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Mettler 1

Kassi Mettler
Mr. Campopiano
Government 1
29 October 2014
The File Sharing Threat
Around half a million users download music every minute of every day in North
America, many of them from pirated sources. In this current age of technology, it has become
almost as simple to download a song illegally as it is to look up the weather forecast. As
technology advancements have increased rapidly, so has the multitude of the population involved
in this illegal activity. File sharing sites such as Napster have been dominating the news over the
past couple years as their illegal activity and wide base following has been uncovered and
exposed. This has opened the gate for a flood of new music sharing sites, hoping to capitalize on
this new popular industry and create a site to rival Napster services. This pressing issue needs to
be examined and dealt with efficiently in order to identify and shut down illegal music sites
before they erupt and reach Napster popularity levels. The predominance of illegal music file
sharing violations occurring on the internet necessitates serious review because music copyright
issues are extremely prevalent across the country, they are having a negative impact on the
livelihood of recording industries and many downloading sites can have hidden dangers, causing
damage to users computers.
Music has always been a widespread form of entertainment. Now that it can be accessed
so easily for free, the sites providing this convenience have experienced massive influxes of
internet traffic, with users showing little regard for moral implications of illegal downloading. In
a 2004 study of college students in the New York area, 80% of those admitting to downloading

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music illegally did not see any moral problem with getting music off the internet without paying
for it (Altshuller). This attitude is shared by many Americans across the country, who disregard
illegal music downloading as an issue of importance, however the issue of music copyright is
becoming increasingly widespread and its significance requires acknowledgment. With
technology taking on an increasingly dominant role in society, it is becoming far too easy to
access Peer to Peer (P2P) sites. This new form of online file sharing allows users to
anonymously share an unlimited number of recorded music files globally and for the majority,
with little or no risk, and, due to this low risk, the numbers of users are skyrocketing. According
to a report by the United States, FTC, In the first half of 2004, more than 60% of all Internet
traffic in the US consisted of file sharing through P2P sources (Peer to Peer File Sharing).
However, as stated in an article in The Guardian, during this same time, only 18,000 people were
charged for illegally downloading music and a majority of those cases were settled out of court
or completely dismissed (Holpuch). The correlation between these two data points is
incongruent. How is it that with over half of internet usage being attributed to file sharing, the
corresponding number of those being charged for their crimes is so minimal? The overwhelming
conclusion is that the attitude toward music copyrighting is at a level of indifference among the
American population, with little regard given to those harmed in the actions of this illegal
activity.
As file sharing is becoming more prominent, it is posing a larger threat to and causing
financial damage within the recording industry. In the 2002 congressional budget reports, the
gross revenues of the copyright industry totaled $441.4 billion (Copyright Issues in Digital
Media). Given that recording companies and the artists they support only receive royalties from
music purchased through legal means, based off these statistics, in 2002, the industry faced

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nearly half a trillion dollar in losses at the hands of illegal file sharing sites, and this major loss
has a wide radius of effect. Beverley Storrs states in an article for BYU, One credible study
done by the Institute for Policy Innovation pegs the loss at $12.5 billion in losses to the US
economy as well as more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American worker
(Piracy is Stealing). These staggering numbers show that the illegal copyright of music isnt just
harming the artist whose music is being downloaded; it is harming the entire staff of the record
label, the store employees selling the CDs, and all others involved in the long process of
producing and releasing music. Sanjay Goel echoes this sentiment in his paper written with Paul
Miesing and Uday Chandra entitled, The Impact of Peer to Peer File Sharing on the Media
industry, by writing, The music industry holds P2P file sharing responsible for a 25% decline in
music sales after 1999 and it has identified unauthorized file sharing over the internet as a major
threat to its long term survival. This decrease shows just how large of an impact file sharing
can have on the success of an artist.
Clearly, this issue is directly harming the recording artists, but what many people are
unaware of is that through participation in these file sharing sites, they are putting their personal
data at risk without their knowledge. In an effort to prevent the high rate of students
participating in illegal copyright activities, the University of Wisconsin-Madison posted an
article to their IT website outlining the hidden dangers that students were unaware of when
registering for file sharing sites. All of their warnings adopted a similar message regarding the
ease with which viruses can be spread through downloaded files. Given the popularity of many
P2P sites, there is a high risk of downloading a virus filled file, even without being cognizant, as
the names of files can be easily changed (UW). With so many users on these file sharing sites, it
is simple for someone to upload a virus under the name of a popular song and have confidence

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that it will quickly spread to a large number of user hard drives. This can then lead to much
worse problems, such as personal data leaks, another major issue associated with P2P sites.
Martha Croakley, the Attorney General of Massachusetts stated on her official website, Once
you register as a member (of a P2P site), all of the files on your computer hard drive can be
accessed. Depending upon the settings you choose, everything, including financial
information, private data and sensitive documents become fair game (Mass.gov). Not only
is participation in these sites immoral and illegal, but dangerous to personal data as well.
All off these computer security problems can find their roots in user faith in the anonymous
aspect of music copyright sites. IP addresses are very easily obtained, whether it is by other
members of the file sharing community or official personnel monitoring copyright sites, and it is
very simple for file sharing networks to take advantage of this. It has been reported through an
article published by the University of Maryland that some P2P programs have default settings
that index the files on your computer and make music or film files that you have legitimately
acquired available to other users of P2P without you being aware of the activity (Foundations of
Excellence). Not only are these file sharing sites stealing from the music industry, but they are
stealing from their users as well. Thievery in file sharing reaches a level well above just simply
getting access to some music.
One common argument in support of legalizing downloading music files is that it
helps to promote the artist whose music is being downloaded. Supporters argue that those
who illegally download songs are going to then be more inclined to support the artist in other
ways, such as attending concerts. Although this is true for a portion of downloaders, 32%
only support the artist by downloading their music through file sharing sites (Internet &
American Life) which still makes a significant dent in the livelihood of the artists. The

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support numbers are decreasing as can be seen in recent years in Europe. As it is becoming
easier to download music, 41% of European youths are stating that they buy less CDs when
they get music for free in comparison to the measly 19% who say it inspires them to buy
more (Aksomitis 15). A large number of the songs being shared are those belonging to new
musicians who are just establishing themselves as artists and not paying for the music from
their first album might ultimately eliminate the possibility of a second, which does not offer
the position of support users of P2P sites claim they are providing. Another argument
commonly cited is that by downloading music through file sharing sites online, the evil
middle man that is the recording industry is being eliminated. It is true that some artists
prefer this method of getting their name out, such as musician Kevin Martha who promotes
his band through P2P sources to cut expenses (Aksomitis 23), but as the popularity of file
sharing sites increases, this system is being taken advantage of. Such is the case with band
member Serj Tankian. A New York Times article reported his experience with copyright by
describing how after initially using the site as a way to promote his band, he discovered
unfinished studio recordings circulating without his permission for release (Strauss). It is for
reasons like this that file sharing of illegal music needs to be discontinued before it
progresses to a consequential level that makes overhaul of the system near impossible.
Copyright violation has become a major issue. With easier access to technology, P2P
sites have become a bad habit of society and recording companies are feeling the impact.
Often unknowingly, users are facing severe personal data consequences as well, as many
sites operate in ways that are not understood and can gain access to other files on a computer
without awareness of the downloader. As much as those participating in the use of these sites
are trying to convince themselves that they are helping promote the artists in a way the

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record companies cant, statistics have shown that they are erroneously misguided and
through downloading illegal music, they are doing more harm than good. If action is not
taken to prevent the spread and dominance of illegal file sharing, negative economic effects
will be seen and as Multi-Platinum Award winner Stevie Wonder states, Music will become
as cheap as the garbage in the gutter.

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Works Cited
Print Sources:
Aksomitis, Linda. Downloading Music. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2007. Print.
Pew. "Free Downloads Can Encourage Support for the Music Industry." Internet & American
Life. N.p.: n.p., 2004. N. pag. Print.

Web Sources:
Altschuller, Shoshana, and Racquel Benbunan-Fich. "Is Music Downloading the New
Prohibition?" Ethics Inf Technol (2009): n. pag. Original Paper. Redwoods, 2009.
Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
Croakley, Martha. "Illegal Downloads." Attorney General of Massachusetts. Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2014.
Federal Trade Commission Staff Reports. Peer-to-peer File-sharing Technology: Consumer
Protection and Competition Issues. Washington, DC: U.S. FTC, 2005. Peer to Peer
File Sharing Technology. Federal Trade Commission, June 2005. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
Goel, Sanjay, Paul Miesing, and Uday Chandra. "The Impact of Illegal Peer-to-Peer File Sharing
on the Media Industry." California Management Review 52.3 (2010): 6-33. Albany
Edu. University of California Berkeley, 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
Holpuch, Amanda. "Minnesota Woman to Pay $220,000 Fine for 24 Illegally Downloaded
Songs." The Guardian. The Guardian, 11 Sept. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
States, Congress Of The United, and Congressional Budget Office. CBO (2004): n. pag.
Copyright Issues in Digital Media. A CBO File, Aug. 2004. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
Storrs, Beverley. "Piracy Is Stealing." U N I V E R S E. BYU, 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.

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Strauss, Neil. "File-Sharing Battle Leaves Musicians Caught in Middle." New York Times. New
York Times, 14 Sept. 2003. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
University of Maryland. "Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File Sharing." Foundations of Excellence.
University of Maryland, 2013. Web. 02 Oct. 2014.