The Human Truth Foundation

Illegal Downloading of Digital Music, Books and Media
Wishful Thinking and Greed

By Vexen Crabtree 2012

#music #UK

The amount of music and film downloaded illegally off of the internet dwarves the amount that is properly purchased. A form of mass-delusion has taken over two generations now, where theft is rationalized, justified and accepted, based on some rather poor arguments. A basic truth has been wished away - that downloading and copying music and films without paying for it is immoral as well as illegal. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states "everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author"1. We don't have a right to things simply because they're good2. Music is entertainment, and, there is no moral right to be entertained. It doesn't matter how much you want it, how many others also avoid paying, if you're just 'trying it out' before buying, or if you don't like music companies: none of those reasons are good enough to justify digital theft.

The debate is a lively one and the scale of illegal downloading vast. Data collected by Ofcom suggests that between November 2012 and January 2013 in the UK, 280m music tracks were digitally pirated along with 52m TV shows, 29m films, 18m ebooks and 7m software or games files.

The Guardian (2013)3

1. Reasons for Digitally Copying Products Without Paying

1.1. Some Digital Content is Too Expensive

Many of us are tempted to steal what we can't afford because you want it. But:

People do not have a right to the products of other's work: You can't saunter up to an artist's painting, decide that it costs too much, and so take a photo with your phone, and then share it with all your friends. You can't do this, because it is copyrighted, and its producer has legal rights, in order to protect his livelihood.

1.2. Some Products are Over-priced

Many download music because they say companies over-charge for regular access to music (or other products). But:

1.3. Some Music Outlets are Evil

Many justify downloading music without paying for it is acceptable because it punishes evil companies. Such large-scale music distributors and labels are strangling the music industry; currently, the worst offenders are streaming services who pay artists ludicrously small percentages. Only very few individuals in the music industry have the clout to resist and artists who 'fight back' against music companies can attain hero status4; likewise and any actions by consumers that are perceived to damage those companies can feel justifiable. But:

By stealing products from them, we are doing two things wrong.

1.4. Downloading Content 'To Try It Out'

Many justify the practice of copying products without paying for them on the basis that they are trying out a product before buying it. But:

2. Supporting Music

The music industry has become dominated by churned-out pop music, shallow and formulaic, with no depth, little variety, and very little genuine artistry. The solution is not to download what you want, for free.

As masses of music is downloaded, the music industry and individual bands have no idea about what is popular and what people like. By buying albums and singles (or downloading free ones legitimately given out by publishers) you are improving the music industry by giving it direction. The less people buy, the less the music industry can produce anything but the most banal mass-selling mass-market predictable middle-of-the-road material. In order to get sales, they have to popularize. That is the result of illegal downloads: the loss of quality in mainstream music.

3. Keep Swapping Personal

Keep swapping personal, not via large scale music and film swapping software. Don't download loads of albums, select individual tracks and use them as a test of whether you want to buy the albums or not. Don't give away your music; just give away small scale samplers and compilation so others might choose to buy it, too. Never allow anonymous access to mass downloads.

4. Morals

Just because you can get it from the Internet doesn't mean you should. Downloading and copying music and films that you haven't paid for, is not only illegal, but immoral. Producers - of anything - have a right to charge other people for their work. Only selfishness and wishful thinking makes people think otherwise.

The technical brilliance is so dazzling that people can't see the moral squalor of what they're doing. [...] It is outrageous that anyone can steal an artist's work and get away with it. It is theft, as surely as reaching into someone's pocket and taking their wallet is theft. [...] If we want to enjoy the work that someone does, we should pay for it.

Philip Pullman in The Guardian (2013)3

Aside from harming industry and artists, you simply do not have a right to copy other's art or music just because you like it and/or think it is too expensive. It is thinly disguised childishness to say that "I have a right to download my music" before you've even paid for it. Given the volumes and volumes that people tend to download, all the arguments that people are trying it out before buying it are obviously false. None of you are tricking anyone. Get honest, people: It's greed for entertainment.