Feb 26, 2008

Jaywalking in cyberspace

by Adam Privett

Since the revolution of Napster, downloading music illegally has developed into a common trend, especially among college students. New online music programs are combating the tendency of students to take music without paying by providing free music downloads for college students.
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With the convenience that programs like LimeWire offer, it is hard to resist the temptation to download music illegally.
“LimeWire allows computer users to make files on their personal computers available to a multitude of other people all connected to each other, a method known as peer-to-peer file-sharing,” said an article on Breitbart.com by Alex Veiga entitled “Music Industry Sues LimeWire.” 
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LimeWire and similar applications have been detrimental to the creative industries. U.S. film studios lost an estimated $2.3 billion to Internet piracy in 2005, according to an article in the London Times called “The Global Pillage: Internet piracy is best tackled by the industry itself.”     
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All these monetary losses prompted some half-hearted legal actions by music studios and artists. However, some experts believe that bringing the courts into the equation is not the best course of action for stopping illegal downloading.
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“Rather than taking legal action against downloaders, the music industry needs to entice them to use legal alternatives,” said an article on the BBC News Web site entitled “Downloading ‘myths’ challenged.”
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Enticing these consumers would not only prevent them from illegally downloading but would also bring in new revenues through legal alternatives.
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“The research clearly shows that music fans who break piracy laws are highly valuable customers,” according to BBC news.
Legal downloads tripled during 2005, and 10 million songs have been legally downloaded.
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Fortunately, the popularity of downloading music legally has reached college students everywhere. College campuses around the country have teamed up with Napster and are offering online music programs where students can listen to songs in their entirety without having to purchase them, according to an article in the Washington Post by Nick Timiraos entitled “Free, Legal and Ignored.”   More than 120 colleges and universities have attempted to provide their students with free, legal music.
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 However, there is a catch — the music must be attained over campus networks.  This restriction provides a problem for students who have graduated and want to retain their online playlists.
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 “People still want to have a music collection.  Music listeners like owning their music, not renting,” says Bill Goodwin, who has experienced the consequences of having limited access of music, according to Timiraos’ article.   The ramifications of this restriction have been a large increase of students who have not signed up for this free service.  It seems to be a common reaction; the University of Southern California decided to cancel their contract with Napster after fewer than 500 students signed up for it.  
According to Timiraos, “The number of students using Napster at George Washington University dropped by more than half between the first and second year, from one-third to one-seventh of eligible users.”  This foreboding statistic has stirred up consternation, and Alexis Kim, a source in the article, is not sure that the university wants to renew its contract with Napster.
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If downloading music illegally is like jaywalking, then downloading music through legal means is akin to crossing the street in the designated crosswalk. It may take a little more effort to make the crossing, but at least pedestrians will have a clean conscience when they reach the other side of the street.

Contact Adam Privett at ajprivett@liberty.edu.


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