.

However, the reality of the broader situation is that some 3.6 billion songs are illegally downloaded each month in the United States alone.

This is a far cry from the piracy that we typically think of. When someone downloads a program like Limewire, they are rarely thinking of using it to make a giant profit from file sharing. Generally it is a harmless act brought on by the desperate need for more music (at least that’s how it is for music nerds like me). We download a few songs, add them to our iPod and are content.

Many people say there is no difference. The argument here is that the artists who make this music and media are being put into the poorhouse by our flamboyant disregard for their right to monetary gain from their trade.

It is true that downloading a song from the Internet usually doesn’t generate any earnings for the artists. But don’t feel too bad. Artists aren’t going bankrupt.

The difference, for me, lies in the use of the downloaded or copied file. If you are downloading massive amounts of music, for example, then putting it onto CDs and selling it, that is wrong. Why? In a way, it’s akin to breaking into someone’s house, stealing his or her TV and jewelry, and pawning it. It is not your art, and while it is appropriate to enjoy and consume that art, you have no right to make a profit off of it.

When media is downloaded or obtained for personal use, the user is making no profit. It’s public and very difficult to control the transfer of media. It would be like putting your TV out on the porch, and yelling at anyone who walked by that watched something on it.

I believe it is very important to keep media accessible to the masses. So many people look at file sharing in a negative light, but it is great publicity. In my case, if I download a song that I really like, it greatly increases the chances that I will buy the CD it came on. For up-and-coming bands and rising stars it exposes many people to the art that the artist is trying to put out there but doesn’t have the means or tacit to advertise.

Not only that, but big name artists don’t make the bulk of their fortune off of CDs or DVDs. They make the big bucks touring and selling other merchandise. They make massive amounts of money contributing to advertising for brands of anything out there on the market. Royalties are a very small percentage of their paycheck.   

Many companies have developed anti-piracy techniques, but, for the most part, it is very difficult to stop the sharing of music. The Audio Home Recording Act requires royalty taxes to be paid by PC hardware and software manufacturers, and to comply with the Serial Copy Management System requirement. Nonetheless, these are meager attempts that simply can’t keep up with technology.

Treating a college student who downloads some files off the Internet in an equal manner to the people who pirated and profited in the millions off stolen merchandise is absurd. It’s the dime bag of pot vs. kilograms of cocaine. Prosecute the criminals but leave us music loving fans alone!