The worldwide music industry went through a series of prosperity in the last decade. There was a booming album sale which was experienced especially from 1990 to 1997. However, towards the end of the 1990s, serious decline in the volume of sales was encountered. Unfortunately, the music and video industry is not enjoying the sale euphoria any more; a lot has transformed in regard to how users can acquire copies of music or video files. Statistics reveal that the overall volume of music sales has substantially dropped in the recent past. Of great concern is the slow rate at which music and video Compact Discs are no longer the best of choice for entertainment enthusiasts. Questions have arisen as to why there is an alarming downward trend in the demand of these products while the industry has been one of the fastest expanding in the world in the last millennium. In fact, with the latest development in technology coupled with the advent of information superhighway, otherwise known as the internet, it has become increasingly easy to share both music and video files online at little or no cost at all. This trend is being blamed for the current crisis the music industry is going through.
Human nature is naturally endowed with much intellectual ability. For this reason, man has been and will continue to be very creative in his endeavors. A lot has been advanced by man both in the field of technology and physical environment. The Intellect required to perfect technology cannot be touched because it requires the use of the mind. Therefore, it is a private entity of the mind best referred to as the intellectual property. Besides, the physical ownership of property or tangible objects has well structured protection by the law all over the world. However, the legislation governing intellectual property has never been thoroughly and well defined. Moreover, keeping track of intellectual theft is equally a glaring challenge to the law enforcers today. Music and video downloads alongside other digitized materials are currently facing this violation. Consequently, the music industry is feeling the heat associated with reduced sales. The illegal downloading of music and videos is currently affecting both the music industry and consumers: production and sales of CDs and DVDs has lessened and consumers are paying the price for the black market activities.
The ease with which internet users can share music and video files has become rampant. The inception of Napster towards the end of last millennium went against the existing copyright laws on music because many works by different artists could be accessed through the World Wide Web without undergoing any cost (Zentner n.d). The site became very famous and was considered to be one of the fastest software to be accepted in the history of computing. Due to its great repercussion in the music industry, the recording Industry Association of America attempted to seek fresh regulation against it through the Congress. The argument put forward by this association was that Napster was creating an enabling environment for the infringing of copyright laws. Although Napster was deregistered by the beginning of 2001, not much has changed because there are other several user friendly sites which succeeded it and still allows downloading of music and video files without prior written permission from owners.
Sharing files through the internet has a dominant effect on the music industry. Moreover, the trend has dramatically grown especially among the youthful age. There are staggering figures which depict how online file sharing has a firm ground (Spinello & Tavani, 2004).
The 2001 survey revealed that there are over three million worldwide internet enthusiasts who have the access and ability to download music and video files from the huge collection of albums available online. Undoubtedly, this number has indeed grown with time and we expect more users at this present age and time.
High speed Downloads
Besides, the use of broadband-enhanced technologies enables quick downloads of music and video files compared to the old system which would take several minutes to download a small volume of music file. However, there are those who still question the authenticity of the argument that file sharing lowers the overall volume of sales and consequently deprives artists of their expected and rightful returns. Moreover, there has been debate going on that downloading music and video file from the internet cannot be pointed out as the main cause behind the drop in sales over the recent past. Meanwhile, it is imperative to have an empirical analysis on whether online file sharing can be blamed on this decline.
To begin with, the ability to share files at almost no cost over the World Wide Web goes against the boundaries set by copyright laws. Furthermore, it implies that online users have the alternative of obtaining videos and music they want without paying for any returns to this form of intellectual property. The end product of this culture is definitely the deprivation of artists through non-violent robbery of their intellectual property. Users who download files from the internet are less likely to purchase the same products over the counters. As a matter of fact, the quality of the downloaded material is not compromised at all.
Slightly over two billion U.S dollars were gained from music and video sales during the beginning of the new millennium. In these sales, it was found that the Compact Disc was the most famous form of music purchased (Spinello & Tavani, 2004). As a result, its price has remained a bit high therefore scaring other users. In seeking for an option, some tend to switch to the internet where they can obtain music and video of their choice. Since all music that is downloaded can be used by more than one person, there is a tendency of such users not reverting to the actual buying of legal products. This will, on the other hand, lead to reduced sales of both audio music and video. In reality, if those who download music would resort to buying legitimate copies, then the total quantity sold would be higher than it is today. Some figures reveal that online file sharing has the potential of reducing the desire to buy by about thirty per cent. This is a whooping figure bearing in mind that the number keeps growing on a daily basis.
The intellectual property rights aim at protecting trade marks, software data, and copyrights (Stamatellos, 2004). These rights are rarely upheld bearing in mind that a variety of ways can be used to acquire data illegally. For instance, some users might modify, transfer or store information in a retrieval system without prior permission from the owner. Duplication of compact discs containing music or video files amounts to intellectual rights violation. Rogerson and Bynum observe that as the society is focusing on the huge benefits accrued from information Technology, the moral aspect of this development may be forgotten (143). Upon deeper reflection, the authors assert that lack of proper morality and the “condemnation of an immoral act” have been missing in the protection of intellectual property. Most important issues on moral aspect of communication technology do not receive headlines. As much as we use and appreciate technology, protecting its integrity and creators in this field is imperative.
Spinello and Tavani (2004), elicit a different reaction that there may be more future failure of intellectual property protection due to revolution of the cyberspace or information superhighway. The views portrayed in copyright protection might be modified due to the very existence of the internet. Plenty of what we claim to be “free” information in the internet is not actually free because it actually cost an intellectual mind to resource and develop it. Even with information sharing in the internet, there are still certain restrictions and quantity limits of how much can be downloaded “freely” on the net (Spinello & Tavani, 2004). Those who predict that we are approaching the age of free information with internet revolution might as well be misguided. What is really there is easy access to information which must be paid for. Moreover, information accessibility in the net is limited; not everything is in the cyberspace. Besides, not all data in the net is suitable and authenticated for use.
Even as the intellectual property right is continually violated, it is still very tricky and challenging to track down offenders due to a myriad of limitations which prevail. For instance, there is no sufficient data to act as a guideline on the extent of online music and video piracy. There has been more speculation than reality. Nevertheless, the copyright laws are being flouted whenever files are shared on the internet (Goolsbee, 2002).
Computers which are connected in a communication network have immensely facilitated file sharing and this can be done even in the most remote locations. In this case, physical distance does not matter.
Duplication of CDs
In addition to the above loopholes, the downloaded music and video filed can be uploaded in personal computers and then reproduced through CD “burning” technology. If this is carried out on large scale, music stores will be impacted negatively because there will be a lower likelihood of these users jamming the stalls to buy them. Furthermore, there are other recent inventions whereby large volumes of music can be downloaded from the internet and then compressed into Moving Picture 3 format to occupy less volume. If this is anything to go by, then the direct sale of music and video CDs will continue to go down.
Not all online downloads may be classified as piracy. There are indeed legitimate music and video downloads which users can pay for. However, this accounts for a very small portion since the same materials may be obtained for free with the online presence of peer music and video sharing.
Another worrying factor for the music industry is that the illegitimate sites are more empowered and enhanced to download larger files than the legally recognized sites. The music menu in these piracy sites has a wide variety. This is a real threat to music industry. From June 2003, the music copyright association in the United States of America has had fruitless attempts of reporting individuals who are too generous to avail significant quantities of music for free online sharing (Kai-Lung & Png, 2003). This has had little success because there is much to be desired in the music industry up to date in regard to declining level of music and video sales. Besides, some latest figures showing how the music industry has been downtrodden over the past four years or so indicate that the sale on Compact Discs has declined by between fifteen and thirty per cent. There are other alarming figures which approximate over fifty million Americans to be on the business of internet music piracy (Stamatellos, 2007).
This habit is believed to be incurring the industry at least seven hundred million dollars in terms of loss on a yearly basis. This is sad news to the artists who spent valuable time and financial resources to produce their artistic works. Panel meetings consisting of artists, advocates, song writers, and businessmen have quite often failed to reach unanimity on how to tackle this incessantly growing challenge. However, they all confirm that digital music file sharing is rocking the once upon viable industry. Piracy is curtailing the financial status of not only the artists but the entire industry as well (Bynum & Rogerson, 2004).
It should be noted that the music industry hosts several players which include but not limited to composers, producers, entrepreneurs and the government due to revenue generated through normal taxation regimes.
In order to maintain the vibrancy that was once experienced in the industry, strict and viable anti-piracy laws are long overdue especially those regarding access to free music and video on the internet. If drastic and workable solutions are not embraced as a matter of urgency, the industry may find it cumbersome to penetrate through the next ten years or so. But even before that decade elapses, meaningful strategic efforts can be instituted to safeguard the music industry.
Information ownership logistics through music and video files is rather different from other forms of physical acquisition and ownership (Stamatellos, 2007). In the first place, it would be easy to identify those culprits who violate private property through normal theft. However, music piracy through the internet is a complicated concept. It is indeed cumbersome to identify those who violate copyright laws. Some incidences take place in secret places like in the bedrooms. There are those who defend the practice by arguing that even after piracy, the original file remains intact without any damage or alteration whatsoever. Nonetheless, although the initial source of the data is not corrupted, it still amounts to intellectual property theft (Kai-Lung & Png, 2003).
The artist does not get the expected returns for the hard work done. Besides, intellectual property concept has perhaps not achieved the much needed attention it deserves. If that was the case, then illegal free online music and video downloading would not have been one of the threats facing the industry today.
It is also significant to appreciate the fast rate at which technology has grown. Earlier versions of computers were slow and could download a substantial amount of information. However, the latest technology has multiplied the rate at which information can be retrieved from the internet (Zentner, n.d). This should not, however, imply that technology is to blame. In fact, technology and all that comes with it is driven by human intellect. It is therefore up to online computer users to exercise ethics when attempting to obtain copyrighted information for free, of course without a written consent from the ownership.
In reiterating the thesis statement, it is indeed factual that music and video piracy through the Internet has affected both the music industry players and consumers as well. Due to easy access to sites that navigate users to free downloading tools, the tendency to buy music and video Compact Discs directly from music shops has declined over the past few years. In fact, there are alarming figures depicting serious declining trends in the volume of sales. Besides, the ability to share files irrespective of the physical distance has worsened the situation with more music enthusiasts resorting to obtaining free samples from the internet.
The more worrying factor is the status quo of intellectual property rights protection. In retrospect, these laws have been quite effective in tracking down offenders who duplicate music and video files using computer software. However, the existing intellectual property laws have not been able to tackle this modern age crime. It is quite cumbersome to track down offenders who may download or share files in the most remote of locations.
Bynum, T W and Rogerson, S. (2004). Computer ethics and professional responsibility, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Goolsbee, A. (2002). In a World without Borders: The impact of Taxes on Internet Commerce, Quarterly Journal of Economics 115(2), 561-576
Kai-Lung, H and Png, I. (2003). Piracy and the Legitimate Demand For Recorded Music, Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy, 2(1) article 11
Spinello A. R. and Tavani T. H. (Eds.) (2004). Readings in cyber ethics 2nd Ed. Mississauga: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Stamatellos, G. (2007). Computer Ethics: A Global Perspective Athens, Athens: Joanes and Bartlet publishers
Zentner, A. (n.d). Measuring the Effect of Online Music Piracy on Music Sales. 2010. Web.