A new culture of piracy: are illegal music downloads really worth the consequences?

Nicole Smith

We’ve all done it.

After hearing a song on the radio, instead of waiting for the CD to be released, you pull up LimeWire, BearShare or Kazaa to get the song you want within five minutes for free. And despite iTunes’ best efforts to make individual songs available for only 99 cents, there is just no beating free.

But what repercussions exist each time you add a new song to your library? It’s obvious that illegal downloading affects the musicians, but it’s hard to care when musicians these days make incredible amounts of money.

You probably don’t feel guilty downloading the new Nickelback song or “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy Tell ’em but not paying for the music you want to listen to bears a burden on other people as well.

Record stores and even sound technicians have to deal with financial strains that arise from pirating music.While that might not be enough to cause hesitation before downloading, the consequences should. In some states, illegal downloading is punishable by up to three years in jail and $250,000 in fines, even more for repeat offenders.

In 2003, subpoenas were sent to universities and Internet providers in efforts to catch college students in the act.

In a more recent lawsuit, a Minnesota woman was required to pay $9,250 for each of the 24 songs the judge focused on in the case. She was fortunate that they only looked at 24, since it was estimated she had downloaded about 1,700 songs in all.

It definitely would have saved that woman a lot of money if she had just bought the CD in the first place.

And that might just be something to think about the next time you attempt to open your LimeWire instead of your iTunes Store.

Ninety-nine cents really might just save your dignity and your pocket in the long run.