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Internet File Sharing and the Music Industry
Imagine millions of songs accessible in one place. Today songs are just a few clicks away since the introduction of the internet and file sharing. File sharing is simply taking a file and allowing other internet users to download and use the file permanently. The accessibility and use of file sharing programs has devastated the music industry financially. The fact that almost every song recorded today is accessible through a free program encourages most consumers to download rather than buy. This is why illegal file sharing programs are driving the music industry’s profits down.
The making of MP3’s allows internet users to share and distribute songs quickly and easily. The letters MP are short for MPEG, which stands for Moving Picture Experts Group. The 3 stands for the third compression method that Dr. Karlkeinz Brandenburg, at the Frainhofer Institute, developed. “Ripping” or “Burning” is taking an original song or songs from a CD or other music source and compressing it to the small MP3 format. This method ingeniously removes all of the sounds and frequencies that the human ear cannot hear to eventually end up with a file that is about one tenth of the original size yet lack no noticeable quality (PC Complete 688-693). Now that the file is compressed, it is ready to do many new things that it could not do before. One of these is to be transferred over the internet. The conflict that arises from this is when people compress copyrighted music into the MP3 format and make it available to anyone on the internet (PC Complete 694). This is called “file sharing”, and it is a major topic of debate among the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who seeks total control of its copyrighted material.
The most popular form of exchanging music on the internet is known as file sharing. File sharing occurs after the music has been converted to smaller MP3 format. The smaller format allows the files to be downloaded, transferred, or copied in just a matter of seconds. The most popular file sharing program until a couple of years ago was Napster. Napster was a file sharing program that essentially gave birth to the file sharing industry. A federal lawsuit was filed against Napster for copyright violation. The federal court ruled Napster must remove any copyrighted material that had previously been available.
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This, in turn, has caused widespread cuts and job losses across the industry, affecting retailers, record companies, recording studios, song writers, management companies, publishers and many others sectors, all of them economically dependent on copyrighted music. Many small recording studios have shut down due to the lack of revenue from CD sales. The problem lies in the first few CD’s that are made to get the artist recognized and marketable. These original CD’s are copied and distributed across the internet to millions of people, thus causing consumers to not purchase the CD because they already have the song on the computer. A recent study found that from 1999 to 2003 the number of CD’s and other forms of recorded music shipped in the United States plunged 31%. Global sales of recorded music fell 7% in value in 2003. Global figures for 2004 have not yet been released, but it is estimated that sales for the year will have been down by over 7%. A number of third party surveys in major music markets have confirmed that illegal file-sharing directly depresses music purchases by consumers.
As long as illegal file sharing programs are permitted to run and allow access to millions of copyrighted songs, music artists and the music industry will struggle to make the profits they are accustomed to. With copyrighted songs so easily accessible, many consumers will likely download rather than buy. As long as this trend continues, the music industry will continue to suffer from a lack of sales, profits, widespread cuts and job losses. The music industry will need to find new ways to make music that cannot be copied or compressed to keep people from stealing copyrighted music. The industry also needs to continue to find and prosecute people how download and trade songs illegally. Until this happens illegal file sharing programs will continue to drive the music industry’s profits down.