MP3’s: Friend or Foe Essay

MP3’s, a breakthrough in technology or are they just another bomb waiting to explode on us? Some say they are good while others argue that they are not just bad, but horrific to musicians that want to make it to the top. MP3’s are used widely by teenagers on their home computer, usually illegally and are constantly being threatened by the producer of the music. Billions of dollars are being lost due to the Internet craze of the MP3 technology mainly because no one is buying the legal music from record stores anymore, its like a style gone dead. Now that the problem is out, Internet police are on the loose to find these illegal distributors of music and put them to a stop. When all the smoke is cleared, it is apparent that the producer of music will have eventual victory over the users in the MP3 battle.

MPEG Audio Layer 3, which is what this anarchic instigator of war file format is known as, but to us it is a MP3 which is a part of the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 specifications which could be used for movies. MP3’s compresses CD-quality sound by a factor of 12 or more while still providing a great high quality sound to it. A MP3 is now becoming mainstream format for music like records, tapes, and CD’s which are currently being used, but to play MP3’s a program is needed like Winamp or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player.

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The MP3 has become the most commonly used but unofficial file format to encode digital music for downloading off the Internet. The Internet is the heart of the MP3, without it, this new format would never survive because the Net allows surfers to download songs in a matter of minutes without cost or legal implications. This compressed MP3 technology is popping up everywhere on the Internet. There is no music site that you can go to where a MP3 of some sort is not being offered, just log on and download.

A lot of people believe that MP3’s are breaking copyrights and is a part of online piracy. Online piracy is playing or downloading from the Internet songs and lyrics without authorization and without compensating the artists. Downloading even one song without permission or compensation is considered online piracy. Pirate recordings are the unauthorized duplications of copyrighted recordings, the packaging of the recording, art, label, title, sequencing, etc. are all a part of piracy.

When people download MP3’s from the Internet, they fail to recognize the copyrights that are in place because they are written in font sizes under 10pts or are skipped by the user. Though it is the fault of creator of the site, the creator knows that if people stop going to the site, money stops being made so the creator must hide all items that might deterrent the user from leaving the web site. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has two copyrights that apply to MP3’s.

1. Copyright in musical work – That is, lyrics and musical notes as they’re written on paper. This copyright is typically owned by the songwriter or music publisher

2. Copyright in the sound recording – Which is a recording of a performer singing or playing the particular song. This copyright is usually owned by the record company.

Therefore the only legal way to copy, download, upload, a piece of music is to get permission first which every user forgets about or doesn’t even bother. This the primary cause for the war of legal rights that goes on every day because free is good right? Wrong!

It isn’t just that people are taking music for free or that fans of every musical taste have turned to the Internet to satisfy their need for music, its because millions and millions of dollars are being lost everyday to the people that make the music all possible. The Canadian Recording Industry Association reports that there are around 80, 000 infringing MP3 sites on the Internet and each one is carrying around 300 or more recordings, and that’s just counting plain MP3 sites excluding pornographic sites with MP3’s, Wares applications and game sites with MP3’s etc. Major money is being lost here.

The RIAA calculated that there are 120 million downloads from MP3 sites weekly and climbing, representing an annual loss of $5 billion (US) to the recording industry and around $1 million a day in the United States alone. It isn’t stopping there when these numbers increase higher and higher just in one day. This major concern has the recording industry going frantic on how to tackle this problem and hardly any solutions have come around on their part.

Brian Robertson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association spoke at a conference and said “There’s tens of thousand of sound recordings that are basically sitting around in a virtual record store with the door wide open and everyone is helping themselves” and concluded by saying “Everyone using MP3’s feels they have the inalienable right to use the product”. That’s true, as people download freely, not knowing that they are breaking any of the copyright laws and without paying royalties to the artists or the record companies.

Before it was just individual songs but since an increase in hard drive capacity is increasing, whole albums are being traded back and forth on the net. It is mostly the younger generation involved in this. Statistics prove this theory because the sales industry went up 8% last year, but the teenage demographic went down 5 to 6% which has never happened in a year before which makes you wonder where the teenagers are going to get the latest chart-toppers.

It gets worse as anyone can start their own MP3 factory by going to a computer store and spending $180 and getting yourself a CD-burner, and blank CD-R’s and start burning away by putting MP3’s onto CD and selling them to your friends. The potential MP3’s have to harm recording companies is “exponentially greater” than the old fashion piracy methods, such as copying audiotapes, bootlegs, or videocassettes combined.

Now that we have an understanding of why there is such a cause for concern for MP3’s, we need to look at who is getting hurt by them in more detail. It is clear that MP3’s are intended to be used by the general public and therefore hurting the recording artists real bad by making them lose lots of money due to lack of sales in the stores. A lot of MP3 fans claim that this file format will revolutionize the music industry since it is easier to download an album than making the effort to go to a store and buying it. These are the same people that are breaking copyrights by the second and are not caring one bit for their actions. The recording artist does though.

This loss of money has some of them thinking on what to do since this problem is not going away anytime soon. Some companies have opened free-for-all sites such as where individual bands or other companies can post their music for other people to download for free. Growing even more announced to make a deal with another huge recording company Cox Interactive Media, worth $45 million (US) to develop and operate music related sites. Another company that has been affected but decided to take the side of the MP3 is Amazon Records. added recently on their high-traffic website a free digital download area allowing visitors to get free songs form artists such as Public Enemy, Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett. The point is that these artists understand the problem and see MP3’s as a sign to the future and a helping hand on their journey to fame and fortune. On this site you will find many no-name bands that haven’t made it big, but in no way will you find a Backstreet Boys song or a Ricky Martin song. This is because of the huge recording companies they are signed with that are against MP3’s and because of the financial impact.

Bryan Adams, a famous Canadian recording artist, spoke to Reuter’s magazine, via through an email telling them that he is well aware of the MP3 problem and he knows he is loosing money everyday as his fans turn to download his singles rather than buy them. He continued by also stating that even though the fans think they are winning at this game, that no MP3 or movie could replace being at a live concert. The fact that MP3’s are not going away has got to sink into the heads of major recording companies so they can try to avoid heavy money loss by sitting back and taking the bullets when they could try and use it to their advantage like other companies mentioned before.

Larry Miller of Reciprocal Music claims like dinosaurs, recording companies will be rendered extinct when asked about the future of retail music. He also says that the retail business is going to look totally different than the way it currently is today, he adds by saying, “Is that necessarily bad? I think it’s just called evolution of business. The best of them will get better. The worst of them will go away.”

The people that get hurt most by this phenomenon is the struggling artists who try to strike deals with recording companies that are not into the digital age, rather then the ones who have a fan base of cyber surfers and can rely on them for sales.