Internet File Sharing -
Separating Myth from Reality
Downloading music for free
doesn't give rise to any problems.
It is a common misconception
that accessing so-called 'free music' - by downloading or burning
music from the internet without the creator's permission and without
paying for it - doesn't really hurt anyone.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Unauthorised uploading or
copying is not free at all - it is the musicians and the people who
invest in the music who are paying the price. The artists, first and
foremost, the labels that have invested in them, the publishers who
manage the copyright of their songs and the thousands of people involved
in the many different areas of the music industry are all affected.
Downloading and burning without permission doesn't fairly reward the
efforts of those who create, develop and record music, and who depend
on it for their livelihood.
More illegal copying and internet distribution means less sales, and
that means less money for companies to invest in artists and music.
This affects a whole community of people: the employee at the retail
store that faces closure; the aspiring artist who won't get a deal
because record companies have less money to invest in new talent;
and the artist whose first album just failed to sell enough to turn
a profit. On top of that, there are the thousands of other people
who depend upon music for their income: from the sound engineers and
CD factory workers to the band managers and graphic artists. There
are also countless music magazines, entrepreneurs trying to set up
legitimate online sites, designers, specialist PR people the list
Furthermore - copying music without permission is illegal. And just
because it doesn't involve organised crime or knock-offs sold on street
corners doesn't mean that it isn't taken very seriously.
Most recording artists are
doing very well, so downloading a few tracks for free is not going
to hurt them.
The overwhelming majority of
artists are NOT rich. And it's not just a few tracks that are being
downloaded illegally from the internet - it's millions of tracks.
The biggest losers from internet file sharing are the upcoming artists
because not paying for music means much less money to invest in them.
Fewer artists get the chance to make their mark, and the labels are
less likely to take a risk with more experimental music or niche genres.
This means it's the music lover who gets short-changed. Consumers
of 'free music' may get a short-term benefit, but at the long-term
cost of hurting the artists they most admire, and new talent.
People who accuse the music industry of not producing anything new
should give some thought to how internet file sharing impacts new
artists. Think of the bands - and there are many, including Cold Chisel,
INXS, Midnight Oil, Split Enz and Powderfinger - who didn't make it
big with their first or second album. Bands need time to flourish,
and if their early sales are cannibalised on the internet, they may
never get the chance to become the next INXS or Powderfinger.
Unauthorised copying doesn't
have any measurable effect on the music industry.
There is consistent evidence
throughout the world that unauthorised copying and distribution means
less music is sold. The Australian industry has yet to experience
these impacts to the same degree as other territories. This has been
due, in part, to the delayed take up of broadband internet access
in Australia . However, if steps are not taken now, the international
experience could well be replicated in Australia .
Perhaps the most worrying development
is that the majority of people downloading music from the internet
are young music fans, who are also the biggest consumers of music.
In a survey commissioned by ARIA in 2003, those who engaged in internet
file sharing reported a net 12% decline in their CD purchasing behaviour
as a direct result of that activity. There are similar findings
all around the world.
Downloading for free benefits
artists as it gets them heard which promotes their music and boosts
We support the use of promotional
material made available for free download - but only where the artists
and copyright owners have authorised it for this purpose. This must
be a choice that they make, not one forced upon them by others. Making
music available on the internet is a really exciting development for
artists. The internet can be a great tool for new acts who wish to
drum up interest in their work.
However, it isn't true that making music 'free' will always promote
the sales of that track or album. In fact, research all around
the world shows that downloading and burning is substituting sales
significantly more than they are promoting them. Research in Australia
commissioned by ARIA in 2003 shows that many active file-sharers spend
less on music since they started getting it for free and that they
reported an overall 12% decline in purchasing behaviour as a direct
consequence of file sharing.
It is those members of the general public who think that they have
the right to 'share' music with millions of individuals without having
paid for it (and contrary to the wishes of the copyright owner, recording
artist and songwriters) that are damaging the music industry. As a
consequence they are threatening the careers of budding artists before
they even begin.
The music industry wants
to stop the advance of technology.
Technology is not the enemy
of music - quite the reverse. There has always been a healthy relationship
between advances in technology and the music business: from the Edison
cylinder, through vinyl, tape and the CD. The impact of digital technology
has opened doors for artists and many others involved in music; allowing
more experimentation and sophisticated home recording, online real
time musical collaborations, webcasts, enhanced sound - and the ability
to share all that with a wider global audience.
The music industry will always make use of new technology - for example
Super Audio CDs and DVD Audio, as well as the opportunities that new
3G phones bring. Technology is also helping the industry to transfer
thousands of tracks in artists' back catalogues into digital format.
And, of course, the industry both here and internationally is enthusiastically
supporting the development of legitimate online retailers.
But while the methods of recording or distribution might change, what
doesn't change is the fact that artists and those who work with them
depend upon copyright and getting paid for their livelihood.
There are no legitimate services
currently available in Australia.
There are already legitimate
online retailers offering hundreds of thousands of tracks from all
the major record companies and many independent labels. No doubt,
others will also commence operations in the near future.
These sites offer better quality of product and service than illegal
alternatives. Many are now offering transfer to portable devices.
They are not, however, progressing as quickly as hoped because of
stiff competition from free music infringers who have sidestepped
all the complex licensing and consent processes needed to offer the
Nothing can be done to stop
Illegal downloading is a
huge problem, but the industry is committed to successfully addressing
it. As most people know, the record industry has been involved in
internet based litigation, and continues to be involved in litigation,
both here and elsewhere around the world. While much of that litigation
has been against file sharing networks and their operators, in some
territories the industry has also taken legal action against individuals
who upload substantial quantities of infringing music. But that's
not the industry's only initiative to address the problem.
The music industry has launched many initiatives to educate consumers
and businesses around the world about the consequences of illegal
online activity. Many people who enjoy music are simply unaware of
the effect their actions have on bands and artists.
Everyone knows that one of the best ways to stop people from using
the illegal sites is to provide them with good alternatives. Many
companies are investing substantial sums in developing legal alternatives.
However, all this takes time - it's hard to compete with something
that's offered for free, but it is happening.
We're also seeing the start of new systems used for better electronic
delivery of music. Digital rights management tools are being used
to help track music online, so that everyone who is entitled to be
paid for their efforts, is actually paid. New technology is also being
used in ever more sophisticated copy control devices for music, similar
to those already used on DVDs and computer software.
But there's more to stopping mass copyright theft than by just investing
in new legitimate services. Indeed, those new services are not going
to flourish if there isn't a fair space for them to develop without
being stifled by online piracy.
Ultimately, none of this legitimate activity can take place without
a strong legal framework to support it. Copyright laws exist to protect
the rights of artists and those who invest in their careers, allowing
them to determine whether and how copying, distributing, broadcasting
and other uses of their works take place, and giving them the tools
they need to take action against people who infringe their rights.
Those who ignore copyright laws should not expect an easy ride.
Downloading is just like home
File sharing via the internet
cannot be likened to copying tapes deck to deck at home. That's like
comparing someone physically copying a book to a printing house churning
out hundreds of copies a minute of the same book - and then making
it available to absolutely everyone around the world for free.
The damage this sort of copying causes to music is enormous. But it
also presents other dangers to the unwitting consumer. If you use
a peer-to-peer service, you open your computer and all the information
you've stored in it up to hundreds of strangers - simply at the touch
of a button. When you use a file-sharing service you may unwittingly
be acting as a 'mass distributor'; as whenever you're online every
other user around the world has the ability to access your hard drive.
And this could lead to problems with your personal computer, including
the transmission of viruses.
The record companies only
have themselves to blame for not getting their artists' tracks online
While it is very easy for
anyone to upload an MP3 music file onto the net and give it away for
nothing, it takes time to do so in such a way that the online product
is tracked through the process, with the artists, publishers, record
companies, and retailers all being paid their share of the price.
The systems for doing this have had to be created from scratch and
there have been complex negotiations between all the relevant parties
(including obtaining consents from artists) in order to get the music
licensed for digital sale.
Second, it is not true to say that record companies have not got their
music online quickly enough. The music industry is far more advanced
than any other in terms of producing its product for digital sale.
What is true is that the appearance of the MP3 file format has meant
that the music industry has been forced to grapple with issues of
theft of intellectual property on the internet far sooner than other
industries. Unlike most products where the internet is simply used
to help sell the physical product, with music the virtual online copy
is practically the same as the physical product.
The speed with which the MP3 music files spread over the internet
meant that as the music companies started to digitise their product,
set up payment systems and invest in companies (some of which went
bust in the early dotcom 'bubble') they were already in a situation
where they were competing with freely available product. And trying
to compete against an over 99% pirate market on the internet is very
difficult. It is ridiculous to expect a record company who has to
invest a huge amount in its artists to compete with a distributor
who is giving music away for free.
The assistance of IFPI in creating
this article is greatly appreciated.