‘Democracy’ leak contributes to piracy

curt.kemp

Guns N’ Roses’ highly anticipated album “Chinese Democracy” will be released Nov. 23. Funny thing is, more than a dozen Web sites currently have some or all of the tracks from Axl Rose’s 13-year-masterwork available for download. And the album is free.

Illegal to download, but free.

The music is pirated. In the case of “Chinese Democracy,” the album comes from either a member of the entertainment media or the record label itself and is distributed online through peer to peer (P2P) connections.

The reason the album is online, and the rest of the pirated music is online, might very well be the fault of the major music labels, like Guns N’ Roses’ Geffen Records.

Internet music piracy began in 1999, when Shawn Fanning was attending Northeastern University in Boston and created Napster.

From then on, the music piracy revolution was in full swing. By 2001, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, Napster had 26.4 million users.

But, the Napster community wasn’t liked by everyone. After all, the music selection was vast, free and quick (relatively quick at least, since a 56K modem seemed lightning fast in 1999).

As early as 2000, Napster was battling lawsuits from record labels. Acting as a stern father, the RIAA sent out hundreds of subpoenas to children, grandmothers and, rightfully so, the gluttonous people who had discographies of every artist they could think to put in the Napster search bar. As of 2007, there have been 20,000 music-loving citizens sued by the RIAA for copyright infringement.

There’s no doubt the music industry (acting through the RIAA) needed to act on this issue. Music was, after all, literally being stolen over the internet.

The way it was handled, though, was the wrong move, and forever will be. The heavy-handed response by the major music labels resulted in a backlash from music fans, a backlash that resulted in more P2P programs popping up afterwards.

Instead of adapting to the technology of Napster at the time, the record industry brought the hammer down. The major music labels didn’t consider the 26.4 million potential customers that were available, nor the 20,000 customers they were going to lose.

Despite record company CEO’s best attempts to put an end to illegal downloading, it continues today, maybe more than ever.

If there’s that feeling that downloading music takes money away from artists, consider this: you’d be giving 20 times more money to an artist by attending a live show and buying a t-shirt. From an album sale, artists receive less than $1, whereas live shows and merchandise are nearly pure profit. So, download that album, see the band live, buy the t-shirt and your conscience should be clear.

With the economy as it is, and this being the iPod generation, piracy is sure to stay in style for some time. Today, if the owner of a 160 gigabyte iPod wanted to fill the device with entirely internet purchased songs, it would cost over $32,000, a figure far out of reach of any college student.

For now at least, the pirates will continue to plunder internet music, and there’s little that can be done to save the failing music industry.