By Phil Seaman
The first part of Music Editor Phil Seaman’s look into the affects of modern technology upon the British music industry asks the question “How easy is it to illegally download music and get away with it?”
It’s always quite amusing to read about a story surrounding a 89 year old woman who has been subjected to a lawsuit from the BPI, aka the British Music Industry. Allegedly, the woman has been systematically downloading the latest Hardcore/Rave tunes illegally over the last 4 years. In fact, this woman, who doesn’t even own a computer, has allegedly downloaded over 600GB of the latest underground smashes in this period, and the BPI will settle out of court for a tiny £10,000 fine.
This is one of the rare ‘lets-make-an-example-of-somebody’ cases that the music industry actually takes against people in the UK. Usually, they manage to get it wrong, as a clever music pirate has been pretending to use the old woman’s daughters IP address proxy as cover for their acts.
When someone gets labelled a music pirate, there is a romantic image attached to their predicament. They sit at their computer with a hook for an arm and a beard that has residue of parrot droppings and liquor in it, naturally accompanied with a skull and bones poster on wall, the sick, twisted people.
However, the fact of the matter is most music pirates are normal, boring people (although there might be the odd person out there who manages to fit the prior description, usually having their recently downloaded 128kb/s advanced copy of the new Megadeth album.)
39 percent of music fans currently download songs from illegal sites in the UK, and possibly some don’t even realise that their download of ‘Because We Want To’, the renowned Billie Piper classic available for p2p download from limewire is actually an illegal copy; its almost too easy to steal.
Whereas the pirates of the past had to row boats day and night and engage in massive sword-fights (or so Pirates of the Caribbean tells me), all these people have to do is log on, type the song name and click.
So apparently the ISP’s and the BMI are constantly at loggerheads as to who is responsible for stopping people downloading. The ISP’s don’t want to lose customers, and Virgin Media’s recent threat to send out letters telling people to stop illegally downloading is nothing more than a token effort. It’s probably because ISPs are legally only considered “mere conduits” of information, as per the E-Commerce Regulations 2002.
This means that at the current moment, you can log onto your favourite Bit Torrent website, get a copy of the Download Manager Azerueus and download away without much fear of prosecution, even less so if you block your proxy.
The problem with Bit Torrent is that being a P2P based system your i.p. can be tracked and feasibly you could get done. Bugger. But the chances of actually getting ‘caught’ are so minimal, it’s the equivalent of running across a slightly busy road in terms of danger.
Even less dangerous are the sites that offer downloads via sites such as Rapidshare, where the chances of getting caught and them actually being able to prove that you actually downloaded the file without owning a copy of the album are so unlikely, you are almost guaranteed to get away scot-free.
The fact that it’s so simple is what makes it so alarming: Sign up for a forum that posts links to music, search for your album/song of choice, a few clicks later and there it is, sitting on your harddrive waiting for its first tainted play – that is, if you even care about it.
As a result, music piracy is so widespread it increasingly seems to be the norm to see a link to a download of the album next to its review on your favourite blog.
This is by no means promoting the downloading of music illegally; but if you had a choice between downloading a piss-poor iTunes 128kb/s M4A for 79p or a 320vbr MP3 for zilch, with little chance of getting caught, it comes down to morality – and that’s a dangerous, possibly destructive situation for the BMI to deal with.
Next time, Phil looks at the long term effects on music as a result of music download sites such as iTunes.