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Chapter 1. The Nuts and Bolts of MP3 > Rights, Piracy, and Politics

1.2. Rights, Piracy, and Politics

The flexibility and portability of MP3 has left the recording industry wondering where to turn, unsigned musicians newly empowered, signed artists with mixed reactions, and fans making out like bandits. The debate centers on a quest for the right balance between exploiting the promotional power of this new medium and protecting the intellectual copyright of artists and labels.

1.2.1. MP3's Impact on the Recording Industry

In July of 1999, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) estimated that around three million tracks were downloaded from the Internet every day, most of them without the permission of their copyright holders. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) claims to have lost as much as $10 billion through music piracy in 1998. It's not just record company executives and artists who stand to lose; the digital music revolution has implications for everyone in the channel: record store owners, CD pressing plants, and even truck drivers. Of course, most signed artists resent having their intellectual property illegally distributed as well. Well-known artists ask the RIAA every day to clamp down on pirate sites hosting their music (although it's also the case that many signed artists are much more supportive of MP3 than are their labels). In the rest of this chapter, we'll take a look at some of the many difficult issues currently being faced by the industry and music lovers alike, and take a look at some of the techniques the industry is proposing to deal with the situation. The legal nitty-gritty of MP3 is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7.


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