Morality of Downloading Music

Obviously there has been a lot of discussion around this.

Truthfully I download music - tons of it. I have gigs upon gigs of mp3s.

What I can’t do is make any moral justification for it. Every argument I make just amounts to rationalization. This is intelliectual property - if I don’t agree to the terms of sale then I should just not purchase the product. It doesn’t seem as blurred with software - downloading pirated software/warez is I think clearly immoral.

The closest argument I’ve come to justifying downloading music is that is purges the commercialism from the music industry - which is destroying what could be the most noble of professions. I feel that I’m attacking a straw mat with that argument.

Are there any arguments in that can justify the downloading of music?

It is illegal.

However, I have found a lot of local / underground bands that put their songs in mp3 format on their websites. It is kind of the modern equivalent of tape sharing, which is also illegal, but which is also how a lot of bands got names for themselves.

I think it is a pretty mixed blessing for most artists, while a bane for those who have made it.

Moral? – eh. I download music, yes, but i do try and do it in a way that satisfies me. I download music I want to sample for purchase. I do delete what I don’t like, and re-rip what I buy. I share while online, but I’m only online while getting what I want.

I know it isn’t legal, but I feel it is moral, even though I can see why some would disagree.

This is a toughy. On the one hand, we have property rights and one might argue that if it’s moral to download music, it’s moral to steal apples from the guy selling them on the corner. However, one might argue that once you buy something you can do with it what you wish and it’s incumbent on the seller to insure that his/her “data” (because that’s what it is) can’t be copied. It would, I think, clearly be immoral to make copies and sell songs by artists, but it’s unlcear that it’s immoral to make copies and give them away.

Is it immoral to borrow a CD from a friend and make a copy of it? That is exactly the same thing as downloading music. Somewhat similarly, is it immoral to pirate satellite TV signals? One might argue that if a person beams a signal into my house, I’m perfectly moral in receiving that signal. If they don’t want me to receive it, they should not transmit it into my house.

I’d be interested in hearing the reasoning someone would use to argue that downloading music is immoral. Of course, it would depend on the moral code one espoused, but I’d like to hear the reasoning. I can’t see the immorality.

I’m not sure if I read your statement correctly, but are you saying that local/underground bands putting their songs in mp3 format on the web for downloading is illegal ?

This is certainly not illegal in any way shape or form. The majority of those type bands/artists are not signed, they don’t have any publishing, and they can do whatever they please with their music, as they are the sole owners in most cases.

No, Daisy Cutter, if they release it then what can be said. I meant generic dubs back in the pre-CD days were just as illegal as filesharing. Sorry about the lack of clarity.

Yes, the old timers who used to copy albums onto tape back in the day, were engaging in the same illegal activity as current day internet song thieves. The only difference being that before it took 40 minutes to copy a 40 minute album, and today one can steal hundreds of songs in those same 40 minutes. Not to mention that each thief can in turn offer those same songs to millions of other thieves.

A good option is Apple itunes, which is coming for windows soon also, I believe.

Great interface, fast to use, and 30 sec previewing is available for each tune.

Each tune is $ 00.99 cents.

One of my favorite subjects,

Here is my rationalization of why its ok for me to download songs.( Besides I like free stuff)

I predominantly listen to EDM( electronic dance music for those who dont listen to it) The majority of which is meant to be heard live being spun by DJs. I feel going to see DJs spin the music I love is a better way to support them and their efforts than buying CDs. Dont get me wrong I buy lots of CDs but mostly mixes by DJs. DJs make way more money spinning at clubs and other events than they do off of records so I feel its better for them in the long run, not that I can speak for them but I dont see how making some record company richer will help them much.

Another reason is , as an aspiring DJ I spend alot of money on vynil, so the EDM companies are getting my money anyway.

Of the non EDM music I do download, it is predominantly oldies and classic rock. I avoid commercial pop music as a rule. I just dont like it as a whole and I dont feel they put out a quality product and will not buy it, much less download it.

I can rationalize this till the fat lady sings,but since I didnt buy the fat lady cd I wont hear her.
But if I never downloaded any songs I would have never found what is now the most important thing in my life right now and that is my love of music. I eat sleep, read, write and crap music. and I quite honestly will do anything to support this,

Music is meant to be shared, and make people happy, maybe that is some oddball raver thought but music has changed my life and that is from downloading off the net and if someone who has more money that I will ever see in 3 lifetimes doesnt get more because someone is sharing music on the net.
Sorry, here is a hankie

If someone can prove that file sharing has cause severe, as in going out of business, financial hardships to record companies. I would consider changing my view, but when a multi billion dollar company complains because people would rather get their crap for free than waste money on it.
As for morality, well morality is relevant to each individual. Is it technically illegal, yes, but as I see it , it is immoral for record companies like sony and such to push their crap music on the public at high prices for an inferior product.

John Mace -

Indeed, this is a difficult issue to wrap your hands around.

This would be a fallacious argument. One is allowed to use their purchased merchandise at their own discretion as long as it is lawful. If I buy a gun, I am to abide by the governing laws concerning the ownership of firearms. Just because I bought it, and it’s my property, does not permit me to do with it as I please.

erislover said that it’s illegal but also feels that it’s moral.

Assuming one lives in the United States, are there any other laws of the land where it’s considered moral if they are broken?

– Nebulous Prime

saintnobody -

A couple things…

This “repay wrong with another wrong” seems to be a commonality among some of the posts in this thread. If we’ve been wronged as consumers by the record companies and such, how is it sensible to wrong them in return?

It’s a good thing morality is not relevant to each individual because there would be some frightfully bad things going on; much more severe than what we see on the news each evening. If I felt it was moral to firebomb a certain grocery store chain because they never had ripe apples, by your view or morality there’d be nothing wrong in the least.

Sorry, I don’t mean to hijack. I just don’t think that there has been any worthy rationalizations posted yet.

– Nebulous Prime

Who gives a crap about the DJ’s ? You’re giving them far too much credit.

So, you mainly steal all your music from the net, and you mostly buy mix CD’s by DJ’s.

You’re totally screwing the artists here, the ones who are due their royalties. Screw the DJ’s you’re so fond of, they’re not the ones making the music. Without the artists, there would be no “mixtapes”, which the DJ’s make.

And most of that dance, club music is not big, major label stuff, it’s primarily released by independant labels which do not have mega budgets such as the majors do. The difference between 10,000 units moved and 20,000 units moved from a small label, can make or break.

And I don’t think somebody has a right to steal something, because they feel it is inferior or overpriced. Don’t buy it, if you don’t like it. Also, don’t D/L it.

Now, I’m no angel, I’m guilty as most people are of downloading an mp3 or two from the net, but I know it is wrong, and I don’t try to rationalize it, or make excuses for it.

That doesn’t make sense. Laws that protect people and their property are both relevant and moral. And if Sony was pushing “crap” nobody would buy it. If you are implying that artists bundle 1 good song with 11 crappy ones then you have a basis for a marketing strategy. Sell the 1 good song digitally as a “single”. It would cost nothing to produce except the web site and it would save the customer money.

Uh, yes. Well, whether morality is or not, the law certainly isn’t. Is that what you meant?

Incidentally, yes, there are some things I believe most people think are moral that are (or at least until recently were) illegal. Oral sex. Drug use is, I think, debatable. Homosexuality in general is at least coming around (ie gay marriage) if not yet a proper majority.

Times change. For this change to happen inside an ideal democracy there must be a point where the laws do not coincide with ideas about what is moral. Hopefully filesharing reaches that point, or an approximation of (dl’ing single songs for a small price etc).

I think you are confusing legality with morality. Something can be legal, but immoral, and vice versa. It is legal to cheat on your wife, but it is not moral. It is illegal to drive 66 MPH in a 65 MPH zone, but it is not immoral to do so. In fact, there are times when morality compells a person to do something illegal (think Nazi Germany or pre-Civil War US for some glaringly obvious examples).

it seems to me that there are many things that are now or have historically been illegal but not immoral. i don’t believe the law should have anything to do with morality.

there are many immoral things that aren’t illegal. the morality of an act depends on one’s perspective, of course. the law is to have a perspective beyond any individual and hence should not claim to dictate morality.

recreational marijuana use is one of my favorite examples. fewer and fewer reasons exist why it should be illegal, while more harmful drugs (to the user and to others) are not. recreational drug use in general, in fact, seems to suffer from immorality on the side of the law. recently a study about the harmful effects of mdma was shown to be false as the researchers gave their subjects methadone rather than mdma. yet mdma will continue to be illegal and its safe (to those who aren’t using it, at least) and recreational will use still be illegal. i don’t believe that makes it immoral. operating heavy machinery (a car, for example) while you know you are impaired is immoral.

regarding file-sharing, i think intellectual property in general may soon start to face some stiff opposition. using the stolen apple analogy mentioned earlier, it would be immoral and illegal to steal someone’s apples. but if one bought an apple, picked a seed from it, planted his own tree, and made his own apples, is that immoral or illegal? i think questions like this will soon start effecting change regarding IP laws.

i think that when a tribe called quest went multi-platinum on their second album and each artist saw a total of $10k from the sales, that was immoral. most artists make the majority of money from gigs anyway, and free dispersal of their music (if it’s any good!) should be more likely to draw more people to their shows. so i don’t think they’re harmed. the RIAA citing a loss in sales without citing an increase in prices could be considered immoral.

to summarize (sorry if i got a bit tangential here), i don’t think any reason exists why file-sharing should be considered immoral.

There’s a huge thread on this in the BBQ Pit about the 12 year old girl getting sued by the RIAA.

It really is one of those subjects which just keep getting thrashed all the time - if you read the thread I’m talking about - something like 260 odd posts - you’ll see there’s very little to be said which hasn’t already been said by a squillion well intentioned people already. If you’re interested, check the thread out. It’s a good read I think.

One thing’s for sure - the major labels never saw mp3’s coming, and they should have. From a purely commercial point of view, their lack of pro-active efforts, technologically, was pretty foolish.

When PC’s started offering CD-ROM drives circa 1996, the major labels right then should have brought every major artillery they had to bear on the makers of said CD-ROM drives. That pressure should have been on the SONY’s, the Phillips, and all the other manufacturers who were making a killing by providing CD-ROM drives to Mac’s and PC’s without having to answer for the pandora’s box they were also opening.

Now, I’m not saying mp3’s should be banned - they have a very legitimate use - in particular in the scientific field of sharing sound bites etc. But SONY/PHILLIPS own the Compact Disc audio Redbook format, and effectively they were giving away the only impediment to mass piracy of copyrighted music without any compensation whatsoever - and in reality the RIAA should have been far more pro-active on that particular score.

Certainly, if a physical impediment had been forced by the RIAA onto the manufacturer’s of PC based CD-ROM’s which prevented them playing an audio Redbook CD album (and it could have been done - easy as pie) then music downloading as we know it would have never taken off the way it has.

I was just going to argue that MP3s sound like shit (and I am convinced that they do sound like shit) as some sort of justification for stealing them.

But then I remember that Motown used to “test-drive” its tunes through a beat-up mono car speaker to make sure that the songs still sounded good over the radio. “Good” is obviously a highly relative term.

I’ve listened to Motown tunes all my life on the radio through shitty car speakers, and yet I have never once bought a Nexxus hair-care product, so far as I can recall, but someone is willing to fund Motown stations now and then on the premise that some of the people, some of the time, will pay for the privilege of hearing something good for your head–to your solar plexus, even.

This leads me to believe that MP3s–aural cockroaches that they are–are currently being marketed in such a way that they are outside of the realm of a profitable business model.

Maybe we should tack an Afro-Sheen commercial at the end of every MP3, and see how quick people decide that the CD or a fair-use copy of the same might be a more prudent choice.

The music industry first marketed digital music as a durable and lossless way to enjoy your favorite (largely radio-fed, crappy-sounding) tunes without having to listen to commercials–a claim which in my opinion has not withstood the test of time, but that’s another debate. So all we have to do is figure out a way to put the annoying commercials back into shitty-sounding MP3s and Phil Spector can go back to murdering his girlfriends.

erislover -

For a society as a whole to thrive and remained unified we should definitely not agree with that statement. Now, we can discuss the reason for something being illegal, and that would be one thing. However, many of the laws we have are a guard against immorality; i.e. killing, stealing, rape, etc. So, if the laws of the land didn’t coincide with morality…well…look out.

John Mace -

Certainly not. If you look at my post where I addressed a portion of your post, you’ll see that there’s nothing of the sort.

You said:

I responded with:

The last time I looked, adultery was illegal in 26 states. But, from strictly a legal viewpoint, it is legal in the remaining states.

From the dictionary:

Is it wrong to break the law? Currently, yes. According to definition, that which is wrong is immoral.

I do agree, however, that there are times where an unlawful act is the moral act. But I don’t view the current subject matter as one of those times.

– Nebulous Prime

I would’ve added this to the end of my last post, but I’m unable to edit for some reason.

**Ramanujan- **

So how would you respond if I decided to go on a killing spree, or some other heinous and unlawful act? How could you convince me to not continue?

– Nebulous Prime

Very likely, no one would be able to convince you to stop. So you’d be stopped by force.

Murder is illegal, but not because it’s immoral. It’s illegal because it infringes on the rights of others. It just so happens that legality and morality coincide in this instance.

This was regarding morality/legality.

You need to go back and reread your post, which actually uses the words “lawful” and “law” but does not use the word “moral”. Your example was strictly a legal example, not a moral one. Show me where in your example there is a moral argument as opposed to a legal one. It’s not there.