It is arguably true that most people who have access to the internet have pirated a song, album, video, movie or the like. Whether downloading an illegal torrent or simply pull a song off YouTube for example, many of us have pirated copyrighted material which belongs to the artist or company that produced the work.
However, just how much is that affecting the music and movie industry? Supporters of strong anti-piracy laws argue that piracy costs the US economy as much as $250 billion each year and results in over 750,000 jobs that are lost as well.
On the other hand, those figures have been widely disputed and other institutions have reported a significantly lower number ranging in the tens of billions.
The lower numbers are arguably more accurate because they assume that a person who cannot download a particular song or movie would not necessarily purchase the product. Given the cost of many DVDs for example, this is a valid point which would indicate that the cost is far less than assuming everyone who pirates a movie would have paid for it instead.
Is the Music Industry Really Suffering?
Of all forms of piracy, the music industry has arguably been the hardest hit. Audio files are very small and easy to download, making them the perfect piracy targets. In some countries such as China, piracy is almost an art form with dealers on the streets and online selling the latest music and movies illegally.
However, guys like Eminem are still doing well; reportedly worth of nearly $140 million while Usher is another example of a musician not exactly starving to death. This is in part because such artist have other means of making money, such as going on tour, merchandising and so forth. So for the larger, more popular artist, they have built-in revenue streams where they can pull in the money.
Where does the Money Go?
One of the more intriguing questions is if the money that is not being spent on music because of piracy, then where does it go? A person who may not have purchased a DVD or album may instead spend that money on another item from another manufacturer, so there are arguably benefits to other industries all thanks to piracy.
Still, there is the moral question of stealing copyrighted material whether it greatly damages the music and film industry or not. It is difficult to defend certain types of stealing while arguing for stronger measures to be taken in other cases. For example, stealing an item above a certain value is grand theft punishable by time in jail. Should not the same punishment be doled out to those who steal that amount of music or videos off the internet?
In the end, piracy certainly does have an effect on the profits made by those in the film, television and music industries. However, the impact is not nearly what the advocates for far tougher laws suggest and there needs to be clarity before further laws can be passed.