// Posted by Deirdre 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 RT.com “ 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.
RESULTS FROM OUR SURVEY
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.