Privacy vs. Piracy

One of the biggest perils that the music industry faces today is the ferocious battle between privacy rights and the violation of copyrights stemming from music piracy. In today’s digital age, the downloading, burning or transmission of copyrighted material is referred to as piracy, and is definitely against the law. Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, rental or digital transmission of copyrighted sound recordings. (Title 17, United States Code, Sections 501 and 506). Music piracy has heavily increased since the beginning of MP3’s and other widely used digital audio formats.
Unfortunately, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can connect to multiple computers and share data virtually undetected. This has caused quite a problem for the record industry and has trickled down to have an effect on artists, writers, arrangers and arguably the entire music industry. Although piracy is outright theft by definition, there are many organizations that are defending the practice. In order to police music piracy and Internet data transfers, the authorities must violate touchy privacy laws. The Fourth Amendment of the constitution protects each citizen against unreasonable searches and seizures. Accessing a citizen’s private information, which is stored on his or her computer, is undoubtedly a violation of their privacy. The battle has continued for over ten years, spawning court cases, press conferences and new legislation. On one side of the line you have privacy rights, with the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and over twenty other supporting organizations. In the other corner you have the infamous RIAA (Record Industry Association of America), boasting the power of hundreds of successful artists.
The RIAA is the leading authority on policing music piracy. Their organization has brought thousands of lawsuits against various citizens allegedly in violation of copyright law. The RIAA has pursued civil lawsuits against college students, software developers (including Lime Wire), Internet service providers and even young children whose parents were found responsible for copyright violations. In recent news, there have been lawsuits brought against other countries, as piracy is largely focused outside of the United States. According to the RIAA’s website1 and an investigation carried out by the IPI2, (The Institute for Policy Innovation), a reported $12.5 billion is potentially lost every year economically with around another billion dollars lost in United States tax revenue. However, these are grossly exaggerated estimates and even the RIAA understands that calculating an exact amount of loss from piracy is virtually impossible. Surely there is a detriment to the industry from music piracy. The RIAA has received winning judgments in thousands of court battles including suits against Internet Service Providers. Many ISP’s have even been ordered by the court to deliver Internet protocol addresses to the RIAA, which in turn will allow them to track violators of copyright laws.
In this case however, there are two sides to the story. United States privacy rights have been the cause of many conflicts over the course of this country. For the music industry, the right to the privacy of an individual does not seem to take precedence over the criminal act of theft. The EFF3 is the leading authority on protecting privacy rights of American citizens. They have fought countless battles protecting our privacy rights in a diverse range of issues, and piracy is an issue of great concern. The EFF has offered many solutions to the piracy problem by offering models to deliver music legally, however with our current technologies, the organization seeks to protect the privacy rights of citizens who have violated piracy law. Essentially, your privacy rights would be violated from simply connecting to the Internet and downloading one MP3. The EFF exists to combat and change this growing problem. Verizon Wireless was subpoenaed, or otherwise called upon by the courts. They chose to fight in order to protect the privacy rights of their customers. The company did not want to release IP addresses of their customers, enabling the RIAA to track Internet usage. Unfortunately the court ruled against the ISP and ordered them to cooperate. This was a huge blow to the fight for privacy rights.
When looking at the industry as a whole, Music piracy really has destroyed the art of recording and put a hold on new and upcoming artists. There is a general disgust amongst artists directed towards the citizens who have decided to steal music. Although music piracy has increased since it’s beginning, there are many things we can do to begin to stop it. Countless musicians of all levels of talent, spanned across all genres and enjoying different successes have banded together to stand up for themselves and their rights. MusicUnited.org4 is the leading organization of artists, boasting over one hundred platinum and multi-platinum recording artists united for a common cause. As an avid member of Music United, Stevie Wonder claims that “Record companies, publishers, radio stations, retailers, artists and others in our industry must take a very strong position against the stealing of our writing and music or else those writings and music will become as cheap as the garbage in the streets.” has some of the largest organized groups supporting artists and songwriters standing up against the violation of their copyrights. If you are interested in joining the MUSIC coalition, (Music United for Strong Internet Copyright), head to “” and investigate the organization further. There are over twenty members including the RIAA and American Federation of Musicians.
The music industry is going to have to pass this roadblock if we are to capitalize on the benefits of new technology and the digital age. As we look into the future, there are many promising business models and services that could help take the focus away from stealing low quality, often malicious content, and simply purchasing it legitimately. New and upcoming companies offer subscription download services, pay per song, and many other innovative ideas. The only problem we need to solve is the widespread theft that is occurring in the world of music. As long as the true severity of the situation is understood, most people would opt out of stealing music and just purchase it legally and honorably. Unfortunately, without regulation, the music industry could dwindle down into nothing but a consumer free for all.
1The RIAA (Recording Industry of America), “”
2IPI (Institute for Policy Innovation), “”
3EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), “”
4Music United,



One Reply to “Privacy vs. Piracy”

  1. There’s definately a lot to know about this topic. I love all of
    the points you made.

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