It is an accepted fact that with the onset and penetration of the World Wide Web and newer software, the world has become a smaller place and it is now extremely easy to connect or to have access to any part of the world. However, morals and ethics remain to be a concern to most domains of the internet world, more specifically, the media and the music industry. The creation of downloading services such as the likes of iTunes and Napster have made it increasingly simple to access, attain and consume music. This has given rise to several concerns by the music industry, whether companies should restrict the free access and availability of music lovers to online music or make them pay for these services.
Obviously, this concern and subsequent propositions seem illogical, since the very reason that the music exists on these internet engines is to gain popularity and ensure a far-reaching audience. Globalization has many benefits and the primary advantage is the far outreach of music to geographical locations far and wide. Today, the launch of a music album in the United States of America can be easily and almost effortlessly accessed by people staying in remote locations such as India, China, the Middle East, or any other part of the world. The reason for this is quite obvious; the internet and the advertisement of music through the internet. Music companies and artists have the potential of reaching a wider audience and hence elevate their profits and earnings tremendously.
While there is constant debate over copyright laws which argue that since “man himself was the first and germinal form of man’s own property, from which it followed that the fruits of his labor were also his property or responsibility” (John Locke, 1690), if something needs to be protected, it should be not be made available and accessible to the general public. If it is made accessible to the general public and online users of music, the purpose of advertisement and popularity of the artists is achieved and individuals begin to identify with and recognize these new albums, artists, and their music. So, artists and the music industry should stop complaining about thefts and sharing of music over the net, since it is these very tools that enable them to achieve fame success and glory, all the world over.
The first chapter one of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 clearly states that the owner of the copyright has the sole authority to reproduce and distribute his/her works to the public; as such, the owners must look for other ways and means to advertise and popularize their works. Not a soul would be able to listen to music online if the music has not been launched via the World Wide Web, and there would be no reason for the authorities to complain about thefts and other related problems. One of the exceptions to this law is the fair use of copyrighted work. it is absurd to think that a song may be used for “educational purposes, research, or critiquing” while launching it on the net since most music is for personal use.
As for the personal losses suffered by the artists with regard to the lower sale of their albums due to sharing of music over the net, it is believed that the internet does more good than harm to the music and the concerned artists. Especially the new artists who launce their music for the first time and have not experienced fame or recognition, for which the internet is believed to be extremely useful. While the music industry feels that online users are taking advantage of technology and violating artists’ rights, as well as government-enforced laws, others argue that downloading music offline for free promotes record sales rather than harms them.
With the rapid growth of the Internet, music firms and consumers were tempted to join the Internet in large numbers and downloadable music soon came into the perspective with the initiation of the Internet Underground Music Archive. This was a free site but was followed by online music stores like Mindawn, Amie Street, Magnatune, Bleep.com, iTunes Store, Rhapsody or Listen.com, Beatport, Conductive, eMusic, Sony’s MP3 Newswire, MP3.com, The Store and Napster soon came into existence and with a price tag. Thus, the question arises of whether one should pay for downloading music from these stores. (Suri, 2007) In a way, file sharing does not actually challenge the mainstream monopoly of the music industry. On the other hand, online music helps in the promotion of the music of particular artists and there are examples to show that free online music like Napster may even help boost the music industry.
Online music stores have certain very specific advantages. Since these stores are more easily accessible to the general listeners or music lovers, there is great “potential to create an alternative means of music distribution for artists who are often marginalized by the mainstream music industry.” (McLeod, 2005) This is indeed one of the most creditable aspects of online stores which actually help the greater music industry to grow. Online music stores perform the vital function of advertising, not only the music but also the concerned artist. Thus, the claim forwarded by Ulrich that Napster was a problem because of “the way people have access to music” is actually a benefit to artists and music companies, since downloads and easy access to such music and songs actually augment the popularity of the music album or the band.
To say that the free download of music is harmful to the artists and the entire music industry, in general, is absurd because it is for this very reason that music and albums gain immense popularity and fame. Since the reach of the internet is far and wide, Online advertisement is thus a potential tool for a perfect launch into mainstream music, which actually occurs without the permission of the listener.
Opponents of free music downloads believe that the internet has a specific problem with regard to “its vastness and intangibility”. In fact, this is not a problem and the primary reason due to which an artist, music albums, and music companies can gain fame and fortune within a matter of seconds. With the number of internet users increasing by the second, this “intangible and vast” domain is an excellent place to gain renown in the world.
Music sharing cannot be termed as “music theft” because the prime purpose of music is to reach as wide and far an audience as possible, which the music industries anyways aspire to achieve through the internet. Further, it should be noted that this popularity of music and the artists are directly translated into higher sales of albums and greater earnings for the companies, simply because of the wide and extensive reach of the internet. It is for this reason that the media and the internet in particular are powerful and highly influential in making success stories out of absolutely unknown individuals.
However, if music is downloaded for commercial purposes to make numerous pirated CDs and music tapes, then this downloading of music can be termed as an offense and must be dealt with severely. It should be noted that, in the case of personal downloading through an advertisement over the internet or media, it should be noted that only a single song or part of the song may be advertised and not the entire album. Accordingly, if the user or listener downloads the songs or shares them with friends and colleagues, this only augments the popularity of the song, music, and the artist rather than being harmful to it. If the music is liked, chances are that there would be rapid spread of it, through mouth publicity and the extensiveness of the net, which obviously would lead to higher sales of albums and more popularity for the artist and automatically greater profits for the company from the direct sales of the related product.
Hence the claims of companies and artists that the “internet has brought about a means of sharing music files online for free, artists who are trying to create a revenue through album sales may lose more money” is baseless and actually helps to enhance and improve the productivity of the artist and the music. Therefore, when sites like Napster became a household name, they actually boosted the potential of music to be spread to the entire world within a matter of minutes and should not be feared.
The ethics and morals of internet music downloads are not new and have been a constant source of debate. Proponents of paid online music downloads affirm that they are protectors of the rights of the music artists and support their cause and purpose. However, opponents of paid online music downloads argue that the customers or the potential buyers are vulnerable to the laws, rules, and regulations of the internet and should not be charged. They also assert that since most of these downloads are in the form of music advertisements, with the primary motive of promoting the artists as well as this music, expecting money from the listeners is unethical and unacceptable.
Advertisements are not at the demand of the audience or the site visitors, which makes them simple recipients of the advertisement. As such, when music is available to them, they have the right to listen, save and download it. This would also enhance the sales and more importantly the popularity of the music and the concerned artist. Music companies and online stores must merge to create new software and laws so that the best interests of the artists as well as the customers can be prevented. However, music stores and software creators fail to understand the plight and position of the consumers putting them and their money in severe jeopardy, in the case of online downloading and buying of music.
- What is the idea here? How does it rebut the idea of Paying for online music above?
- And I think we should consider again the part of the advertisement. Can you think of any example because if it’s for advertisement, I think it’s just several tracks for free, not the whole album like Napster?
- And can you put some sentences to make it clear that this idea in my part is to correlate with that idea in her part of paying for music?
Ulrich fought against Napster in favor of payment to the online music companies, to protect and safeguard the rights of all artists in general since this was related to “the way people have access to music”. However, it should be asserted that it is this very ability of the people to “have access to music” that enables an album, artists, or music to become popular within an instant. Ulrich’s primary concern was that the nonpayment would seriously affect “not the one-in-a-million bands fortunate enough to be successful like Metallica, but all the struggling bands that rely on these small amounts of income.” In contrast, Ulrich should have considered the possibility and the potential of “all the struggling bands” to become famous due to the vast reach of the internet and the web, which tremendously aids the spread of music online.
Ulrich states that successful and famous bands like Metallica are not affected by the income generated due to the online sale of music, which means that the income generated through online sales is indeed meager and this aspect should not be considered while promoting the music, online. In fact, the only aspect which is worthwhile of any consideration is the fame, glory, and tremendous reach to a global audience through music advertisements and which will subsequently make it possible for the music companies and the artists to benefit from the real sales of the albums in distinct parts of the world. The issues forwarded by Ulrich are further arbitrary since when an album, or and artists are advertised online, the entire song or the entire album cannot be accessed. Only parts of the song are available to the audience with the sole intention of promotion. To ask the listeners or the online community to pay for these advertisements then seems ridiculous.
Supporting Ulrich’s statement, Metallica attorney Howard King asserted, that it was “not just a bunch of corporate thieves worried about their money” and that “Metallica wants people to know that they are being hurt” since “Piracy effects artists.” Metallica and his attorney should not be “hurt” since the publicity received via the web is so immense that companies spend millions of dollars to promote a product online. The issue then of violation of rights is not valid since any publicity is good for music and companies and once a product is launched with the intention of publicity and advertisement, it ceases to be “private” anymore. The issue between Napster and Metallica is then not one of morals and ethics, but unreasonable demands and expectations of profits from the extensive reach of the World Wide Web.
Since advertisements are initiated to reach a wide audience through the medium of internet users, there should be no qualms about the downloading of such music. Artists cannot desire to ‘have their cake and eat it too’; they cannot advertise their music, expecting people to listen and not download it. Since the entire purpose of the advertisements is to promote the new music and the related artists, there should be no issues of payment to the online stores, which are simply acting as advertisement agents. Advertisements do not occur with the permission of the audience and as such, since consumers do not actually “ask” for them, there is no reason why they should pay. Thus, there should be no expectations of payment for listening to online music, which is purely for the purpose of promotion and not a result of the needs and demands of the site visitor.
Advertisement is instrumental in developing and constructing a need for an object or product, and modern advertising relies on symbols, stories, and characters to sell products. In this case, particularly the case of music, advertisements function by actually offering the original product, thereby increasing the chances of the demand and supply chain, by presenting a choice to the target audience and boosting its popularity.
Music advertisements, thus, have the potential to increase the chances that “more people will pay to see your brand when it comes through town (and perhaps buy merchandise), or that a newfound fan will purchase one of your other albums” (McLeod, 2005). This view is well supported by interesting research related to the debate of downloading music files through the internet. Jones (2004) revealed in a survey of July/August 2000 that “86% of downloaders sought music they had heard before by artists they were already familiar with” and an important difference between 1980 music buyer and the present buyer is that “28% of downloaders reported getting music that they already owned in another form (CD, tape, LP)” (Jones, 2004). This survey reveals the fact that the advertisements serve as initiators of presenting the new music to a potential audience, and the sales of this music can be greatly boosted through these advertisements.
Additionally, music downloads create better and enhanced chances of not only potential buyers in the open market but also potential fans, which obviously has a direct result on the future and success of the advertised artists and their music. Buyers and fans would listen to the music on the internet and have a greater likelihood of going to stores and buying these music albums, for enhanced quality and greater variety. These products may be bought either from physical stores or virtual sites on the internet. Thus, in terms of financial revenue, online stores do not have a negative impact on the music industry but serve to create a wider audience through greater exposure to numerous music lovers, all the world over.
There are other reasons why it is not advisable for paying for online music. In many virtual stores, the available music can only be played on specific devices. This is commonly experienced in the case of same service songs and different service songs, where inaccessibility is a common factor. Besides, if the songs cannot be accessed, then the entire amount paid by the customer is wasted since most stores do not offer any refund. This form of advertisement is particularly aimed at forcing the customer to buy a specific device in order to listen to music downloaded.
One such example is the popular site, ‘iTunes’. Songs bought and downloaded from this store can only be played on Apple’s products. In addition, one account can only be used on a maximum of 5 computers, and each device is limited to be associated with one library at a time. It is not possible to play songs on another’s iTunes library unless the primary account is deleted and authorized with the personal iPods. This is an unethical issue and there seems to be no way to defend the customer or the buyer, who is at the receiving end, in spite of paying for the music. Thus, in such situations, it seems a better option to avoid any payment formalities for the payment procedure for the online downloadable music.
Another serious and common problem is the inability of the buyer to be able to listen to the downloaded music, in spite of having paid the price for it. This generally occurs in the case of restriction rules applying to different geographical boundaries. Online stores and companies do not educate the potential buyer of music about these restrictions, in the preliminary stages of the payment procedures. It is only after the payment has been securely made that the buyer may realize the online restrictions with regard to geographical boundaries existing in the World Wide Web. For instance, certain music or downloads may not be allowed by some Middle East countries and the buyer may not be aware of this, before having made the payment to the online store. The problem only becomes apparent when the buyer has made the final payment and is unable to download the music for the site. Obviously, the buyer is at a loss since there are no chances of the money being retrieved and the buyer stands conned.
Technology in the twenty-first century has raised many debates surrounding culture and society, one of the primary ones related to the ethics of free sharing of online music. It is argued that artists must be fairly compensated for their work just as any other employee is paid for their job. Ideally, consumers should then refrain from taking advantage of the availability of free music online and realize when they have crossed the line between sharing music and stealing music. Realistically, however, people will continue to take advantage of this feature of technology because they have already been exposed to it.
Although it may be difficult to draw in consumers after they have been given the option of downloading music for free, companies should find a way to lower music prices online without hurting the industry and the artists’ income. Completely regulating online piracy of music is virtually impossible; therefore companies and consumers must find a way to cooperate so that the artists are paid and the consumers are satisfied.