Editorial: Behind music sharing’s legalese

Most University students are aware of the University’s new policy on sharing music files. An e-mail from the Office for University Information Technologies outlined Villanova’s stance on the matter, which reflects a position being taken by many colleges across the country in response to new copyright legislation.

Specifically, the University threatens students who use peer-to-peer applications to swap music files with disciplinary consequences from the dean of students as well as possible legal action by the owner of the copyright. The University reserves the right to take action because such file sharing is a violation of its policy on Ethical Conduct for Use of Computing and Communicating Resources.

In other words, Big Brother is not only the money-grubbing Recording Industry Association of America, it’s also Villanova – those same people that have the right to read your e-mail and engage in other invasions of privacy made possible by students signing their rights away to have the chance to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege of attending the University.

But the larger issue at stake is why sharing media online has become such an overwhelming trend in the past few years. It certainly isn’t a difficult question, though – CD prices have continued to climb in the past few years even though physically producing a CD costs a whopping $2 or less. And for the college student who is already financially burdened with meal plans and inflated prices at the campus bookstore, a chance to save a few dollars is a blessing.

The RIAA says such music sharing among students and other users have ruined the music industry. But maybe it’s the artists themselves that have ruined the industry. When is the last time you bought a CD and really enjoyed 15 or 16 tracks of good music as opposed to one or two? Probably not since tapes went out of style. Maybe if artists wrote a full CD worth of music, instead of producing just a couple of radio-friendly tracks, people would feel their money was a worthwhile investment in a cheap piece of plastic.

Speaking of production costs, the amount the actual artists are losing pales in comparison to that of the RIAA. Musicians claim only a small part of each album sale; the rest go to the greedy executives – the same people that encourage artists to sell their creativity out to the radio to generate increased profits. It’s no small wonder the RIAA finds itself suddenly so unpopular – if not for the demise of a way for students to share music that isn’t worth paying for, than certainly for ruining music at the source.