Evolution of Piracy
Wrote this for a class last semester and figured I wouldn't let it go to waste. Much of it is basic information or just build up, the meat of the actual paper is toward the end. Destroy it, love it, critique it.
The internet is a vast array of computers that are all connected together. Much of the internet is not restricted or policed in anyway. Many organizations and governments have attempted to block certain material or even prosecute individuals due to activities performed on websites. Since the internet is a virtual object, there is no physical possession. The world is moving to virtual goods, including but not limited to, movies, games, on demand television and music. Music has been at the heart of the piracy war since early 2000; and the music industry needed to do something fast to stop the downward spiral.
Piracy has led many to believe or feel that everything on the internet is free, from articles in the New York Times to the movie "Animal House". If a person cannot physically hold the material in their hand, then they feel it is of no worth. However, everything on the internet that you can download has some type of worth. Many even believe that since there is no physical object, then the worth of the material downloaded should be of lesser value.
"Despite highly publicized efforts by the music industry to curb music piracy, millions of Americans continued to illegally download and share music. This study obtained college student responses to scenarios that measured perceptions of three types of music theft: shoplifting a CD, illegally downloading, and illegally downloading plus file sharing. The students also reported their own recent downloading behavior, completed a demographics questionnaire, and responded to a series of statements that assessed their attitudes regarding factors associated with legal compliance in other domains. The data indicated that students viewed downloading and file sharing very differently than they viewed shoplifting in terms of endorsement of reasons to comply with laws prohibiting those behaviors. Further, concerns regarding punishment (i.e. deterrence), morality beliefs, and generalized obligation to obey the rule of law had the strongest relationships to self-reported downloading behavior. Respect for the music industry had the weakest relationship to legal compliance with both responses to the scenarios and students' self-report of their own downloading behavior" (Why were millions of people not obeying the law?).
It has become such a common practice among teens and adults now to download music freely and illegally that people do not have any concept of what virtual goods should cost. Society has no concept of value when it comes to downloadable music. Consumers are in mindset that anything on the internet is free because that is how much of the internet has operated since its conception. Piracy is illegal in many countries worldwide, but people simply do not care. No one was being prosecuted by the law; downloading content that was meant to be purchased was illegal but it was a law that was not enforced (Aslib Proceedings). The music industry was suffering, and because of this the Recording Industry Associate of America, RIAA, stepped in and promised to begin protecting the recording industries intellectual properties in 2003. They have filed several lawsuits against individuals, and have helped push governments in shutting down Peer-to-Peer websites. The piracy of music has destroyed the music industry in what it once was, but it is still a healthy business due to new advances in technology and business models (Psychology, Crime & Law).
The word Napster is synonymous with music piracy in the early 2000's. This website, along with many others, have helped consumers receive music freely, illegally and instantly. (Deviant Behavior). The reason file sharing, a peer-to-peer network that would allow users to upload and download files so that users could receive content faster, took off was due to the convenience of the platform (Computer World). You never had to go to a store or even give out your credit card. As long as you had access to the internet, you would be able to download any type of digital content for free. The music industry took a big hit once piracy became more mainstream in 2006. Album sales fell from 2.5 billion units in 2000 to 1.8 billion in 2006. Once music began to switch to digital and MPEG-2 Audio Layer II, MP3, format developed into a standard. MP3 became a problem because MP3 did not have any type of security features. The format allowed files to be very small sizes, usually 3 megabytes, and this allowed music to be uploaded and downloaded easily. Due to the security issues and the fight against piracy of music, the industry began adopting Digital Rights Management, DRM. DRM would make a music player check the protection against the service the user was using, Rhapsody was a large supporter of DRM, but the only problem was that if that service shut down or became unavailable the user would be unable to play the music that they purchased (European Journal Of Crime, Criminal Law & Criminal Justice). Which brings the argument that the user does not really own the content they purchased. It is up to the service to stay online at all times if you want to keep the content you purchased. One of the creators of Napster was, Sean Parker, he has since then been part of many large companies, being the co-founder of Plaxo, the Founding President of Facebook, and also on the board of directors of Spotify, an all you can eat music streaming service launched in 2006 in Europe. Even though his work at Napster was not legal, it did show great promise in his capabilities, and his love for digital content.
"Because of platforms like Spotify, you can consume music, share music, build a collection, without ever having bought the music," said Parker,
whose forays into that territory terrified, enraged, and panicked the music industry back in the late 1990s and early 200s" (Venture Beat). Napster was created early during the internet bubble, but it was noticeable that people wanted their music cheaply and easily accessible. New methods of distribution had to be found and met so that consumers could have access to content easily, which has paved the way for services like iTunes, and Spotify to flourish.
When digital music first began to take off, Apple Inc. launched a music service in 2001, songs could be purchased individually, or traditionally by the album. Before digital distribution, everyone had to buy an entire album but now people had the option to buy individual songs off an album (Mac Life). This revolutionized the music industry; it led to consumers using online music services like iTunes more frequently from 2004, 24%, to 2005, 43% (Why were millions of people not obeying the law?). The music industry needed a savior, sales were declining, and more music continued to slip into the internet freely. James Diener, CEO and President of A&M/Octone Records was quoted saying
"It forced change in a positive way. People who are critical of what iTunes may have done perhaps have short memories and do not realize that the alternative at the time was that an enormous amount of music was leaking onto the internet and being consumed for free," Diener added. "The alternative was to inspire people to buy music, and to go to a digital retail site. That was a remarkable step forward"(SMH).
iTunes revolutionized how people thought about the consumption of music. It was not free, but it was convenient, and that is one of the main reasons piracy took off. People wanted their music instantly and Apple enabled that by giving the masses access to an online library of music, in which every song was priced at 99 US cents. It was a distribution model that worked and helped inspire consumers to support their favorite artist cheaply and conveniently. The pricing also helped clarify the value of an album, there was no longer and confusion due to price. Some albums would be priced higher than others, possibly meaning to a consumer that it was a better album. iTunes cleaned up that problem by setting every single song at the same low price. iTunes paved the way for more mobile devices like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad so that consumers could play their content on the go. The amount of content that could be stored on these devices were astonishing, and helped spur the growth of the music industry even further (SMH). As mobile networks are becoming more widely accessible with download and upload speeds having been improved significantly, devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets have flourished. These devices have allowed for a new generation for music consumption. The birth Spotify in 2006 spurred a movement for many to begin consuming music legally. The service is an"all you can eat"streaming service.
There is a free model, and a paid model, the service holds 15 million tracks; in comparison, iTunes has approximately 20 million tracks, from the biggest labels that are accessible in fourteen countries around the world instantly. This way of distribution is very pleasing to many, and quenches the instant gratification that people naturally want. The world continues to move faster, and people want content faster. At the touch of your fingertips, you can have access to 15 million songs instantly, and freely. Artists and labels receive money by advertisements between songs or by people paying for the advertisement free paid subscription. There is now no worry about buying individual songs or albums, now consumers load a Spotify program on their favorite device, and begin listening instantly. The only major downside to Spotify is that you must be connected to the internet to listen to music unless you have already downloaded songs from the service on to your device. Spotify has filled the need of people to have music instantly, and freely. The reason piracy became so prevalent was because people wanted their content as soon as possible and sites like Napster filled that gap at the time, even if the actions were illegal. Spotify even marketed the services as "an alternative to music piracy". Sweden, a country known for its pirating habits, has seen a drop of 25% in piracy since the launch of Spotify. The creators knew exactly what subset of consumers they were going after. Sean Parker was one of the founding father of this type of instant media by creating Napster. Now that the technology is much more advanced, and prevalent he has helped use what he learned at Napster and has become a spokesperson for Spotify in saying that an alternative to piracy is here, and it is Spotify. There is now an equivalent or if not better service in Spotify then Napster was or even could become. Spotify has given what piracy could never really give consumers, and that was the easy discovery of new music through friends (Torrent Freak).
People enjoy sharing information and content ever since social networking, from the times of MySpace to Twitter. Being able to share your music with friends has become very popular. With the use of Spotify and social networks like Facebook has allowed Spotify to grow as a service. Record labels and artist are being easily discovered now with the enhancements of social networks. Piracy allowed others to discover new content but the majority or most popular content would be mainstream musicians (The Verge). Due to Spotify's deep integration into Facebook it has allowed others so share instantly and in real time the song they are listening to all their friends, which gives artists the ability to reach a broader audience and in return gain more fans. This is the music industry of the 21st century, a very dynamic and ever changing industry that will continue to evolve to meet consumer's needs. It has been a long road for the music industry to finally realize that they must change with the times, and as time continues, they will begin to realize that the value the industry puts on music does not match the value a consumer puts on music. (The Verge)
The United States proposed a law called Stop Online Piracy Act, SOPA, and the Protect IP Act, PIPA, which both essentially gave content creators the right to pull any material off the internet that harmed their intellectual properties. However, the public and organizations shot down these bills almost immediately, with large companies like Google and Facebook speaking out about how this will harm the internet more than help it. Piracy will be around until government actually enforces laws against websites that conduct in these activities but public opinion is greatly against blocking the internet in anyway (Forbes).
Piracy has become a large part of society and without piracy, much of what has been created today may not exist in the form it does. Pirating material is illegal but if music labels become more open and willing to release more content so that it is easily accessible more people will begin to legally obtain the content. As more services like iTunes and Spotify become more prevalent. Labels must continue to find new and innovative distribution methods so that people have ways to obtain the content and labels are still paid for the content they produce.