Columnist Phoebe Wood discusses the ethics of the illegal downloading of music.
I’m going to put my hand up and admit it… I don’t pay for the music I download. And I do feel guilty about this… sometimes. After all it’s taking the music that artists worked hard to make for free.
I know that if I admitted that out loud in the middle of a lecture no one would be shocked or judge me. Maybe because the lecture would be filled with dirt-poor students who can’t afford to pay for music either, but mainly because illegally downloading music isn’t such a taboo anymore.
It’s so easy and accessible that half the time I manage to convince myself I’m living within the law. Is converting or streaming music just as illegal as downloading it?
A decade ago I would have been hunched at my mum’s computer, clogging up the hard drive with my music downloaded from Limewire. All under the guise of ‘file sharing’ but that was definitely illegal.
Nowadays I prefer a much cleaner approach, that of converting Youtube videos to mp3 format, an approach that most of my friends use too. You only need to type into Google ‘mp3 video converter’ and there are thousands of hits. You don’t even need to trawl through to page 26 to find that questionable site that will probably simultaneously implant a virus into your laptop. The first site is as good as any. Surely something so easy to find on the internet can’t be illegal? If I can find it that quickly then so can the FBI or CIA and they’ll probably be able to work their spy magic to trace users and shut them down. As of yet I’ve had no impromptu visits from the SWAT team in the middle of the night so I can only conclude that this method is less law-breaking than others.
Now as to why we think it’s ok to not pay for music… there are several reasons that come to mind. One that pertains specifically to me is that I am a student, and as such I like holding on to what little money I have. There are SO many songs continuously being released and frankly I don’t have the funds to keep up.
Another reason is that there are quite a few artists who just aren’t likeable, and frankly don’t deserve my money. When Chris Brown beat up Rihanna I took a stand by making sure that when I downloaded his songs he received no money for it. Kanye West’s little stunt with Taylor Swift at the VMAs all those years ago put a massive black mark next to his name for me, and he clearly isn’t struggling financially as a result of illegal downloading.
Which brings me onto a third reason. Clearly artists are still getting their money from other means, such as tours, merchandise, guest appearances etc. I like to think that for every song I don’t pay for, there’s someone else actually being a good citizen and paying the 99p or however much. Us illegal downloaders rest assured that the albums your parents buy or the vinyl your edgy sibling purchases is penance for your bad deeds.
Because illegal downloading of music is not going to stop any time soon. I mean, why would you when it’s just made so easy?
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