So your daughter wants the new Britney Spears
CD or perhaps you're looking to
make a nice Christmas music compilation for playing over the holidays. For many
people it is as simple as opening one of many
programs, selecting the tracks,
burning to a
CD-ROM. What isn't so
simple about downloading music is the copyright protection laws that people
break everyday by downloading some music tracks off the
Internet. To make matters even
more muddled, some music can be lawfully downloaded, and for those that aren't,
laws regarding the sharing and downloading of music on the Internet vary from
country to country.
In Canada, for example, downloading
copyright music from peer-to-peer
networks is legal,
but uploading those files is not. Additionally Canada has imposed fees on
recording mediums like blank CDs and similar items. These levies are used to
fund musicians and songwriters for revenues lost due to consumer copying.
Canada has initially charged this tax on MP3 players, but a recent Supreme Court
decision ruled that the law was written in such a way that these players were
exempt from the tax.
The U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act is much more strict and
deems copying of copyrighted music (with the exception of making a copy for your
own use) as illegal. The U.S. Code protects copyright owners from the
unauthorized reproduction, adaptation or distribution of sound recordings, as
well as certain digital performances to the public. In more general terms, it is
considered legal for you to purchase a music CD and record (rip) it to MP3 files
for your own use. Uploading these files via peer-to-peer networks would
constitute a breach of the law.
One of the big issues concerning the
music industry is, of course, the revenue loss. In theory, if a person is able to
download his or her favorite music off the Internet, that person would not need to purchase
the CD at a local music store. Every story you read will most likely produce a
different set of numbers the music industry claims it has lost due to music
downloading. The most common average of numbers seems to sit around a loss of
20 percent globally in sales since 1999.
Organizations that support music
sharing and downloading however have thrown a wrench into the statistics
released by the music industry as they suggest some of these losses are due to a
bad economy and fewer "new releases" hitting the market in some of those years.
It is obvious that the music industry has to be losing some money due to
Internet music file sharing, but
finding the exact amount lost due to music downloading isn't so simple.
One thing that is for certain however is that the loss affects the industry,
the musicians, and even sound technicians, recording studios, and music stores.
The music industry and even some musicians who feel
they are taking a loss due to the sharing of their copy-protected works online
have started fighting back, so to speak. In recent months there have been more
cases of music piracy heading to the courts. From the creators of peer-to-peer
and music sharing program authors, to individual users uploading and sharing
copy-protected works online, more people are finding themselves in court trying
to avoid paying monetary damages and trying to prove that what they are doing is
in fact, fair use.
As mentioned on the RIAA (Recording
Industry Association of America), the penalties for breaching the copyright act
differ slightly depending upon whether the infringing is for commercial or
private financial gain. If you think being caught infringing on these copyright
laws will result in a small fine or "slap on the wrist", think again! In the
U.S., the online infringement of copyrighted music can be punished by up
to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned
up to six years. Individuals also may be held civilly liable, regardless of
whether the activity is for profit, for actual damages or lost profits, or for
statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed copyright.
If there are so many lawful issues
surrounding the downloading of music, you might wonder why we have such in
influx of MP3 players, CD burners, and even
allows users to easily rip music from a CD to their
computer. The simple
answer is that these devices do have a legitimate and legal fair use
association. As mentioned earlier, you may choose to make your personal back-up
copy to use in a MP3 player, or you may visit one of many
Web sites, like
iTunes, which offers music that you pay for as you download. While some may
wonder why people are willing to pay for what can be had for 'free'. Those who
do prefer to obey the copyright protection laws have sung in to the tune of
purchasing over 150 million songs from the iTunes site alone.
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: December 22, 2004
(Recording Industry Association of America)
Excellent resource for those interested in the laws surrounding the copyright
protection of music. The RIAA Web site also offers links to recent news, events,
issues the music industry is facing, and more.
Apple's very popular online music store. Offers purchase links to a plethora of
digital songs, as well as iPod players and accessories.
United States Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (PDF)
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law by 1 President
Clinton on October 28, 1998. The legislation implements two 1996 World
Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties: the WIPO Copyright Treaty
and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. The DMCA also addresses a
number of other significant copyright-related issues.
Canadian Copyright Act
Copyright Act ( R.S. 1985, c. C-42 ), provided by the Canadian department of
Justice Web site.