Do you download music for free on the Internet?
by white1 on February 10, 2015 - 1:14am
You are most probably one of the millions of people in the world who illegally downloads music for free on the Internet. For over a decade, there have been debates regarding the ethical dilemma of downloading music without paying for it. On one hand, the impact is felt on the artists and on the record labels that produce the works because of a considerable decline in CD sales. On the other hand, the ease of instantly downloading music and the variety of songs offered on the file-sharing sites are the main reasons why music fans do not want to pay for CDs. Is downloading music for free morally wrong? What solution can we propose to this problem?
If one follows the principles of deontology, the answer is simple: obey the rules and pay for the music that you listen to. This is not the case in real life: “70% of online users find nothing wrong in online piracy; there have been $12.5 billion in economic losses per year due to piracy in the music industry; 95% of music downloaded online is illegal; an average iPod contains pirated music of $800” (GO-Gulf). Most artists agree with the deontological ideas because they want their original works to be protected and paid for. In 2000, Metallica sued Napster for giving their songs away for free, and eventually drove the company out of business (Blabbermouth). This successful battle on copyright infringement does not accurately represent the thousands of lawsuits filed that have not been fruitful (Fisher). Thus, deontology is not the theory that one should apply in order to find a realistic solution to the problem.
Music lovers follow the ideas of teleology, more specifically ethical egoism, where a person’s self-interests come first (Merrill 32). Instantly downloading the most recent tracks or less popular songs that are not available everywhere is efficient in the users’ perspective. Ever since iTunes came up with the “pay $0.99 per song” policy, some people changed their habits and took the safe route to buy great quality music. In February 2013, iTunes fans “purchased and downloaded more than 25 billion songs from the iTunes Store” (Monaghan). For others, getting free music, even if it is not high quality, is more profitable and worth it. Paying nothing and still listening to songs that other individuals pay for contributes to their happiness. They do not think or care about the artists and record labels, therefore giving priority to their happiness, which in this case is to have access to free music.
I find that the best way to solve this problem is to use the utilitarian approach, which is derived from the teleological system, and to find an advantageous solution for both the artists and the music fans. This theory states that one’s actions must “bring about the most happiness or the greatest good to the greatest number of people” (Merrill 35). Instead of attempting to scare the fans by filing lawsuits, a strategy that has not been successful, record labels can enforce the law through technological means. We live in a digital era where people spend a significant amount of time in front of computers and cell phones. By creating online marketing strategies, record labels can gain access to the fans’ profiles and interests in order to market products in return to giving them access to free music. This way, the artists and producers will be compensated for their work, and the fans will obtain authorization to download free music. Another possible solution that would be beneficial to both sides would be to sell CDs with discounts for concert tickets and/or music products, which would prompt the music fans to buy CDs instead of simply downloading tracks. In my opinion, the utilitarian approach resolves this issue in the best way, because it satisfies the needs of the customers and compensates the artists for their works.
Blabbermouth. Metallica's Lars Ulrich Revisits Napster Batte. n.p., 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.
Fisher, Marc. Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use. The Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2007. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.
GO-Gulf. Online Piracy in Numbers-Facts and Statistics. n.p., 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.
Merrill, John C. “Overview: Theoretical Foundations for Media Ethics,” 3-326 in A. David Gordon, John M Kittross, John C Merrill, Willian Babcock, and Michael Dorsher (eds.), Controversies in Media Ethics, 3rd Edition (New York: Routledge, 2011)
Monaghan, Christine. iTunes Store Sets New Record with 25 Billion Songs Sold. Apple Press Info, 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.