Jeff has a great post about the difficulty he has discussing the ethics of illegally downloading music files with his middle school students. And he has a tougher job than most of us.
In Shanghai, China where he teaches, courts have ruled that a web site was not guilty of copyright violations by providing search tools to find music downloads.
If the legal system says finding the files is ok, shouldn’t it be ok for me to click the link and download them?
Jeff’s thoughts tie very nicely into an article in the current issue of Technology Review that discusses how downloading, legal and illegal, is “messing with the business of music”.
The industry’s response to the threat of piracy has been threefold: to use digital rights management (DRM) software to limit illicit copying and distribution; to discourage file sharing through lawsuits; and to attempt to exploit the new technology in ways that preserve high profit margins.
By most accounts, the first two strategies are doomed and will eventually be abandoned. But the third has been much more successful.
So, the music industry needs to figure out the price point for a song that would cause Jeff’s students to stop grabbing their tracks online without paying for it.
The CEO of eMusic, the second-largest seller of music downloads, is not sure lower prices are even the issue.
Pakman doesn’t believe that eMusic’s low prices are seducing anyone away from piracy, though. “Our customers are really not the piracy-prone customers,” he says. “I think that generally, piracy is the domain of youth, and we just don’t focus on the youth customer. So we don’t see piracy as eating into our ability to sell music.”
But what happens when today’s piratical youths, unintimidated by file-sharing technology and accustomed to free music, become adults?
Another is implicit in Jeff’s entry: how do we teach respect for copyright to our students?