Downloading music from the Internet: theft or democracy?
March 3, 1999
(CNN) -- Music on the Internet is a certifiable worldwide craze, thanks to MP3, a software program that can shrink any song into a digital file easily moved through cyberspace.
Music lovers everywhere have jumped on this new technology, among them Ben Dixon, a University of Georgia student who grabbed most of his 2,400 tunes from friends' CDs and converted them to MP3. Other users pull MP3s right off the Internet.
All of which raises a major question -- is this theft?
"People that wouldn't dream of shoplifting a CD at Tower Records think nothing of downloading the contents of that same CD in the privacy of their homes using an MP3 file," complains Cary Sherman of the Recording Industry Association of America.
The five largest record companies, joined by nearly 90 others, have launched an all-out effort to bring what they see as MP3 bootlegging under control. For artists, though, the situation is more complex.
While piracy hurts their royalties, "it could totally overhaul the way our music could reach our audience," says Steve Perry of the swing group Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
"It is another opportunity for people to take things into their own hands," says folk diva Dar Williams. "I think it really invigorates the democracy, so I think that's great."
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