Right to Copy?

Issue section: 

One of the most common activities on the web is illegal.

But by its very nature, it is almost impossible to identify the individuals involved. This is the sharing, distribution and downloading of copyrighted material, particularly music files.

A few years back, the file sharing software company Napster was closed after a series of legal challenges, but the software that replaced it utilises computers connected to the internet, with no centralised machines. As with the distributed computing mentioned last month, this means that music files on your machine can be uploaded by millions of users across the globe, while you can access their hard disks.

One of the leading services, Kazaa, had over 230 million files downloaded, and 13 million new users joining a month, according to an article at http://media.guardian.co.uk/newmedia/story/0,7496,1004330,00.html.

Of course, this is met with predictable outrage from the music industry, which claims its massive profits are being ruined. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which recently forced a 12 year old girl‘s parents to pay a $2,000 fine for file-sharing, estimates that more than 2.6 billion songs are illegally downloaded every month, but this might not be their main problem.
In an interesting article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3117505.stm the RIAA claims that ’file sharing‘ is responsible for a 10 percent drop in sales of CDs in 2001 and 7 percent last year. However, other evidence points to a number of different factors. The biggest culprit for the drop in music sales appears to be the mass copying of music by organised crime, rather than people downloading a few of their favourite tracks from the internet. The pirate CD market is worth £2.86 billion, and is ’of greater value than the legitimate music market of every country in the world, except the US and Japan‘.

A recent Register article www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/32048.html also questions who is really to blame for problems in the music industry when two of the biggest music companies have once again been fined for price fixing CDs.

Obviously, there are legal constraints on me providing links to the sites devoted to such file sharing programs, but if you wanted to find out more, www.google.com is one of the most comprehensive search engines on the internet.

Martin Empson