Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Thou Shall Not Download?

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Thou Shall Not Download?

Article excerpt

The Best Album of 2003 goes to ... your hard drive.

Two years ago the editors of Spin magazine were prescient enough to make that call. They detected a burning passion among a new generation of music lovers to swap with friends and strangers digital files of their favorite tunes. Nearly one out of every two Internet users between the ages of 12 and 22 downloaded music this past summer, according to a Forrester Research report on file-sharing trends.

If you're not tech savvy, you may wonder how file sharing works. To share songs on the Internet, users put digital music files into a folder on their hard drive. Software such as Kazaa and Morpheus then enables them to find and retrieve the files from each other's computers rather than from a central Net store (such as Napster, a Web site that the record industry succeeded in shutting down in 2001). No money is exchanged in the "swap," and no direct income flows back to the record companies.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)--the heavy arm of major music recording companies--charges that sharing songs over the Internet is akin to stealing a CD from a record store. As such, the violation of copyright law eats into their commercial market, argue industry insiders. Sales of music CDs have dropped 31 percent since 2000, according to the RIAA, and it blames the slide on file swapping.

In an aggressive effort to turn the cultural tide, the RIAA filed suit recently against hundreds of citizens suspected of downloading and sharing music. The industry hopes the suits, which seek as much as $150,000 per violation, will deter computer users from engaging in what the record industry considers illegal file swapping. While the threat of hefty fines scared off some, millions of Internet users continued to copy and share songs without paying for them. One week after the lawsuits were made public, 4 million users continued to use Kazaa, only about a 5 percent dip from the week prior to RIAA's legal action.

So why is there such a disparity between the legal status of file sharing in the United States and the apparent cultural consensus on its practice?

To many music fans, file swapping seems no more criminal than recording an episode of The West Wing and sharing the video with your friends. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.