Student #: 994806000
November 15, 2007
MUSIC PIRACY: IS THE CONCEPT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DEAD?
Today, the Internet has really taken over the world. It has altered the way we think, the way we socialize and entertain ourselves, and the way we carry out our daily lives and chores. Its ability to help us travel the globe while still sitting at our computers is phenomenal. Now, we have access to a world of information, the opportunity to communicate with people from every part of the globe, the ability to shop around the world from the comfort of our homes, and the opportunity to share resources and ideas with people that have the same interests as us (The Internet: benefits, dangers and strategies). However, this has given rise to a number of problems including forming friendships with strangers that can potentially harm you or someone you know, our identity being at risk with our information being vulnerable when in the hands of the wrong people, and wrongful sharing of resources like music that are rightfully the property of its creator or producer. Hence, to protect the intellectual property of artists and encourage them to continue creating popular pieces of work, copyright laws are passed by the government. But how far is too far? To what extent can we sit back and watch record companies protect their property? How do we make both the creators and the consumers of music happy? All this is discussed in this essay.
Intellectual property is divided into two categories: industrial property and copyright. Industrial property includes inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indications of sources whereas copyright includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works and architectural designs (WIPO: What is Intellectual Property?). As time goes by and new technologies develop, notions of copyright and intellectual property are disregarded because, now more than ever, consumers have the tools they need to acquire the songs and albums they want without having to pay a penny for it. This is a serious problem because “global corporations invest in the extremely costly business of finding talent, and developing, producing, recording, promoting and distributing musical recordings” (Gauntlett and Horsley, 204). In this day and age, consumers have digital technology at their disposal and this can be used to create perfect copies of original tracks and albums in minutes. Peer-to-peer or P2P services like Napster and Kazaa are causing great distress for the music industry. They are causing their revenues to drop consistently. In an article titled “Who Else is Laughing at the Music Industry” by Don Reisinger, Warner Music Group experienced a net loss of $27 million during the quarter that ended on March 31, 2007 and another $17 million during the quarter that ended on June 30, 2007. This has made the company and its competitors realize that they need to start finding innovative ways of reaching their consumers or else these numbers will continue to be recorded, if not increase.
Intellectual property is most certainly not dead. Companies are finding newer ways of beating technology by ``permitting legitimate personal use (playing on computers and ripping to mp3) while restricting the ability to redistribute the resulting mp3s over the Internet`` (Gauntlett and Horsley, 211). But this will only get the consumers more agitated as the consumers too have rights such as the fair use of information and resources for reference purposes, etc. In an article titled “Who are the pirates? The Politics of Piracy, Poverty, and Greed in a Globalized Music Market”, Jack Bishop said that greed, the lust for power, price gouging, and price fixing has earned the industry an unfavourable reputation (Bishop 2004). Thus different countries that cannot afford to purchase CDs at the prices being put by the companies are downloading music, thus causing huge losses for these companies. The online availability of music is not always a bad thing because, for some local artists, this is their only way of getting the global audience’s attention. An example of this is Esmee Denters who, through her postings on Youtube, managed to attract the attention of Justin Timberlake, thus earning her a spot in his tour as an opening act. Another point is that consumers do not want to have to pay for an entire CD in order to hear one song so they prefer to acquire just that one particular song and do not mind paying for it too. Hence, the big record companies need to find ways to compromise both the interests of the artists and the record companies and its consumers. For that, it is crucial that the industry knows who its consumers are.
In the article titled “Who Else is Laughing at the Music Industry”, Don Reisinger stated that Warner Music Group did not know its customers and hence started seeing great losses. Instead of teaming up with sites that are encouraging the legal downloading of music, it criticized it. An example of this is Apple’s iTunes software program that encourages music enthusiasts to legally download and customize a library for themselves by only paying for the songs that they are interested in. Research concluded that most people do not mind paying $5-10 for an album if only the record companies lower their expenses and bring the prices down to these numbers. Now that Warner has seen the light, it is depending on Apple’s expertise and is encouraging the software program.
I do believe that artists should get paid for their work but not at the expense of high prices for CDs being charged to the consumers. Just recently, The Daily reported that record companies are earning a higher profit margin despite the fact that their revenues are declining because they have reduced their expenses (The Daily 2007). Earlier, their biggest expenses used to be marketing the CD or artist. With the reduced expenses, companies can now earn bigger profits by charging their customers less. This, in turn, will increase the number of CD sales and pay the artist a good salary for their efforts. There are many other ways artists can get paid too. They can go on tours and promote their CD. Even through the sale of merchandise that has their name or face on it, artists can earn huge dollars, thus compensating them handsomely for their efforts.
In the online music world, if everyone’s needs and interests are taken into consideration, a balance can be struck. The record company can be happy with the sales made, the artist or band will be recognized for their efforts and the consumers of the different genres will get the music they want. Intellectual property is not dead and will not be if everyone works together to recognize the talents around them in a way that does not negatively affect any one of its stakeholders.
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