Downloading Music: When the Law Slaps Your Hand

By  |  9 Comments
I have not paid for music since 2004. The last album I purchased was John Legend’s debut “Get Lifted”, and that was only because I was (and still am) convinced that he would one day be mine, and I did not want to steal from my future husband.
With friends burning copies of recently released albums for me, free mixtape websites, and the now defunct peer-to-peer file-sharing site LimeWire giving me easy access, my music collection has expanded exponentially in the last six years. A quick search of my iTunes tells me that in 2010 alone, I have acquired exactly 544 new songs. And I can literally go down the list, and tell you precisely how I acquired each one.
You must be thinking, “But that’s illegal?” Guess what? I know. I’m fully aware; always have been. But here’s the thing. I… don’t… care. I attribute my terrible attitude to my Trini upbringing. Why should I pay if I can get it free?
Almost as soon as I began actively following the artistes whose music populates my iTunes, I developed a sense of entitlement. “Music is for the people,” I said. As far as I was concerned, I had a right to have access to the music I loved. I needed it. Music is life to me. Why should my musical bliss be limited by the $150TT price tag?
You can hardly blame me for feeling this way. Considering that those massive roving boom boxes that also sell music are practically a staple along the streets of Trinidad, I didn’t exactly have anyone telling me that what I was doing was wrong. If my sources are correct, Trinidadian music copyright laws only apply to local artistes.
Unfortunately, this is not an attitude that is appreciated in the US, and now that I’m at university, my illegal downloading is limited to the holidays, when I am safely back home in T&T. Music piracy is a major issue in the United States, and is something that is not taken lightly. I remember being terrified to smuggle my then 8GB-strong collection to university for fear of being ‘found out’ and arrested, and understandably so (In the US, those who know me also know that I have an endless list of things I won’t do for fear of being deported).
In early August of this year, a Boston University graduate student was ordered to pay four record labels $675K in damages for infringing on the copyright of 30 songs. If my math is right, that’s $22,500 per song. Per SONG! So… basically that’s 757% more than he would have paid, if he’d just bought the songs in the first place.
Recently, record companies have been cracking down on illegal downloading based on copyright infringement claims. Artistes sell music as a product, and they do deserve to be paid for their work just like anyone else. But no matter where you go, you’re bound to find someone who just refuses to pay.
About a month ago, the bane of my existence LimeWire was slapped with an injunction instructing them to immediately cease offering their software to consumers. The judge ordered that “LimeWire shall use all reasonable technological means to immediately cease and desist the current infringement of the Copyrighted Works by Legacy users through the LimeWire System and Software and to prevent and inhibit future infringement of copyright works.”
Music Industry – 1
Cheap music lovers – 0
*Deep sigh*
I find this situation intensely troubling. LimeWire’s demise means that the latest albums from Kanye West, Rihanna, Maroon 5, the Glee Cast (I dare you to judge me), Ke$ha and Laura Izibor are not in my iTunes where they belong.
While the rational person in me recognizes that peer-to-peer sharing is essentially stealing, I just cannot bring myself to pay for music. It’s silly I know. But there is some fundamental thing inside of me that prevents me from spending money on music, when there are so many shoes to buy.
Trinidadians are no strangers to music piracy. Getting ‘free ting’ is ingrained in our psyche. But how will we respond to a legal ruling that disrupts what is essentially a way of life for Trinidadian, young adults[1]?
The thing is, we’re all essentially torn. We know that musicians are making a living from their art. We know that performing is a job for them – just like pencil pushing is for us. We know that anyone doing a job is entitled to payment. But what many of us just can’t come to terms with is paying for something that we think inherently belongs to us. Music is part of the Trinidadian culture. Where would we be without our Machels, Destras and Saucy Wows?
Luckily, local artistes have a little more clout in the music industry when it comes to piracy. Thanks to the Copyright Music Organization of Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidadians are at least marginally aware of ‘performing rights’ and the fact that musicians are entitled to royalties for their intellectual property. Unfortunately, the laws that protect local artistes do not protect foreign artistes (not as if Kanye’s reps definitely aren’t going to bother to run amok on young boys with wooden carts).
Digital piracy of mainstream music continues, with local and foreign artistes feeling the pinch. Who hasn’t heard artistes complain about hearing their music on the streets, the same day it was released to radio stations?
The more innovative of the bunch find ways to barter with consumers, offering free music online at times, knowing we’re going to find a way to download it anyway, in hopes that this give and take convinces us to purchase a track here or there.
However, when there’s no real sense of an immediate threat to one’s freedom, or pocket, for downloading an MP3, we’re yet to see Trinis (myself included), choose to pull out a credit card to purchase a song on iTunes or TrinidadTunes, or pass by a CD kiosk, before googling tracks. Perhaps Trinis will find legal ways to share music, or simply limit themselves to buying music that they absolutely love, instead of just the hot tune of the moment.

musicpiracyI have not paid for music since 2004. The last album I purchased was John Legend’s debut “Get Lifted”, and that was only because I was (and still am) convinced that he would one day be mine, and I did not want to steal from my future husband.

With friends burning copies of recently released albums for me, free mixtape websites, and the now defunct peer-to-peer file-sharing site LimeWire giving me easy access, my music collection has expanded exponentially in the last six years. A quick search of my iTunes tells me that in 2010 alone, I have acquired exactly 544 new songs. And I can literally go down the list, and tell you precisely how I acquired each one.

You must be thinking, “But that’s illegal?” Guess what? I know. I’m fully aware; always have been. But here’s the thing. I… don’t… care. I attribute my terrible attitude to my Trini upbringing. Why should I pay if I can get it free?

Almost as soon as I began actively following the artistes whose music populates my iTunes, I developed a sense of entitlement. “Music is for the people,” I said. As far as I was concerned, I had a right to have access to the music I loved. I needed it. Music is life to me. Why should my musical bliss be limited by the $150TT price tag?

You can hardly blame me for feeling this way. Considering that those massive roving boom boxes that also sell music are practically a staple along the streets of Trinidad, I didn’t exactly have anyone telling me that what I was doing was wrong. If my sources are correct, Trinidadian music copyright laws only apply to local artistes.

Unfortunately, this is not an attitude that is appreciated in the US, and now that I’m at university, my illegal downloading is limited to the holidays, when I am safely back home in T&T. Music piracy is a major issue in the United States, and is something that is not taken lightly. I remember being terrified to smuggle my then 8GB-strong collection to university for fear of being ‘found out’ and arrested, and understandably so (In the US, those who know me also know that I have an endless list of things I won’t do for fear of being deported).

In early August of this year, a Boston University graduate student was ordered to pay four record labels $675K in damages for infringing on the copyright of 30 songs. If my math is right, that’s $22,500 per song. Per SONG! So… basically that’s 757% more than he would have paid, if he’d just bought the songs in the first place. 

Recently, record companies have been cracking down on illegal downloading based on copyright infringement claims. Artistes sell music as a product, and they do deserve to be paid for their work just like anyone else. But no matter where you go, you’re bound to find someone who just refuses to pay.

About a month ago, the bane of my existence LimeWire was slapped with an injunction instructing them to immediately cease offering their software to consumers. The judge ordered that “LimeWire shall use all reasonable technological means to immediately cease and desist the current infringement of the Copyrighted Works by Legacy users through the LimeWire System and Software and to prevent and inhibit future infringement of copyright works”.

Music Industry – 1

Cheap music lovers – 0

*Deep sigh*

I find this situation intensely troubling. LimeWire’s demise means that the latest albums from Kanye West, Rihanna, Maroon 5, the Glee Cast (I dare you to judge me), Ke$ha and Laura Izibor are not in my iTunes where they belong. 

While the rational person in me recognizes that peer-to-peer sharing is essentially stealing, I just cannot bring myself to pay for music. It’s silly I know. But there is some fundamental thing inside of me that prevents me from spending money on music, when there are so many shoes to buy. 
Trinidadians are no strangers to music piracy. Getting ‘free ting’ is ingrained in our psyche. But how will we respond to a legal ruling that disrupts what is essentially a way of life for Trinidadian, young adults?

The thing is, we’re all essentially torn. We know that musicians are making a living from their art. We know that performing is a job for them – just like pencil pushing is for us. We know that anyone doing a job is entitled to payment. But what many of us just can’t come to terms with is paying for something that we think inherently belongs to us. Music is part of the Trinidadian culture. Where would we be without our Machels, Destras and Saucy Wows?

Luckily, local artistes have a little more clout in the music industry when it comes to piracy. Thanks to the Copyright Music Organization of Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidadians are at least marginally aware of ‘performing rights’ and the fact that musicians are entitled to royalties for their intellectual property. Unfortunately, the laws that protect local artistes do not protect foreign artistes (not as if Kanye’s reps definitely aren’t going to bother to run amok on young boys with wooden carts). 

Digital piracy of mainstream music continues, with local and foreign artistes feeling the pinch. Who hasn’t heard artistes complain about hearing their music on the streets, the same day it was released to radio stations?

The more innovative of the bunch find ways to barter with consumers, offering free music online at times, knowing we’re going to find a way to download it anyway, in hopes that this give and take convinces us to purchase a track here or there.

However, when there’s no real sense of an immediate threat to one’s freedom, or pocket, for downloading an MP3, we’re yet to see Trinis (myself included), choose to pull out a credit card to purchase a song on iTunes or TrinidadTunes, or pass by a CD kiosk, before googling tracks. Perhaps Trinis will find legal ways to share music, or simply limit themselves to buying music that they absolutely love, instead of just the hot tune of the moment.

 

Image courtesy: economist.com; Illustration by Claudio Munoz.

 

Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday.

Catherine Young

Catherine Young is a serious journalist in the same way that Bridget Jones is a serious journalist. When not obsessing about being a singleton, Catherine is pursuing her love of fashion and photography. Follow her at on Twitter @promiscuouslola.

9 Comments

  1. Aknok

    January 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

    haven’t bought a CD in 5 years….
    $675K!!…sorry for the Boston Uni graduate student!

  2. Aknok

    January 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

    haven’t bought a CD in 5 years….
    $675K!!…sorry for the Boston Uni graduate student!

    #pilar

  3. TS

    January 3, 2011 at 11:52 am

    totally agree with the idea of why buy music when there are so many shoes to buy… and clothes… and bills to pay…etc… lol :)
    #PILAR

  4. Paula Lindo

    January 4, 2011 at 4:01 am

    I stopped using Limewire a long time ago, but you can check me for some sites I use to download stuff as well as using Vuze (Azureus) to download music

  5. FHarper

    January 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I think it’s insane to see bootleggers on the street being fined, but for those of us with an income, we should at least pay for the music from artists that we admire. I don’t think it’s affecting Kanye, true. I do make a distinction between him and our local artistes, who especially in the early stages sacrifice so much for so little remuneration. We will not stop without some type of law, typical Trini mentality.

    #PILAR

  6. Rashidah Vitalis

    January 5, 2011 at 5:51 am

    When you think about it the Celebrities already make SO much money, even with the existence of illegal downloading and file sharing. My question is, why give them more if they seem to be doing just fine with the amount they already have?

    #imjustsaying

    #PILAR

  7. Christine N

    January 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

    COMPLETELY agree with the previous comment. These ppl are making MILLIONS regarless. If not ONE person from T&T buys one of their albums, they would still be making millions.
    Save your money and fully support our local artistes. In as much as I love John Legend and Kanye…lemme buy a Destra or Kes album before they get meh money #thatisall

    #PILAR

  8. Reesa T

    January 5, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Felt this conviction a long time ago i.e. pay the musical artiste for their talent.

    #PILAR

  9. Elizabeth Turner

    January 6, 2011 at 6:48 am

    The days for buying original cd’s/albums or paying for itunes will soon be a thing of the past. Tne music market has been flooded with different ways and means of obtaining free music for quite some time now. From the youngest music lover to the oldest they can easily source whatever track they are looking for. I think the expensive cost attached to purchasing music may have alot to do with this trend, why pay so much when you can get it for so less or even free. #PILAR

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *