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Debate: Prohibition of downloading music and films

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This House believes that downloading music and films from the Internet should be prohibited


Background and Context of Debate:

Feasibility: Is the ban on downloading feasible? Does it matter?


  • Nothing is perfect, but we should give it a try. Even if we could not track down each and every individual who downloads music and films, that does not mean that the ban is pointless. Even if we cannot enforce the ban perfectly, it does not make sense not to try it.


Crime: Is downloading a crime?


  • Downloading equals stealing intellectual property. Downloading is in essence a crime, just like shoplifting; the only difference being that you steal pieces of metal and plastic from a shop together with the song or the film, whereas you download just the "software" from the Internet. However, it is the "software" - the song or film itself that matters the most. It is the intellectual property which, just like any other property, should be protected by law.
  • Most countries adhere to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, established in 1886. This unequivocally protects music and other copyrighted works.
  • Unregulated downloading violates copyright laws. Opponents of downloading believe that the music and other files that are downloaded are the work of the artist, programmer, or film director that made them, not public property. When files are shared, the artist or copyright owner does not receive any compensation. Therefore, they believe, sharing and copying files is stealing the same way shoplifting is. The idea of "fair use" allows people who have bought an album to lend it to a friend, or to play it in the car as well as at home, not to share it with thousands of other people they have never met before. Downloading copyrighted files is therefore simply a theft.


  • Definition of crime is derived from our values. If the vast majority of people consider downloading "normal", then we should reconsider our perception of downloading. As our society moves forward, so should our laws, so that we are not stuck in the past, with obsolete legislation nobody cares to obey.
  • As soon as something is released into the public realm, it is, by definition, shared. Once someone has paid for a work, in this case a song, why shouldn't they share it with anyone they choose - isn't that "fair use". An analogy can be made with public libraries, where anyone can walk in and read and photocopy anything. The same goes for VCRs, as movies can be recorded from the television. Copyright laws do not work in a vacuum and should adapt to existing reality.
  • Trading Mp3 files is not like stealing a CD from a store. Mp3 files are digital and considered intellectual property. When you buy CD's, you're buying a piece of plastic. In other words, Mp3 files are not things you can touch or even listen to. You can only listen to them if you have them downloaded on Mp3 players, which you buy at retail stores.
  • Downloading is like taking a photo of a famous painting. In essence, downloading is using the file without stealing it for ever - just like a copy or a photo of a painting or a sculpture.

Economics: What are the economic implications of the ban on downloading?


  • Downloading equals lost tax revenue. When people download music and films for free, they (obviously) do not pay taxes. Therefore, the government incurs a loss due to Internet piracy.
  • Downloading harms artists. Internet piracy equals lost revenues for musicians (as well as their managers...) who in turn struggle to earn a decent living.
  • Downloading disincentives creativity and innovation. If songs and films are not protected by copyright laws, the artists are less willing to pursue an artistic career, which in turn means less diversity in film and music industry.
  • Downloading impedes economic growth. Downloading (as outlined above) implies less innovation and entrepreneurship, which in effect impedes economic growth. In fact, "the U.S. economy as a whole may grow more slowly because of reduced innovation and loss of trade revenue". ["Observation on Efforts to Quantify the economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods", by Government Accountability Office, 2010]
  • The only way for the musicians to survive is to sign a record deal. Even known artists such as Manic Street Preachers, who were trying to arrange a tour on their own, fell into considerable financial difficulties without expert support.
  • The music business provides millions of jobs that are threatened by unregulated downloading. The range of jobs in the music industry is very wide, from accounting to promotion. It is important to respect the existence of these jobs and the industry that supports them.[2]
  • Online free file-downloads have damaged legitimate sales. As record sales drop, recording companies see no reason to support new artists anymore and are willing to sign up only pop stars that are sure to bring commercial success. Over years record sales will drop even more, as more and more people will have gadgets that play MP3s. The end result will be fewer new acts and much less diversity of music for us all to enjoy.[3]
  • Unregulated file-sharing could reduce the appeal and quality of related industries. If file sharing is allowed to continue unchecked and grow even larger, eventually more and more people will not feel the need to buy the media they want; instead they will download all of it. If enough people switch to downloading instead of purchasing, then the media industries may not make enough money to keep producing.
  • The media industry might have to compensate for a lack of sales by raising prices of goods. The film industry might raise ticket prices at movie theaters and the cost of DVDs, the music industry might start charging more for CDs, and the computer gaming industry could start charging more for its games. All of these things are already fairly expensive, and increasing their prices would hurt the consumer even more. As the prices become higher and higher people will start looking for cheaper ways to get this media and more people will turn to downloading files from the internet, causing an even greater downward spiral.


  • Downloading stimulates exploratory listening and purchases: Downloading opens users to a world of music. This increases the likelihood that they will go on to purchase music.
  • Downloading allows for pre-purchase sampling: Downloading helps the affected industry by allowing the consumer to sample the product before spending the money to purchase it. Once the consumer is allowed to sample it, they might decide to go out and buy the full legal version, where as they might never had bought it had they not been allowed to sample the media on their computer first.
  • The only artists making money off record royalties (receiving money from every copy sold) are the extremely popular ones that already have a lot of money anyway - Most musicians also live from touring and the sale of merchandise, and wider distribution of their songs is likely to increase their income from concerts, t-shirts, etc., as more people will want to experience them live.
  • Music sales are actually up as a result of file-sharing/downloading. The argument that sales are going to drop is completely wrong and it has been used with cassette tapes and CD burners before. None of them had any effect on sales. Downloads are actually creating more demand and forcing record companies to make music available for purchase online, something they previously rejected. While music downloads are on the rise, overall music sales are also up. Moreover, distribution of MP3 files creates new markets in smaller countries where customers have less access to music in stores.[4]
  • Massive copying has been occurring for a long time with little impact: Such copying has occurred ever since the invention of tape cassettes and the increased economic impact of simpler access to copying provided by computer networks does not seem to have been large.
  • Artists barely get a fraction of the profits of CDs sold.
  • Bands have many alternative sources of revenue (touring/live concerts/merchandising).
  • Any decline in sales could be attributed to an under-performing economy opposed to file-sharing.
  • According to "The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales" by Felix Oberholzer-Gee (Harvard professor) and Koleman Strumpf, p2p services could actually work as marketing tools for the music industry. Although file sharing has increased in recent years, so have online music sales. Most researchers believe that teens and college students make up the majority of illegal downloaders. This group represents those who are "money-poor but time-rich", which suggests that they wouldn't have bought the files legally even if they weren't able to get them by illegal means. Thanks to the increasing popularity of file sharing, music artists are becoming more and more popular. Although some people claim that money is lost through file sharing (because people would download free (and illegal) music instead of buying from iTunes, etc.), popular music artists such as Prince (who offered a free song for the purpose of gaining popularity) see more attendance at their concerts. File sharing actually benefits the artists, but could be hurting the recording industries because research showed that CD sales have decreased. Most of the money made from CD's go to retail stores, advertising companies, and other "middlemen", not the artist.
  • RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) stated that file sharing is only "one factor, along with economic conditions and competing forms of entertainment that is deplacing legitimate sales." This supports my theory that the billions of dollars music industries claim to have lost is not very accurate. They really haven't "lost" anything, because digital music is just an intellectual thing and it is not always true that people would buy music if they didn't share files.

Artists: Would they benefit from the ban on downloading?


  • Downloading equals lost revenues. Each and every download means lost revenues for the artist. Worse still, if people are able to download whole CDs or films for free, they have no incentives to buy the original version.
  • Downloading does not help less well-known artists. It is usually highly commercial music by well-known singers whose songs are being downloaded, thus this kind of "promotion" of young artists does not work.
  • Music itself cannot make much money, if it is not sold.


  • Downloading helps promote less well-known artists. Downloading means sample listening and viewing, and thus helps promote less popular artists, whose CDs or films wouldn't people otherwise buy.
  • Downloading has blossomed a creative industry: Downloading has opened the door to many creative ideas and ventures. This creative energy should be harnessed, not suppressed.
  • Artists can make money even without the ban. Artists can make money by selling T-shirts, special DVD editions, adding product placement into films, going on tours...

Morality: Would the ban on downloading uphold our moral pillars?


  • The prohibition sends the right message. Crime should not pay, and after crime comes punishment. Two basic pillars or or legislation. If we turn a blind eye towards Internet piracy, we are in effect undermining our set of values, which clearly is immoral. Legal downloading clearly shows that art is naturally free, thus removes incentives to pay for it in the future.
  • Downloading is a crime. Crime should not pay, and neither should downloading, the common euphemism for stealing intellectual property. Downloading itself cannot be justified neither economically, nor socially, nor morally.


  • Music is supposed to be about expression and not about record sales. Downloading from the Internet constitutes a protest against the turbo-capitalism of record companies that work against the music and what it stands for.[5]

Consumers: Would they benefit from the ban on downloading?


  • Downloading equals inferior quality. Downloaded files tend to be of inferior quality to those purchased. Therefore prohibiting downloading in effect means people buying high-quality music and films.
  • Downloading troubles consumers. Downloading is not only about free entertainment, but also about free spyware and viruses. Ban on downloading could limit these harms to consumers greatly.
  • Ban is vital for preserving variety. If we do not protect artists and their intellectual property, they have less incentives to innovate, which in turn diminishes variety in music and film industries.


  • Downloading equals free entertainment and education. If we prohibited downloading, we would truncate people's access to free entertainment (films and songs) and education (documentary films)
  • Downloading fosters creativity. Downloading enables people "creatively edit" music (remakes...), which in turn - if shared - benefits even more users. Moreover, such creative pursuits benefit also the artists, as these serve as free advertisements.

See also

External links and resources:

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