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Technology Advancement:
Preventing Copyrighted Material from Being Downloaded
Cassie Law
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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Technology has advanced in such a way that it has caused a heated debate in Hollywood. Some individuals that feel uncomfortable with the advancement of Internet technology include TV and movie studios and musicians. In Mike Godwin's essay, "Hollywood vs. the Internet," he discusses the struggle between The Content Faction and The Tech Faction. The industries have different points of views on the best way to handle the controversy. The Content Faction consists of movie and television studios or copyright holders. The Tech Faction includes computer manufacturers and software businesses. The question that can be asked is whether free downloads should be allowed. Individuals should not be permitted to download copyrighted material unless they are using a program that requires them to pay for the material before it is downloaded.

Consumers have found a new way to get the expensive material that they once paid for. They are now able to distribute it from one person to the next for free. They do not have to pay for the materials, or even leave home to go buy them. Instead, the Internet has allowed individuals to sit at a computer and download. These actions are causing some of the legitimate companies to lose money. Not only are people downloading music from the Internet, but they are also burning CDs and distributing old television shows and movies. For this reason individuals should be required to pay for the material before they are allowed to download it.

The illegal downloading of music online has not been a controversy for long. It became an issue in 1999 when a 19-year-old college student dropped out of school and started Napster. Programs such as Napster have caused panic with groups in Hollywood. There are several large challenges that programs like Napster present. The use of these programs is not only hurting record sales, but has the ability to do the same to movie and television stations. While many consumers understand how Internet piracy is harmful, others see it as nothing more than sharing music. However, this is not the case according to Rebecca Butler who explains, "every e-mail you write, every Web page you create, anything that you generate in a tangible form is automatically copyrighted by United States law-whether you officially register it with the U.S. Copyright Office or not" (307). Although Napster was shut down in 2001 it did not stop individuals from illegally downloading music. Before Napster was closed there were already several new file sharing programs that had been created. A technologist predicts that since individuals "have gotten out of the habit of paying for records" that the industries will not have long before "an end to big profits and thus an end to big record companies" (Godwin 176). If the consumers were required to pay for the material that they were using there would not be a decrease in profits, resulting in the continued success of record companies.

For this purpose, action should be taken to fix this dilemma before it hurts many large businesses and numerous business people. As the technologist says it could soon cause "an end to big record companies" (Godwin 176). Several universities have come up with strategies to prevent one of the larger populations that contribute to music piracy. In Jared Wade's article, "The Music Industry's War on Piracy" he describes a few of the ways that universities are taking action in order to prevent the illegal downloading of music. Several universities have created programs that allow students to pay for the music they download resulting in fewer individuals participating in illegal activity. For example, individuals at Pennsylvania State University have created a music service where "students will be able to download and listen to as many songs as they want for free…in order to burn them to a CD or transport them to an MP3 player, they will have to pay the 99-cent charge for each song" (Wade 13). By enabling the service the university hopes to prevent some of the illegal file sharing and be an example to others.

What other measures can be taken to put a stop to this form of theft? One additional way file sharing could be prevented is by adding a digital watermark into digital material. A watermark is an identification code added into digital data that is undetectable to individuals watching television but can be easily detected by the digital system. It would enable television systems to prevent copying of objects they believe should not be copied. Digital watermarks work by causing distortion in the copy so it will no longer perform the task it was intended to carry out. A watermark would make individuals pay for the material they wanted to use because without paying for the material they would not be allowed to use it. A digital watermark would be a positive move for Hollywood because it would put them one step closer to solving the problem.

Even though it seems the controversy against pirates is out of control there has been a success that inspires others to keep pushing. Wade acknowledged that, "Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, Inc." has made a huge accomplishment "in his online music store, iTunes." The company, which began in April "accounted for the legal downloading of over 25 million songs in 2003 and was named Time invention of the year" (15). The online store allows customers to purchase full-length albums for $9.99. This development works because it allows consumers a way to easily obtain music which not only pleases them but also relieves Hollywood. The development of iTunes is just one example demonstrating how individuals will participate in legal activity if given the option. Wade points out that "nearly 1.4 million people have gone even further to protect themselves and deleted all pirated MP3s from their computers" (12).

The downloading of copyrighted music is illegal and has become apparent by the "382 lawsuits" that have been filed so far against individuals who are involved in piracy. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, "220 of these lawsuits have since been settled out of court for amounts ranging between $2,000 and $5,000" (Wade 13). As a result of the many lawsuits, the RIAA has announced another option for citizens who are concerned with receiving punishment for participating in piracy. They have started the Clean Slate Program. The RIAA has created the program in order to get pirates to stop the illegal downloading of digital material. In order to be a part of the program, individuals are simply required "to delete all copies of illegally downloaded music and sign an affidavit" (Wade 13). By participating in the Clean Slate Program one would no longer be in danger of being sued for the material found on their computer. They hope by implementing the plan individuals will be more likely to stop illegal downloads therefore the RIAA will not have to file additional lawsuits. Many individuals are taking advantage of the programs and are no longer downloading copyrighted objects unless it is being offered through a legitimate service.

One of the major questions being asked is whether the downloading of music has a significant impact on the music industry. The Recording Industry Association of America believes it has had a major influence on the industry. For example, the RIAA stated that the "revenues are down by 22 percent from $6.2 billion in 2000 to $4.8 billion in 2003." One of the reasons for the decrease in sales is due to the fact that, "in 2000, the 10 top-selling albums sold 60 million units, and in 2002 the top 10 shipped only 34 million" (Wade 12). The illegal downloading has had a major influence on the industry causing revenue and sales to plummet. By taking the actions that consumers are accustomed to it will not only cause companies to lose a large sum of money but also result in thousands of people losing their jobs because companies are forced to close.

As a result of the actions of individuals who are downloading copyrighted material it is hurting not only the music industry but also TV studios. These companies are no longer receiving the amount of money they should be because consumers are downloading their material for free. On average "2.6 billion copyrighted files are illegally downloaded each month" which is causing a decrease in revenue and album sales. (Wade 12) The situation taking place is causing a negative impact on Hollywood because of the quantity of material that is being stolen by consumers. By implementing the programs that have been created companies will receive the money they deserve while individuals will still have the convenience of downloading from their computers. In Wade's essay, he describes this phenomenon caused by the Internet as being, "in the process of transforming the entire industry just as CDs and other technology have done in the past" (15).

The advancement of technology has raised a very important question that must be faced. Several solutions have been presented and others are already in affect. Meanwhile, if individuals are given other options they will be less likely to participate in illegal activity. Companies such as iTunes will help control the amount of copyrighted material that is being downloaded. By requiring individuals to pay for the material they download it will help solve the dilemma in Hollywood.

Works Cited

Butler, Rebecca P. "Copyright Law and Organizing the Internet." Library Trends 52.2 (2003): 307-318.

Godwin, Mike. "Hollywood vs. the Internet." Speculations An Anthology for Reading, Writing, and Research. Landrum, Jason, Matthew Wynn Sivils, and Constance Squires, eds. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 2003. 172-179.

Wade, Jared. "The Music Industry's War on Piracy." Risk Management Magazine Feb. 2004: 11-15.

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