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Is Music Piracy An Issue?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is Music Piracy An Issue?

An issue I feel is very current in the music industry, as well as very relevant, is music piracy.  The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote a paper on the subject.  This is indeed a controversial topic, so I’d love to see what comments you all have.


Hard rock/metal quintet Oh, Sleeper is a band very vocal about the broad dangers and problems with music piracy.  To illustrate their point, guitarist Shane Blay detailed out the expenses and payrolls for which the band is responsible [via a Facebook note].  Blay explains there are two main ways by which the band can earn profit: guaranties and merchandise sales.  For any given show, the band makes their money through $300 they have in each area.  To start with guaranties, which are the amounts every band in a show is promised by the venue as payment for performing, the band manager and booking agent each receive 15% and 10% respectively.  With the gas bill averaging $150 for each show as well as food costs averaging $10 for each member of the band and their merchandise manager, these are subtracted from the total.  To sum up guaranties, the band earns around $15 as the net total.  For merchandise, Oh, Sleeper sells their t-shirts for $15 per show, and it costs the band $7.50 to print each shirt.  With half profit made for each shirt, half of the average $300 in merchandise sales goes back to the t-shirt manufacturer.  Many venues, however, charge what are called “merch rates,” where around 25% of the profits of the sold merchandise are paid to the venue.  When both the guaranties and merchandise sales are added together, the band makes around $13.12 per band member, and this total does not include miscellaneous expenses such as hotels, auto repair bills, broken musical equipment and replacements, etc.  Blay concludes his article with the words, “STOP STEALING OUR CDs PLEASE [sic].”

It is a myth that all musicians today make the “big bucks.”  For a band such as Oh, Sleeper to make the amount of money they do as a signed band, it is surprising how little the band really receives for their wages.  In this age of digital music, where outlets such as iTunes and AmazonMP3 are quickly becoming the major sources of music for consumers, the sale of physical CDs is becoming more and more slim.  Digital sales are quite easy for the sellers, because they can make the money they would like very quickly, and consumers are satisfied because they receive the music they buy almost instantly.  But with this newfound convenience of MP3s, music piracy has become much more of a problem.  The infamous Napster closed down years ago because of copyright infringement issues, but this has not stopped some crafty consumers from continuing to steal music and/or give it away to friends, mostly because of the incredible ease.  One can easily burn songs to a CD and give the CD away, or even worse, sell the CD for a profit.  Some computer applications such as (the now defunct) LimeWire or Kazaa, while legitimate and legal peer-to-peer sharing networks for non-copywritten material, have also an easy avenue to find virtually any song they would like and freely download it to their computer’s hard drive.  Some also rationalize music piracy through borrowing albums from a local library, importing the CDs’ contents to their hard drive and returning the albums.  Others claim that since nobody they know has ever been arrested for the crime, they will not be subject to indictment either.  And what is possibly one of the worst aspects about music piracy is that many people partake in the activity without much thought of the consequences, including Christians.

Christians, like everyone else, are subject to the temptations to sin every day, and music piracy is no exception.  And because it is extremely easy to pirate music, many Christians participate, despite both its illegal and sinful nature; if they purposefully look for ways to obtain illegally-exchanged music, they will indeed find them.  I once was talking to a friend at my college about this issue, and he retorted with: “I’m okay with opening my mind to different types of music, but not with opening my wallet.”  But music consumers, Christians or not, cannot have it both ways.  Pirating music, any way it is performed, is a form of stealing, and with Scripture making a clear statement on the topic of theft and possessions, Christians have no place in the illegal activity.  Exodus 20:15 phrases it quite clearly with its four simple words, “You shall not steal.”  Like any other sin, piracy can be tempting, but resisting the urges is important to keep one’s heart blameless and keep our habits with money honest and pure.  For some, purchasing music from a retail store may be a better option to avoid the lure of the internet’s black market.  This should not stop consumers from using their stewardship skills, however; as long as the outlets chosen are legal, one should go and find the best deal they can on music in which they are interested.  Many digital music outlets periodically offer sales and bargains of which any consumer would be wise to take notice.

Knowing the facts about the reality of music piracy and its implications, consumers would do well to avoid the activity.  Besides its illegality, it hurts the artists and other music professionals and desensitizes the human heart towards stealing.  To keep artists such as The Lighthouse And The Whaler and Oh, Sleeper in the circle, making records and playing shows for their fans, music piracy has to end.  Truly valuing the art of music has two parts: listening to and appreciating the music, as well as giving these bands their due financial support as well.  The Lord calls Christians to be different, and the sooner Christians accept this call in this area of the arts, bands like Oh, Sleeper can survive and continue to bring innovative music to the table.

- Roger

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1. Andrew Gomez said...

I actually researched this a while back and came to the conclusion that a way to slow piracy is for all of the big online music stores like iTunes and AmazonMP3 to offer cheap subscription music services. Zune, for example, has a $15 all-you-can-eat-package that lets you download millions of songs to your computer and Zune. The catch is, once you stop the subscription, they won't let you listen to the songs. They also in that $15 let you keep any 10 songs from their catalog, regardless of if you cancel the service or not. So if you think about it, you really pay for 10 songs (which could make up a whole album), and you get unlimited subscribed music for $5 a month. I use the service and it helps me find and listen to new artists legally, so I can pick and choose which CDs I would like to actually purchase in the future (I'm a physical copy freak). I think if iTunes implemented a form of subscription music that was as cheap as an album, it could help the rate of piracy decrease. Also, going to used CD stores can be a good alternative (although, I don't know if any of the money goes to the artists).

2. Blake said...

I totally agree with every word you said. Years ago, I used to be caught up in borrowing CD's and burning them. I had the opportunity about four years ago to see Disciple in concert. At this concert, I had the seeds of conviction planted in my heart to stop. I realized that to truly love others like God has called us to do, there are two things we need to do. 1.) We need to start by loving our fellow Christians and 2.) If you really love someone, you will not sin against them. 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is not self-seeking. In other words, part of loving others means you put there needs before your own. Piracy (meaning the perpetrator of such actions is a pirate) which is no different than waling in Barnes & Noble and tucking a CD under your shirt, is defiantly not loving others. Let me ask you a couple of things: Would you honestly go up to your Skillet or Fireflight or whoever your favorite band is and say "I y'all'a new album. I burned my copy the day it came out."? More importantly, is saving a few bucks really worth going to Hell over? Trust me, God will bless you for the money that you invest in ministry based bands.

3. Darius said...

Not that I don't agree, it's just that there are so many rules and regulations regarding the whole music piracy thing that quite frankly either way, I'm gona be guilty. For one, if I can't share music with my friend, does that mean I can share music with my "family"? My cousin? What about my sister who lives a couple of blocks away? Can I even share music with people who live in my house? Here's how I see it. If we have one pc, and I have a crap load of music on my account, why should I have call the police if I catch them downloading the songs unto their iPods (okay, so that was over exaggerating a little bit, but still).

I have a rhapsody account on my iPhone. It gives me unlimited music for 14 bucks a month. That's where I get all of my music from. Come to think of it, the most recent physical CD I bought with my own money was RED's "Until we have faces", only because I'm a huge fan. After glancing through the booklet, it was clear that the industry has pretty much given up on CD packaging. Heck, most packaging is done with cardboard. But that's beyond the point. I don't support illegal music downloading, because it's stealing, but we're not living in the 1980s either. We have technology, and technology is destroying jobs. Even in the music industry.

4. Terry said...

Im glad to see someone honestly look at music piracy for what it is, sin. Stealing is stealing, no matter how you look at it. Allowing sin, even what a person may consider a small sin, to stay in our lives will lead us to trouble. As Christian we must place our obedience and relationship to Jesus first. Stealing music is not murder, but we must remember that God wants us to be faithful even in the small things. Great article.

5. Bill B said...

I buy all my music. Prefer an actual cd, but will purchase a digital download if a very good price or I can't find the actual album.

6. Rachael said...

Amen! I've been telling my friends this for years! I don't know how, but for some reason they just can't see that it's stealing! "Well, my friend boutght the CD and they let me borrow it..." I stopped allowing my friends to borrow my CD's after I realized that one of them burned the CD I lent them. I've also made a commitment to God and myself that I won't buy used CD's on Amazon, EBay, etc., because it's so easy for someone to buy the CD, burn it, and then sell it again for the same price they bought it, listing it as being in "like new" condition. I think it's about time that we open our eyes to see the huge injustice we are doing to the music industry, ESPECIALLY the Chrstian music industry! Thanks for this article. I hope it brings conviction to many. God bless!

7. Seth said...

Great article. As a huge music buff, I've run into situations with people wanting to borrow cd's plenty of times, and I admit it's been hard to say no.

To be honest though, I'm such a hard-copy freak that the internet download isn't that appealing to me...especially pirated sources (they're so dangerous for viruses and crap anyway, why risk it?). My favorite albums I keep in .WAV form on my iPod because I don't want any compression.

I also feel strongly about supporting the bands I love and want to help them financially whenever possible. It's always been a dream of mine to be in a big Christian band, and since I'm not, might as well support the dreams of those who are :)

8. JJ Francesco said...

I don't support music piracy but I think it's definitely become over exaggerated in recent months. Most of the time, it doesn't hurt the artists at all. People who'd steal a whole album aren't going to buy the album anyway. And it's not like they are depriving the band of another sale.

Also, what if a song is NOT available to buy, or buy without a ridiculous amount of unwanted extras? IMO, knowing selling people incomplete products is as dirty as pirating music itself. If the industry was a lot more freaking honest, perhaps piracy wouldn't be an issue.

Another thing is the "Youtube" effect. People slam Youtube videos, saying that people can steal the songs that way. I think that's little different than recording from the radio. Either way, you're settling for mediocre quality.

Now, I am not saying I support music piracy, I don't. But it seems anybody who slams it makes it a one-way issue and acts like pirates are these evil people out to get the artists and are depriving them of sales by their actions. Piracy may be wrong, but the ramifications of it are, IMO, quite overstated. Not to mention the fact that the games record labels play practically force fans to pirate sometimes. When you take advantage of fans' loyalties, I don't feel you have any room to whine about piracy.

If we want to stop piracy, some better integrity on the part of these labels is desperately needed. Piracy is wrong, but so is taking advantage of fans' loyalties.

9. Daniel said...

I am pretty familiar with the music industry (touring, booking, merch, etc.) and Oh Sleepers account is either pathetic from their part or an outright lie. I hate music piracy, but I also hate lies too and that account is not honest.

10. Nathan said...

I completely agree. I have a friend who always says that it's only illegal if you sell it to them, but if you copy music for them, that's basically stealing a copy of the album from the artist. Well said.

11. Adam Springsteen said...

Stealing is wrong yes but here are my questions. If I go online to find the songs and just listen to them through the internet wouldn't it be the same as just downloading the songs? I mean practically any song a band writes can be found somewhere to listen to. Whats the difference in downloading it so its easily accessible instead of digging through search engines or waiting for it to play on Pandora? Secondly, if you can't afford the CD and have no intention of ever buying it, what does it hurt the band if you download it? If you wait long enough you can get an album off of Amazon for $2.99 or find it in a discount bargain for 3 or 4 dollars. You are just depriving yourself of the music. I like over 100 bands and to purchase CDs on a constant basis would wipe my bank account. So I should just not listen to good music that encourages me and uplifts me spiritually? I'm not justifying stealing but I read an article that says record company's take anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of the CD Sales. So in essence the most an artist makes is 6 dollars off a CD. Where a band makes their money is shows and t-shirts that a greedy record company can't touch. If you hurt anyone through piracy, its the record company and frankly greedy corporations can afford to lose a little since they won't give it willingly. These are just my thoughts. I understand stealing is wrong but whats the difference in listening to it on the internet vs downloading it? Same goes with movies...its not illegal to watch it online, its illegal to upload or download it. If you want music to be sacred and to stop piracy, stop digital downloads, posting of songs, and sites that upload them. Its the technology age, that stuff isn't happening anytime soon or at all for that matter.

12. Alex said...

the term/word "stealing" def gets thrown around a lot. Also the truth is times are changing and i think artists have to roll with the punches. To be honest artists like Oh sleeper would have never got to where they are if it wasn't for the internet. Stealing i think applies more to another person actually copying the artist and claiming it's their own. So yea, it's def. a double edged sword. But i think artists should embrace it and labels should adjust accordingly. But again...easier said than done

13. John DiBiase said...

I find it a bit disturbing how many people here want to justify stealing music by saying either that it's not really wrong or it's not actually "stealing." Anyone who says that really just sounds like they don't want to admit they're actually stealing music.

For example -- you don't just waltz into a store and swipe a CD off the shelf or a DVD or a book or a shirt off the rack -- those are products someone has designed and produced for selling. Music is created by the artist and sold for the enjoyment of others. These artists need to make money to continue to make a living as a job. If anyone has ever created something to share with others for a living, you wouldn't want someone just taking it for free. What RIGHT do music listeners have to download the artist's music for free? You don't walk into a restaurant and steal a plate of food that the chef made because you feel entitled to it.

I really think people have just gotten so used to obtaining music illegally that they've either convinced themselves erroneously that it's OK or they just do not want to believe it's wrong because they want to keep doing it. Plus, sadly, the internet makes it so dang easy to get music for free that it might not SEEM like stealing to some people, but it really is. The fact people want to believe it's not wrong truly baffles me.... and I'm not even a musician.

14. Darius said...

Well for one, I don't think anyone is actually "justifying" stealing. Of course downloading an album, song, or whatever off the internet is theft. I'm also all for going back to the good o' days when we had no choice but to buy physical CDs. But, like I said in my previous post, there are MANY regulations that aren't very clear when it comes to obtaining music one way or another. Is it considered stealing music when I let someone (family or friend) use my computer and transfer a song from my iTunes account, unto their iPod. Why should my own sister, who although doesn't live in the same house as me but on occasions uses my computer, have to buy her own copy of the album on my computer. I mean if she did, then good for her and the record company. Unless I can get some clarification, I just don't believe it's wrong, and I'm sorry that it baffles you. My sister has rhapsody and she pays the subscriptions not me. So is it wrong that I have the Rhapsody app on my iPhone. What about youtube videos with music on it? It's more complex than swiping a shirt off the rack.

15. JJ Francesco said...

Again, the internet has grayed the "term" of stealing. We have to stop comparing data to physical items. Even though pirating is wrong, comparing it to incomparable things does NOT strengthen the argument against piracy. In fact, it cheapens the arguments and makes piracy seem MORE acceptable. You have to abandon the "You wouldn't walk into a CD store" comparison. It doesn't work.

And somebody makes a good point. What IS the difference between downloading and listening online? Accessibility? Quality? Is any online listening stealing now?

I honestly don't see people trying to justify "stealing." I see the evidence of new technology opening up new doors that people don't understand.

Especially for a Christian Musician, the intellectual property argument is becoming increasingly shaky.

If you want people to stop justifying "piracy," perhaps the argument against it needs to shift from the tired "You wouldn't steal a CD" or "You are hurting the artist" comparisons. I think piracy's popularity comes partially from games of record labels, and also from poor arguments levied against it. If we're to say piracy is wrong, we need a better gameplan.

We ALSO need the record labels to get integrity back. It does kind of bug me that nobody seems to care if the consumer is ripped off for their honesty. We'll slam somebody who downloads a song but a label who takes advantage of a fans' loyalty to their band gets a free pass? No. Pass the blame around equally. Dishonesty is wrong, and that goes BOTH ways.

Music piracy is destined to continue until the tactics used against it change. So far, the tactics used have obviously been ineffective. So what is the solution? CHANGE TACTICS! This goes both for everyday people against it and the music industry itself. Sites like Guvera are the first step. Maybe the industry will soon wake up. It has to if it wants to survive. Like it or not, we live in the digital age. The music industry has to adapt in order to survive. This isn't to justify stealing as much as it is reminding people that you can't just play the victim card forever. If somebody pushes you into the mud on Monday, it's their fault you're there. If you're still in that mud on Friday, it's your fault for not getting out. The music industry has to stop vilifying music pirates and start adapting to combat them. If and when that effectively happens, music piracy will all but disappear.

16. Andrew said...

I don't understand how people justify music piracy. For starters, nearly all band stream songs on one website or another, so there is no need to download the song. Record companies in an effort to stay profitable, are signing more bands on '360' contracts where they get a cut of all the merch, concert tickets and other streams of revenue that their artists generate, so the 'pirate's are misguided when they defend their actions by arguing that they will support the artists by buying concert tickets, instead are hurting them by forcing the record companies to reduce the support they can offer to the artists.

There are also other people whose lively hoods are affected by this, not just the artists themselves. Admittedly I have a vested interest in this issue as my family owns a record store, but from this I have seen how this has affected people other than the artists first hand. My father used to run three stores with a total staff of around 15 people, but over the last five years has had to close two stores and reduce his staff to three people.

I agree with John especially when he argues that people have convinced themselves that they are not stealing, because they think that because they are not physically taking an object, it is not stealing. They don't realise the scope of the industry, how many jobs are reliant on physical media, from the record companies, the artists themselves, the production teams, A&R, the distributors and finally those who sell the products. It is a pity people don't fully realise their actions.

On the other hand, I was basically introduced to Christ through the music a friend lent me. Haha I am unsure where lending cd's that were not burnt or copied lies on my moral scale. Though now I own those CD's for myself and much more. Sorry for rambling!

17. John DiBiase said...

JJ -- Sorry man, but you really don't have a case here. Stealing is stealing and just because the music FORMAT has changed, it shouldn't devalue the art. Seriously dude, whether you want to accept it or not, it's the same thing as ripping off an artist's painting. You just don't do it. And it IS the same as stealing a physical CD. It's just that the manner of obtaining music has changed which has allowed piracy to be much, much easier.

And I agree some labels indeed do take advantage of the fans (just look at re-releases and re-re-releases, etc), but let's face it, the prices have dropped tremendously since music first came out on CD. I believe DC Talk's "Jesus Freak," on CD, was about $17 or $18 dollars the day it dropped back in 1995 (I remember shelling out my limited teen cash on that one). I remember the WALL (now known as FYE) music store was selling regular CDs for over $20. Now, you can get some brand new albums on AmazonMP3 for $5 -- sometimes even less!! And some stores are selling physical CDs for $6 or $7. The music industry IS changing their tactics. They have to to survive. Smaller labels have gone out of business, some bigger labels had to be bought out by the giants, people have been laid off as companies try to rethink how they do things and spend their money, bands have to beg fans for financing. Some things needed to change, yes, but I think when people start whining that pirating digital music isn't stealing and make weak excuses for doing it, they're just devaluing the product/art and trying to make themselves feel better about ripping off someone else's work.

18. JJ Francesco said...

I think I do have quite a case. It isn't the same thing because the effects are not the same. Whether or not it is wrong, ineffective comparisons do little more than make piracy seem more like a straw crime.

Reducing prices is a good step. But is it enough? (I wouldn't use JF as an example though.) As you said, the re-releases take advantage of fans' loyalties.

I am not trying to justify pirating music as much as I am trying to get people to reshape their way of approaching it. "Piracy is the same as stealing a CD" does not hold water. Both may be wrong but comparing them to each other is ineffective.(Same thing goes with the painting) And if your reasons why Piracy is bad falter, so does your case. The best comparison to stealing a painting would be breaking into a museum to LOOK at the painting without paying admission. Technically stealing, but not the same thing as taking the painting with you. It IS different and until people start admitting that, it will only encourage piracy.

Andrew pointed out that since Artists are streaming songs, you don't have to download them. Again, what is the difference aside from convenience/sound quality? It seems like a "pick and choose" here when it comes to the damage issue.

As for the damage to the record companies, exactly where is the proof that PIRACY has caused this damage? iTunes and Amazon are the most common places to buy music anymore. THAT is what the industry has adapted to; they've done little more than squat to combat piracy through business tactics. iTunes has destroyed the record stores, not piracy. Do you honestly think pirates would buy music anyway? Especially in a hard copy from a store?

Look, I am NOT trying to say that piracy is not stealing. What I am trying to do is help people see that if they want to end piracy, they have to restructure their argument. Casting stones at pirates for "stealing" and making ineffective comparisons will ignore the problem. (Record companies taking advantage of fans hasn't helped)

So yes, I DO have a case because my case is not for piracy. My case is for restructuring the approach towards it. If you think I don't have a case, then we can continue doing the same things we've been doing about it that haven't worked and hope that magically start. OR, we could actually consider a different angle towards the "it's right/it's wrong" debate and maybe start to eliminate the demand for piracy in the first place.

Either way, I am NOT advocating piracy(which seems to have fallen on blind eyes...). I fully support legal music purchases. I just think the current arguments against piracy contribute more to it's increase in popularity than it's decrease.

Look at it this way. Say you have two enemies. While both may be your enemy, they have radically different MO's. If you fight both of them with the same tactics you use to fight just one(because they are both "enemies"), then you are basically giving the other one strength. That is the case here. Piracy and actual physical robbing may both be wrong but they are NOT exactly the same thing and if you fight them like they are, you will lose(which seems to be what has been happening so far). Piracy is it's own animal and therefore, the same ole tricks don't work to stop it.

19. John DiBiase said...

JJ - Sorry man, I still don't agree with you.

20. JJ Francesco said...

Well you did ask for differing opinion! :P

Hopefully one day the industry will learn to agree with me. Obviously, the same old ideas are not working. Perhaps we shouldn't be so easy to dismiss a different approach.

21. Mr.Big said...

I buy music and then share it on my blog. I always take the extra steps to mark it as "no download", but is this enough?

Any thoughts? Should I cease and desist?

22. John DiBiase said...

JJ -- I didn't ask for a differing opinion. haha Roger did. HE wrote this blog.

Besides, part of the issue is that piracy is no longer done by bootleggers selling stuff on the streets. It's people thinking that because they downloaded or bought or obtained music early, they can share it with others. Some music fans download music illegally while buying other releases -- because they CAN. The problem has become that people don't HAVE to buy it anymore. The mindset has changed because the option is there. Anyone remember Napster? That started the record companies scrambling for a solution. The digital music age birthed iTunes and mp3 players and iPods have helped make Amazon and iTunes king. Those stores just rose to the occasion. Plus, the next generation of music listeners do not have to wait till a vinyl or cassette or compact disc hits shelves. They can download it at midnight on release day legally from iTunes or Amazon or they can find a blog or torrent and get it for free sometimes even earlier than that. Young people are growing up without physical product so they have a different viewpoint and value for music. Music sales are hardly what they were before the digital music age. I've met several kids who just have this mindset that downloading music for free from blogs or torrents is not wrong. They don't see what's wrong about it. Piracy is more than just the people providing the illegal downloads, but - at least, to me - it's the act of downloading something without paying for it. It's the desensitization to the act of stealing (and for the record, I never mentioned a museum when it comes to a painting. I'm referring to a painting as another art form like music. In MY eyes, music is an art form and stealing is stealing. I promise you that you won't change my mind about that).

And you can't assume you have all the answers for the industry to listen to. ;) I know I don't. Trust me, the industry is constantly trying to find a different approach and has been reshaping and reacting to the changes for years -- and the industry STILL is. I've been first-hand watching it change as I've been running JFH for the past fifteen years.

Anyway, agree to disagree... cuz I stand by my initial thoughts :)

23. John DiBiase said...

Mr. Big -- actually, yes, you should probably cease unless you have been given permission by the artist/label to share it. Sorry!

24. JJ+Francesco said...

My bad, I thought you wrote it. :P

I know you didn't mention it. I was showing the equivalent. ;)

I understand that times are different now. They ARE different but that's the way the world goes. Things change. And I think the reason kids don't see it as wrong is because people are not giving them effective reasons why it is. Easily disproved notions like "it hurts the artist" obvious aren't working.

I don't assume to have all the answers. I just see that what is happening is NOT working. I really don't see them changing to stop piracy. I see them making it worse. I don't claim to have all the answers but when I see something not working, I search for an alternative. If we silence everybody without ALL of the answers, we ain't going to get any of them at all.

Piracy is it's own animal, and I maintain that fighting it the same way you'd fight "street bootleggers" is only going to fuel it.

You can say that it's stealing all you want, but that battle cry is obviously not moving the masses. And if you want piracy to end, I'd presume we'd prefer results.

25. Ashley Alcock said...

The industry IS changing their tactics to get people to stop stealing music. Not only have iTunes and AmazonmP3 and all that come out (like some of these comments said), but have you ever heard of NoiseTrade? It's a new thing where new artists can give their music away to people as a free download, and listeners can choose to "leave them a tip". So a person can legally download new music for free to open themselves up to new stuff, and also choose to support the artists!

I don't think Oh, Sleeper's case was uncommon, and I don't think they were lying. Life on the road is VERY tough for these artists, whether signed or not. Falling Up had started a campaign back in the day to bring awareness to the fact that a lot of these artists signed to big labels made no money. The Myriad is a Christian band that gets airplay on RadioU, the largest Christian rock station in the nation, as well as mainstream play, MTV play, ect., yet when one of their members was diagnosed with cancer the family had to do a bunch of benefits to raise money for medical expenses. Why? Because they didn't have health insurance. It's a basic necessity that only 1 in 5 adult Americans do not have, yet this big famous band signed to a big famous label didn't have any. Kind of makes you think!

I get the argument about "What's the difference between streaming it online vs. downloading it". I see the point. Yet the difference is, I stream it at my computer or on my cell phone, but when I download it I can listen to it on my computer, on my cell phone, in my car, in my kitchen, at a party with all my friends, ect. When you BUY it, it's yours to use for yourself wherever you want. When you STREAM it, you can only listen to it as long as the band has it posted and allows you to for free. It's up to them, they have the control. It's like they're letting you rent it. No even better, since it's free you're not renting it, you're borrowing it.

Back to the artist-and-painting analogy. When you buy a painting, it's yours to keep and put it wherever you want. If you go to the museum and take a picture of that painting, blow the picture up and get it developed and frame it and hang it in your house, is that fair to the seller? Of course not, you have just stolen from the artist though you did not physically steal a product. If you didn't pay for it, you don't have a right to hang that picture in your house. If they give the picture away for free to you as a gift, you have that right! Just like if an artist gives you a song for free, it's yours. But if that painter says, "Here, you can look at this painting for free here at my website," and then chooses to take it off their site, it's their choice, because it is theirs and not yours. That is the difference. I hope that makes sense.

I have discovered artists like Dave Barnes and Warren Barfield and Deas Vail by listening to music they had streamed at their website. I thought to myself, "I would love to support these artists, because they are all probably pretty broke." So I went out and bought their CDs. Yes, I got them for $5 each, and the artists only get a small portion of that money, but if EVERY person who listened to their music illegally would pay just $5, that little bit would add up!

Also, the argument of "You're not hurting anyone, you're only depriving yourself of good music," that doesn't really stand against the "stealing" argument. If a farmer has a field and he's growing corn, and you're thinking, "Man, I could really go for some corn right now," do you have a right to go take his corn? I mean, it's not like you're gonna knock on his door to buy corn from him anyways, and it's not like he's gonna notice one stalk of corn missing from that giant field, it's insignificant, doesn't really matter! Well it DOES matter, you are taking money from him.

If you don't think it's the same because there is an unlimited number of digital downloads available but only a certain number of corn stalks, then think of it this way. As Christians we are told to deny ourselves to follow Christ. For one person that might mean not eating Little Debbies because they struggle with gluttony and overindulgence. They no longer get that satisfaction of the delicious taste and that feeling of their belly being full of something so sweet, but it's a sacrifice they make to honor God. For another person that might mean not downloading music illegally. They might miss out on memorizing every song on the album or drawing closer to God through that artist's music, but it's the sacrifice they make to honor God. Can we draw closer to God through sin, or through obedience? Can we draw closer to God through downloading music illegally, or through using the time we would have spent listening to that illegal album in prayer instead?

Whether people believe it's stealing or not, it's illegal, and the Bible tells us that to break the law is sin. So whatever your "conviction", it's illegal which makes it sinful. So let's stop sinning and spend a couple of bucks to support the artists! Maybe that means skipping out on your Starbucks run this Saturday (people drop $5 in one sitting there all the time!). Maybe it means eating a TV dinner instead of hitting fast food for dinner. Either way, there are ways for us to come up with the few bucks it takes. Not only does it give them money, it helps them move up on the charts, which in turn helps them make more money. Not because money is the goal, but because money is necessary to live in today's culture.

26. LaserWraith said...

Ashley Alcock, I have to say that I think your argument is better than John DiBiase's. (lol)

You mostly made points about the morality of illegal downloading, and I don't have anything to say about that: It isn't good.

Of course, I don't think artists actually LOSE much. If I download something illegally, I definitely wouldn't have paid for it anyway. I would just listen to the radio.

Or free online streaming sites (which I'm not sure if they are morally right or not...but they comply with the laws).

If someone stole a car from a dealer, the dealer just lost money. That SPECIFIC car took money to make, and the dealer had to buy that specific car from the manufacturer. And the makers of the car had to spend moeny coming up with the design.

But... artists/bands only spend the money making their album once. Kind of like the car manufacturer spends money to make their design. But where the car maker also had to spend more money making each car, the artist/band didn't.

So the car dealer (or manufacturer, if it was stolen directly from them) lost money when a car was stolen.

But the artist/band didn't lose the money. The pirate was never going to pay, even if he couldn't steal. He doesn't care enough about the music to pay.

NOTE to some of the dumbheads (e.g. comment #16 Andrew and #13 John DiBiase) above and any potential ones below this post: I'm not supporting piracy. You may think anyone who differs from your views is, but sorry. You're wrong.

27. JJ+Francesco said...

I heard of NoiseTrade. It's a step in the right direction. As for iTunes, some of their moves seem to encourage piracy more than discourage it.

In terms of damage, there is no difference. My point is that it sort of debunks the "it hurts the artist" idea. I agree it gives them the control, but that's about it.

I say if you take a picture of a painting, it's not that bad. You're accepting a mediocre copy; you clearly aren't robbing the artist of their sales. They painted one painting and will still be paid for that painting. Why should they care if somebody wants a distorted copy?

If you think we'd be better served in prayer than listening to illegal music, the same is true of ANY music. (Heck, the same could be said of these Christian artists) This is what I mean about being careful where you take your argument.

I am all for supporting the artists. But I feel the respect needs to go BOTH ways and I don't feel like it is. I feel like people want to cast stones at those who download illegally, act superior, and then make excuses for the times the industry shafts the consumer. (Effectively stealing from THEM with deception)

As I said before, if we really wanted to stop piracy, we'd change our tactics. Right now, when we use ineffective comparisons and emotional blackmail to it, I can't believe we really want to stop it as much as feel good about being against it. If ending piracy was the real goal, we'd change tactics when they're proven to not work.

28. John DiBiase said...

Ashley - Wonderfully spoken.

Laser - Really? It's resorted to name-calling?

29. Adam Springsteen said...

A lot of good points here and good discussion. I just want to add a few questions about piracy for you to think about or that relates to piracy in a way.

1)Any song or just about any song is available to listen to either through Pandora, Youtube, or some other site. What is the difference in listening to that vs downloading it? True its not on your computer but you can have a party using songs on Youtube and make a playlist. You can have a playlist though Pandora. You don't need to download or buy CDs anymore. Just log onto the internet and listen to as much music as you want for free. So is downloading really that bad? If downloading is stealing isn't listening to everything on line also stealing? You can name any five songs and I bet you I could find them for your listening leisure without downloading them. Just saying.

2) If I go into a friend's house and listen to say Red's new album and leave, come back the next day do it again and keep doing that is it stealing? If I use his internet am I stealing from Verizon or Comcast? If I use his fan to cool off on a hot day am I stealing from the manufacturer of the fan? I know this sounds stupid and absurd but this is the comparison of listening to music online vs downloading it. We can use all we want online or from a friend and thats ok but downloading isn't? Again not okaying stealing or piracy but whats the difference? Can someone honestly tell me?

Until music is completely banned from the internet other than the artist them self uploading it temporarily, how can piracy be called piracy when you can listen online for free as much as you like?

30. Darius said...

This just goes to show you that this is indeed a controversial issue. This isn't something you can simply place a label on and leave it at that. I think that most people here (especially JJ and John) have valid reasoning to back up their claims. So at this point it's all about spiritual convictions. So instead, lets talk about how evil christian rock is. Oh, wait.

31. Paul said...

Great analogy, Darius comparing this debate with some who believe rock music is sinful. I also agree that points can be made on either side, but ultimately it all comes down to one's own personal conviction. Instead of casting stones and petty arguements, we can each share our own minds without wanting to change other's.

Actually, let's look at bigger picture. Instead of arguing in such a way as these comments have, why not love each other? When these comments become fueled with simply wanting to be righ, that becomes arrogance and boastful. Whether you are right or not, to argue in such a way as some are now doing, that strikes me much more as being blatantly wrong. Who cares if you steal something, but are harboring bitterness in your heart in wanting to prove a point? Just some thoughts...

32. Shaner said...

I appreciated the article. It's a good stand.

One thing that is frustrating me as I read is the incredible weight put on the results of our action to determine its legitimacy. The arguments that "it doesn't hurt the artist" or "pirates wouldn't buy it anyways" or even "the labels are being dishonest" have no weight here. I agree with what John said earlier about everyone assuming they have the "right" to music. You're actions may not hurt the artist, but sin always hurts you and more importantly God. If the pirate wouldn't support the artist by paying for the album anyways then tough they don't get a copy of it. And if the labels are being dishonest then you don't have to participate in their market. You're not entitled to music. If the only people selling it are scoundrels, then if you want it you'll have to do business with scoundrels.

Many other people are arguing that you can listen to it streamed online anyways. So what's the difference if you download it? Convenience. It's a tiny difference. Maybe it's one you're not willing to pay $8.99 for. But if that's the price for convenience, that's what you have to pay. Again, no on is entitled to music.

I agree that the music world is changing, both for listeners and musicians. I use guvera and think it's a great idea. I think we'll see more exchanges of music for advertising in the future, not just for digital music but even for live shows. However, until the established rules change, we have to play by them. We may desire to have things differently and even have a lot of input on how they could be better otherwise, but as long as pirating music is a crime, a Christian cannot do it nor can we defend those who do. (Rom. 1:32)

33. Nathaniel S. said...

Good blog, Roger. I understand why someone would want music for free. Downloading music from the Internet for free allows more money to be in people’s pockets. There really isn't much of a temptation for me personally because I'm patient enough to wait for the $5 deals on Amazon MP3, and working for JFH has enabled me to offshoot my costs by giving up my time for more "free" music. However none of that justifies stealing someone else’s stuff. That happens to be a way artists and labels make money, and there aren't too many people who enter a profession whose desire is to work for nothing.

I have given much thought about the issue recently. Back in the day before me or my friends had MP3 players we would freely loan out CD's for the other's enjoyment. Many times I have bought that same album which I had at one time borrowed (even after I got an MP3 player). But now I certainly see the problem in giving out CDs to your friends so they can give it to their friends so they can give it to their friends so everyone can have the same CD for nothing (which I have unfortunately seen). However I think there is a small aspect over protecting by some distributors. I recently saw a video game disc with a tag which read "do not make illegal copies." That's all cool, but it also had "Do not load out" on that same tag. Are distributors so afraid of people that we have to say "don't loan out" stickers to protect their copying rights? I suppose so and for good reason, though I think this is starting to get ridiculous. I mean is it wrong to loan out movies and CDs to people because there is a possibility of them making copies?

Just my ramblings though… as a side note, does it pass ethical muster to download an album legally from Amazon or Itunes, and burn one copy of a CD for yourself?

34. LaserWraith said...

@John DiBiase: I've always had a quick temper when I think someone is wrong and no one is saying anything.

If we all stopped typing these posts and loved each other, we can't practice our writing skills!!!



Technically, whenever you listen to anything online, you are downloading it.

Chambers dictionary: "Download: To transfer (data or programs, esp on the Internet) from another computer to one's own."

"The arguments that 'it doesn't hurt the artist' or 'pirates wouldn't buy it anyways' or even 'the labels are being dishonest' have no weight here."

The title of this blog post is "Is Music Piracy an Issue?" One aspect of that is considering if it is an issue with artists and bands. I think most of us, including me, agreed that illegal downloading is wrong (though as I said, we are downloading copyrighted content all the time). I was just discussing the impact it may have upon the artists.

35. Shaner said...

I don't think I agree that listening to streaming music is downloading it. Accessing and downloading are different. When you stream you're accessing a file that's located elsewhere. When you download you actually transfer that data to your own pc.

36. VivaCincoDeMayo said...

One has to be paying for the internet if he or she has access to this free music, so "stealing" is a pretty strong word here. Just because his or her money does not go to the artist or the label or whomever doesn't mean money is not coming out of the downloader's pocket.

I download music often, and have plenty of reasons to do it. Number one, half the time the album isn't worth buying. I'm tired of hearing amazing singles on the radio, getting excited for an album, paying my hard earned money for that album, and being disappointed with every song but that one single. I'm also tired of buying albums just for them to be re-released later in the year with a bunch of extra new songs. Should I really have to buy the album all over again to enjoy the new music? The music industry tries to play victim on this issue, but when you think about it that way, who's really getting robbed?

Plus, like others have said, most of the albums I download I wouldn't have bought anyway. Are artists losing money on sales they wouldn't have made in the first place? If I download an album, nine times out of ten it's because I just want to check the artist out. Of all the albums I download I might keep 3 or 4 songs off of half of them, the rest get deleted.

With the economy the way it is, I'm just not willing to go out and spend $10-$15 on an album if I just want to hear what the artist sounds like or if it only has 3 or 4 songs I'm going to enjoy. Money is already coming out of my pocket for the internet, and if I like an artist and choose to support him/her, I'll spend money go to his/her show and spend money to buy his/her t-shirt/poster/whatever.

As one reader said, it all comes down to personal conviction. I am not personally convicted by this for reasons I listed above. If God changes my mind about this, I'll stop downloading.

37. Chris Sligh said...

My name is Chris Sligh. I am what I would call a "mainstream" Christian artist. I'm not under the radar like Oh! Sleeper or other metal bands. And I will say that their account is not an exaggeration. I'm surprised they clear any money at all honestly. If you would like I can recount to you how it works even for me as a more mainstream-type Christian artist as to how near impossible it is to make money!

But really this isn't about touring or how much money someone makes on the road. Who wants to hear a rock star belly ache and moan? No one. So I'll go at it like this.

What kids who download don't realize (and I didn't realize, really until the last 4-5 years) is that when you download U2 or Black Eyed Peas or Metallica, you aren't hurting those bands. Those bands make gajillions of dollars as is and will continue to make tons of money off of touring, licensing, merchandise, etc. They may lose a little but let's be honest...Bono can deal with making "only" $95 million this year - as opposed to the $120 million he made 5 years ago. Awww... poor baby, right?

I have had people come up to me before and say, "Dude, I want to support your stuff, so I'll buy your CD. Most everybody else I download, cuz they've made their money - but you, I wanna help"

And I almost cry.

Because without even knowing it, this person is actually hurting me more than he/she could possibly know.

When you download U2 illegally, U2 is fine. they have built a career and it will continue no matter how many records they sell. but what it does do is kill the record label's bottom line, which in turn causes the record labels to not be able to stick by young talent as long as it could 10, 20 even 30 years ago, which means more artists are getting dropped faster because they didn't sell record immediately. Aerosmith would've been dropped after record 1. We would've never heard "Toys In the Attic". Goo Goo Dolls would've never made it far enough to make "Name" in this modern age. The stories of gloried bands who didn't break on their first record is almost endless. Yet think to yourself of an artist in the last 7-10 years who didn't connect on their first record and were given a 2nd or even 3rd record to work it out, then busted out in a big way.

Not very many.

Why? Because people think that it's okay to download music illegally because those band have enough money. It is a cause and effect. 100% provable. 100% true. you can not on one hand support your favorite young artists while downloading your favorite HUGE artists.

Add in the Biblical moral demand to not steal, and no Christian should ever one time download a song illegally. Read the FBI piracy warnings. You can share music within a household. Shoot, even iTunes allows you to download your music to 5 devices. So, follow the rules, sure. But don't use ignorance of rules to talk yourself into doing wrong.

I'd love to talk more about this...any questions, rebuttals, etc.?


38. Josh said...

This idea would probably go over like a toot in church but couldn't record companies, itunes, amazon mp3 just "lock" their content? Basically restrict it to the computer that it's bought on? You could make the buyer of physical cds register the cd on the computer that the person wants to add it to and then "lock" it from being added to any other computer. I haven't really thought that one out too well but what do you think?

39. Darius said...

Again! I'm tired of bringing this up, but I don't think I'm being understood (or acknowledged for that matter haha). My sister has a subscription for rhapsody. She pays like around 14 bucks a month for it. She's using rhapsody at home, I'm using her rhapsody at my home. She's got rhapsody hooked up at work. I got rhapsody hooked up at school. Heck, I even have it on my iPhone, which basically screams out, why the heck would I even need to buy another song by Chris Sligh (which unfortunately probably went from 99 cents to $1.29) if I'm "allowed" to do this. This CANNOT be helping the him, but heck it's legal. I can even download the actual files and use soundtaxi to put them on my iphone. But I don't need to do that because I'm mooching off my sister's unlimited music. Can you label me as a theft? No. Remember the days when we use to record songs off the radio? Well the same thing can be done if the music is being streamed online. Is it more illegal now than it was back then?

40. Justinrawks said...

Good arguments, people.

And thanks so much, Chris. I love hearing the opinions of the artist.

But, some thoughts to VivaCincoDeMayo:

1. An album isn't worth buying? Please, you're preaching to the choir. You're downloading or buying it for some fraction of enjoyment. Like eating a sandwhich, you'll either like it or hate it. But there is an intent or expectation of enjoyment. But no one owes you a sandwhich. And NO ONE OWES YOU A SONG, ALBUM, ETC. There has to be a level of thanks or recompensation back. Do you know how much money bands spend in studio costs? How much they owe the label back in studio costs? There are cases where the band's music doesn't take off, and they owe the label thousands of dollars of debt money to pay for the product made. Why should you have free art/ free product, while the artist lives in debt? Again, no one owes you an album.

2. Your disappointment at album exhibition? Pitiful excuse. There are enough singles, online pre-release streams, and etc these days that you'll have enough of a taste of the album. Listen to their myspace, youtube videos, whatever. Listen to the soundbytes Itunes puts on their site. If you only like a handful of tracks, only pay for the handful you like. 99 cents, that's it on Itunes. No waste. That's not a legitimate excuse. Suck it up, pay for what you want. You won't waste money.

3. "I am not personally convicted by this for reasons I listed above. If God changes my mind about this, I'll stop downloading."

This is naive. God doesn't need to, and just might not ever change your mind about this. He has given you freewill to choose to do the right thing, or live in sin by stealing. I'm fed up with Christians waiting for some deep profound supernatural conviction. Charismatic conviction is not a prerequisite for common sense. The "peace of God" doesn't change the rules or negate integrity. Is it ok for me to murder someone or engage a sexually active lifestyle, if I don't feel conviction from God or if it feels perfectly ok for me to be doing? So what if it feels ok!!! All sin is wrong and leads to spiritual death. As Christians, we're called to a higher standard. We live by integrity, meaning that we follow God's rules when it hurts, when it requires sacrifice, when it's embarrassing or uncool. Having a peace about something doesn't always make something right. And having peace about something doesn't mean we can do things we know deep down are wrong. God has given you freewill, a choice. It's up to you.

Sorry if any of that seems harsh, but it's truth. Thanks

41. Adam Springsteen said...

This is a simple case with one answer...everybody stop downloading and just listen to your favorite artists online. Since streaming is not illegal or considered stealing, listen to your hearts content on whatever site you want be it Pandora, Youtube or some other site. In the end you STILL DON'T BUY CDS and the artists are STILL HURTING for money. You walk away with the same great music at NO COST WITHOUT STEALING just more hassle. It clears a guilty conscience though and proves that artists will continue to fall like flies like Chris Sligh basically said. Just goes to show it's more then downloading music that is hurting artists, time to wake up and realize that.

42. Josh said...

It's not more illegal now than it was then to answer your's always been illegal, it's just easier to do now than then. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Rhapsody's terms of use states,

Only you may access the Services using your user name and password. The Services available through the Application, and the Application itself (including the Content), are the property of RI or its licensors and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. The Services provided through the Application may be used for your personal, non-commercial use only. You agree not to (i) reproduce, record, retransmit, redistribute, disseminate, sell, rent, lend, broadcast, publicly perform, adapt, sub-license or circulate the Application or any Content received through the Application or any Service (including music content) to any third party, (ii) exploit any such Content or the Application for commercial purposes without the express prior written consent of RI, or (iii) to share your password with any third party. You may not make any unauthorized copies of the Application or the Content obtained through the Services, and may only make such copies as are reasonably necessary for your personal, non-commercial use. You further agree to indemnify and hold harmless RI for your failure to comply with this section.

43. Nick said...

Just a thought, how is downloading music online different than buying a CD at a garage sale/thrift store/etc. After all, the artist/label isn't receiving any money for it.
And when it comes to Youtube videos of songs, in my experience, people will sometimes listen to the song on Youtube and then go download the album on iTunes. Just sayin'
No, I'm not supporting Piracy.

44. Chris+Sligh said...

I posted a more in-depth look over at my blog...I'd love for you guys to read some of the thoughts and bring that discussion back over here!

Chris Sligh

45. Isaac Chandler said...

Look,a lot of you are saying that it isn't stealing from the band if you wouldn't have payed the money to legally buy the CD anyway.And that you wouldn't buy the CD because it's not good enough to justify spending your hard-earned money.It's not the point whether the band would get it anyway,the point is that you're stealing even if the band wouldn't have made money anyway.Because not buying is better than stealing it.Whether the band gets money or not,God doesn't want you to steal.

46. Jeff said...

What if two people purchase a cd together? One downloads it on their mp3 player and the other keeps the copy? Is that ok? I have been reading the comments and I agree that downloading music is wrong. The Bible says "a person that knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin". Whether it is stealing or not you have to ask yourself if you are doing something good. If that answer is no then it is sin. This is a good thing to discuss and many Pastor's should address this in churches to guide saints to do the right thing.

47. Shaner said...

@Jeff I agree that the line of what is legal and illegal is often hazy. If you and a friend go halfsies on buying a physcial cd who gets the music? or do you both just get a portion? or what if I buy a physical cd and upload it to my iPod, is it wrong to let people borrow my purchased cd because then both of us would be capable of listening to it? would it be hypocritical to listen to music in your friends car if you know it's stolen? there's a lot of ethical questions that this issue brings up that I don't necessarily have answers for. I try not to put myself in too many of those situations to avoid those very problems.

48. glahoiten said...

What do you guys think of the ethicality of buying used cd's? Do you think it's ethical to buy one used CD, and then one from their official store, rationalizing that the profit would be the same as if one bought it through itunes? What about buying a used CD and then a T-shirt?

Personally I think I support youtube. At least for me, I will not buy a CD unless I have given it a proper listen or 2, and youtube is what makes this possible (or the more ethical/legal/useful grooveshark). Rhapsody provides a definitely ethical/legal alternative. Pandora also provides an alright alternative. But nothing quite up to the calibur of youtube/grooveshark.

And plus youtube and such make it way easier to share a song with a friend, improving potential buyers for said artist. And I think the incentive to take something with them is large enough that if they really liek it, they'll have to get it one way or another.

49. Bill B said...

Many hear are attempting to justify downloading music WITHOUT paying for it. Keep telling yourself something over and over and you can be deceived into believing a lie.

50. Bill B said...

I am just writing to tell you that I know the difference between 'hear' and 'here' (post 49). My mistake. :)

51. Gabe said...

Josh, I think that's a GREAT idea (record companies, itunes, amazon mp3 should just "lock" their content).
And VivaCincoDeMayo, you said "I'm tired of hearing amazing singles on the radio, getting excited for an album, paying my hard earned money for that album, and being disappointed with every song but that one single. I'm also tired of buying albums just for them to be re-released later in the year with a bunch of extra new songs. Should I really have to buy the album all over again to enjoy the new music?" My answer to that is that you can go to youtube and listen to the songs, decide which ones you want to buy, then go on Itunes and pay a buck for each song that you want, and don't buy the songs you don't want. You don't get the songs you didn't like, you don't spend as much, and the artists get paid.
Nathaniel S, of course you can download a CD from Amazon or Itunes legally then burn a copy for yourself. The problem is when someone burns a copy for someone else, because that person gets the music, but the artist doesn't get paid for it.
The only time i think it's EVER okay to burn someone else a CD is if it's just ONE song, and you've either bought more than one version of it, or bought a bunch of songs that you never listen to from the same artist. All else is stealing.
Thanks for reading!

52. niki said...

WOW! vivacincodemayo (and everyone who agrees with viva) you need to listen to Justinrawks and Isaac Chandler and Gabe

I definitley agree that with all this new technology that the music industry can find a way to lock the songs they exhibit.

And I agree that there is a difference between downloading and listening online.

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