Around the globe, the record industry has gone on the offensive and who can blame them? Faced with numerous peer-to-peer networks and bit torrent clients, it has never been easier for individuals to obtain music for free. Having given birth to the term “illegal downloading”, the record industry claims the activity seriously threatens the development of music and artists. But does this argument have any validity or is it a clever corporate spin?
Whilst the record industry have not published any factual information to support this claim, there is certainly information to show that, those “illegally downloading” music actually spend, on average, some 27% more on music than those who exclusively confine their activity to the ‘legal’ download sites and pay for every track in advance.
Recent research by the UK software house, Remlap Software, themselves a publisher of a music download application, suggests that, “illegal” downloaders are anything but the thieves the record industry labels them as.
The term ‘illegal download’ is in itself an interesting phrase. While most people would define ‘illegal’ as an activity which is outlawed under Criminal Law, the Oxford Dictionary merely states, ‘contrary to law’. The difference between public perception of the definition and the officially recognised version may only be a subtle, but it is powerful enough for the record industry to exploit.
Certainly they would have you believe that, ‘illegal’ downloading of music is ‘theft’. In doing this, the record industry further re-enforces the public perception that such activities are in contrary to CRIMINAL law; with all the serious consequences such an offence implies. The truth of the matter is, there is no criminal offence in either the EU or USA of downloading music without paying for it.
At best, the record industry could claim that, ‘illegal downloads’ are in violation of Civil Law, but even this would be spurious. Indeed if such a legal prospect were a reality, every YouTube visitor who has watched (and in doing so, downloaded) a video which violates someone’s copyright could be prosecuted. And so the whole notion of ‘illegal downloads’ is a total nonsense.
In desperation, the record industry has scraped the bottom of the barrel, several times and now resorts to suing its own customers. But to date they have not been able to prosecute one case of ‘illegal downloading’. In every case they have sued on the allegation that the defendant has ‘distributed’ music in violation of copyright. They have been able to do this, because the whole basis of peer-to-peer networks is that each user shares their music collection with the rest of the network. It is the act of ‘sharing’ or distribution which is the offence, not what they have downloaded.
Their eternal effort to force the world to only use pay-for music download sites, the record industry has already ‘persuaded’ a number of universities and ISP’s to turn-off Bit Torrent and Peer-to-Peer traffic. So could this be the end of downloading music for free?
In response to this situation UK software developers, Remlap Software considered that there were probably more mp3 files sitting on web servers, than there are on all the peer-to-peer networks put together…and they were right.
Their freeware application Clickster gives access to over 25 million individual tracks; all found on Internet web servers and available for download. With no ‘sharing’ of the end-users own mp3 collection, Clickster is being hailed as the first legal mp3 downloads.
One of the great things about Clickster is that, because mp3’s are being downloaded from a web-server and not from some guy on a dial-up connection 6000 miles away, the download speeds are much quicker. With an integral media player, tracks can be previewed/played without having to first download the file.
With Clickster clearly navigating around the latest attempts of the record industry to stamp out what they call ‘illegal downloading’, the future remains bright. And to paraphrase the Eighties rock-band, Dire Straits…’get your music for nothing and your tracks for free’.