‘♫’ marks the spot for the modern pirate


Holden Foreman, entertainment editor

Pirates are everywhere around us; yet, they don’t take the form we’ve grown accustomed to from storybooks and a few too many Johnny Depp movies. No, pirates don’t run from crocodiles and brandish their hooks at flying boys. No, pirates don’t show up to Krispy Kreme once a year for a free dozen donuts. No, pirates don’t shout “Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!” or “Walk the plank!” But pirates do exist, and they’ve been plundering the loot of honest musicians for years.

Merriam-Webster labels a pirate as anyone “who illegally copies a product or invention without permission.” The concept is simple, but plenty of pirates throughout the United States have no idea of the trouble they could be in. Even first time offenders of national copyright laws can face up to $250,000 in fines and five years in prison, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Yet, piracy continues to cost the U.S. economy roughly $12.5 billion each year along with over 70,000 music industry jobs and, as a result, $2 billion in wages. These statistics, provided by the Institute for Policy Innovation, barely scrape the surface of how much damage piracy has done to the music industry. The NPD Group reports that as far back as 2009, only 37 percent of the music obtained by U.S. citizens was purchased. So, how do pirates receive virtually limitless tunes for free?

Sites such as youtube2mp3.com allow for the free conversion of videos to audio files; thus, snagging a new hit only requires one to find the music video on Vevo or another channel, copy and paste the url, and download their new MP3. Convenient, yes, but this process is also 100 percent illegal. Acquiring MP3s from unlicensed sites holds just as unlawful; one example, mp3skulls.com, was recently sued for approximately $15 million in copyright infringements.

At KHS, pirates walk the halls each day, and whether or not they understand their wrongdoing, they risk court time for their offenses. Most fail to grasp the issue, as a 2004 study by the Barna Group found 86 percent of teens considered music piracy morally acceptable. Still, popular artists such as Taylor Swift have consistently said they oppose the practice and the resulting threat to the music industry.

In the end, $1.29 per song may seem ridiculous when millions get away with free streaming; piracy, however, remains a question of character rather than cost. Some assume musicians live a life of luxury in which the hardest decisions revolve around which million dollar watch to buy next, but we can’t forget that making music is a job, and people tend to enjoy their work the most when they get paid.