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Gospel Soundcheck

When Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum was illegally downloading songs and sharing them, he probably wasn’t thinking that anyone was watching or cared. But on Friday, Tenenbaum found out that he wasn’t sharing music in a big cyber void when he was found guilty of illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs, and was fined $675,000.
You read that right. $675,000.


The Boston Globe reports that the 25-year-old gradute student “unapologetically admitted downloading more than 800 songs from 1999 to at least 2007 on his computers at his home in Providence and at Goucher College in Maryland.” At one point in early proceedings he blamed other family members for the downloads, but on the stand this week admitted that was a lie.
He reportedly said that he never intended to deprive recording artists of income, and said from the stand, “I think very much that artists should continue to be paid for what they do. They’re the ones who are giving so much.”
The problem with downloading – illegal downloading, where fans download and share music without the permission of the artist or label, as opposed to promotions where artists and labels willingly give music to fans – is that music fans have no idea how it affects artists.
Contrary to popular myth, artists only see a small portion of the money from the sales of their music, with the vast majority going to labels and all to the folks involved in process of making, distributing and promoting music. If they’re not getting paid for songs that are being downloaded, then they’re not getting paid at all.
And let’s not forget that it is illegal, whether you agree with the law or not. As Christians we should be operating with integrity, even when no one is looking.
Of course, pretty much everyone in the recording industry thinks the industry’s financial woes are the result of illegal downloading; fans share music without paying and therefore don’t buy it.
But I’m not sure I’d hang my whole argument on that point. Part of the problem – maybe a lot of the problem – is that the vast majority of music out there is crap. Albums are being recorded with only one goal in mind: how many hit songs can we get from this disc? Musical integrity, or lack of it, and a desire to pursue the almighty dollar rather than support artistic quality all helped create an industry that’s more concerned with creating the next superstar then creating art.
But that’s another column. For now, know that you’ve been warned. The recording industry is showing no mercy in their pursuit of fans who are illegally downloading and sharing music, and they’re going to get their money one way or the other.
Just ask Jammie Thomas-Rasset. Last month, the Minnesota woman faced similar allegations and was found guilty. A federal jury fined her a total of $1.92 million.
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