The Great Debates – Debate #1: Copying And Downloading

Written by the members of


The great debate over downloadable and copied music has publicly raged for several years now, and many people are still unsure of the debate’s outcome. What is legal and what isn’t, and why?

Since we review a lot of music, we decided to provide an explanation and guide to help answer these questions. Even if you’ve never copied or downloaded music, received copied music, or given thought to these questions, you probably will encounter these situations and questions soon; so this guide is really for everyone.

Alright. Let’s start with online music downloading. There are both legal and illegal ways to obtain songs online. As for the latter, unfortunately there’s a whole slew of so-called “peer-to-peer”/file-sharing programs and sites that (although you may sometimes pay for the ‘service’ of using them) actually allow people to share files from their computer— usually music— with the world, which anyone can then copy off to their own computer at will. This, and any similar method of transfer (such as posting songs on message boards, etc.), is quite illegal.

Songs cost money to create and distribute— that’s why to get ahold of a CD or even a single song legally, you must usually pay money for each one (though not always; more on that in a moment). The thing is, any time you download music illegally, not only is it… well… illegal (and possibly very expensive in the long run, considering the number of serious lawsuits that the music associations are filing against illegal downloaders), it also— as we’ll explain in more detail later on— actually defeats the purpose of listening to that music, because it hurts the very band you’re enjoying.

Of course, the big question then becomes, “Is there a way to get legal music for free?” Surprisingly, the answer is yes. You will usually have to pay money to get legal music (either buying the whole album or separate tracks from legal sites such as iTunes, Walmart, Yahoo, Amazon, MySpace Music, and etc.); yet there are several ways to get free, legal music. If a band’s song is posted as a free download on the band’s own official site or e-card, the band’s label’s site, a magazine’s site, a radio station’s site, or on the band’s or label’s official page at MySpace or PureVolume, it’s legal. (Oh— and, best of all, many bands post entire albums on MySpace for your free listening pleasure!)

Now, let’s continue with the second half of the issue— copied music itself. “Ripped” or copied music is just that— it’s when someone gets a CD or a song and then copies it to give away to other people, or allows other people to borrow and copy it.

You need to understand that copying any music that is not legally free and giving it to someone else, or letting someone else borrow and copy that music, in any form is both legally and morally wrong and it also literally hurts the bands.

From the legal and moral standpoints, quite simply, it’s theft. As mentioned above, the reason why music usually costs money to get is that it costs money to make, just like anything you would buy at a store. If you tried to take an item that was not legally free from a store without paying for it, you would be stealing— and that’s exactly the same principal here. To put it another way, the people who work on the production of the music have jobs, just like everyone else. They get paid according to the sales of the finished product. Imagine you were working at a fast food restaurant, making food every day. At the end of the week you’re expecting to get paid for all the work you did; but then the management tells you that much of the food you made was not sold but taken, so you won’t be getting paid. That’s basically what happens to the people who work on music production when music is illegally copied.

Not only that, but putting aside the production workers’ income, from a purely logical point of view copying music is completely ironic. You see, contrary to what some may think, most bands do not make much money at all in the first place. Oh sure, a tiny, fractional percentage, a very choice few, make a lot; but, in general, almost all bands make peanuts. No matter how popular you might think they are, illegally obtaining or copying their music is only going to reduce their small income further. (Which they use, by the way, for such things as food, maintenance, and gasoline.) Beyond that, do you know how music labels judge their bands’ popularity? Mostly by legal track and album sales. Simply put, if a band sells enough music, the label will know that the band is worth keeping around and putting the money into to book live show venues and, most importantly, produce more music!

So even if you somehow completely put aside the legal and moral standpoints, the cold truth is, if you want to see the bands live or even hear more recorded music from them in the future, you must legally obtain the music so that the label sees the results. If you don’t get the music legally, or if you copy/let other people copy music, you’ll only end up hurting the very band you claim to enjoy.

We hope that this guide has answered the big questions and has helped you understand the reasoning behind the answers. We also hope that we’ve helped you find legal music, both pay and free. If you have other questions, need something cleared up or explained in more detail, or simply just want to comment, please feel free to Contact Us or leave a comment below. Thanks!



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