Real Fans Get The Real Thing
You may not think you’re doing anything illegal when you burn multiple copies of your favorite CD to give to all your friends or offer copies of your favorite tracks to millions of people on the Internet through "peer to peer" networks like Ares, BitTorrent, Gnutella, Limewire, and Morpheus. The fact is, however, that you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you. The right to reproduce the music you’re copying belongs to the artists, songwriters, record companies and others who hold the copyright. All of which means that when you copy and distribute copyrighted music without permission, you are stealing and there are real consequences.
This wholesale music theft is dramatically damaging to the entire music community. And contrary to what some people would tell you, it’s having a very real and harmful effect on countless musicians, independent record stores, singer/songwriters and virtually everyone who dreams about making a living providing the public with their music.
Real Fans Get The Real Thing
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t steal music. Here are four basic ones.
- Stealing music is against the law.
- Stealing music betrays the songwriters and recording artists who create it.
- Stealing music stifles the careers of new artists and up-and-coming bands.
- Stealing music threatens the livelihood of the thousands of working people—from recording engineers to record-store clerks—who are employed in the music industry.
1. Stealing music is against the law
For centuries, civilized societies have granted artists, authors, and other creative people the right to own and control the original work they produce, be they paintings, poems, songs, or any other form of literary or artistic expression. These rights are protected by what is known as copyright.
In the United States, copyright protection is guaranteed under the Constitution as well as the Copyright Act. Recorded music is specifically protected by these laws, which means it is against the law to make unauthorized reproductions, distributions, or digital transmissions of copyrighted sound recordings.
"Congress shall have the power to... promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries..."
Article 1, Section 8
The penalties for breaking these laws are stiff—particularly when digital recordings are involved. To learn more, click here.
2. Stealing music betrays the songwriters and recording artists who create it.
A lot of people who copy and distribute music illegally try to rationalize their behavior by arguing that the people who make recordings are all rich anyway, and that music should be free.
To assert that music should be free is the same as saying it has no value—that music is worthless. It’s not.
Music doesn't just happen. It's made, note by note, beat by beat, by people who work hard to get it right.
For the artist, the hard work requires not only a major emotional and intellectual commitment, but also long hours, intense concentration, and real financial risk. We like to talk about the imagination, soul, and courage involved in creative work. But making music is also about career and financial well- being. It’s about putting food on the table and covering the rent. It’s about making enough money to pay for all that equipment and rehearsal time, about keeping yourself afloat as you strive to succeed in a highly competitive industry.
What gives the music value is not only that you like it, but also that you buy it. If you steal it, you’re not just stealing from a record company. You’re stealing from the very artists you love and admire.
Most of us would never even consider stealing something of value from a neighbor’s house. Our conscience, our sense of right and wrong, keep us from doing it. Sure, we know there are criminal penalties, but the main reason we don’t steal is because we know it’s wrong.
Tell that to the struggling young musicians in a garage band who can’t get signed because record sales are down.
Or tell it to the young singer-songwriter whose career dead-ends because people would rather download her music for free.
The cost of recording and promoting a major album can easliy top $1 million, and only one out of every ten ever turns a profit.
There’s no question that Internet exposure can be a great thing for new artists. For many up-and-coming bands, there’s no better way of getting noticed and establishing a following than creating a website and putting your stuff out there for the online world to hear. But there’s a difference between checking out a band that chooses to let people download its music for free and deciding for yourself that somebody’s new music should be spread all over the Internet.
Making records is an expensive undertaking. So is building a career. If people aren’t willing to pay for the music they love, the record companies will find it increasingly difficult to commit the kind of resources it takes to discover and develop new talent.
4. Stealing music threatens the livelihood of the thousands of working people—from recording engineers to record-store clerks—who are employed in the music industry.
Songwriters and artists, whether established or up-and-coming, aren’t the only people hurt by illegal copying. In the U.S. alone, the music industry employs some 50,000 people—and very few of them are rich rock stars.
Stealing music also threatens the livelihoods of the thousands of technicians, CD-plant workers, warehousemen, and other non-musicians who are employed in the music business helping to create and deliver the music you love.