Study Guide

  • Music piracy dates back to some of the earliest forms of recording media. With the introduction of media such as 8 track and cassette tapes, copying an album illegally was easier than ever. CD players and CDs hit United States markets in 1983 with over 30,000 units sold as well as 800,000 CDs sold. The market grew, and record companies were thrilled with the new standard that was cheap and fast to produce, and could not be copied -- except to tapes. As is so often the case in industry, they ignored the pace of technology, and were caught badly unawares later.
  • In 1985, CD drives were introduced to the computer market, allowing the compact discs to not only be played as audio, but to be analyzed as data. Tracks of CD audio were recorded to disc at a rate that used 1.4 megabits or 175 kilobytes of space per second of audio, resulting in files from 50 to 100 megabytes for an average audio track. These files were monstrous in terms of hard drive size in the late 80's, so distribution was impractical.
  • In 1987, the Fraunhofer IIS-A started to work on perceptual audio coding in order to reduce the amount of data needed to represent audio with little loss of quality. Compression rates for CD quality sound range from 12:1 to 14:1, greatly reducing file sizes of ripped CD tracks. Now instead of a 50 megabyte file that contained a track from your audio CD, the file was around 4 megabytes. This astounding reduction in space required, as well as the size of hard drives increasing, made it a little more practical to store CD quality audio on a format other than CD.
  • By 1991, 30% of all households in the US owned a CD player, and over 288 million CDs were sold annually. These numbers have only climbed toward present day, with over 75% having access to or owning one today. That year, CD recorders were introduced to the market, and by 1992, over 200,000 units had been sold. Modern drives are almost always recorders as well; far expanding the horizon of illegal CD production. This coupled with the increased connectivity of computers gave the first reasons to share MP3 audio files with friends, the data transfer was much faster and one could record an entire album illegally without much effort. In 1992, the The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 was written. This made it illegal to record copyrighted material on a digital audio recording device, or CD recorder drive. As with other laws of this nature, it is very hard if not impossible to enforce on an individual level, except in the case of large, well known offenders.
  • As connections to computers sped up, now appearing in excess of 1 Mbit in homes, networks became larger, and a great deal of technology that previously resided only in the hands of universities became available to the unlettered public. Hard drives became larger, and prices dropped to well under a dollar a Mb. CD and DVD media and burners became widespread, and very cheap, with bundled recording software often including ripping tools. All this caused a dramatic spike in distribution of MP3 audio; audio that was largely copyrighted.
  • Software such as Napster, GNUtella, Morpheous, and simple FTP sites sped the early pirate movement, but now larger, harder to uproot programs with peer-to-peer capacity have spread like wildfire; BitTorrent pushes songs by the thousands every hour. Some of the original mainstays remain, however, newsgroups still account for a fair share of illegal traffic even today.
  • The RIAA, initially taken by surprise, has recently regrouped and changed tactics in their battle against MP3 sharing.  They where granted 871 subpoenas for individual MP3 sharers on July 18, 2003.  These subpoenas have been sent to various universities and ISP's who are supposed to track down these people so they can be served their subpoena.
  • With the introduction of affordable portable MP3 players and car stereo MP3 players it has become easier than ever to enjoy your MP3's while away from your computer.   
  • Ethically, the issue with MP3s is not the creation of the media, but the sharing of the files you create. It is ethical and legal to change formats of a media that you purchase, but it is not legal or ethical to share your purchase with others. Free distribution is not fair to the artists producing the media.