Should Internet pirates really walk the plank?

Does it seem realistic that an iPod is capable of incurring up to $8 billion of copyright infringement fines? In 1999, copyright laws were passed that put a $150,000 value on every pirated song, according to Ron Reid, creator of Rhapsody. Not only are such punishments unrealistic, they are impossible to enforce. Are we going to send Mom to prison because she didn’t realize it’s illegal to take her kids’ music?

Many voice concerns against the morality of piracy. One common thought is that piracy steals bread and butter from starving artists. Yet only the popular and wealthy artists are available for downloading since many fans are required to find a few that illegally upload songs.

While corporate interests fight desperately against piracy, struggling artists embrace it. For example, local band The Audio Waltz, featuring Mr. McFarlin’s son Alex as guitarist, offers their music for free on bandcamp.com. They want people to hear their music and to come to their concerts. Getting paid for music doesn’t matter if the turnout at shows gets better, and the band gets more gigs.

Not only does piracy help new artists, it isn’t all entertainment based. Even textbooks can be pirated. Though it isn’t evident in Carmel, in poorer areas an aspiring engineer might not be able to afford SolidWorks, the program the robotics team uses to design parts for their robot. Instead of giving up because they’re not as wealthy as Carmel kids, students can help their future by pirating something they otherwise couldn’t afford.

Not all game companies are as ridiculous; sometimes they let you pick the price. This makes payment seem more like tipping, and poses as a rating system, the best games getting the most cash. Though Linux is free, developers usually request a donation. Because no one donates to a bad Linux OS, it’ll starve to death more often than not.

Though it’s undoubtedly excessive to claim $150,000 per song, so too is it excessive that the discography of an artist can be downloaded without coughing up a penny. Before any resolution to this powerful problem, both sides need to be less excessive.

Since people seem unwilling to pay outrageous amounts for music, why don’t we price music more reasonably? If music were five cents a song then a person could get a discography for $20. People would feel more inclined to pay if music were cheaper; fines would be enforceable if they were more moderate.

Perhaps one day we’ll inhabit a world where information is available to everyone, rich or poor. Every person is equal, even if they can’t pay equally. By reducing limitations to those without funds, we open a whole world of potential for those who really need it.

-Jacob Waters