Given that most of us get at least some of our music through means that are technically less than legal, it makes sense to stay up to date with the news on music piracy. After all, you don’t want a prosecuting attorney to reveal to the entire world that you’ve been illegally downloading old Limp Bizkit tracks. With that in mind, we bring you the biggest recent stories from the exciting world of digital copyright law (no, really).
The World’s Most Expensive Aerosmith Songs
A couple of years ago, a single mother from Duluth, MN named Jammie Thomas-Rassett was sued for copyright infringement for sharing 1,702 songs over Kazaa. Unlike thousands of others, she decided to challenge the lawsuit in court rather than paying a few thousand dollars. That decision has so far turned out rather badly for her, as after two trials, she was ordered to pay $1.92 million in fines last month. Right now she’s appealing the decision, but the lesson here seems to be that if you are sued by the Recording Industry Association of America in the near future, you can probably save yourself a couple million by settling out of court (unless you have a really good alibi).
They’re Coming for Your Ringtones!
Cell phone ringtones are annoying. In almost every case, the only person who really enjoys hearing a low-quality snippet from “Poker Face” while they’re waiting in line at the grocery store is the owner of the phone. Most people wouldn’t think of them as illegal, but the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers does. They're the group that makes sure songwriters get paid when their albums sell or get played on the radio, and they have sued Verizon and AT&T for selling ringtones. Cell phone companies already pay royalties for the ringtones they sell, but ASCAP would like them to pay more, based on the logic that every time your phone rings you’re broadcasting a public performance of “Achy Breaky Heart” (which would be a hilarious ringtone). It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us. After all, no one gets sued for blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd at a barbeque. But if they succeed, prices for ringtones might go up dramatically, meaning you’ll have to think twice about whether your love of Billy Ray Cyrus is really worth $14.99 to you.
Are Illegal Downloads Going Away?
According to the Guardian, only half as many teens are illegally downloading music as were two years ago. That doesn’t mean everyone’s suddenly started buying armloads of CDs—after all, it’s a lot easier to rip 10,000 songs off of somebody’s iPod than to download them all (and a lot harder to get in trouble for doing so). But with sales of digital music up and more people legally streaming music from websites, online music might be finally coming out of its awkward puberty phase.
So, really, how much is your love of Billy Ray Cyrus worth to you?