I am a file sharer. I download thousands of songs and movies of the Internet everyday. Do I know that it is illegal and I’m doing the equivalent of stealing from the producers of the music and movies? Yes. Do I feel guilty? A big N-O!
The name file-sharing derives from the structure of the Internet, in which computers store information and other computers retrieve it through interconnected networks. (Michel, 2004) File sharing programmes like Limewire, BitTorent and Pirate Bay allow people on the Internet to be able to distribute and receive digital files such as multimedia files (audios and videos)
File sharing has made a huge impact in the entertainment industry’s profit. Music sales dropped globally from approximately $38 billion in 1999 to $32 billion in 2003. (Zentner, 2005) Lily Allen, a prominent British musician has openly condemned file sharing (Allen, 2009) along with other entertainment industry artists and lawmakers. Though file sharing is considered illegal for infringing copyright laws, it is still reported that 70 million people are still participating in online file sharing. (Delgado, 2004) Even Malaysians agree with the file sharing phenomenon, having one of the highest rates of piracy in the world. (Patrick, 2008)
So if Internet file sharing is considered illegal with heavy laws and punishments on regular file sharers, why are there still so many people practicing file sharing online?
There are a few reasons. One being that the legal price for purchasing entertainment content is extremely high. Even Datuk S Subramaniam, the former Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, has told Malaysians to stop wasting their money on expensive CDs and DVDs. (myce, 2003) File sharing allows people who do not have the luxury of money to enjoy these high priced music and movies for free.
A second reason is file sharing allows us to view content we cannot obtain legally in Malaysia. And I’m not talking about pornography here. Malaysia has one of the toughest censorship laws in the world. (BBC, 2009) Popular movies such as Schindler’s List, The Passion of Christ, Rent and Borat, along with countless foreign music and even children’s books have been banned. (imdb, 2009)
Finally, file sharing is predominant because most consumers feel that the entertainment content they view are not worth spending their money on. “How many times have you bought a pop music record to find there are maybe two, maybe three songs you really like?" asks Mark Coleman of Rolling Stones Magazine. “People don't want to pay $18 for one song." (Northall, 2003) The high prices and low quality of albums drove consumers to seek alternatives like downloading so they could hear their favorite songs.
File sharing may still be illegal in the eyes of the law but no person thinks that it is anymore. “Eventually the reality of the Internet will force the laws to change, too. One way or another, the entertainment industry will eventually surrender.” (Arrington, 2009)
- Allen, L 2009, "My Thoughts on File Sharing," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=36707169&blogId=510114316
- Arrington, M 2009, "Stealing Music: Is It Wrong Or Isn’t It?," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/03/31/stealing-music-is-it-wrong-or-isnt-it/
- BBC 2009, "Malaysia: Media," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1304569.stm#media
- Delgado, R 2004, "Law professors examine ethical controversies of peer-to-peer file sharing," The Stanford Report, California
- imdb.com 2009, "Titles with certificate: Malaysia:(Banned)," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.imdb.com/List?certificates=Malaysia:(Banned)&&heading=14;Malaysia:(Banned)
- Michel, N.J 2004, "Internet File Sharing: The Evidence So Far and What It Means for the Future," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.heritage.org/Research/InternetandTechnology/upload/68094_1.pdf
- myce 2003, "CDs too expensive? Goverment tells public to quit buying CDs, DVDs," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.myce.com/news/CDs-too-expensive-Goverment-tells-public-to-quit-buying-CDs-DVDs-5960/
- Northall, C 2003, "The Benefits of File Sharing," online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.angelfire.com/dragon/hikaruclaire/file_sharing.html
- Patrick, S 2008, "Malaysia still on piracy watch list," The Star, online, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://star-techcentral.com/tech/story.asp?file=/2008/5/6/technology/1106607&sec=technology
- Zentner, A 2005, "File Sharing and International Sales of Copyrighted Music: An Empirical Analysis with a Panel of Countries," Topics in Economic Analysis & Policy, Vol. 5 , No. 1, retrieved 18 November 2009, from http://www.bepress.com/bejeap/topics/vol5/iss1/art21