Bands, recording companies say music piracy hurts

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Brendan Walter (seated), with his band Valencia, was once sued for illegal music downloading. Now he fights it, saying: "I know how expensive and time-consuming it is to make a record."

In 2003, Brendan Walter, guitarist for the rock band Valencia, was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America in the first wave of illegal-downloading lawsuits - now, he's a member of the same association.

"I am definitely guilty of downloading music," Walter said.

"On one hand, I know how expensive and time-consuming it is to make a record and how it's worth every penny," he said. "On the other hand, this day and age creates a whole new level of people's ability to check out music - you can download 15 albums in one day."

Although piracy is relatively simple with the technology available today, bands and recording compnaies say it is stealing money out of their pockets.

According to the RIAA, piracy causes the music industry to lose $12.5 billion every year, along with 71,060 U.S. jobs. Other losses include $2.7 billion in workers' earnings and $422 million in tax revenues.

The RIAA says a person can participate in illegal downloading in many ways, including downloading or uploading copyrighted files to peer-to-peer file-sharing programs or purchasing an album and burning copies for friends.

A person who is caught illegaly downloading is subject to up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine or a minimum fine of $750 per song in civil court.

Many bands have felt the direct hit of illegal downloading.

"We definitely have had to become more clever in how we get our income," Walter said.

"It's still generally pretty hard, though. With the job market the way it is and the economy in the toilet, people are even less inclined to buy music and in turn are turning up to shows and buying T-shirts less."

Walter also said illegal downloading isn't always a bad thing, because it allows music to be exposed to different people.

"I think if you really love an album, you should go ahead and purchase it. There are also other ways to support [a band], like going to see a show, picking up a T-shirt, or any number of things. As long as you are contributing in some way, I think it can be a positive thing," he said

The 2011 report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry shows that from 2003 through 2010, "the combined sales of debut albums featuring in the global top 50 fell by 77 percent, from 47.7 million to 10.8 million." The report does not state that this drop in sales is because of illegal downloading, but since 2003, many new illegal downloading sites have been created.

Walter knows that the economy has caused many problems for him and other musicians, but he believes there is still hope.

"They'll come to the shows, buy the merchandise, and in return, you give them the best music, great online content and create a fun atmosphere for them to come and enjoy themselves," Walter says.

"In the end, the best music wins - if you are creating music that people want to hear, they'll buy it, and you'll be fine."