It seems that the message that the sharing of music file online is music piracy is still being hammered home in an effort to protect the revenues of the music industry. Music companies have taken increasingly drastic steps in an effort to clamp down on illegal music file sharing, starting with peer to peer software providers all the way through to individuals who share music files ignoring any copyright in place.
Just how much the industry loses to piracy is shady. A recent report put the cost of piracy at $12.5 billion annually to the US economy, whilst many critics instead say that when this figure is broken down as it should be, the entertainment industry loses around $1.6 billion to fake CDs, and another $3.7 billion to illegal downloading.
Whatever the exact figure it is a threat to the industry and the loss in revenue has led the music industry to take action against illegal file sharers. As a result there have been several high profile cases against music sharing sites that offer peer to peer file sharing services, the most famous of which being the Napster case in 2000 that trail blazed the way for legal proceedings brought by the music industry as a collective.
The latest file sharing site to face legal action has been allofmp3.com, in which a Moscow court threw the case out, sending ever more confusing messages to consumers.
Such legal action is not just restricted to peer to peer service providers, individuals have also found themselves amongst high profile judicial proceedings for participating in the sharing of copyrighted music files. These cases simply highlight the consequences that come with music piracy.
A recent case has seen a court in the US order a woman to pay $222,000 (£109,000) in damages for illegally file-sharing music. Jaime Thomas 32, from Minnesota, was ruled to has shared 24 specific songs illegally, costing $9,250 a song. Although the case was focused around the top 24 songs, it was claimed that she shared 1702 songs.
So far there have been around about 26,000 lawsuits filed against alleged file-sharers, but most defendants settle privately by paying damages amounting to a few thousand dollars. It seems contesting the charge has ended up costing this specific file-sharer near a quarter of a million dollars. Interestingly with this particular case, the hard drive of the women in question was not required for a guilty verdict, having been replaced shortly after she had been contacted by the record industry.
But with different messages coming from different areas of the music industry could file sharers be forgiven for stepping into grey areas in the law. For instance Sony’s philosophy means that transferring music from your CD albums onto your MP3 player is a form of piracy, yet (as previously mentioned on The Shelf) Microsoft seems to be heading in a different direction with the upcoming launch of its Zune Social. Microsoft it seems is actually encouraging music downloaders to share their music collection with friends through the wireless feature on the Zune player.
It seems that cases like that of Jaime Thomas send a clear message people abusing peer to peer networks, that the industry will come after with the full extent of the law if you leave yourself exposed and break the law. When the law is and is not being broken in terms of file-sharing however, seems to be an area where the goal posts are shifted depending on the latest stance of different players within the industry.