The music industry has been torn between online music downloading and intellectual property rights. Sharing files through the Internet has seen a rise in vices, as well as benefits to the users. Initially, the music industry only relied on the producers to market artists’ work since they maintain the sole intellectual property rights. This notion has been resented by music fans and some musicians who perceive that the producers’ monopoly generate self benefits that do not trickle down to the musicians and fans. Music stores have realised a decline in music sales caused by online programs that music fans attribute to quality and variety. Upcoming musicians have also benefited from online music sharing whereby they were able to market their music. They also gain recording contracts with leading recording labels in the music industry. On the other hand, some musicians have suffered losses due a decline in music sales since most users can access the musicians’ albums free of charge. Proponents of peer-to-peer programs argue that online music sharing does not present harm to established musicians. However, programs such as Napster should not be banned on the basis of intellectual property rights. This paper, therefore, argues for continued sharing of music online but upholding copyright laws.
Proponents of peer-to-peer programs argue that the recording labels have been discouraging music fans by hiked music compact disks (C.D.s) prices. According to Facts on Files News, it cost less than $1 to produce a CD today while recording labels sell them at a cost of $15 or more. This indicates that producers have been exploiting the music fans and advocating for the banning of peer-to-peer programs. Surveys also indicate that online music sharing increases appetite for CDs whereby one is compelled to purchase music after watching the previews. Facts on Files News also allude to the fact that online file sharing is also not an infringement of property rights.
People who purchase music and install it in their PCs can work (listen, copy, delete, share) with it from a remote computer using the peer-to-peer programs. This sharing, therefore, is not able to constitute infringement of intellectual property rights. In their arguments, proponents for peer-to-peer programs note that banning of such programs is only aimed at reducing competition. Online music shops serve the same purpose as music shops. Like in ordinary stores, users can visit a site, choose what they like and buy legal music, as well as present it to others.
Opponents of the peer-to-peer programs, on the other hand, note that music sales have still been on the decline since the establishment of online music sharing programs. According to music stores findings in 1998, focusing areas near campuses, music sales were reported to have dropped by 4% within the first three months. The proponents argue that sharing music files without a licence is comparable to shoplifting. A program such as Napster could also be exploiting the musicians’ profits as it reaps revenues from advertising or even charging users while accessing the site. Sharing music files, therefore, leads to the dampening of artistic expression if it is not well controlled.
The claims on the peer-to-peer programs seem valid since, at the present time, individuals have the right to share information. Peer-to-peer programs have seen a growth in the music industry despite issues that sales have been on the decline. Peer-to-peer programs have helped nurture upcoming artists while still promoting well established ones. The high level of technology confirmed difficulty to ban such programs. On the other hand, music distributing control will help uphold property rights and generate maximum returns to the musicians, recording labels, and the music fans.
The paper sought to identify the need for continued online music sharing without infringement of property rights. Musicians own the intellectual property rights of their artistic work, which requires to be protected. However, banning of online music sharing programs will not help protect the musicians’ property rights. Internet exposure carries along interest and decreases costs in music production. Integrating music sharing programs into the industry mainstream will generate revenues for all the parties while still maintaining the individuals’ property rights. The use of new technologies, such as the Secure Digital Music Initiative, will help track down how music is traded online, and thus, be able to distribute the raised profits to the music owners (Smith, 2012).