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Illegal downloads: high-tech thievery

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Nearly 90 percent (86 percent) of teenagers polled by The Barna Group indicated music piracy — “including copying a CD for a friend or downloading non-promotional music online for free” — is either morally acceptable or not a moral issue. In the 2004 study, conducted for the Gospel Music Association, just 8 percent said such activities were immoral.

This is an “incredibly serious problem,” said Brian Mayes, president of Nashville Publicity Group. “I don’t think people outside of the music industry realize what goes into making an album, how many people are actually affected and receive their income through the sale of a record,” he said in an interview.

Mayes said he has heard people argue that artists, who are “worth millions of dollars,” can afford some consumers getting their music without paying for it.

“It’s the mix engineer, the background vocalists, the studio players, the marketing guy at the label, the distributor and the guy who boxed the CD to send it to the stores — there are a lot of people involved who are counting on that sale,” Mayes explained.

Global music sales have fallen 16 percent in five years, “to a large extent because of the proliferation of free unauthorized music,” according to a report prepared by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (ifpi.org).

According to the Barna study, four out of every five teenagers surveyed engaged in some type of music piracy in the six months before the survey — “including making copies of CDs for other people, downloading free music (other than promotions or giveaways), or uploading their own music files to the Internet to share with others.”

“It is changing the industry and the way we work,” Mayes said. The drop in music sales, therefore revenue, at least partly explained by piracy, is prompting some recording companies to trim their marketing budget and stick to proven artists.”

Unfortunately, “born again Christian teens” behave no differently than non-Christian teens when it comes to sharing and downloading music illegally. “Just 10 percent of Christian teens believe that copying CDs for friends and unauthorized music downloading are morally wrong, compared to 6 percent” of their non-born again peers, Barna reported.

In fact, many young people surveyed said they did not know the practice was illegal. That’s not surprising when one considers that for many students, their moral authority on the issue was a friend (28 percent). Only 2 percent of students named their youth pastor as a “source of moral perspective about music downloading.”

Just because your child is using the Internet to get music doesn’t mean they are breaking the law, Mayes added.

“The concept of downloading, being able to get your music instantly, is a great thing, but you need to pay for it,” he said. Legitimate downloads often have an embedded code, a unique license designed to prevent the purchaser from using the song for anything but their personal use.

Music is readily and legally available online, from sources as diverse as iTunes and walmart.com. In fact, the IFPI report revealed 420 million single tracks were downloaded legally from the Internet in 2005. That’s 20 times more than two years earlier, according to the report.

“When you purchase music online, you are not taking anything away from people who make their living off that music,” Mayes added.

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings