The Record Industry Continues Battle Against Free Music Downloads

Producers of movies and records alike claim that file-sharing networks that allow users to copy from other members’ computers are violating copyright laws. This could lead to billions in lost revenue Fakaza.

According to the recording industry, 25% of its revenues have been lost since computer thieves have used peer-to-peer file sharing networks to get free music downloads.

Grokster Ltd is known for its Grokster file sharing software, and StreamCast Networks Inc. which distributes the Morpheus music download software.

Grokster and Morpheus have a different take on file-sharing than Napster. These file-sharing products allow its members to create their own indexes, rather than indexing shared files as Napster did. This allows others in the network to get free music and movies.

Some musicians protest that they are being cheated with these illegal music downloads, but others support the sharing of music, movies and other copy over the Internet.

Many music fans use file-sharing networks to find the latest releases of an artist before purchasing a CD with only one song. There will always be those who won’t buy a CD, but they will continue to download music from the free networks.

Many users of file-sharing networks claim that these networks are beneficial to the music industry. File-sharing allows listeners to hear smaller bands and independent artists that they might not otherwise hear on the radio or in the mainstream.

Many have abandoned file-sharing networks that charge 99 cents per track, as Apple boasts it sells more than 1 million songs every day. Even though iTunes is still limited, file sharing networks have an opportunity to fill the void by offering unlimited access to music or movies that might not otherwise be available through iTunes.

Ende 2003, record companies began suing people who downloaded free music. It will be more difficult for the recording industry, with file-sharing platforms like Grokster or Morpheus, to locate individual files uploaded by users.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in June 2005 regarding whether or not action should be taken against file-sharing network software makers.

A wrong decision could prevent the development of future products such as the iPod and other file-sharing software programs, which could be used to legal ends.

Grokster, Morpheus and their associates do not have access to or monitor who is downloading files. A federal judge in Los Angeles and U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the copyright infringement accusations against these file-sharing networks.

The 1984 Supreme Court ruling that Sony Betamax allowed users to copy TV programs from home, based on which the Supreme Court ruled that the use of Sony Betamax was legal.

Last week, the recording industry angle was that companies like Grokster or Morpheus advertise their software as offering free copyrighted material. If they are sued and shut down, this should be a red flag.

Although the jury is still out on this issue, file sharing networks and music downloads will continue. Most users won’t have to worry about being sued since they don’t download more than a few files each month.