Posted by Angela Nicole Chu
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Forever gone are the days of rushing to one’s nearest music store to purchase the latest CD of his or her favorite musical artist. Increasingly so, gone also are days of purchasing DVD box sets and computer software as well. The most common crime being committed by American youths today is that of piracy, the art of illegal downloading. In fact, it is so common, that it is rare to find someone not guilty of this crime at one point or another.
Ask someone between the ages of 10-to-25 what their most recent purchase is and many will struggle to remember. It might have been several years ago. For the younger end of that spectrum, it might have been never. “Who pays for music anymore?” says Julia Hembree* with a smirk. “That is so 2005.”
Beginning when 18-year-old Shawn Fanning created Napster—the first peer-to-peer (P2P) networking program—back during the summer of 1999, purchasing one’s music has since become a thing of the past. After backlash from metal band Metallica, who declared that people downloading their songs were thieves, Napster fell. From the ashes rose similar programs including Kazaa, Limewire, Frostwire, and Morpheus, all of which still allowed users to swiftly and easily garner .mp3 files of songs and other audio whenever desired absolutely free of charge.
Soon after, a new technology known as Bit Torrenting rose to power, which allowed for much larger files to be shared P2P. This meant that entire albums, rather than just individual songs, could be downloaded for free. Files containing movies and software also rose up on popular sites such as Pirate Bay and isoHunt, which host torrent files for users to download.
“I just got the new version of Adobe PhotoShop!” says Brent Jones* when asked about his downloading history. “Pirate Bay is awesome!”
At many colleges and universities, some of the P2P ports have been blocked by the Wi-Fi server, disabling many of the popular websites or slowing them down substantially. For instance, the Bellarmine University Student Handbook states that the university “prohibits anyone from using Bellarmine‐owned or provided computing resources for the purpose of violating copyright law”. The handbook warns that students can face penalties up to expulsion for violating this policy, as well as legal sanctions and monetary fines. Still, illegal downloading on campus has not come to the standstill the administration was hoping for. “They blocked a few sites, but they didn’t block them all,” Brianna Landry* says. “You’ve just got to know how to maneuver your way around the blocked ones to find what you’re looking for!”
Some people download music simply for convenience. “I enjoy a lot of Asian music,” admits Sarah Barnes*, “but the import fees to get the CD’s are nearly $30-40 at times, and it would take weeks to get my music. I’m not paying that much for a CD when I can get it online for free.”
Some websites like iTunes and Amazon have made legal downloading available to try to ease issues like Barnes’s, but with some consumers leery about entering their credit card information onto a website—especially while using unsecured Wi-Fi servers found in most public places including college campuses—the free route still seems to be winning.
In a sort of compromise, many artists are now releasing their albums free of charge on their personal websites, with the option to pay the artist any amount of their choosing. Famed rock group Radiohead, was one of the first to try this endeavor back with their 2007 album In Rainbows. While some consumers took the free album, other fans paid amounts in excess of $20 or $30 to their favorite band as a way of showing their support. Since then, many other artists have jumped on the bandwagon, which also allows them to keep more royalties than if a music label had executed the sales.
“I’m more willing to purchase an album if I know the profits are going to the artist and not some greedy CEO,” says Dana Levins*. “If I know the artist is only gonna see like $1 of the $15 I paid for the CD, then I’m just gonna download it.”