Each year the music industry loses $12.5 billion in revenue, 71,060 jobs and $2.7 billion in earnings due to online piracy, according to a study done by the Institute for Policy Innovation. These figures represent just a snippet of the baffling numbers behind an act that has become all too common in the modern age.
How common? A 2004 study found that 86 percent of teenagers think music piracy is morally acceptable. The Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice found in a survey that at least 86 percent of college students had used a peer-to-peer website to illegally download music. The University of Southern Mississippi did a similar study in 2012 with the comparable result that 90 percent of college students had pirated music. These numbers are high, yet they continue to rise even with application of the U.S. Copyright Act, which made pirating music an illegal act.
Many argue that pirating does not pose a problem to a market as established as the music industry. However, regardless of the economics of piracy, which indisputably hinder the potential growth of the industry, the act is unethical. What makes a crime like illegal downloading seem like a mere peccadillo is the detachment the downloader feels because he is able to hide behind a computer screen — he never has to look a store clerk in the eye, look surreptitiously over his shoulder and slip a CD into his pocket before walking out. The crime is no longer as personal and therefore feels less wrong, even though the crime equates exactly to stealing from a store.
THE EDITORS: That fatal Apple.
Many of my peers defend their theft by asking if I really thought they would pay for all the music on their iPods.
Of course I would. Just because they want the music does not mean they are entitled to it — when has desire been reason enough to justify stealing the work of others? This view seems to stem from the hedonistic outlook that any action which gives us pleasure and does not appreciably harm others is justified on those bases alone.
As an avid music fan, I try to keep up with the genres and artists I like as much as possible. Luckily, there are websites like Bandcamp.com and Soundcloud.com that serve as outlets for artists to upload their own music for others to listen and download. My favorite music software is Spotify, which provides paid and unpaid accounts where one can listen to almost any music ever created. Crucially, for each listen, money goes to the artist.
With so many opportunities available to legally acquire music, why would you want to hurt a rising artist or an upcoming production label? Our own town, Athens, is known for its music scene, as many rising artists try to make a name for themselves. If you like an artist’s music, the best way to ensure that there will be more of it in the future is to support the industry — pay the $0.99 for the song, or else take the time to find it on an artist-authorized site.
The culture we live in, vaunting its moral relativism, glorifies caring for and respecting others — but only so far as it does not interfere with what we want for ourselves. In the case of pirating, we care for and respect a particular artist only until the moment we press the “free download” button. Then we become the nihilists of The Big Lebowski, doing only what suits our personal interests without regard for others.
—Samuel Kirk Glaze is a freshman studying political science
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