Listening to music is a hobby for most people. Unlike before when you could only get music from record stores—which, unfortunately, many people would not afford— these days, it is quite easy and convenient to just download your favorites to enjoy at your leisure without the hassle of going out and buying the album. From a consumer perspective this is cool, right? But from the music industry perspective, this creates a never ending dilemma as sales continue to decline.
However, there is a legal alternative to getting free music by logging on to the Internet and finding websites that let you download your favorite hits. That alternative is streaming Internet radio. The Internet is always on and always available (well, almost always)….you will rarely find a person who does not use it, which makes Internet radio incredibly convenient. Since music files are all copyrighted materials, Internet radio providers often display ads to pay royalties to the recording companies, which in turn grant permission to play their copyrighted works. But, you say, I want the files on my computer…so what are the consequences of illegally downloading music?
Who hasn’t heard about the lawsuits filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)? These case charges were filed against thousands of Internet users from all walks of life. Its goal is not only to preserve the integrity of the copyright materials but, most importantly, to augment declining music industry sales. After realizing that sales continue to drop and that the efforts made did not create significant impact Internet users whom they sued one by one, the RIAA has tweaked their complaints a bit.
A New Route
While these lawsuits are still on-going, it is geared towards a new direction. Instead of going after each Internet user that has downloaded a music file, a letter of complaint will be sent to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This made it more sensible and efficient for the RIAA. First, your ability to download music files is dependent on your Internet connection, hence once you are dropped by your ISP, you will no longer be able to download files. Second, collaborating with handful of ISPs is much easier than going to court to sue individuals. This initiative has allowed the RIAA to differentiate regular users from the list of illegal downloaders.
The Supreme Verdict
The RIAA has gone so far as to take their case to the Supreme Court, but because of the fact that the RIAA initiatives to stop music piracy and copyright infringement did not seem to work at all, the Supreme Court was compelled not to review the case. This decision has triggered another action from the RIAA. Instead of going after small-time downloaders, they will only go after those users who are uploading more than a thousand files. This means that even if you download copyright materials, you are safe from charges as long as you will not upload these files for someone else’s benefits…at least for the time being.
Illegal music downloading is no doubt hurting the music industry—many Internet users are attracted to the widespread availability of free music downloads online. The consequences, while currently being applied mainly to those that make music available for download, can be devastating. The RIAA has switched tactics before though, so we recommend sticking to streaming Internet radio in case they start targeting individuals again—it’s free, convenient and legal.