To share or not to share?

Photo by Alicia Nierenstein
Even though music can still be downloaded freely over the Internet, users are warned that doing so may cost them.

Despite changes to software, illegal music downloads are still hot-button issue

By Alicia Nierenstein |

At some point or another most students have come across the different versions of popular downloading software called Limewire, Bearshare, Kazaa, and way back in the early days of downloading, Napster.

But, the two important things people should know about these online file-sharing services? They can provide you, for free, almost any piece of media you want to download onto your computer, and they are illegal.

The music industry as a whole certainly takes issue with each of these individual downloading services because, as they give away artists’ music for little to nothing, they are causing a decline in record sales.

The online downloading service, QTrax, tried to break the mold of the stereotypical free music Web site by making music available for download once they had acquired the approval of the music labels.

QTrax has agreements with Warner Music in the works, but has not yet reached a final agreement. This was the cause of a minor issue concerning the service’s legality, brought to light by representatives of the music industry.

The president and chief executive of QTrax, Allan Klepfisz, admitted that the deal with Warner Music had not been signed, but he expects to reach an agreement “shortly.”

Although other deals have not yet been formally signed, Klepfisz added, “With everyone else, we have agreed on all terms.”

In a recent press release, QTrax said it differs from its long-since shutdown competitor, Napster, in that the company claimed to be the “first file-swapping service to be fully embraced by the music industry.”

Napster was a pioneer service that enabled millions of people to illegally copy songs stored on other users’ computers and was shut down after countless numbers of songs had been shared from peer-to-peer users. QTrax initially launched in 2002, but shut down soon after to avoid legal issues.

People may tend to forget that downloading music, as well as other media and sharing those files without actually purchasing them, is illegal.

In October of 2007 a woman in Duluth, Minnesota was forced to pay $9,250 to six different record companies that she had allegedly stolen music from.

In the same article reported by CNN, more than 26,000 lawsuits against file sharing have been filed since 2003.

That fact alone could make people wary of illegally downloading media. Others, like freshman Rachel Borda, may continue to be daring in their quest to find downloads.

“I’m not afraid of getting caught for downloading music from LimeWire because the chances are slim that out of the millions of people who use it I would be the one to get caught,” she said.

So how does QTrax differ from all the others when it comes to downloading music and other media?

The company said that in its latest version of the service, downloads will come equipped with digital-rights management, a type of copy-protection technology.

DRM will prevent QTrax users from burning the copies they download onto CDs. Although users cannot burn these files onto CDs, they can put them from their PCs onto portable music players, including Apple iPods.

Before any of this can be finalized, however, QTrax needs to ensure that all of their agreements are signed and acknowledged. This refers specifically to licensing agreements from the record companies, because they own the rights to the recordings, and from the music publishers, because they control the rights to song compositions.

In the meantime, people will continue to download their media, whether it is illegal or legitimate.
Darren Young, a freshman at Flagler, said he was perfectly content with purchasing his music from Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

“It’s easier than going to a store, and buying a whole CD, which only has five songs out of 20 that I’m going to listen to,” Young said.

Young also said the people who purchase music the proper way are the ones who are “helping to stimulate the music industry.”

What does the future hold for the music industry? With new ways of ensuring the protection of artists and music labels work, this is anyone’s guess. People will most likely continue to download through online services, both legal and illegal, but perhaps one day the music industry will find a way to work hand in hand with these online music providers.

Until then, people will have to make do with what is offered to them, whether they have to buy a single song from the Internet, or an entire album from the closest music store.

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