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How the Digital World has Influenced Music

// Posted by on 04/03/2014 (9:05 PM)

By: Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, Claire Hollingsworth, and Molly Reilly



There has been a long history of evolving copyright laws to get to where we are in history… Read more


By: Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, Claire Hollingsworth, and Molly Reilly



There has been a long history of evolving copyright laws to get to where we are in history today. The most notable dates with the evolution of copyrights with respect to digital media are listed above. The 1994 Conference on Fair Use was a venue for the discussion of issues on fair use in the electronic environment. One of the biggest obstacles to the internet and the creators of content on the internet is the lack of regulation regarding fair use. At this fair there were a number of guidelines proposed guidelines in areas such as interlibrary loan, electronic reserves, digital images, and distance education. The 1996 Database protection legislation introduced the Database Investment and Intellectual Antipiracy Act of 1996. This act helped protect intellectual property and helped start the framework of controlling piracy on the internet. 1998 Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act changed the  protected the life of the author plus fifty years to life of the author plus seventy years. One of the most notable laws for the protection of creative work is the 1999 digital theft deterrence and copyright damages improvement act of 1999. This law increased the maximum damages for digital theft to a 20,000 and 30,000 dollars.

While there were several notable court cases in the later 2000’s, few changes to copyrights laws were implemented with the changing times, or if there were changes in fair use laws it is happening slower than how technology is evolving. This is the problems many artists and online creators of content are running into. Music is evolving at the pace of technology however copyright laws can’t keep up. There have been several cases where congress has been attempting to crack down on illegally downloading music to make a case out of ordinary U.S citizens. In an article from “ Supreme Court Approved $222k Fine for 24 illegally downloaded songs. As a response to the settlement which is under appeals as of now was:

There’s no way they can collect,” she said. “Right now I get energy assistance because I have four kids. It’s just one income. My husband isn’t working. It’s not possible for them to collect even if they wanted to. I have no assets.”

The question we have to ask ourselves is what is the benefit to these trials and cases. As we can see from our survey the illegal downloading of music has consistently remained a part of our lives since Jammie Thomas-Rasset’s court hearings began in 2007. The biggest argument against the free sharing of music and information is that it hurts the artists that produce the music. But the question is, does it hurt the artists that create the music or the music industry and music producers as a corporation. In an blog entry from a site entitled “Record Labels: Behind the Glamour” it states “Internet music piracy not only doesn’t hurt legitimate CD sales, it may even boost sales of some types of music.” They go on to talk about how many consumers after illegally downloading a few songs will in many cases go to purchase the whole CD at another source. However it is crucial to mention this blog was written in 2004 where the quality and availability of downloadable music was much less.

Based on our survey most students go to the internet to illegally download music for a majority of their music collection. But we also have to evaluate the portion of an artist’s income that is really affected by record sales. Would artists be smarter to simply use their song releases as a form of marketing and to gain wider appeal with the general public. Artists, such as Beyonce, generates her 52 million dollar a year income with everything from sponsorships to tour dates to even a beauty skin care line. Beyonce certainly does not seem to be hurting from the changing technologies if anything she has harnessed the explosion of social media sites, even dropping her most recent album with no marketing or advertising at all. The availability of information and internet culture have allowed her to do that.

It will be interesting to see in the future how illegal downloading will continue to evolve and to change. As of right now the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) seems no closer to backing down. As of April 1, 2014 this was the their stance and punishment on illegally downloading music:

“Making unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings is against the law and may subject you to civil and criminal liability.  A civil law suit could hold you responsible for thousands of dollars in damages. Criminal charges may leave you with a felony record, accompanied by up to five years of jail time and fines up to $250,000.”

The CIAA also states that the annual harm coming from illegally downloading music comes out to around 12.5 billion dollars a year as well as more than 70,000 american jobs lost and 2 billion in lost wages to American workers. While these are staggering statistics is this just the way the music industry is going as the economy evolves and changes? We can go back all the way to the airplane where in Lawrence Lessig’s book “Free Culture” he references a court case involving Thomas Lee and Tinie Causby where the invention of the airplane had affected their farm when military planes flew too close the ground over their lands. In the end the judge ruled the farmers out of date with the current times and we had to keep up with the changing technologies. The case with the farmers is a more cut and dry case and the artists do have more rights to their intellectual property than the farmers did over the air above their land but we still have to think about how the landscape of the internet has changed the music industries environment. Will copyright laws evolving with times or will they be stuck in the past or will they take the internet as the disruptive innovation that it is and evolve and come out stronger for utilizing its power rather than fighting against it.



There’s no denying it: people pirate music.  Most people know it’s illegal, and many feel at least a little conflicted about it, but it happens. The question is, why does it happen?  There are a lot of justifications offered about why people might choose to illegally download a song when they would be more hesitant to steal a physical album.

The first and most obvious reason is that pirated music is free.  This seems consistent with survey data we found that most respondents would be more willing to legally purchase their music if they could set the price.  This also seems consistent with the rise of sites like Bandcamp, which allow users to set prices for album, the popularity of Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, and the use of apps like Spotify which allow for free or cheap legal consumption.

Another idea that has been popularized is that people pirate music as a political statement or because they believe that the artists are not being harmed, since they already make so little off of their album sales.  This seems consistent with the data we found saying that people are more likely to pay for music from artists they really like and would be more likely to pay for music if more went to the artists themselves.

Finally, some of the interesting data had to do with the sources of piracy and the types of music people were more likely to pay for versus pirate.  The two genres most likely to be pirated?  Electronic/EDM and Top 40.





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Violence in the Real and Online World

// Posted by on 03/24/2014 (1:48 PM)

After our classroom discussion, I was really struck by the concept of “online life” and “real life”. In the beginning of the semester we talked a little about the disconnect between the two and at the time I truly… Read more


After our classroom discussion, I was really struck by the concept of “online life” and “real life”. In the beginning of the semester we talked a little about the disconnect between the two and at the time I truly believed that certain aspects of online behavior only mattered in the online world and could remain there. After reading an article series by Quinn Norton about women on the Internet and the responses they often receive, I started to think differently about the idea of separate lives online and in real life. The main portion of the Hess article that struck me was when she was describing a situation in which she called the police to report death threats that people had been commenting on her twitter account. The police officer that responded to the call was hesitant to take action against the threats due to the potential infidelity of the situation. He raised the point that these threats could be coming from anywhere in the world and therefore could actually not be an imminent threat.

While it is true that this threat could be coming from thousands of miles away, should that matter? Is tangle nature of the threat the most important issue? I believe that this situation blurs the ability to separate the real world from the online world. While the threat could be impossible to physically happen, the real issue is the treatment of women in ALL arenas of life, both online and in person. This situation brings light to greater issue of why people, men particularly act aggressive and violent towards women. Violence towards women is a large issue supported by many different organizations throughout the world. Online is the next frontier for tackling this issue. I believe that the divide between online life and real life is what is causing online violence towards women to be devalued. It is imperative for our society to view violence towards women as one homogenous issue, not one that can be split into two different worlds. Online threats are just as damaging to the physical and emotional bodies of women as threats in person.

These issues open up questions of where our legal system will. As new technologies develop, our legal system must try it’s hardest to keep up in order to protect our citizens. The Internet and its global capabilities pose new threats to our legal system. The idea of humans as “netizens” raises the question how to regulate people in a realm without borders and clear lines of the authority. Despite the ambiguity of authority online, there is a obvious problem that needs a solution. Violent language and threats made to women, regardless of in person or online, are a dark side of communication and need to be prevented. As we move forward into a world that blends both in person and online interactions, how we will enforce law and order?

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Money For Nothing

// Posted by on 01/27/2013 (10:33 PM)

“You break into any system that you are not authorized to enter, you should be willing and able to face the consequences. The Age of the Merry Pranksters and a Bus going Further are long gone. I loved it then… Read more


“You break into any system that you are not authorized to enter, you should be willing and able to face the consequences. The Age of the Merry Pranksters and a Bus going Further are long gone. I loved it then but this time is not then. Too many scammers and info-terrorists are running rampant so Hacker Beware.”

That is an individual’s comment on a New York Times article concerning the Aaron Swartz situation. In his eyes, Swartz illegally downloaded millions of copy-written files and was completely responsible for his actions. This is certainly a valid point; after all, the documents WERE held on a secure subscription-only server, and he TECHNICALLY broke the law. However, are today’s piracy and copyright laws outdated and incapable of properly policing online illegal activity? After all, Swartz’s potential punishment was “35 years and $1 million in fines,” a punishment rivaling that of armed robbers and individuals who commit dangerous, face-to-face crimes.

Although JSTOR opted to not press charges against Swartz, other organizations have taken ineffective and costly approaches to “punish” those who have illegally downloaded products online. The RIAA is notorious for suing people of all ages (as in, from children and the elderly) for thousands of dollars per illegally downloaded song. In this article research shows that out of $64 million spent on lawsuit campaigns, they only brought in about $1.4 million in settlement money. That’s only 2% of the money they spent that they’re getting back.

I’ve done a ton of research on copyright laws and the media in the past, and from my research I’ve concluded that today’s laws are inadequate in the face of the vast amount of technological changes that have occurred since they were written. For example, is it illegal for an individual to buy a game or a movie legally and then pirate the same copy just so that he or she can get around the pesky always-stay-online” DRM included in the paid version? That’s what happened to Shawn Hogan, who was sued after illegally downloading the movie Meet The Fockers via BitTorrent. His case was unique because he provided evidence that he owned a legitimate copy of the DVD, and the case was settled.

I am not an opponent to strict copyright laws. After all, people deserve to be paid for their work. However, I think that the laws need to be revamped, thrown away, or replaced in order to accomodate a world in which law-abiding people are being sued for thousands of dollars for “illegal” activities that, under scrutiny, aren’t worth the pain and suffering that they cause. If someone wants to both buy a copy of Diablo 3 and a pirated version just to play the pirated copy offline, who are they actually hurting? If Aaron Swartz takes JSTOR articles and posts them for others to read, should he be imprisoned for 35 years? Where does it END?

By: Andrew Jones

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