Everyone loves free stuff: whether it’s free food samples at Costco or a free gift with purchase at a favorite retail store. With the economy the way it is, people will take as much free stuff as they can.

Even more exciting than getting free food samples is getting free music downloads. But downloading music raises an ethical question: “Is it stealing?” The answer is yes. Just because it’s easy to do and hard to get caught doing, downloading music from unauthorized sites is stealing.

Downloading free music is breaking copyright laws, which was exactly the point the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was trying to make by suing LimeWire for copyright infringement. The RIAA is entitled to $150,000 for each registered work infringed. The number of infringing works is likely in the millions — which is absolutely too many songs being stolen.

Copyright laws exist to help protect the artists’ intellectual work, and the people who are making money from the artists’ music, such as the record company, stores that sell the music and the artists themselves.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, 95 percent of music downloaded online is illegal. In hopes of lessening illegal downloading, the RIAA attempted to make an example of LimeWire and scare other companies away from using file sharing.

The lead singer of local band Bernen Fir Jeff Cochran does not approve of illegal downloading.

“If you want to support the band you like, you’ll buy their albums,” Cochran said. “It’s different for local music to be downloaded for free, as opposed to corporate level, because you want people to listen to your music as a local artist and you’ll do anything to be on their play list.”

It’s one thing for bands to give out their music for free. It’s another when a band who isn’t giving away free music is being stolen from — especially from their so-called “fans.” If these people care about the well-being of their favorite bands and are genuine fans, they’ll take responsibility for their actions and stop stealing music.

When people download free music, they probably aren’t thinking of all the people they are affecting. According to an analysis by the Institute for Policy Innovation, music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year, 71,060 U.S. jobs are lost with a loss of $2.7 billion in workers’ earnings. People who download free music might as well be laying these workers off themselves.

Ammon Roberts, a senior biology major, agrees it is wrong to illegally download.

“I don’t do it because I don’t feel it’s right,” Roberts said. “If I were making the music, I’d be upset if people were downloading it for free.”

Most people wouldn’t go out and steal a shirt from a retailer, or steal a car from a car dealer. These people are causing others not to make the money they worked hard for and deserve.

“I used to download music for free all the time, but I started feeling bad, seeing as though I’m an artist now,” said Cochran.

Now, others who download music illegally need to echo the sentiments of Cochran and buy music the way it was intended — legally.

How do you feel about illegally downloading music from the Internet?

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