15 November 2007
Technology’s Advancements: A Stepping Stone to Internet Piracy
Technology has advanced a great deal since the computer was first invented. Computers are faster and have greater memory capacities. Not only have computers improved, but Internet connections as well. Internet connections have become faster in today’s world, and allow users to surf the web at high speeds. The creation of wireless Internet allows users to surf anywhere, as long as there is a wireless connection. Faster Internet connections allow people to surf the web, download files, and stream large sized files online. Overall, this is a positive thing for most of society. However, a downfall to such improvements in technology may increase users to commit an illegal activity - piracy. Increases in Internet speeds and easier access to computers, would make downloading songs illegally much easier and faster. This essay will argue how advances in technology will increase the likelihood of downloaders to commit illegal downloading of music files and ignore intellectual property rights, set out to protect the work of artists. This essay will briefly discuss the meaning of piracy, followed by how advances in technology can increase piracy, and the effects piracy may have on the record industry and what record companies may do in order to prevent piracy from occurring.
Acts of piracy have been committed ever since music files have been available on the Internet. Piracy "is taking something that doesn’t belong to you without paying for it" (Hart-Davis, 2001, p. xxi). Piracy is essentially stealing taking place on the Internet. Piracy may not be of much concern for most people because it may be seen as a different kind of theft, compared to the kind that would take place in the real world. Stealing in the real world usually involves something that can be touched. Songs however, do not have a physical form (Hart-Davis, 2001, p. xxi), reducing the likelihood of someone thinking about downloading songs, without the appropriate approval by its creators, as being illegal.
Advances in technology can increase the likelihood of someone downloading songs illegally. The development of newer hardware and software for the use of gaining and/or storing music files can be seen as one of the advances in technology. A handheld device created by Rio "makes portable MP3 files downloadable from the Internet…it stores music on removable memory cards, which creates another method enabling people to purchase, trade, or obtain pirated music" (Das). This shows how new developments in technology will increase the likelihood of music piracy. New technologies make it easier to download and store music, allowing users the opportunity to share music files with others, which would violate intellectual property rights. The Rio device was not liked by the recording industries because its "functioning capacity and its lack of certain copyright protection (Das)," which caused the Recording Industry
Association of America to "file a lawsuit against Diamond Multimedia…seeking to enjoin Diamond from selling and distributing the Rio" (Das). This demonstrates how the recording industry itself may not like newer devices to be developed. It shows that the recording industries are well aware of new technologies and that they are always watching out for devices that may threaten their intellectual property and cause piracy to increase.
Another example showing how advances in technology can increase piracy, would be the development of newer software for the purpose of downloading MP3 files. This can be shown using the example of Napster when, "record companies filed suit alleging contributory and vicarious federal copyright infringement and related state law violations by defendant Napster, Inc" (Radin, Rotchchild, & Silverman, 2004, p.290). This advancement in software technology allowed users to download songs illegally using the Napster program. This shows how technological advances will always create newer ways for downloading songs online, and will continually keep record companies on the look out for those who commit piracy, or allow a service for piracy to take place.
Pirates may adore getting music online for free, but record companies do not see this as a gift of generosity to downloaders, and would claim that piracy has a negative effect on record companies. It is said that the "main claim of the record companies is the huge revenue losses due to Internet piracy" (Peitz & Waelbroeck). This would explain why the music industry would want to fight piracy in any way they can. It is estimated that "in the year 2000, one in every
three CDs purchased throughout the world was pirated" (Bishop). This shows the loss music companies face because of pirated music. Such losses would decrease the profits of record companies, forcing them to increase CD prices. This can be seen in the following quote: "There is the loss of value for their existing economies of scale for production of the physical products, the CDs themselves" (Easley). This quote shows how record companies lose value by explaining that there is no profit being produced in order to cover the costs needed to manufacture the CDs. The loss in profit suffered by record companies may also result in less music being produced, making it difficult for newer bands to get a recording contract.
Record companies may develop certain methods for reducing or eliminating illegal downloading from occurring. One method is "to produce copy-protected CDs, the contents of which cannot be stored in CD-ROMs or copied to PC hard disks…" (Kinokuni). This reduces the likelihood of pirates placing music on their computer and distributing them to others online. Although some people may be able to "crack the code" on the CDs, record companies would want to make pirating as difficult as possible, discouraging peer-to-peer file sharing, and creating an "obstacle" in hopes of reducing the likelihood of illegal downloads. Another method commonly practiced by record companies is the act of filing a lawsuit. This can be seen in the example of Napster, and how recording companies wanted the service to be shutdown. Music companies have "repeatedly used high-profile lawsuits to deter venture capitalists from providing
second and third-round funding to Internet start-up companies" (McCourt & Burkart). This demonstrates how record companies try to induce fear into other companies or individuals that may be thinking about providing funding for online music sites. This method gives an indirect warning to others about starting online music sites, and for those who may be pirating on the Internet.
As this essay has shown, Internet piracy is a large problem amongst our society, especially for record companies. As time goes on, advances in technology will increase, allowing for a wider window of opportunity for people to download illegal music files over the Internet. As more people gain new ways for obtaining illegal music, record companies must also figure out new ways for preventing such file sharing to occur. Downloading music online is a thing of the present and will certainly continue to be around in the future. One feels that record companies must accept that online downloading is not going to go away any time soon, and that creative action must be taken in order to obtain that share of the market. Record companies must conform to societal changes and demands in order to have a better chance of fighting piracy and to maintain valuation over time.
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