Most cases involving illegal downloading, never go to court; however, in a recent case, A 25-year-old college student, Joel Tenenbaum, was charged with 30 counts of illegally downloading pirated music and was found liable for infringing. He was fined $675,000, or $22,500 per song. The law states that if found guilty, a person can be charged with up to $150,000 PER SONG AND to five years in jail! If the jury had prosecuted him fully, he would have been fined with 4.5 million dollars FOR DOWNLOADING A SONG OFF THE INTERNET. Please just think about that for a minute–one click of a button and you could be charged with $150,000.
In 2013, the U.S. average wasn’t even half of that. The average household income in 2013 was $51,100; divide that by 52 weeks and you get $982.69 per week. After configuring the average of what most Americans spent on various yearly expenses–housing items, transportation, medical expenses, etc.–The U.S. Department of Labor averaged around $3,267 for “all other expenditures”. Now, assume that you were Joel Tenenbaum and were found guilty of 30 counts of illegal downloads and charged to the full extent; thus leaving you with $4.5 million of debt. Again, assuming we’re on the 2013 U.S. average income, that $3,267 a year would be going towards paying off that $4.5 million. It would take over 1,377 YEARS to pay off a fine like that. Even if it were just the $675,000 that Tenenbaum was actually fined with, it would still take over 206 years to pay off. At that point, a person would be forced into bankruptcy and the artist would STILL have lost money and greatly affected his/her fan in the process.
And yet again I’ll bring up the fact that artists do not seem to be too affected by this–according the Forbes magazine, in 2011, Taylor Swift made $57 million, Rihanna made $53 million, and Kenny Chesney made $44 million. Even if all 30 of Tenenbaum’s songs were Taylor Swift’s and the $4.5 million was supposed to go to her, do you really think adding $4.5 million dollars is going to make a difference on how she lives? In plainer terms, it’s like adding $4.50 to $57; could you by a few extra things? Probably. Would it make a difference to go without the $4.50? Probably not.
See the music industry claims to lose all this money yet does nothing to try and fix the problem. They could easily ALLOW people to just download the music for free on a website that they create and benefit from advertisement. This is exactly what Taylor Abegg-Lawrence suggested. He also stated that, “It’s the difference between stealing and copying,”–“For example, if I steal a car, I steal a car. If I pirate a car, in the morning they still have a car. The only difference is I have one too.” So I return to my original question; is it really hurting anyone to download a song illegally? I mean, it’s a valid point that Abegg-Lawrence makes–he stole nothing. Downloading a song from the internet for free is not technically stealing; it’s copying. The artist still HAS his/her song and he/she still OWNS the song, you simply copied the song and listen to it every once in a while. If you think about it, this isn’t much different than Spotify. On Spotify, you can save songs to a playlist and listen to them whenever you want, assuming you have wifi. You didn’t steal the song from Spotify, you saved a copy of it.