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Music Piracy : A Necessary Evil?

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The affair of piracy dates back to the 90s but still continues to haunt the big bold music industry. If you google ‘Napster’, you’ll be greeted with a link to a modern-looking music streaming website with sleek stock images and reasonable pricing plans but if you read the text you’ll notice the phrase “100% Legal” which would seem strange to a person who’s not familiar with Napster’s history but would also provide you with a good tickle if you are familiar with it.

Well, in case you didn’t already know, Napster has a controversial history. Sean Parker who technically is a co-founder of Facebook, also co-founded Napster during his college days which at the time was a file-sharing service that in the following years went on to get sued for copyright infringement by the Recording Industry Association of America, Dr Dre & Metallica. Napster saw the light of the day for 2 glorious years but was eventually shut down in 2000 but from its ashes rose other P2P network-based file-sharing services like LimeWire which was also shut down in 2010.

RIAA played a big role in successfully bringing both of these services down but the music industry still took a huge blow in terms of revenue. The situation had got so worse at this point, some people even went on to believe that the music industry will eventually be dead. But then came in the saviours of the music industry, Streaming platforms, who single-handedly not only revived the music business but also resulted in the downfall of piracy rates to record-low numbers.

The idea of piracy might seem exciting to some people, but at the end of the day, it is illegal and not to mention, immoral since it does rob the original creator of potential revenue. Artists pour their heart and soul into their records and to see someone take it away and put it on a website for free download is truly a nightmare.

Monetary Loss due to piracy has a positive correlation with the artist’s fame and one monumental example of this would be the piracy case of Kanye West’s seventh studio album ‘The Life Of Pablo’. In hopes of gaining subscribers, streaming service, Tidal exclusively hosted the album on its platform but agitated Kanye fans decided to make it available to everyone via the torrent website, The Pirate Bay (TPB). A distressed Kanye West even decided to sue The Pirate Bay website without realizing that it wouldn’t avail him any results and as expected became a subject of mockery on Twitter. 

While most top musical artists despise piracy due to obvious reasons, a few have come forward to openly back the concept citing a number of reasons. This list of artists includes the likes of Shakira, Henry Rollins and even the Radiohead boys seem to be big fans of technology and the new digital age, although I suspect their opinions might be different now following the recent hack which basically forced them to release 18 hours worth of music (ouch!)

Some people seem to believe that if a mid-tier artist ends up on a piracy website, it can actually go a long way for them, allowing them to acquire a new fan base. We can even find the mega pop star, Ed Sheeran attributing his success to piracy in an interview saying “I know that’s a bad thing to say because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file-sharing but illegal file-sharing was what made me. It was students in England going to university, sharing my songs with each other.”

Other arguments that you might hear in favour of piracy are that it doesn’t really rob the artist of their money since the person downloading the music illegally would never have purchased it or you’ll even hear that piracy is actually helping the sales since the pirate may purchase the artist’s music in future but I find that to be absolutely ridiculous since that is a very thin population of pirates we are talking about here and doesn’t necessarily stand true for everyone downloading the music illegally.

Streaming services like Spotify have done a pretty good job at bringing down the piracy rates and rarely do we see anyone downloading mp3s anymore. Although the music industry revenue hasn’t reached the level that it was at during the 90s, we still have come a long way in restoring the balance. 


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