File sharing has had a profound impact on the economic gains of the various stakeholders in the music industry. The practice entails providing access and the distribution of information that has been stored digitally. This information could be multimedia (video or audio), computer programs, electronic books, or documents (Zentner, 2005, P. 3).
By declaring file-sharing as an illegal activity, this would be quite unfair to the music industry and to the customers as well. Multimedia industries and lobbyists have especially been vocal in depicting this practice as unconstitutional, on the grounds that it contravenes copyright laws.
On its own, file-sharing cannot be depicted as an illegal practice. However, during the late 1990s, the mp3 music version gained popularity, resulting in the release of such software as Napster, which ensured that electronic file sharing became easier.
Consequently, illegal file-sharing attained huge growth, as individuals were now better able to share protected copyright files illegally. A dispute also surrounds the economic impact often linked to the practice of illegal file sharing (Pollock, 2005, p. 5).
For example, there are several studies that have suggested that when there is unauthorized downloading of software, movies, and music, this explicitly acts to damage the economy. On the other hand, other studies have concluded that the practice of file sharing cannot be hailed as the basis for the sales decline in movies and music.
Accordingly, there is still widespread practice of file sharing with the public offering mixed opinion regarding how moral the practice is.
Although proponents of file sharing argue that legalizing the practice would be a form of injustice to consumers in America, nonetheless, there are instances when file-sharing cannot be deemed illegal, even for documents and works with copyright.
For instance, a group of the artist could opt to support shareware, freeware, anti-copyright, or open-source. In the process, such a group could support file sharing by incorporating it as a free tool of promotion.
One of the challenges facing the support for file sharing is the misconception that surrounds the practice. To some people, file sharing is all about downloading songs, storing them on a compact disc, and later on selling these to realize a profit.
Clearly, this is an outright infringement of copyright, and the culprits involved ought to be severely reprimanded. However, if file-sharing entails file downloads for purposes of either using or freely distributing with no profits involved, then file sharing is a laudable cause. Besides, this would also help in marketing an artist, for example, through the distribution of their music.
There is also the challenge surrounding the misconception that file-sharing would negatively affect the income of an artist (Beverly Hills Bar Association & West LegalCenter, 2002, p. 2). On the contrary, record companies are the ones who actually suffer from loss of income, seeing that they are ill-equipped to adapt to the ensuing epidemic.
On the other hand, the artist could actually end up benefiting from file sharing if they saw it as another form of self-advertisement. Accordingly, file sharing may help an artist to gain worldwide recognition in the process of winning additional contracts and endorsements.
Finally, the audience is another challenge to the legalizing of free movies and music downloads. Since a majority of them are inclined to believe that when file sharing is freely carried out, this contravenes copyright infringement.
However, when file-sharing does not involve profiteering from the practice, this is not in violation of copyright infringement. It is important to note that the media has been replicated ever since the release of the VHS tape. If one is inclined to believe that this is another form of copyright infringement, we may as well have expected that by now, the government would have already acted swiftly to arrest the situation.
Beverly Hills Bar Association & West LegalCenter. (2002). Will file-sharing kill the copyright industries?
Pollock, R. (2005). P2P, Online File-Sharing, and the Music Industry.
Zentner, A. (2005). File sharing and international sales of copyrighted music: an empirical analysis with a panel of countries. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 5(1):2-5