HecklerPlay: Illegal Downloading Vs The Music Industry Drags On And On

Stealing singles or albums isn’t a new concept for the music industry. Ever since the days of the cassette, anyone listening to the Top 40 could bootleg tracks off the radio in varying degrees of quality.

Unless you attempted to flog these DIY tapes down a car boot sale, you’d never be caught. For the more adventurous, HMV present a shop-lifting challenge for free physical content and a running contest against overweight security guards.

When the internet came along, the ability to get free music dramatically rocketed. Pioneering sites such as Napster and Soulseek allowed users around the world to share music files once a simple piece of software had been installed. Unlike recording songs via tape, a digital footprint could be traced back to users. This landed a few individuals in hot water and back in 2007 Joel Tenenbaum was one of 35,000 individuals sued by Recording Industry Association of America. And this case is dragging out… on and on and on…

By all accounts, 35,000 people does seem like quite a lot, but when you consider the size of America, the number is a fraction of those committing similar crimes across the country. The Recording Industry Association of America may as well of rounded up everyone living in Harlem and accused them all of pinching stuff which isn’t theirs.

We all know stealing is bad, but lines are blurred in cases like these as nothing has been physically removed from one place and taken to another. Instead, someone sitting on a computer has copied a file and placed it on to their own computer, like the nude Scarlett Johansson pictures.

But then we have to question whether someone downloading MP3s is giving themselves a free taster of an album before deciding to go out and buy the real thing? The music industry sometimes forgets with the world’s economy going belly up, buying a CD isn’t everyone’s main priority.

Still, despite some logical thinking certain, you’d assume that in the case of Joel Tenenbaum, he was excessively downloading content. But no, it was thirty tracks. Initially, he seemed to blame anyone, including burglars, a foster child and his sisters before finally confessing. Unless it was someone like Steve Jobs, than we can’t think of anyone who’d break into a home and download a load of files to someone else’s computer.

So how do you punish someone for stealing?

If you’re caught nicking something in the world, then depending on the size and value of the item, it’ll be a small charge, a light telling off or a stint in prison. But if you steal an MP3 in America, prepare to literally pay the price. $22,500 to be precise, per song. By our reckoning, The Recording Industry Association of America wants to charge him $675,000. We’ll also go out on a limb and guess that he doesn’t have the amount of money stored up in an offshore bank.

People have often criticised the cost of a CD album, so with this ridiculous charge against some random, it won’t do the music industry any good. Whilst we’re not condoning what’s been done, surely a more apt punishment would be to look at the base cost of the content and then charge a little bit more as an add on? Therefore the artist gets paid and a fat cat record executive can line their pockets.

Alternatively, we could force them Joel Tenenbaum to spend a day with hip hop tit Kanye West. Nobody would be able to stomach that.

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Comments

  1. Cookie Monster says

    “Instead, someone sitting on a computer has copied a file and placed it on to their own computer, like the nude Scarlett Johansson pictures.”

    Interesting. The pictures were allegedly stolen, so would that make anyone who browsed the Hecklerspray article featuring that stolen content guilty of duplicating said content (as their browser would drop a copy in its cache), and thereby a criminal? As they say, possession is 90% of the law, therefore by being in possession of the stolen article, you are guilty.

    As with drugs, the standard practice is to go after the distributors. In peer-to-peer, with default settings, every consumer is also a distributor. That means that you can sue a consumer based not on having a lifted copy, but based on how many times the copy was lifted (partially? fully?) from them. That’s RIAA’s logic, and they’re sticking to it. Where they have trouble identifying the distributor, they’ll go after anyone who they see as facilitating. With newsgroups, they went after Newzbin (basically a search engine for newsgroups). With peer-to-peer, they went after Pirate Bay. Google is too big to really tackle, and they have played nice with YouTube and Google search results.

    Meh, it’s all complicated. It could have been resolved when it began if only they had recognized what was happening, and embraced it with a business model other than “burn it with fire!”. Instead, iTunes is eating their lunch, and they have to smile while it happens.