Is illegally sharing music immoral?

Jammie Thomas-Rasset of Brainerd has asked a judge to reduce the $1.9 million penalty she has been ordered to pay for illegally sharing music. What do you think: Is illegally sharing music immoral?

Yes, it is immoral because it is cheating the artist and the mechanisms that the artist depends upon to sell work. Would the people who illegally share the music be willing to work for no pay? Not likely. If artists cannot make a living from making their music – does it not seem to be the case that there will be fewer full time musicians? -Claire Thoen, St. Paul, MN

Illegally sharing music is not immoral, per se. But to the extent to which Jammie Thomas-Rasset did so, and continued to do so after a warning and previous suit, was a severe violation of intellectual property rights and an arrogant intrusion on musicians’ ownership. She and others like her should, of course, not go to jail, and I even agree that she should pay only a portion of the penalty. But I also feel that “music hackers” who download and share on a large scale should suffer the consequences, and not get away with thumbing their noses at artists and the industry like Jammie did. -John Ervin, Minneapolis, MN

Illegally sharing music is immoral. That means I’m frequently immoral. But suing peoples faces off for doing things that feel free is equally immoral. I believe that we need to create subscription based streaming models that feel free but permit artists to monetize their work. We also need to look towards organizations like SoundExchange, BMI, ASCAP and SESAC to stay on top of how people are listening to music and collecting performance fees from the people that host that music. A performance royalty fee could be added to the purchase of those items most likely to be used in pirating (Itunes, Ipod, CDRs, Vinyl to MP3 converters). This fee is not to say that every single piece of media is used for such things, but more to say that this a new format that consumers are consuming music on. At one point (not sure if it’s current) ASCAP received a small bit of money from CDR sales. Pretty smart. -Sean McPherson, St. Paul, MN

Immoral? No, not unless one defines morality as following the letter of the law. And pretty good argument can be made that certain laws themselves are immoral. If one defines morality as care and responsible treatment of one’s fellow human beings, then it’s a stretch to call music sharing as immoral. Illegal? Yes, at present. One might argue that a $1.9m judgment against an individual, particularly one without astonishing means, is immoral. It would relegate Ms. Thomas-Rasset to destitution for the rest of her life, unless she breaks more laws and goes on the lamb. One has to wonder how on earth that judgment fits the crime. -Mary Cody, Baxter, MN

Yes. Unless you have a compelling argument against a lawful regulation, it is wrong and immoral to violate it. Even then you should be prepared to be punished for your disobedience. As for commercial music, trying to exploit someone else’s talent,

I believe it is wrong, immoral, and foolish. Make that “stupid.” -Gord Prickett, Aitkin, MN

As a music copyright attorney, it is clear that illegally sharing music has its consequences. But in a highly-evolving environment…laws, legislation, and morality will rarely keep pace with technology. Was the “free and shared” music broadcast via radio “immoral”? Was the technology of radio…immoral? Embracing technology — and its significant impact on intellectual property — is our current challenge. New Media necessarily means New Rules. As difficult as “free” and “illegal file sharing” may sound to us, the new simple truth is: “Before an audience will Pay Royalties…they must Pay Attention”. We cannot play whack-a-mole with technology, be it radio…Napster…or the next next thing. We must be innovators…open to the nuanced negotiations of “licensing” intellectual property…as opposed to trying to snuff out brilliant technologies that should rightly be harnessed to broaden the knowledge base of arts and sciences. -Ron Sobel, St. Paul, MN

While I respect that artists and labels deserve to be paid for their work, the RIAA isn’t going to save itself by sticking to archaic business practices nor suing individuals who download music. Considering the popularity of iTunes and today’s prevalent marketing strategy of giving away your hit single via mp3, a court ruling like this doesn’t send a warning message not to download music. It sends a message that the music industry still doesn’t understand we’re in a new environment that requires innovation and creativity to monetize. -Greg Swan, Chaska, MN

It’s wrong so yes, It’s not moral! -Maria

Well, the question itself it little tricky but answer must be YES as ‘Illegal’ = ‘immoral’. Question is how do yo define ‘illegal’ sharing. -Syed Uddin, Bloomington, MN

Yes. Illegally sharing music is theft. There’s no moral ground claimed by being “against the big bad record companies” however antiquated and regressive their methods. The purchase of downloaded music involves compensation for the artist’s work. So who is Ms Thomas-Rasset or anyone else to decide that that artist is not worthy of market-set compensation? You wouldn’t steal a bag of apples from the grocery store then hand them out on the street. It’s the same for music and any other intellectual property. -Simon Wiltshire, Minnetonka, MN

This depends on how you define “immoral.” It is and should be illegal because there are strict copyright laws in the USA. As a musician and composer myself I would be a little unhappy if someone were to tape / record or otherwise “take” my music and use it for something other than what it was intended for. In other words, from my perspective it IS immoral. -Lisa Ragsdale, Minneapolis, MN

If the industry could have tracked LP to cassette taping and sharing, a lot of us would have gotten in a lot of trouble. -Jenn B

Plain and simply, no. The only group of people this negatively effects are the big time record execs. Musicians profit mostly from merchandise, ticket sells, commercial use of their music/image, etc. The more people hear their music, the more popular and profitable the band/artist will become. Before there were CDs and MP3s we had cassette tapes. Was it illegal then to make a mix tape for a friend? Or yourself? If it was, it wasn’t frowned upon. As a musician myself, I would be thrilled to hear my music was well received by others and others and so on. Hence why MySpace has become such a huge hit for musicians to promote themselves. FREE. -Michael Soricelli, Duluth, MN

Such activity as that has 3 strikes against it- it is illegal, immoral, AND unethical! -Tom, Anoka, MN

Well, it is stealing so by definition in my world, it’s immoral, though I’m not sure that’s the right word. Since there are sites where one can buy the music they want one song at a time, so it’s not like there is no option but to steal. All of this said, I think the penalty imposed on the woman in Brainerd IS immoral. It’s also ridiculous since she will never be able to pay the fine. Also, I believe that there’s a question about whether she actually shared files or not. If not, it’s a truly insane fine. -John Hetterick, Plymouth, MN

Illegal music sharing is certainly immoral. It is and should be illegal. Still, the financial penalty in this case is extreme at least. -James B., St. Paul, MN

no, i would say it is not immoral, for the recording industry has been overcharging people for too long, and forcing artists into unfair contracts. music already flows like water, in the internet, and nothing is going to change that. people who share music are helping to liberate the artists and force a change in the music industry to a greater emphasis on the artist, who is the person that matters, not the manager or the executive or the marketing department. sharing music IS marketing; it exposes the artist to more people than they would reach themselves. -Kori Touya, Northfield, MN

File sharing is no more immoral than making a mix tape for that special someone was back in the pre-Internet days. -Ryan, St Paul, MN

Yes. Today’s technology makes it possible, with almost no effort, to share music on the net. The fact that it is so easy dims the perception of this as theft. Whether the record companies are rich and powerful or not is not the question here. The music was created by the composer and performer and financed by the record company. Legally and morally, they own the creation and have control over it’s use and distribution. If one wishes to create music and give it away on the net as some bands have done, that is their choice. Copyright law exists to protect the people who create art. It is their only protection in most cases. -Steven Anderson, Merrifield, MN

Whether we agree with a law or not, breaking it to financially benefit cannot be categorized as moral. Breaking a law with the intention of proving the law immoral – civil disobedience – means getting caught and calling attention to how the law is unjust. Stealing songs – and let’s face it, it’s not sharing, it’s allowing other people to steal – is not changing a system. It is profiting from it. I’m frustrated by the current copyright system. I think it is corrupt and does not serve the stated purpose to benefit new creative work. However, the answer is for everyone to demand a change in law, not just steal for convenience. -Steve Boland, St. Paul, MN

Downloading music illegally is the same as shoplifting did you run a billion dollar ponzi scheme no, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it. -Jason, St. Paul, MN

Purchase of creative work protected by copyright, trademark, or patent gives the purchaser the legal write to read, view, or listen to that work at will in accord with the conditions of the sale. “Fair use” allows the purchaser to make an audio recording in one format and later copy it using another format for preservation or convenience. Selling that work, in any format, to another without compensating those who created the original work is stealing. Giving that work to others without cost, or making it available for others to take at will, is also stealing if doing so is prohibited by the terms of the work’s sale. Stealing is immoral. -David Leitzman, Saint Joseph, MN

Immoral? Thats a pretty heavy word to use for sharing something as intangible and wonderful as music. -Dave, Minneapolis, MN

I do not think that illegally sharing music is immoral, but it is unethical. As the mother of a young woman who is trying to make a living as a musician, it concerns me that she isn’t paid for her music. However, she tells me that she is anxious to have it heard by as many people as possible, so is not bothered when people share it. In the case in question, the penalty is so far from fitting the “crime” that it’s as wrong as what Jammie Thomas-Rasset did in the first place, if not more so. It is appropriate for her to have to pay something, perhaps double or triple what she shared, but that’s it. -Ginny Levi, Minneapolis, MN

Music file sharing is no different than checking out a CD at my local library. why aren’t music executives up in arms about music checked out at libraries? -anonymous text message

What is legal is not necessarily moral. What is illegal is not necessarily immoral. There are three categories of law: civil, criminal, and torts. The law is not even logical. People do not necessarily agree about the morality or immorality of a given action, inaction, or thought. Church organizations do not agree about theological principles. Having said that, I will talk about two unrelated issues: the legal issue, and the moral issue. The musician created a musical work for sale to earn a living. She assisted others to steal. She also broke the law and got caught. She reaped the consequences. -Roger O’Daniel, Minneapolis, MN

Yes. The fundamental premise of American law is the ownership and defense of private property. This includes intellectual property. Taking the property of another without compensation is theft, pure and simple. People seem to be hung up on the “fine” the law levied against the woman at the heart of this story. The fine is excessive and probably unconstitutionally large, but the basic concept is correct – if she stole, she should be punished. Companies spend millions upon millions to create, market, and sell music. Those costs MUST be recouped. Illegal downloads prevent this. It’s the same with shoplifting or any other theft. -Michael Corbin, Faribault, MN

Here is the question I always ask: If I take a recipe from a cookbook that I have purchased and post it on a culinary site, or if a newspaper takes a recipe from a cookbook and publishes it for distribution to all of its readers, including those who pick it up in a coffee shop and don’t have to pay for it, is that any more or less “moral”? The author of that cookbook is essentially having his or her intellectual property distributed without remuneration. Tell me how that substantively differs from sharing music. The entire Thomas-Rasset case is fatuous. -Ryan McNaughton, St. Paul, MN

Strictly speaking, yes. On the other hand, relentlessly pursuing a housewife demanding millions in lost “potential” sales lacks its own position on the moral high ground. As an artist, I freely give away mp3s of my music, yet I still sell tracks online. Maybe I appeal to a more morally certain crowd, but I think it’s because I trust people to make the right decision and don’t judge them to be thieves before the fact. -Colin Mansfield, St. Paul, MN

I feel that this is the wrong question to be asking. Instead, we need to look at the morality of how we treat music in our culture; as a product to be capitalized upon rather than an ancient language as universal as smiles or tears. It’s only in the past century that people have come to accept the idea that “recording = music”. While the immutable medium is a great vehicle for exposure and archival, the true mettle of any musician is live, on stage, not canned in the studio. I would contend that it is in fact immoral to illegalize the sharing of music; it is just another form of performance, at no cost of promotion to the artist or label. -Phillip Knoll, Minneapolis, MN

No, music is meant to be shared. I don’t see that much difference between playing a cd I bought at work so my coworkers can hear it and sending an mp3 file to an online buddy. I don’t want to cheat artists out of making a living but the record companies have done a very poor job of adapting to technology. -Nicole Masika, Brooklyn Center, MN

Governments make many laws, the violation of which are not moral issues. Music file sharing, while illegal, is not immoral. An argument often used is that sharing music files harms the artist because it deprives the artist of income, but that is not true. ASCAP, BMI, and corporate copyright holders may be deprioved of income, but that begs the question of whether draconian enforcement of licensing benefits the artist. It does not, of course. If such enforcement did benefit the artist we would not see authors and performers self-producing and using the Internet for direct sales, thereby eliminating their corporate “Big Brothers.” -Ken Kalish, Park Rapids, MN

In one way in do believe it is immoral. But this is if after listening to a particular artist I do not buy their music and I share this with all of my friends. But if upon listening I decide I like them and buy all of their cd’s then I think that it is not an issue. But if I give music to my friends and they never buy any cd’s by the artist that would be immoral. After I listen and say I do not like the music I delete it, I do not think of that as immoral. -Randy Peterson, Minneapolis, MN

In most cases, no. Music sharing is probably the best advertisement for the music industry. In fact, through videos posted by other users to youtube (most of them illegally), I have found more new music groups than I can even remember, and they’ve all made some money from it. I think people should pay for music, but only if they like it! (I pay for my music). On a side note, the amount of money the big labels take from their signed artists is more immoral than illegal music sharing. You want crime, it’s the stuff that the big labels do quote “legally”…Music sharing pales in comparison to that. -Michael Stolp-Smith, Rochester, MN

Yes. But that’s less important than the fact that it’s illegal. -David Evan Thomas, Minneapolis, MN

No it’s not immoral. What the RIAA is doing is immoral. For decades the music industry has ripped the consumer off . The music industry is always promoting records by replaying the same 1 or 2 hits off the record. So the consumer hears this, goes out buys the album and soon realizes most the album is shit . The music industry has never refunded the purchase price of a bad record that was purchased because of one good song the radio pushed. And the price of a CD is outrageous. Less than a $1 to make one. It’s hardly gone down since it debuted. Now they cry when the consumer gets even through file sharing. Give me a break! -Vince Shane, Inver Grove Heights, MN

I was interviewed following the first trial of Thomas-Rassert, and I explained to the MPR reporter how artists should be able to make a living (i.e. from charging for live shows), but that online filesharing is much like the radio. After I heard myself on the radio, I stopped downloading music through LimeWire — cold turkey. Something didn’t feel right. I wouldn’t call it “morality,” but I was breaking (albeit outdated) intellectual property laws. Since then, I have discovered how many music CDs are available through the Hennepin County Library, so now I listen to music that is never distributed. My conscience is clear! -Adam Schenck, Richfield, MN

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