A crackdown on music piracy

A recent article on the web caught my attention – “Music piracy crackdown nets college kids.”1
The article recounts the music downloading experiences of Sarah Barg, an advertising major in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was one of the many students who was caught illegally downloading music by the Recording Industry Association of America and was required to pay an exorbitant fine of USD 3000 (USD 750 as fines and USD 7.5 for each song she downloaded using the school’s computer from a p2p sharing platform called Ares) to escape being sued.
Today, with high bandwidth connectivity and an even larger range of piracy websites and file sharing programs, illegal downloads are commonplace enough. Especially among statistically shrewd youngsters, who estimate that the probability of their being caught illegally downloading songs/videos is extremely low. So instead of rightfully investing in mp3s/CDs/DVDs they risk the chance of being caught; ignoring the small sized disclaimers which appear in almost every piracy website/file sharing program.
When caught however, they learn their lesson – in an expensive way. To quote Sarah Barg, “Technically, I'm guilty. I just think it's ridiculous, the way they're going about it.”Most would agree that such steps, however harsh they may seem, are required. The fines that are imposed more than anything else advertise the fact that illegal downloading is indeed against the law and is punishable. Despite this, many students still have a lax attitude. To quote the article again, Johnson, a freshman, doesn't think the threats from the recording industry group are going to solve the problem. His friends who got into trouble still share music online. "People are still going to do it until they get caught, and they can't catch everyone," Johnson said.
So what can be done to solve this problem? The online iTunes store introduced by Apple, which sold songs online – allowing individual songs to be sold instead of the entire package, did reduce online music piracy – but its hard to resist the temptation when these songs are available for free elsewhere on the web. So should there be a change in the legal policy to accommodate this new technology? Or is this an opportunity for a technopreneur to design a meter to keep record of when and how many files of the mp3/wma/rm… formats have been downloaded by the system? Only time will tell.

1) Music piracy crackdown nets college kids - By Anna Jo Bratton (Associated Press), ET May 13, 2007

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