Ripping Off

Posted: 03.07.08 in Blogging

There is a lively debate on the BBC Blogs about downloading files illegally. I’m not so sure where I stand now. I don’t personally download content illegally (though I do copy my CDs onto my computer for my own personal use on my iPod). I can see why people would want to download music themselves, but I think it is what people do once they have obtained the download that is the most telling.

Many of the comments underneath the article casually state "it is not stealing; it is copyright infringement". They often compare taking a CD from a shop to downloading the same content from the Internet. It appears they hold the CD in much higher regard: in this instance it is stealing — they are taking a product permanently and from that point it cannot further be sold; whereas the content on the Internet is not stealing since the product still exists. Rubbish.

What is the difference between two lumps of plastic and bits of paper cunningly shaped and moulded to produce exactly the right noise and a collection of beeps and bumps that make the same noise? The CD is, after all, merely a copy of a song; no less so than the copy available for download. CDs can be replicated, as can digital media files. When you think that CDs cost little more than their electronic counterparts (if you look in the right places, granted), what is the difference between stealing a CD from HMV and downloading content without paying and sticking it on your own CD? Perhaps just a matter of pence.

However, downloading content to try it out is cited as being a motivating factor to buy further content. At the moment I am watching Skins episodes from 4OD — Channel 4’s On Demand service. I could be persuaded to buy a DVD of Skins and I might perhaps watch the next series of it on the television. Of course, I pay for it in the advertising I receive, and perhaps this is the way forward for on demand music downloads. Not sure I want Kris Marshall selling me BT phones in the middle of an album though…

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Comments
  1. Weiran Zhang says:

    You’ve succomed to the record industries propoganda on piracy. It is not a criminal matter, it is a civil offense and should really not involve the police. the BPS makes it look like a crime by comparing it to pretty street crime, but in the eyes of the law it really isn’t.

    What the record companies need to realise is that when they offer DRM free tracks that people can download quicker and easier than pirating, most will start paying for their music. At the moment it costs too much — it’s almost the same cost as a CD, it should be much less considering the much smaller logistics involved, I think 50p a track and £5 an album is fair.

    We should also be offered it in a varaiety of formats without DRM. I refuse to buy any DRM music and so should anyone else, what happens when iTunes doesn’t exist in 20 years and I want to play my music then?

    Piracy is a problem that the music industry has only compounded itself, and to be honest its getting what it deserves.

  2. Steve says:

    Well I suppose my argument is that there isn’t any difference between theft and piracy save for a mere technicality. Piracy is like stealing with a different guise. The only difference is whether the Police do get involved: a record store can as easily pursue civil action for CD theft as a record company can for copying their product.

  3. Steve says:

    However I also agree with you that DRM is not on.

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