Honest people wouldn’t steal clothes, money or a car from their friends, but many steal music from their favorite bands without even knowing it.

Before every modern DVD or VHS tape is a copyright law screen warning the viewer of the consequences of duplication and distribution, but the music industry does not have this screen.

“Around 95 percent of all music is downloaded without payment to artists or producers,” John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in his 2009 Digital Music Report said.

Millions of college students, teens and adults illegally download, or pirate, their favorite music every year. The illegal act of piracy has not been prevented even though the Recording Industry Association of America has sued hundreds of people.

In Title 17, United States Code, Sections 501 and 506, it states that “the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, rental or digital transmission of copyrighted sound recordings” has severe civil and criminal penalties.

“If a fan truly loves a band, they will support the band by buying their music. It’s a fair trade when the artist creates something and the fans buy it to enjoy it and to show their appreciation,” Tanner Howe, lead singer/songwriter of Disco Curtis said.

When on the Internet, it’s as if anything can be free with the click of a mouse, but this law and the “No Electronic Theft law” (NET Act) include downloading copyrighted music from servers such as BitTorrent and LimeWire illegally.

The consequences for piracy are expensive and time consuming. For example, criminal penalties for first-time offenders will be up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Civil penalties on the other hand, can cost thousands of dollars in damage and legal fees. The minimum penalty is $750 per song but when one person could download hundreds of songs before getting caught, the price can get pretty large. The NET Act states that even something as simple as MP3 trading or file sharing could cost up to five years in prison.

This includes opening a forwarded e-mail that contains an illegally used copyrighted song.

Breaking this law not only puts downloading agent users at risk, but it also diminishes the effort so many people put into creating music.

“For every artist you can name at the top of the Billboard music charts, there is a long line of songwriters, sound engineers and label employees who help create those hits. They all feel the pain of music theft,” the Recording Industry Association of America fact sheet said.

Downloading copyrighted music could cripple the music industry and destroy all the hard work that musicians, songwriters and composers do in order to better entertain the world.

“Even though illegal downloading can be great for spreading the word about new bands, there comes a point where it gets to be out of control, and it can really affect the way a band operates,” Howe said.

Although most bands are against piracy, some feel as if it helps smaller unknown bands get their name out. Even though bands don’t get paid for the music that is stolen online, the listeners who enjoy their music tend to buy tickets to concerts and purchase band merchandise.

“Sharing music between friends and the public is a great thing happening due to the progression of technology through music. It’s about our fans, not the money that they make us. Them actually being into our music and wanting to let others know, can you really put a price on something like that,” Kip Krugler, drummer for the local band Cinder Cell said.

For more information on copyright laws visit www.riaa.com, or www.ifpi.org and for a listing of legal music downloading agents go to www.musicunited.org.

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