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The Cold War of music copyright infringement

By Stephanie Walsh, administrator, Special to ZDNet

'Fans are loyal. They tend to stick with their artist from album to album. Chances are that the true-diehard fans will continue to buy albums regardless of any burned CD copies they may have made. Without the fans giving a damn, there would still be musicians but not professionals. So I vote to give the fans some slack.'

There was a time when I got my music from friends who copied their CDs for me. I was a high school kid whose circumstances made it impossible for me to take on a job; in other words, I had no money to buy my own music. Whether it was Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, The Grateful Dead, James Taylor, or Crosby Stills and Nash, it was music that was given to me as a gift. When I got older and found a means to buy my own music, I purchased CDs from some of these very same artists, whose music had helped entertain me during college, even though I barely had the time to listen. My conscience however, felt better about contributing to the world of purchasing music.

With the crafty invention of Napster, once again I am able to obtain music--more musical gifts. But wait! Now we have to think about the artists, producers and record companies who have to pay money to make the tunes. Now, add in the advancement of technology that makes it possible to burn studio-quality music. Result: The Cold War of music copyright infringement.

Will the record companies and artists still be able to sell records? Of course they will, as only a small percentage of people will be burning CDs (whether this is due to a lack of computer knowledge or not having the money to buy the necessary equipment). Yet, if technology goes further and makes it easier and cheaper to burn CDs and own music, then we must once again address this same age-old issue of copyright laws.

Some say that online audio files are a great way to preview an album, you can hear it and if you like it, then you can buy the album--just like in a record store. However, those with the means to reproduce the material and do so would of course be stealing.

The greed factor
The artists are so rich; do they really need more money? For sake of argument, let's propose that is it is up to you to decide. If I own three Joni Mitchell albums and I see a taping of Joni and James Taylor online, I wouldn't feel guilty about downloading it. Especially since I would never make a portable copy as in the form of a CD. Besides that, that taping of the song I downloaded will probably never be re-produced by the artists. Even if I did burn a copy, couldn't I rationalize it as "buy three albums, get one album free"? Remember, I am only asking a question it is not rhetorical.

Regardless of the previous points, let's definitely not forget the fidelity of fans. Fans are loyal. They tend to stick with their artist from album to album. Chances are that the true-diehard fans will continue to buy albums regardless of any burned CD copies they may have made. Without the fans giving a damn, there would still be musicians but not professionals. So I vote to give the fans some slack, as most musicians already do out of appreciation.

Additionally, concerts and t-shirts continue to generate money for the music-makers. I recall a R.E.M. concert where I bought a copyright-infringing, rip-off t-shirt for five dollars. It said R.E.M. Monster across it in huge letters. I wore that t-shirt tons of times and supposedly, the band or management received nothing for that purchase--nothing that is but free advertising or promotion of the bands name and tour. I am rationalizing, but are the artists really hurt by copyright-infringement or perhaps they really are helped by it? That will remain the poignant question. In a world where we question greed, may it be concluded that personal conscience is going to be the deciding factor for both the music-maker and the music-listener--both music-lovers.

Stephanie Walsh is an administrator for a high-speed Internet company based in Virginia..




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