In today’s digital world piracy is a major issue because it has a deep social impact, on both the economy and the intellectual property (which is becoming easier to steel every passing day in today’s digital world). The sector which has mostly been affected by piracy, is the music industry. The music industry refers to: the record companies, artists, producers, publishers and all of their employees. Music pirates benefit from the loss of the record companies. The United States loses each day one million dollars, only due to off-line piracy. According to the RIAA, the industry loses about $4.2 billion to piracy worldwide (And these figures only include physical products)1. “Music piracy is the illegal duplication and distribution of sound recordings”.2 There are four specific categories of music piracy: pirate recordings, counterfeit recoedings, bootleg recordings and the online piracy.

(Criterion B) It Background of The Issue

The vast music piracy which occurs today is directly linked to the developments in technology which make it easier for music products to be copied and distributed. This is in reference to the introduction of the compact disk (CD) and the mp3 format. A CD is a polycarbonate with one or more metal layers capable of storing digital information.3 The compact disc has brought many advantages to both the music industry and the music listeners, CDs are smaller, lighter and have a higher sound quality which does not deteriorate over time. However the introduction of CDs has led to the development of the CD-R which brought a major disadvantage to the music industry because of the ease of reproducing CD recordings: anywhere, using inexpensive equipment and without a quality loss.

The equipment required to manufacture CD-Rs is relatively portable and quite inexpensive – a few hundred dollars for the hardware, and less than $1 for a blank disc.4 Because of the very cheap investment which is required, pirates can set up a shop in their own homes, making it almost impossible for them to be tracked down. Burning a CD-R is also quite fast, taking just a few minutes for the creation of a CD which give pirates the ability to create big numbers of copies just when needed, so they don’t leave any evidence behind.

Another technological development which has made it easier for pirates to be able to get the music they intend to copy on CDs or CD-Rs, is the Internet and the MP3 file format. The Internet has done both good and bad for the music industry. The Internet brought music to a wider public and gave artists an easier and cheaper way to promote their products and their image, but at the same time it gave music pirates a new way to get an distribute their materials. The MP3 is a sound file format which is used to compress files by removing all the redundant and irrelevant parts of a sound signal human ear doesn’t hear anyway. 5 This took the size of sound files very low without being able to hear a difference between the mp3 file and the original sound. “Anyone can put a CD or just a song into cyberspace and, with the click of a mouse, send it worldwide….”6 As a consequence this also aloud the ease of transferring music files using peer-to-peer programs such as Kazaa or Morpheus, without authorization or compensation of the artists.

(Criterion C) Analyzing the Impact of the Issue

The biggest problem and the reason why music piracy has such a big impact on society is because most people do not understand the negative impact of piracy on the music industry. Record companies and artists stopped making as much money as they used to through the sales of their music. This is because each sale by a pirate represents a lost legitimate sale, depriving of profits as mentioned before not only the record company, but also the artist, producer, publisher, retailer e.t.c..

Piracy also has an impact on the consumer himself, because most pirated products are generally poorly manufactured and do not include the superior sound quality, art work, and the information included in a legitimate product. People which buy legitimate products, have to pay more money because record companies raise their prices in order to compensate for the money they loose from piracy.

The RIAA provides figures which show that the industry loses about 4.2 billion dollars to piracy worldwide. However these figures are over inflated because it is inferred that people which buy pirated copies of CDs would have the money to buy a real one. The truth is that many people resort to pirated CDs since they can not afford an authentic one, just like with clothes.

Honest retailers lose also loose because they can’t compete with the prices offered by illegal vendors, which means less jobs because of the smaller profit. In order to keep their profits record companies raise their prices, however this has proved to be unsuccessful technique because the only thing that was done was to make more people start downloading songs without a copyright from the Internet.7

Musicians, singers, songwriters and producers don’t get the profit they should have earned and therefore less people are going into the music because it is too hard to make a living out of it, this results into a creativity loss. The only part of society which is really profiting from this are the CD-R producers which do not have any risks, because even the music pirates are loosing because they have to bare the potential risk of getting caught. As Adrian Strain said, “CD-R is the new form of commercial piracy. In the United States CD-Rs outsell pre-recorded CDs by 1.3 billion to 942 million.”

(Criterion D) Solutions to Problems Arising From the Issue

In my opinion the best solution for reducing music piracy is by educating people about the negative effects that it has on themselves, their society and how can they report it. The record companies should allocate money for commercials and campaigns against piracy which explain the impact of music piracy upon the artist and the potential risks of getting caught using or producing this illegitimate recordings. People should be informed from early ages about the impact it has on them through programs which makes them understand that piracy is theft. Since piracy is such a major issue people should be informed about what they can do in order to stop piracy and how to report any information they have about this problem.

Facts about what happens to the people who sell, make or buy illegal CDs should be on the news more often which will help people understand what could happen to them if they involve themselves in such illegal type of actions. It is preferable to educate all citizens so they know what is legal rather than imprison them and making them learn from their mistakes. Such an educational campaign which explained the effects of music piracy to more than 300 universities took place in the US, and resulted in a 40% drop in the number of music sites on University servers offering illegal downloads.8 This shows that it has had a major impact, and more money should be invested in such actions.

Another way of solving this problem which is already in use by some record companies would be to create CDs which can not be used in computer a computer CD-rom, this will drop the rate of online piracy because the files on the CDs will not be able to be turned into mp3s and be distributed over internet. Copying using a CD by using a CD-writer will also be more complicated because the CD-rom won’t be able to seed the CD. Unfortunately CD-pirates found ways of getting around this type of CD protection, and in the end the only one which lost is the consumer which can not listen to his music using his computer.

In the end any type of encryption will be decrypted and the truth is that it is just a matter of time. This is why in my opinion I think that the first solution is more plausible and is easier to achieve. Being realistic we have to admit that piracy will always exist and that there is no solution which can stop piracy, however it is important to find ways in which you can keep some margins to the level of piracy.

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