Downloading music - safety and ethics in the brave new world of cyberspace
Sabiene Heindl, general manager, MIPI
Downloading music: safety and ethics in the brave 'new' world of cyberspace
Music is a medium that defines and unites young people - but downloading and sharing music is not always safe or ethical. Sabiene Heindl provides tips for teachers to help students avoid piracy and security risks.
Close to one in three school-aged kids regularly engage in the illegal downloading of music - yet many of them are unaware of the inherent security risks and the need to respect the rights of creators. There are significant risks associated with downloading music, particularly through peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Schools and teachers can play an important role in informing our young people about internet safety, avoiding piracy and respecting creativity and copyright.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing means swapping music or other files on peer-to-peer networks which connect millions of people. Users download the P2P software on to their computer to link them to the network and give them access to shared files, from shared folders on their hard drives. The more advanced BitTorrent network has made file-sharing quicker by enabling users to download chunks of a file from multiple users all at once.
Many people don't fully understand the extent to which file-sharing through P2P networks poses a number of risks. Users mistakenly believe that connecting to a P2P site is the same as connecting to a website. However, these networks do not function like a centralised web server at all. Instead, they remotely connect the hard drives of all users on the network, which in the case of many P2P networks is millions of computers, making any user's system accessible by all other users of the network at that time.
This means that using P2P can expose children to unwelcome content like pornographic or violent images - and filters that block offensive content on the internet are not always effective in blocking this material through P2P.
Using P2P networks can also expose computers to harmful viruses, worms and Trojans, all of which compromise the computers security. P2P networks have been known to create vulnerability to viruses that enable people to control computers remotely, meaning that computers can be controlled to send unsolicited emails or spam without the knowledge of the user.
This also opens individual computers up to privacy risks. Lots of private and confidential documents have been found through P2P networks. Some P2P networks come with extra software or 'spyware' which may report users to external websites or can for example, record passwords and send them to scammers. P2P networks provide opportunities for identity thieves to obtain financial and personal information from users who in most cases have no idea that their data is vulnerable.
What about cyber-ethics issues?
Commonly, young people use P2P networks to share music, films, games and even software. When this is done without the permission of the relevant creators - the artists and songwriters who create the music for example - then it is against the law.
Illegal file-sharing of close to one billion songs by Australians every year significantly undermines the ability of Australian musicians to make a living from their music. Following his ARIA award nomination in 2007, musician John Butler said, 'We sell about 40 per cent less albums than we did three or four years ago because of [illegal] downloading.'
Similarly, Zoran Trivic of Perth band Gyroscope recently said, `[Illegal downloading] has brought a lot of new fans to our music, but at the same time it's hard. Being a musician is a full time profession so selling records is how I make a living.'
The music industry is a highly speculative one. The 2010 IFPI Investing in Music report shows that record labels invest around 30 per cent of their revenues into finding, nurturing and promoting new talent, the majority of which do not even break even. Unfortunately illegal file-sharing continues to threaten the emergence and growth of new business models to allow consumers to access more Australian music.
In the real world, most people would not steal a CD from a record store. The challenge for educators is to encourage students to apply this same moral compass in the cyber-world, where the effects of copyright theft are just as devastating. Like any other product that takes creativity, time, energy and money to make, music, film and games should be valued and their creators compensated for their efforts. Education is the key to explaining the negative effects of illegal file-sharing and changing attitudes so that our community appreciates that you need to behave as responsibly online as you would offline, not only for music but for a wide range of activities.
As University of Western Sydney academic Helen Young argues, 'It's up to everyone who is part of the online world to enjoy their rights, but also to shoulder their responsibility.'
What role can teachers and schools play?
Teachers and schools are in a unique position to inform students about the dangers of illegal P2P networks and the associated need to respect creativity.
Increasingly schools are covering the ethical and safety issues of using the internet; you can expand this discussion to include the safety issues around using P2P services, including the security and privacy concerns and the availability of harmful content.
In class when rolling out new innovative devices like laptop computers and iPads, discuss with your students how they access their music online so you have an understanding of what they are doing.
Encourage students to think about how they listen to music, and what music means to them. Ask them to browse legal online stores and music streaming services.
Get them to think about why respecting copyright is like respecting rules on plagiarism. What's the difference between a student who's had their brilliant essay copied and an artist whose songs are being illegally copied? It is guaranteed to be a thought provoking debate.
Suggest they research the music industry and think about the work that goes into producing a record, and what jobs are involved.
Consider using some of the excellent teaching resources around illegal file-sharing.
Music for Free? is an English unit for 16-18 year olds which explores the ethics of illegal file-sharing and encourages students to respect music by getting it legitimately, available from www.smartcopying.edu.au/scw/go/pid/822
In Tune is a free open education resource for schools. This short film canvasses some of the issues facing Australian musicians today, including the positive and negative impact that the internet has had on musicians. Featuring interviews with prominent Australian artists including Silverchair, Powderfinger, the Veronicas and Operator Please this is a popular resource in the classroom. It is available from www.in-tune.com.au
Young People, Music and the Internet is an informative guide for teachers, parents and young people to explain the do's and don'ts of music downloading, available from www.mipi.com.au/Young-People-Music-and-the-Internet.html
All Right to Copy? is a resource designed to teach students about copyright and how it impacts them both as users and creators, available from www.smartcopying.edu.au/scw/all-right-to-copy/artc/index.htm
Many uses of copyrighted music in the classroom for teaching purposes are allowed by exceptions in the law that apply to educational institutions. To ensure that you are complying with the law you can check the Music Industry Piracy Investigations fact sheet for teachers and schools at www.mipi.com.au/Fact-Sheets.html
Music Industry Piracy Investigations, the Australian music industry's anti-piracy organisation, is happy to work with teachers and schools to help educate students on the important security and ethical issues around P2P networks and the illegal file-sharing.
Sabiene Heindl is the General Manager of Music Industry Piracy Investigations.