Reasons Why You Shouldn't Download Music Illegally
It's easy to download music illegally and difficult to get caught. By some estimates, 4 out of every 5 digital music downloads are illegal. Many people who would never even think about stealing a physical object like a shirt have no problem stealing digital content like music, movies and ebooks. Many people who think it would be ethically wrong to steal from a store may have no ethical problems stealing digital content. There are even people who do think illegal downloading is unethical but they do it anyway because it's just so easy.
According to one study, the economic loss from piracy is $12.5 billion per year. I'm not sure what this number is based on. If it's the number of illegally downloaded songs, then I think it's inflated. A record label only experiences a loss when a person who would have bought a song downloads it illegally instead. Many people download hundreds of songs. But if they actually had to buy their music, they would probably only buy a small fraction of those songs.
Why I Don't Steal Music
Maybe it's old fashioned but if I can't afford something, I do without it until I can. I put a lot of time and effort into creating online content. I wouldn't want people stealing from me, so I don't steal from singers and musicians and all the other people who are involved in making the music I enjoy.
I do agree that music costs too much and that labels need to find ways to offer it for less. This is especially the case for younger people who can't afford to pay $14 for an album or $1.29 for a song. Offering music for less would likely create more honest music buyers. Still, the fact that executives are corrupt doesn't justify stealing for me because they're rarely the ones who actually get hurt.
And we may also hurt ourselves as well. Making high quality recorded music is expensive. If companies and musicians can't make money selling music, they will have little incentive to spend the money needed to make it. It's people who are buying music or paying subscriptions for streaming services who are responsible for the continued existence of recorded music. Take them away and recorded music will largely go away unless close to free ways are found to make it.
Justifications for Illegal Downloading
I've read a lot of justifications for stealing rather than buying music. Here are some:
- Real artists make music for the love of it, not the money they can make - I'm sure the people who make this argument don't do their own job for free
- In the old days, artists made money by performing live. Musicians should simply do that instead - why make CDs then or produce music for download. Many people want to enjoy high quality music on stereos and iPods. Live music is great but I don't think most of us want to go back to the days before recorded music when that was all we had
Do you think it's ok to download music illegally?
- Musicians and singers are rich. Why should we give them more money? - most aren't rich. Many musicians only make enough money to get by. For the few that are rich, they've still created a product. If we want it, it's only right to pay for it. I'm sure my doctor is quite well off. I don't expect her to provide free treatment simply because she is. She wouldn't be well off for very long if she did. Those rich singers are also employers. Many ordinary people are dependent on them for their jobs.
- Rich executives make most of the money anyway - while this is true, it's actually true in every business. When you buy a shirt, executives take a nice cut from the profit. The people who get hurt the most aren't the rich. By some estimates, illegal downloads have cost more than 70,000 people's jobs. I'm sure many others are making smaller salaries. A lot of people are needed to make music from singers, musicians, producers and sound engineers to secretaries, marketing staff and janitors. Everyone needs to get paid.
- Everyone should become an indie artist and sell directly to the public rather than dealing with labels - many singers are doing this and making money. But if they produce CDs or digital content, it can still be stolen. I don't see how this solves the problem
- It's ok because singers make most of their money off touring anyway - many record labels will only fund a tour if they are making enough money from a singer through music sales because the investment to get a tour off the ground can be so high. So, a singer may actually have to sell CDs and mp3's, or get millions of streams, to be able to tour. Illegal downloading may also be driving up concert ticket prices as labels, singers and bands become more dependent on touring to make money
The High Cost of Getting Caught
While it's hard to get caught, it's not impossible and the fines are stiff for those who are. The fines can be anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tracking software is now available that can catch the IP addresses of people engaging in illegal downloads. So, it's actually getting easier to get caught. Many people are now receiving fines in the mail. Most pay up because they can't afford to challenge the fines.