By Olivia McLean
With a shift from CD-ROMS and cassette tapes to digital downloads that can be bought and played on a computer, piracy has become an increasing problem. File-sharing programs such as LimeWire and BitTorrent and websites such as the now-defunct MegaUpload.com, have made piracy easily accessible to the public.
Many anti-piracy advocates argue that online piracy is equivalent to theft and online pirates should be punished to the highest degree, but could piracy also be helpful in the long run? According to the Motion Picture Association of America website, MPAA.com, piracy is “theft and includes the unauthorized copying, distribution, performance or other use of copyrighted materials.”
Although the definition of piracy is pretty clean-cut, the repercussions may not be. The MPAA and RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) state that the penalties for illegally recording and sharing copyrighted movies, TV shows and music include a federal felony charge. This is accompanied by a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Though the consequences are frightening, I can’t help but to think of the positive results that come from online piracy. Movie-watchers are no longer relying on Roger Ebert to give them a run-down on the newest movies– they are now turning to the internet community. I’m sure some self-proclaimed movie reviewers watch movies illegally, but in turn, they create a buzz that, when positive, makes other people go out and pay to see the movie.
As for the music aspect, illegally downloading audio files whether it be single songs or complete albums, is as easy as using the search engine on a social media site like Twitter.
Nowadays, it’s almost expected that a highly-anticipated album be “leaked” before its slated release date. After that, it’s up to the artist’s fans to decide if they want to illegally download the music for free or wait and buy it.
People who choose to illegally download and listen to music before it reaches the general public create discussion and interest by sharing their own thoughts on it.
Why are the MPAA and RIAA such sticklers for following their rules when the rule-breakers have the ability to generate more sales? Perhaps it’s so that people will think that these big companies are protecting music artists, actors, directors and producers. Perhaps it’s to keep power over the music and film industries. Whatever the reason, there definitely needs to be a change.