- 3 Jul 08, 08:44 GMT
So were you among the 800 people to receive a letter from Virgin Media and the BPI about downloading music from file-sharing sites?
The two companies have started their education campaign to try and stop people from using tools like Limewire and BitTorrent to share copyright songs.
It's supposed to be a softly-softly approach but Virgin has done itself no favours by putting the letters in an envelope marked "If you don't read this, your broadband could be disconnected."
That was a mistake, says Virgin.
No-one's threatening legal action yet, but the BPI have made clear time and time again that the hammer remains poised to be brought down hard on the most persistent offenders.
This issue always attracts a lot of debate. It's one I've been following since the early days of Napster.
It's a complicated debate, wrapped up as it is in notions of intellectual property rights, copyright, consumer rights, consumer expectations, the changing music landscape, the revolution in digital distribution.
I've heard a lot of rhetoric from both sides and the arguments of those who defend their use of file-sharing sites tend to be:
•Music is too expensive
• I download music for free to get a taste and then buy the album
• Downloading some songs for free encourages me to buy more music overall
• The entire structure of the music industry is just flawed beyond repair
• The music industry is making enough money already
• The copyright laws need to be overhauled for the 21st Century
I've probably missed a few off. But I have to say that to my mind not one of those arguments is justification for stealing. I actually agree with some of the points and over the years have also felt frustrated by the attitude of record firms. But is that a reason to steal?
And I'll be very honest here. I have used file-sharing sites myself in the past to download music. About six years ago I used Napster and Audio Galaxy to download songs without paying.
What were my reasons? At the time, curiosity and simplicity.
I stopped because it was clear I was breaking the law. I was wrong to do it. I have long since deleted those songs.
The music industry was slow to wake up to the digital revolution. It did spend too long embracing out-moded models of production, distribution and consumption.
And there remain major issues around digital rights management and legitimate digital content:
• DRM frustrates many consumers and imposes often ludicrous restrictions
• Audio quality on many digital downloads is laughably poor
And the music industry's tactic of identifying IP addresses of those machines that are file-sharing tracks without permission and then passing them on to the ISP which operates those IP addresses, is not without flaw itself.
Anyone with a wireless network could probably argue, with justification, that there is no way to definitively prove that the download took place on a machine they owned.
But is any of that a reason to steal? Is it?
UPDATE: A few people have questioned my use of the word stealing. Arguing that it is copyright infringement and not stealing. There may be a point here but to my mind this is semantics. It's a bit like breaking into a car, driving it around and then abandoing it. I believe it's called Taking Without Consent in legal parlance. Stealing to everybody else.
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