Beginning with Napster, illegal distribution of music files over the internet has increased substantially. This was made easier when P2P, peer-to-peer, software and torrent sites were created. With all the illegal downloading that was happening, record companies and in-turn musicians, were losing money because of the faltering music sales. These circumstances lead to the formation of the Recording Industry Association of America, which fight for copyright infringement laws. Recent cases have made fans of illegal downloading fearful, because of the large amount of penalty payments. Although it is "stealing" are people doing real harm to the companies, or are the music companies extremely greedy?
The RIAA describes illegal piracy as "stealing" and "just as wrong as shoplifting". Not only are people stealing from the musicians, they are taking from the record companies, employees and sound engineers. The RIAA has announced that since the beginning of piracy, the record companies have lost a shared $12.5 billion a year from CD sales. Not only do they lose money from sales they lost $844 million in some form of tax, $2.7 billion in workers' earnings and an estimated 71,000 jobs (RIAA).
Congress first passed the first Copyright Act in 1976. Since then they have added and amended many parts of it, due to growing technology. Because music is copyrighted, the RIAA is allowed to pursue cases against file-sharing sites and persons who are known to have "willfully infringed" music.
In many cases, the person or company is charged somewhere between $700 and $30,000 and an extreme of $150,000 per "willful infringement." One landmark case for the RIAA was the prosecution of Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University student, who had downloaded and shared only 30 songs. He was charged $22,500 per song and for a total of $650,000 in fines (FindLaw). To any avid music listener, 30 songs is nothing. Many people libraries of illegally downloaded music are in the 1000s.
Although many musicians are against illegal piracy (Metallica!), there has been a recent change in music delivery. Rock legends, Radiohead, released their newest album, In Rainbows, which they produced, over they internet. The user was then able to pay whatever price they felt was appropriate for the album, with many people paying nothing. Radiohead's reasoning behind was that the music they had made was for the fans, and such should pay what they could.
Although the RIAA is attempting to reform music piracy, many of their higher seating members acknowledge the problem as ever-growing. The president of the RIAA, Cary Sherman, has said that piracy will never be fully eradicated (BBC News). So if the RIAA knows they are fighting a losing battle, why do they continue? This is the reason many people believe it is their own greed that forces them to go on.