The number of file sharing websites has increased significantly in the past few years. But what could this mean for the music industry?
In the last few years, technology has had a major positive impact on the way we obtain and share information. It has also made it easier for us to purchase various products, from music to clothes to holidays, all at the click of a button.
However, the music industry insists that it has been ruined by the way we are able to ‘file share’ or download music illegally on the internet, and the fact that we are able to do it so easily is a problem. The music industry sees every one of the millions of music files downloaded each day as a lost sale, because they haven’t been paid for. The amount of file sharing websites has grown in the last few years, thus making it easier for people to download music free of charge, and it is clear that the music industry is not impressed by it.
Obviously, this has had a negative effect on the industry because, to a certain extent, songwriters are not being credited for their work. Although we all recognise the person who is singing when their songs are played on the radio, downloading their music without paying could show that we don’t appreciate them enough to pay for what they do. Many people may not think this far into it; they download music illegally purely because it is ready and available for them to do so in the first place.
File sharing websites such as Limewire, Clickster, FileCroc, MP3Rocket and Jubster are thought to have been used by well over 60 million people. This shows the full extent of the impact that file sharing websites have had on the music industry in recent years. Since these types of websites have been introduced, the number of shop bought albums and singles has slowly decreased. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, (IFPI) physical music sales such as CDs, fell by 16% in 2008. Furthermore, according to The Guardian in 2010, CD sales in HMV had dropped by 10%, but this was mainly due to the growing popularity of buying music from iTunes.
In 2009, the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) announced that record labels such as EMI and Sony had supported their plans to disconnect internet users who constantly download music illegally, and any other files for that matter. However, the music industry failed to agree with this decision. It was thought that this was not a suitable way to deter people from downloading music illegally. This resulted in UK Music, the organisation for the whole industry, deciding against going ahead with the disconnection of internet users. A week later, FAC said: “We have negotiated in good faith with the labels all week, but they remain wedded to the idea of suspension of accounts. We remain steadfast in our belief that that making threats against individual music fans is not an effective way to resolve any problems associated with file sharing.”
So, what action has been taken over the last three years to try to combat this growing problem? At the end of last year, it was announced that an injunction issued by the US district court in New York had successfully shut down Limewire – one of the internet’s largest and most popular file sharing websites on the internet. This means that people can no longer use this website to download music or anything else illegally.
When internet users visit Limewire, they see the message: “This is an official notice that Limewire is under a court ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file sharing software. Downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorisation is illegal.” It has been confirmed that Limewire is working on developing new software that shares music while still abiding by copyright laws.
So, Limewire has been shut down, but how many other file sharing websites have had the same happen to them? It seems that a number of websites have been closed down, but it is easy to see that a vast majority of them are still operating. This goes to show that file sharing has not yet been successfully combated. The shutting down of certain websites has forced people to pay for their music online, from iTunes, Amazon or any other online music store. Therefore, it is evident that it has had a positive effect to some extent. It may have also encouraged people to physically buy music from shops, so their sales may have also increased as a result. However, the one problem it may have caused is that it could have encouraged people to download music from websites that are yet to be shut down. With the amount of file sharing websites still operating, there is no doubt that this is happening.
It is difficult to tell whether all file sharing websites will be shut down in the near future; there is a vast selection of them, so it may be a problem trying to control them all. But one thing’s for sure, the government is already on its way to solving the problem.