Written by Caitlyn Buckley.
The results of a recently conducted poll show that SU students overwhelmingly favor the legalization of file sharing.
More than 87 percent of the poll-takers believe that file sharing should be legal. File sharing is defined as the practice of making files available for other users to download over the Internet or smaller networks. Currently, the practice of file sharing is illegal in the United States due to copyright infringement issues.
The students who took the poll did agree with a 70 percent majority that while file sharing should not be a crime, it is not an ethical practice. However, 12.5 percent said that it was ethical because current CD or DVD prices are outrageous.
A valid point made by one poll taker about the ethics behind file sharing is that “the only people who can judge that would be the artists, many of whom love it and encourage it since it is the only way people will find their music juxtaposed against major labels and bands. Others loathe it and tell their fans that it is stealing.”
Another shocking statistic revealed in the poll showed that more than 70 percent of the takers at one point or another have illegally downloaded media from such sources as 4shared.com, Utorrent, Soul Seek, Limewire, WinMX, Bittorrent, BitComet, Napster, Kazaa, Morpheus and several other file sharing platforms.
Those who downloaded, for the most part, did not feel guilty about it, with 62 percent saying they felt no guilt whatsoever.
One even went on to comment that they felt “not guilty, but scared to be caught.”
With CD and movie prices spiraling out of control, most people turn to file sharing as a free alternative to shelling out sometimes more than $20 for music or $30 or more for movies.
Another student left this final comment on the poll that sums up the general feelings of those who are frustrated with having to pay so much money for their media: “If artists made their music more accessible (read: cheaper), I would pay for CDs. However, the markup on music is ridiculously high and I don’t feel the need to support the record companies’ fat salaries. I support artists by going to their shows instead.”
Bob Paver, SU’s Associate Vice President of ITS, believes that the uproar being caused by the movie and music industries is disproportionate to the activity actually going on.
“File sharing is a big problem for the music and movie industries who are extremely reluctant to let go of old distribution models. This is not the first time there has been an uproar from them. When cassette tape recorders became affordable the music industry was very vocal because they thought they would be put out of business. Obviously that didn’t happen,” Paver said.
Paver also explains how easy it is to track illegal downloading from the movie and music industries’ side.
“For a computer to connect to the Internet, it must have an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Normally the IP address uniquely identifies the computer on the Internet. It is like the physical address of a building or a telephone number,” Paver said. “The IP address is transmitted when a computer interacts with a resource on the Internet. The RIAA and MPAA have developed sophisticated systems that scan the Internet for the IP addresses of computers that are sharing music. It is all too easy to get caught.”
This is something serious to consider for those who do engage in file sharing. Fortunately for those who loathe paying excessive amounts of money for their entertainment but don’t want to give up purchasing movies or music entirely, there are legal alternatives at more reasonable prices than buying a CD or DVD from a store.
The iTunes music store is one option, and a revamped Napster is another. Paying a lower rate for the product in one of the online stores is ultimately less expensive than paying $2000 to $3000 to settle with the wronged company, or more than $200,000, as a woman was recently ordered to pay in punitive damages after a trial. These figures may seem grim, but if enough people vocally oppose the laws that are in place that cause file sharing to be illegal, eventually they may be overturned.