A PIRATE’S Life

The Internet as we know it, spawned from work by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the 1970’s (according to History of the Internet from ABC-Clio Press), provides the everyday user with a wealth of information; the world is a click of a mouse away, so to speak. One of the beauties of this great behemoth of dot-coms, wikis, porn, electronic mails and the like is file sharing. Not only are we, the average computer-savvy collegiate, able to download Flo Rida’s “Low” in a matter of minutes, we can also rip the pre-released version of “Be Kind Rewind” and laugh at Jack Black’s antics even before he hits the big screen. Yes, it is illegal to download copyrighted files from the Internet. Yes, music is copyrighted. Yes, films are copyrighted. No, we won’t stop doing it. How has this illegal phenomenon become more widely practiced than similar illegal trends (i.e. smoking weed)? The Internet, ever the wealth of knowledge, provides detailed documentation of the rise and downfall of Napster. According to www.howstuffworks. com, Napster was the evil monster that spurned a whole black market of music downloading. Invented in 1999 by 18-year-old Shawn Fanning, Napster was born as a file sharing system that was able to quickly search and filter the music files of online users. Not only did this spawn a new age of fast, easy and, most importantly, CHEAPmusic consumption, it also opened the debate as to the laws regarding intellectual property. On Dec. 8, 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed suit against Napster for copyright infringement. According to www.cnn.com, the RIAAsought reparations of $100,000 per copyright-protected song swapped to date on Napster. At the time, over 200,000 songs were available, meaning the enterprising Shawn Fanning would have a $20 billion hole in his pocket. Several months later, the ninth circuit court of appeals ruled that Napster must shut down. With Napster no longer operating as it once did (it is now a monthly music subscription service), impoverished music fans have turned elsewhere. The early Napster spinoffs, namely Kazaa, are still up and running, but increasingly popular is BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing communications protocol. BitTorrent, as defined by CNet’s Webware blog, is “an advanced peer-to-peer sharing technology that runs using a client system. It works by splitting up files into tiny bits of data that can be shared in any order. Even if just one person has an entire file initially, eventually after sharing it with others, the speed for downloading increases.” To further simplify, bit torrents are a decentralized way to distribute music, kinda like the “pay it forward” of music. What does this mean for you, the unsuspecting collegiate who just wants the latest Radiohead In Rainbows remix or Britney Spears single? For those who don’t want to pay 20 bucks to listen to Snoop Dogg drop it like it’s hot, acquiring music is a tricky thing. The music industry is changing; the tangled web of Internet downloads offers endless options, not all of them illegal. Mandy Sutherland, WRUV Station Manager points out that, “Bigger underground bands use [music downloading] to their advantage because they want to expand their audience. For example, The Shins secretly released their album on purpose in January 2006 to promote themselves”. Other bands, such as Radiohead with In Rainbows, offer their albums for download to fans on a sliding pay scale. Of course, you could take advantage of the iTunes’ $0.99 cent special… but if you were to count up some 40 gigs of music at a dollar a piece, you could afford to pay a music industry mogul’s salary for a year. Sutherland adds, “Just $1 a song seems a little extreme”. Proponents of illegal music downloading claim that illegal downloads help the little guy, the unknown indie rock band from Brooklyn or the rapper from Louisville just wanting to be the next Ludacris. WRUV DJ Phantom Tollbooth (a.k.a. Matt Priven) claims that “illegal music downloading definitely changes the experience of being an artist. The fact that technology allows us to cut out the middle man should be seen as a good thing. Money isn’t always about the album sales, there is no better PRthan rocking people’s faces off.” But, the middle man will always complain and try to get their cut. David Todd, UVMChief Information Officer, claims that the RIAAhas made a case to Congress using facts that have since been disproven. The RIAAand Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) claimed that 44 percent of their revenue had been lost due to illegal downloading by college students, initially sending the higher education community into a state of dismay. “We spend a good deal of time thinking about this issue – and a good deal of time at conferences talking about how to deal with it,” Todd said. However, since the error has been corrected and only a third of the originally thought amount of revenue has been lost, higher education officials are less reticent to take up the industry’s crusade against music piracy. “We in higher education do take this issue very seriously,” Todd said. “but we wouldn’t ship a list of students off to the RIAA[for persecution], that’s just not what we do.” That leaves the decision up to you. Granted, we all engage in illegal activity on a daily basis. However, are you prepared to pay up to $200,000 for every copyrighted song you “borrow” from BitTorrent?PIRATEBen Post, freshmanHow do you get your music? “From friends, basically just plugging my iPod into friends’ computers and pulling music off.”What is your stance on peer-to-peer file sharing? “Ihave no problem with it. People shouldn’t get all their music that way, but getting some of it is fine.”What is the last album you acquired?”Jethro Tull’s Greatest Hits.”Dave Andreini, seniorHow do you get your music?”Illegally, BitTorrent.”What is your stance on peer-to-peer file sharing? “I like it a lot. It definitely takes away from the profits, but I’ll buy a CD if I like a band enough and it’s not, like, the Beatles.”What is thee last album you acquired?”Bob Dylan, ‘Blonde on Blonde.'”Alena Warren, juniorHow do you get your music?”CDs from the library, iTunes store.”What is your stance on peer-to-peer file sharing? “I think its OK, because I feel like most musicians get their money from live shows. I don’t mind paying $1 a track.” What is the last album you acquired?”‘In Rainbows’ by Radiohead.”Molly Baird-Ashodian, sophomoreHow do you get your music? ” I download it off of Emma’s computer. My friend and I buy CDs together and burn it off each other.”What is your stance on peer-to-peer file sharing? “I don’t know if I have a stance. I guess I want artists to make money but I know I’m not gonna buy every CD and I want to be able to listen to a lot of music. Sometimes I buy music off iTunes.”What is the last album you acquired?”I bought ‘Big Willie Style’ at the Possibility Shop for $1.”Allison Naugle, juniorHow do you get your music? “Mostly from friends, but if Ireally like a song I’ll buy it from iTunes.”What is your stance on peer-to-peer file sharing? I don’t mind getting music from people but I’m afraid to download off of the internet because I don’t want my computer to get viruses and I’ve had it wiped out before from viruses from files I’ve downloaded off the internet.What is the last album you acquired?Elvis Costello, “This Year’s Model”