Ethics of Downloading Music; what's your take?

Hey guys. I come asking for assistance.

I am taking an ethics course at my university. We currently have a paper which will address a topic with a moral issue. I decided to choose the issue of downloading music.

I would like to get an idea of what some of you all think of this issue. Is it immoral to download music illegally? Is it morally right to download music?

I will be addressing both sides to be fair. Some ideas I already generated are:

Downloading is immoral:

  • stealing a product
  • hurting business

Downloading is moral:

  • “sampling” content
  • getting “ripped off” from a purchase (paying $15 for what ends up to be a mediocre album)

Any more suggestions or elaborations on these ideas would be appreciated.

TIA for anyone’s help.

I have several articles I’ve authored related to this topic, and there are others on the front page (although you’ll have to search the archives). So if you’d like to check them out, check threads I’ve started in this forum, and/or you can click on the links inside the threads where I mention the articles on the main page. Be aware that the RIAA/MPAA/IFPI version of ‘copyright’ is basically only to benefit them, not the consumer (they don’t like ‘fair use’ or portability for the consumer). Also be aware that the RIAA and any affiliates will greatly distort things to fit their ‘side,’ so any facts and figures they state are highly suspicious at least and certainly greatly exaggerated at best.

Quema - I am looking through the news as we speak. I think my only downfall is using Internet only sources. I am going to attempt to clarify what this means during another class.

Any other input would be appreciated.

Also, is there any way I can change the title of my thread? Still new to the forums and how to use the different functions. Wanted it to read “Ethics of Downloading Music; what’s your take?”

I’m not aware of how to change a thread title, sorry. :frowning:

Internet-only sources aren’t bad, but just make sure you document them. If you are using MLA format, make sure you have the most recent edition (I don’t, but I have an older one that did show how to document Internet sources).

What you’ve chosen to write about is really sort of narrow. The straight take is downloading anything you didn’t pay for (that should be paid for) is illegal. If it’s free of course, you can download all the files you want. That’s the morality of it (“thou shalt not steal”). If you attack your topic by “what is justified” rather than what is “moral,” you’ll have more leeway.

For example, the consumer has (now, ‘had’ should be used) the right to have a backup of any purchased material for archival purposes, as this fell under “fair use.” This is why DRM (digital rights management) is so wrong, because it deprives an honest user who purchases the content to burn it to CD (if you download it to your computer, you can basically only listen to it on your computer). However, the user is justified in finding ways to circumvent DRM to make a backup, archival copy and transfer the files to his medium/device of choice. Provided you buy it, you have the right to play it wherever you want and take it wherever you want. This is one example.

bravac… if you want to wrap your mind around something, try to answer 1 (or if you’d like to try) or all of the points I have. So far I’ve had no ‘takers’ from whomever has read the piece. I’d be happy to respond to whatever you come up with. :wink:

Unfortunately, only moderators are able to change thread titles here. I’ve changed it to this now. :wink:

Sean - thanks for the topic name change

Quema - thanks for sticking with my thread. I’ll try my best to provide feedback over the week as I’ve got a busy work schedule coming up.

I was sort of thinking more of introducing the term “illegal music” and how both sides attempt to spin the phrase. Such as the whole DRM issues and the DMCA introducing new legislation.

From what I understood, a person’s morality was derived from a person justifying what they believed in. Since all of us have similar but different standards of morality, we are able to pick and choose what we feel is right by making critical observations and fitting the pieces of the puzzle. I understand what you were saying there, and I feel that I am able to elaborate on this subject.

Oh for anyone’s reference, I posted the topic on and there’s a pretty good discussion of ideas over there. Most of it is pretty good.

its a downward spiral, first its downloading illegal files then its selling crack then its running over kids and beating old grannies, just think, you know the guilt and the shame of file sharing would drive you mad.

Don’t Download This Song - Weird Al Yankovic

Once in a while
Maybe you will feel the urge.
To break international copyright law
By downloading mp3s
From file sharing sites
Like morphous or grokster or limewire or kazza.
But deep in your Heart.
You know the guilt would drive you mad
And the shame would leave a permanent scar
Cause you start out stealing songs
Then you’re robbing liquor stores
And selling Crack
And running over school kids with your car

So Don’t Download This Song
The record store is where you belong
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh Don’t Download This Song

Oh you don’t want to mess
With the R I Double A
They’ll sue you if you burn that Cdr.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a grandma
Or a seven year old girl
They’ll treat you like the evil Hard-bitten criminal scum you are

So Don’t Download This Song (don’t go)
Pirating music all day long
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh Don’t Download This Song

Don’t take away money
From artists just like me
How else can I afford another solid gold Hum V
And diamond studded swimming pools
These things don’t grow on trees
So all I ask is everybody Pleaseeeeee

Don’t Download This Song (Don’t do it No No)
Even Lars Urlich Know it’s wrong (You could just ask him)
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should (You Really Should)
Oh Don’t Download This Song

Don’t Download This Song (Oh please don’t you do it or you)
Might Wind up in Jail like Tommy Chong (Remember Tommy)
Go and buy the CD (Right Now) like you know that you should (Go out and Buy it)
Oh Don’t Download This Song.

Don’t Download This Song (No no no no no no)
Or you’ll burn in hell before to long (And you deserve it)
Go and buy the CD (Just buy it) like you know that you should (You should get it)

Well, there’s only two sides: one where there’s an absolute standard (law), then the other that basically falls into ‘situational ethics’ (i.e., doing something according to what other people/society think is right at the moment or point in time; if you do something ‘wrong’ by an absolute standard, but society largely condones it (or you just don’t get caught), then it’s considered ‘ok’ by situational ethics. Otherwise, strictly from the RIAA/MPAA/IFPI standpoint, everyone is basically waiting to steal or cheat them out of money–this is why DRM exists (limiting someone’s purchase to one platform, not allowing any portability). Even if you download one song, listen to it, but never share or upload it to someone else, you are a ‘pirate.’ Where it would be ‘ok’ (justified) to download songs is if you download the full song, then buy the album, as the 20-30 second clips on sites aren’t usually the best sections to base evaluations on. Also, fair use rights stipulates copies as perfectly legal in academic settings (where libraries need to make copies for preservation or professors can copy selected portions of text from a book as an instructional aide) for example, and backups for archival purposes. However, these are the things DRM takes away (fair use).

I certainly won’t try to put words in your mouth, but I am trying to help out. Either way, how you ‘run with it’ is up to you.

I certainly won’t try to put words in your mouth, but I am trying to help out. Either way, how you ‘run with it’ is up to you.

I understand. Again, the purpose of my post was to expand my horizon on the topic. I’m trying to analyze this situation in as many ways as possible. Most of it is very logical, and I see why one side takes the particular viewpoint.

I was thinking of bringing up the whole Vinyl > Tape > CD > MP3 analogy and how people believe that once they purchased it the first time then that should be it. Again sort of relating to the ability to convert your music to MP3 and how you should have the freedom to do what you want with that purchase.

As far as the statistics go for how much profit the record companies say they are gaining/losing compared to what an outside source says they are gaining/losing, are they normally consistent with each other or is one skewed to make it look like downloading is hurting/helping the business? I say this because someone like Warner might say they are losing sales, but is it really related to downloading? I could probably tie it into how the companies are not completely truthful to the customer, and it becomes a possible counter-argument.

Mr. Brownstone: I might just have to quote some lyrics from that song to add some humor and describe how some artists are reacting to the situation.

When CD’s were totally unprotected, I was happy. I own some 400+ CD’s legally purchased. Life was pretty good. I could create custom mixes no problem, backup so that my original CD’s were never at risk of being stolen in my car, etc.

Then they started introducing different forms of copy protection. The first one I personally encounterd was one where they purposefully introduced clicks and pops in the sound and relied on Oversampling to correct for these pops and clicks and eliminate them from the playback stream so the sound would be clear when played back. Now, Oversampling was very common in home CD players but not in car or portable players. So, basically, the CD’s sounded like crap. More like FM quality playback instead of CD quality playback.

When I found that the CD I bought had this in it, I freaked. I was all worried that my players were having static problems or going bad or what not, but when I took it back to the record store to show the dudes what was happening, they explained the whole thing to me and gave me a full refund.

I have hardly purchased a store-bought CD since. And believe me, I would probably have purchased another few hundred or more music CD’s had they not pulled that crap.

Since then, I figured as long as they were selling “FM Quality” sound, I’d just say “Screw 'Em” and start recording music off of MTV and off of an ACTUAL FM RADIO. I’ve done that ever since. Yeah, it can be a pain, but it got better with the increased presence of digital recording instead of analog tape recording.

I have a portable MP3 player that records FM at up to 192kbps, while I have 3 others that record at 128kbps no sweat. So, I moved from recording to analog cassettes and ripping those to my hard drive to recording hours of FM radio and Music Videos.

With the FM radio, I convert to WAV, chop out the songs I want and save each as individual WAV files, then re-convert to 192kbps so as not to lose much sound quality. In the case of the 192kbps source, I can’t tell the diff between the originally encoded MP3 file and the re-encoded MP3 file. With the 128kbps files, I also can’t tell the diff between when they were 128kbps and were re-encoded at 192kbps.

With Music Videos, I simply pulled the audio stream from the AVI file, saved it as a WAV and processed it like I did above, encoding to 192kbps.

I’m just doing what folks have done for decades, and all it costs me is time. Given that I’m saving at least $10 or so per disk and the fact that I can just hand-pick the songs I want or record during times when the local college stations play entire albums in one shot (they even accept requests).

So, I have hundreds of CD’s that cover most of the past, and for the few newer releases out since I stopped buying, I do the capture thing instead. So, I’m pretty well set.

If I could buy legit songs off the web that did NOT have copy protection, I think I’d fork out the 88 cents or what not that Walmart charges or the 99 cents that the iTunes Store charges, without a second look. But the copy protection is just a total pain, and so I don’t.

I’ll survive, in part because they don’t make music as good as they used to, so I don’t feel compelled to go out and get as much music as back in the day. I mean - hey - I’ve already got all my 80’s hair band compilation albums… :smiley:

So yeah, maybe I’m being silly, but I’m taking a sort of mini-stand and it works for me, so for now and the foreseeable future, I’m good to go.

Interesting topic. I have mixed feelings on it so here is my take. I really could care less about the money grubbing folks at the record companies. I really only care about the artist. It is estimated that only about $1USD per CD that you buy in the store actually finds it’s way to the artist. So my stance on it is that for the artists that I really care about (My favorite bands) I purchase the CD brand new so that at least I have made some small donation to the artist. The fact of the matter is that if you really want to support the artist you go to the concerts. That is where they really make their money. There is also a huge legit market for used CDs, the problem with this is that the artist doesn’t see a dime of that money, so as far as the artist is concerned if you buy a used CD you might as well be downloading it. The other thing is that I can’t tell you how many artists that I run into where I really only enjoy a small handful of songs from that artist. I’m sorry but I don’t believe I should have to pay $15-$16USD for a CD with only 2-3 songs that I really enjoy on it. If I don’t enjoy the vast majority of the music from a given artist then I’m sorry they haven’t done what it takes to earn my money. Even the lesser known artists (barring local bands) make far more money than the average person will see in their lifetime. If downloading was really putting all of these artists into the poorhouse (like they the record companies and some artists are trying to claim) then why are they still in the business of making music. Most of the really well known artists are in it for the money and have precious little music integrity. That’s sad. It should be about the music first and then the money being a bonus. That is what happened with Lars Ulrich/Metallica. Come On, prior to kill 'em all they were giving away their music to people to expose people to their music, now they sue people for downloading? They have lost track of their origins. As for the morality of it, I view it like any business, if they produce a quality product then it deserves my money but if they produce a mediocre or just so-so product it doesn’t deserve my money. If I spend money on such things then they are robbing me. Also there is this to consider, if downloading wasn’t an option, would you still go out and buy discs (used or new) for only one or two songs that you really like? Probably not. So how are you really stealing if it is something that you weren’t going to buy anyway. The one thing that really frosts me is when people compare downloading music, ect. to stealing cars and robbing banks. A world of difference between downloading an image and stealing physical property.

I thought it did suck when they stopped selling CD Singles. But I really like the idea of digital downloads like the iTunes store. But I hate - HATE the copy protection aspect of it.

If I could buy songs from popular bands from iTunes in a NON-PROTECTED format and convert them freely to MP3 for universal compatibility, I’d be spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on that store. The concept of being able to buy ONLY the tracks I really want, or a full album if I choose is a GREAT one. It’s just the copy protection crap that I despise.

What is baffling is why we should be prohibited from recording MUSIC or TV SHOWS that are played over the PUBLIC airwaves. I should be able to record songs off of my FM radio without any legal restriction. It’s FREE to listen to, after all. Same with TV shows like LOST or what not. They broadcast it FREE on ABC. Why shouldn’t I be able to keep a recorded copy for personal use? I mean, after all, MILLIONS of people view it over free television and have it recorded on tape or dvr or whatever. What’s the big deal about letting people download medium quality versions of such songs and tv shows for free?

Even with cable, if I pay to get the SCI-FI channel and happen to miss an episode of Battlestar Galactica, why shouldn’t I be able to download the episode and watch it on my PC? I mean, I PAID for it, right?

Some cable companies are doing the ON DEMAND thing, that lets you view an episode if you happen to miss it, and that seems like a step in the right direction. You pay for the FX network and miss The Shield? No problem, just go to a menu and click the link to watch it on your own schedule. Your fave soap opera was pre-empted for a local sports event? No problem, just turn on your PC, download the episode from the Comcast site and watch the thing in all of its 640x480 glory. No harm, no foul, right?

But some companies freak out when you mention On Demand. It’s those types of annoying inconsistencies just further frustrate consumers, I think.

Thanks for letting us vent. It’s kind of cathartic. :slight_smile:

AFAIK, in most countries, radio stations pay license fees to music companies to broadcast copyrighted music, while commercial FTA TV is financed thru advertisements, so somebody is paying to produce the content.

But since they are over the free airwaves, we can record 'em legally, right? It seems like it should be.

Well, if you buy it, fair use allowed for someone to convert it to a different format (if they wanted and could) to play it on another platform. This is why software like Roxio came out so if someone wanted to, they could convert tapes to CDs with the software, provided you had the inputs in your stereo system to help you do so, to run the connection to your computer. It was called ‘fair use’ in part because it’s simple: it was ‘fair’ to the seller, who got his money, and ‘fair’ to the user, who was able to play it where he wanted, and allowed him to make a backup in case the original failed.

Problem is that there’s very little independent confirmation of what is really ‘lost’ by piracy. As Jesterrace rightly pointed out, if you have no physical product to account for, how do you know when it is stolen, but the file is still there? I realize there must be software to let people know if a file is being ‘leeched,’ but I’ve never heard about how accurate it might be. About the only facts we know that is independently confirmed is that since about 1990, the base cost for using the media, recording onto it, including the art slip and packaging cost $1. We also know the big bands under major labels probably get about $1/CD sold. What we don’t know is how much is accounted for in terms of paying the graphic artists, the lawyers for contracts, advertising, etc. All we know for sure is DRM strips us of our fair use/portability we once enjoyed, and that the music industry has demonstrated a clear pattern of obfuscation, lies and manipulation to basically maintain the reins over distribution and the monopoly it enjoyed almost unabated.

That was always something I never understood. If it is ‘public television’ and you pay for the service, how was it illegal to tape record? I certainly taped many things, but of the course the quality wasn’t superb, and certainly lousy once DVD releases came out. I can say for sure about every American who ever owned a VCR taped tons of stuff. So long as no one tried to start a commerical copying operation and sell copies as the real videos, nothing happened to those who kept it private.

I remember one time I was played Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on a big-screen TV in a dorm living room. I bought the officially-released VHS, and it was being displayed in a private area–not for ‘public exhibition’ (nor was I charging money, of course)–but anyone who wanted to watch it with me could do so. Then some idiot ‘monitor’ came in and stopped it from playing, claiming “you’re violating the rules of using this tape because this is for public exhibition.” :eek: I checked my pockets and didn’t find any money, nor did I see anyone charging admission to see it, but this dufus insisted, and it didn’t matter how much I explained how wrong he was, that was the end of it. I imagine that fool ended up working for the RIAA/MPAA, because he was quite brainless or at least brainwashed.

I think the ‘Free’ only refers to your right to listen/watch the broadcast without paying a fee, the content is still copyrighted. Depending on your country, there is most probably a legal clause allowing time-shifting of content for later listening/viewing, but I think it is technically illegal to keep the contents forever.

But I believe the Supreme Court ruled in the Time Shifting case that consumers had a right to tape shows for personal use.

thank you bravacentauri83 for this thread it has really helped me. I have to write a college report about this same thing and have had a little trouble finding relevent information on the subject. as for my take on the matter i dont really care i dont listen to music much and when i do its on the radio or on youtube. Neither the artists or the music company are losing money because millions of people buy their cds anyway or they go to places where you can buy their music online.