Friday, February 27, 2015

Peer-to-peer Pressure

When thinking of peer-to-peer music sharing, many think nostalgically to the days when we would lend our best friend our Spice Girls CD in exchange for their TLC album.  After hours and hours of “chasing waterfalls,” we would return the album much to the delight of our parents.  Today’s peer-to-peer file sharing vaguely resembles the CD swapping of the past, but technological advances have moved our music and our sharing online.  The move has improved the speed in which the world shares data, but it has also made “illegal transfers” of copyrighted material possible.  These illegal transfers create issues for artists of all genres, but the music industry is noticeably affected. 

The music industry has seen a fifty-three percent decrease in sales since the birth of the peer-to-peer filesharing site, Napster.  According to the Recording IndustryAssociation of America (“RIAA”), the music industry is small and easily impacted by piracy, and talented musicians are dissuaded from entering the industry.  Without the necessary revenue, investments may diminish, and music will no longer be a viable full-time career.

Music is a powerful tool for uniting millions of people from around the world.  Each fan of any one artist has something in common: regardless of their age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, they all enjoy the music.  Peer to peer sharing (“p2p”) is an illustration of the way the music unites people from all over the world.  With the ability to see who uploads and downloads files, one can see the flags of several nations on the computer screen.  Unfortunately, p2p often unites people as they “illegally transfer” copyrighted material.  The issue, however, does not rest solely on the file sharing sites.   While the Supreme Court decided that “one infringes vicariously by profiting from direct infringement while declining to exercise a right to stop or limit it,”[1] we cannot solely blame the sharing sites.  

Solving the problem will require the cooperation of individuals, p2p sites (which provides a link to the .torrent file), and BitTorrent clients (which facilitate the uploading and downloading of the actual material).  With Pirate Bay (one p2p site) now allegedly being run by the FBI, it seems the problem is not fixing itself, and the "big guns" may be stepping in.  Is free music worth the risk? 

The fact of the matter is, we look to music for relief from our problems, escape from our worries, comfort for our pains, and if we do not seek to protect artists, we may be causing the problems from which they hope to escape.  While some argue it is about the music and not the money, let's be honest, it is a little bit about the money.  No one actually wants to be a starving artist.

—Amanda Marston, Staff Editor

[1] Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd.Supreme Court of the United States June 27, 2005545 U.S. 913125 S.Ct. 2764162 L.Ed.2d 781, citing Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. H.L. Green Co., 316 F.2d 304, 307 (C.A.2 1963).

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