on Sharing Music
The widespread usage of digital technology has allowed customers to reproduce digital variants of copyrighted songs, movies, books, and computer software free of charge. As a result, there has recently been a considerable rise in digital copying activities and producers of copyrighted music and movies have affirmed that digital copying is greatly responsible for their significant loss in revenues.
In April 2000 the rock group Metallica sued Napster, Inc. for allowing people to download copyrighted music through the Napster software. The conducted analysis indicates that downloading was a main factor in the decrease in music expenditure for households with children aged 6-17.
Sharing music without author’s consent violates the copyright laws, which purpose it to keep the intellectual property right of the author in order to help the creation of new ideas and not to hinder from the creation of new works. It also guarantees artists a fair return on their labors. Internet users who download music files without author’s agreement are actually stealing private property.
Apart from legal and financial issues, music sharing has several unethical aspects. The files available on the Internet to the general public can be of bad quality and thus harm the image and reputation of the author.
On the other hand, the overpricing of physically distributed musical records draws people to the use of free exchanges and online downloading. The musicians and producers should reconsider their pricing policies, especially if their main audience is teenagers.
Among advocates of free music sharing there is an opinion, that file sharing should be allowed as some kind of sampling of an album before buying it. For many music fans it is also a ways to discover new artists, which would be impossible otherwise. Some studies also suggest that online music sharing does not significantly harm financial income of the artists – while CD sales fall, people are buying more merchandize and visit concerts more often. Advocates of file sharing also believe that CDs are often over-prized and they do not want to pay the full prize if they want to listen to one or two songs from the album. A further argument in support of file sharing is that not all of its users would buy all of the material that they download. In other words, one illegal download will not immediately transform to one lost sale, as many anti-piracy groups claim.
I believe that online music sharing is unethical, unless of course the author of the music intends to share it. The artists may choose to distribute their works via Internet for free as a promotion tool or for any other reasons. This is the only kind of ethical file sharing.
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