Out Of The Limelight

27 10 2010

Tap. Tap. Tap.

That’s the sound of a hammer tapping coffin nails. After yesterday’s injunction against Limewire, the filesharing site is effectively out of business.

And the recording industry can heave a big sigh of relief.

It took nearly four years for the RIAA to get the ruling it desired. And now the RIAA is expected to go after as much as $1 billion in damages.

Limewire is little different from Napster, which faced a similar fate earlier this decade. The fact of the matter is, filesharing is illegal. Plain and simple. It matters not that technology makes it so easy to swap music files, the reality is that we are dealing in stolen goods.

Yes, stolen. Once a copyrighted item is copied and procured (regardless of method), it is little different from shoplifting. Looting while the store is open. Pilfering right in front of the manager.

Of course, critics will scoff and say that we have been making mix tapes ever since the 70s, and no one cared one iota back then. And that is a valid criticism, even though the simple act of making and sharing a mix tape is, in fact, just as illegal as downloading a song from Limewire. It’s just that Limewire is a one-to-many model of sharing, whereas making mix tapes is one-to-one.

In other words, Limewire is a facilitator. The RIAA is not so concerned about whether you want to impress your friends with a CD full of your favorite songs. And they’re really not that concerned even when you lend your CDs to a friend so they can make a personal copy (yes, still illegal). What they are really concerned with is the wholesale copying by thousands, yea millions, of songs all at one site.

So I know some of you are wondering: “Dr. Gerlich, are you so pious as to never have committed this sin?” The answer is no. I have copied, but never from Napster or Limewire. But years ago I saw the error of my ways, and will no longer accept or offer copied music to friends. After having done extensive research on the music piracy phenomenon (and four published articles resulting from that research), I can honestly say that I side with the RIAA.

It really does not matter how any of us rationalize it. Yes, it is way too simple to copy or download. And yes, the price of CDs is high and song quality often low. But we now have the ability to cherry pick the songs we want at iTunes for $1.29, or, better yet, subscribe to listening services like Rhapsody.com for $10 a month. There is no reason to engage in unlawful behavior at any time, but especially when the savings are so meager to begin with.

As for me, I am glad to see Limewire posting this notice on their site. It’s about time the courts closed this coffin and buried it.

Dr “I’ve Got The Music In Me” Gerlich

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