Saturday, 31 March 2012

A minor ethical dilemma: Copying music

Out of the three quandaries I'll have blogged about, this is probably the most widespread. I'm not talking about photocopying the score of Fly Me to the Moon, but rather copying digital music files - ripping tracks off a friend's CD, emailing favourite tunes around, or bluetoothing them perhaps? Although CD drives, email and Bluetooth are relatively new ideas, taking a copy of music you haven't paid for is not. I don't know how popular bootleg cassettes were decades ago, but these days copying music is, to a large extent, a socially acceptable practice.

Here's a list of activities that record companies despise:
1) Loaning a CD to a friend (most DVDs show a warning that states unauthorised loaning is prohibited, I'm guessing it's the same with CDs).
3) Making a mix tape/compilation and giving it to a friend.
2) Borrowing a CD and ripping a few favourite tracks.
3) Borrowing a CD and ripping it in its entirety.
4) Regularly downloading music illegally.
5) Downloading or copying music illegally, making more copies and distributing them.

So where are you on this list?

Wherever you are, there will probably be a justification for it. There are a lot of arguments going around these days as to why the above activities are actually good to do, such as...
- Record companies are evil and need to be taught a lesson.
- Music should be like, totally free, man.
- If I have bought a CD I can do what I jolly well like with it.
- Lending CDs, making mix tapes etc. actually promotes the music and helps the label.
- Everyone does it.

On this issue, unlike the previous posts, I can't really claim to be the epitome of integrity. However, my opinions have changed over the last few years, and I have two general principles that I think are good to apply.

Firstly, I think that people who work to produce music have a right to be paid for what they have produced.

Secondly, if I enjoy an album enough to want to own it, I should be expected to pay for it.

I'm thinking about even generaller general principles that could cover all of these minor ethical dilemmas, and they will emerge in my next post.

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