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July 23, 2003

Re: Reader comments that file sharing appears to be stealing. Stealers should be punished. Throw them in jail! We need to educate people.


File sharing is no different from how fans have enjoyed music in the past. Music is a social phenomenon that we share with our friends and loved ones. We have always used whatever media and technologies were available to discover new artists, try out new tunes, and find rare recordings. It's free promotion for the recording labels. It's how you create fans.

It used to be vinyl albums and tapes. Today it's CDs and MP3's. You get a song from a friend's CD, off the air, or the P2P network, listen to it, make duplicates, create mixes. ... And if you really like it, you buy your own CD, go the concerts, and pass it along to others.

The concept of stealing requires a monetary loss. If I steal a CD from a store, the store has to buy a replacement CD. Clear loss. But if I share a file, what is the financial harm? There is no physical product that’s been taken or diminished. There indeed are real music pirates. They have CD manufacturing plants, flood the streets with fake CDs, and are affiliated with organized crime. They're not individual file sharing consumers.

Perhaps the financial impact is indirect. On a consumer level research shows that people who share files are MORE likely to buy music that people who don't share. So the result of file sharing is more sales, not less.

On an industry level, while RIAA cries about losing billions of dollars due to file sharing, studies have little if any true effect. The reality is there are plenty of reasons for lower sales that have nothing to do with the P2P networks. We’re in a recession, the music industry has severely cut back releases 25%, and abandoned the older consumer market. Given all that, sales only dropped 4.1%. The surprise is that music sales aren’t depressed even more. If file sharing is a cause, it’s had a positive impact, not a negative one.


The relevant law (Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution) exists not just to protect copyright owners, but also to ‘to promote the progress of science and useful arts’, to get the work into the public sphere and then into the public domain. The law is not intended and does not provide for exclusive control.

Last I checked, this is not a totalitarian society … though RIAA and MPAA would like to make it so with Draconian efforts that give the industries absolute control over how their product is used, not to mention subverting due process, rescinding civil liberties, and making file sharing a felony.

The courts have upheld “fair use”, whether it’s sampling to create new works, recording a TV to play later, making a friend a tape, or using technology that has both infringing and non-infringing uses.

It is ironic that education is mentioned. That is the last refuge of authoritarianism. I don’t have absolute control. You’re using my product in a way that I don’t want. So the problem must be with you. Now I must educate you. You will learn what I want you to learn. Check out the latest propaganda at http://www.respectcopyrights.org/ .

The truth is consumers DO know the value of musicians. People still buy CDs and t-shirts, they go to concerts, they patronize bars with bands. And they share music they love with friends. There’s a word for such customers - FANS. You don’t throw them in jail.

The public speaks with its actions. 60 million plus American share files. They demand selection, flexibility, convenience … and respect. When they get it, they happily spend their money - witness Apple’s iTunes. The educating here needs to be done on the side of the industry to meet the needs of their customers.

Copyright 2003, Marc Freedman



Copyright 2003-4 Marc Freedman. All Rights Reserved.

All opinions expressed herein are those of the author unless otherwise noted. This web site at www.diariaa.com is non-commercial satire. It is in no way endorsed, sponsored, or affiliated with RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America. All trademarks and copyrights mentioned on this site are retained by their respective owners.

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