Does Copyright matter on the Web?
While OD2's freebie music week carries on, David Dorn ponders the thorny problem of music piracy on the Internet
First things first - keep this window open and get yourself off to www.digitaldownloadday.com straight away to get your £5 worth of music for free...
Got it? Excellent - now we'll begin...
What you've just downloaded is music in a digital format, for which the very nice people at OD2 (headed by Peter Gabriel, no less) had stumped up the royalties and necessary payments to ensure that your downloads have been legal.
Note that bit - what other folks have been sucking down from PCs across the world via the likes of Napster (now all but dead) and Kazaa is, for the most part, far from legal. What's offered for download from such systems is usually pirated (and often virus infected) ripped mp3s straight of someone's CD.
Now, I had a conversation the other day with a bloke who though that downloading a ripped-off mp3 across Kazaa was legal - 'Otherwise they wouldn't be there', he said. It took me some time to point out that, if no licence has been paid for, then the chances are that the copy is entirely illegal, and that, in the UK, at any rate, prior to OD2's big giveaway, buying music usually involved physical media - a CD, Cassette, MiniDisk, that kind of thing.
Obviously, now that a mechanism for making legitimate music downloads available - and even available for burning to CD, so you've got your own physical copy - is in place, we can expect to see more of them popping up. The trouble is, I suspect that far too many folks will be hell bent on trying to get music for free, rather than pay for it.
Now, to me, that's a mistake. Here's why.
Much as some folks would have you believe otherwise, a CD doesn't just cost 60p to make - far from it. By the time you've taken into account the recording process itself - all the studio time, the engineers, producers and so on - and the other allied arts and industries - photographers, video makers, the songwriters, session musicians, publicity people, advertising people and a load of others - it actually costs a record company closer to £2.50 for a CD. That's their cost, before any profit is sorted out - and includes the requisite royalties to various people.
Obviously they've got to make a few bob, else there'd be no more CDs - and so have the artists - the Dariuses and Will Youngs of this world. So let's call that a straight three quid, shall we?
The manufacturers sell to distributors, who, again, have to make a bob or two per CD. They then sell on to the retailer - your HMVs, Virgin Megastores and Our Price's, as well as independents. They should, by rights, be adding on the largest lump of profit, which brings the cost of the CD to you up to the average £11 in the UK (we're talking albums here, by the way - singles lose bucketloads of money).
At each stage, the money that changes hands is keeping somebody in a job. Not least amongst them are the retailers and the artists. If, as a surfer, you nip off and download the whole of Darius' new album when it comes out (and you can bet that some bright spark will have it up on the Web before you can shake a stick), and everybody else you know does likewise, can you imagine how much lost revenue that mounts up to?
It's estimated, in fact, that Music Piracy costs the industry something like 8.5 billion quid a year - and loses 1.5 billion quid for the VAT man!
So, the end result, if everybody that has a PC in the UK decided to download ripped off music rather than buy it, would be an end to the music industry in the UK.
That's a pretty sobering thought.
So, here's my advice. If you must download, go and have another look at www.digitaldownloadday.com and sort yourself an account out so that a) your downloads are legal, and b) we keep our music industry.