The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is to take legal action against people who download music illegally from the internet.
The organisation has said it will target individuals who make music available to share free with others, also known as "major uploaders".
Music file-sharers have been blamed for a decline in world-wide CD sales although sales are said to be rising in the UK.
The BPI's actions follow that of its US counterpart which is already suing those it calls the worst offenders.
Is the BPI right to take action against people who download music illegally from the internet? Is downloading a good thing for the music industry? Does it encourage people to buy more CDs?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
It amazes me that people try to defend this kind of theft. It is no different to walking into a shop and stealing goods. As for the view that the record industry shouldn't take their customer to court: they are not their customers if they are stealing music!
A lot of the time the songs that are illegally downloaded are the hard to find records not available on legal sites. Maybe if a record company's or smaller record label's entire back catalogue was released it would cut a lot of illegal downloads.
I'm a normal 16 year old guy and to be honest I don't know a single person who doesn't download music. I've done it for years now and for all the bad things that it's doing to the industry I have to say without the internet I would definitely not be as big a music fan as I am now. I go to concerts, buy CDs and sometimes even buy the t-shirts if they're cheap enough. But my point is that the internet has allowed a whole generation to experience a far wider range of music than they otherwise would have. This has given the less popular more alternative bands a chance to be recognised by our generation. So although music piracy is upfront a bad thing I think it has many, many redeemable qualities.
Andrzej Czapiewski, Winchester, UK
Illegally downloading is exactly the same as going into a shop and stealing a CD. Downloaders should be looked upon (and treated) in the same way as shoplifters.
Thanks to being able to download music from the internet, I have ended up spending more money on CDs. Mostly, these are on bands I had never heard before, and probably wouldn't have risked parting with anywhere between £12 and £18 without wanting to hear them first. Typically, the music industry wants to blame others when the fault lies with themselves for failing to keep up in the first place.
John Baker, Leeds
How can the record labels be complaining? They make so much money anyway - especially by ripping off artists - so this is a sort of poetic justice! Keep on downloading!
As a nightclub DJ I regularly download tracks to check them out before buying them on CD or vinyl. I do this to ensure I don't waste money on rubbish. Often I download tracks I would never have bought anyway, so the music industry hasn't lost out. I guess at the end of the day I'm also fed up with seeing a lot of greedy overpaid artists who do don't do anything for anyone and a music industry which will be rolling in money no matter how much I download.
Dave Pallett, Slough, UK
Having worked in the music industry and having seen all the fat-cat producers who have been cashing in on consumers for years, the music industry is due the same shake up that the internet has brought about to other industries. The labels are running scared as they are aware that their traditional business models (and market dominance) are being infringed on by the power of direct to consumer technology, over which - in the long run they will have little control. The times have passed in which the average consumer must fund the drug habits of the big fat cats.
I think downloading mp3s is probably a good thing for the music industry, because it introduces people to new artists they probably wouldn't normally listen to. I think if they like the music they would go out and buy the CD, as the quality of mp3s isn't all that great. Let's face it, would you pay £15 for something you aren't sure you are going to like? I think a bigger problem for the music industry is CD piracy which seems rife these days.
David, Lancs, England
Downloading is for geeks! I've got better things to do with my life than spend hours on a PC downloading music. Call me old fashioned but I'll carry on buying CDs.
Steve, Nottingham, UK
The music industry has brought this upon itself by continuing to increase the price of CDs, whilst production costs over the years have dropped. I occasionally download music to get a feel for the album and if I like it I buy it, if I don't I delete the mp3 file. I don't feel that I am cheating the music industry any more than if I bought a CD which I didn't like and then took it back to the shop for a refund.
Paul, Edinburgh, Scotland
I am a software publisher. My industry faces very similar issues and we hear exactly the same excuses - I was only trying it out, you charge too much, a friend just gave it to me. The excuses are all self-justifying rubbish. Piracy is as dishonest as tax evasion. Pirates take whatever they want, and couldn't give a monkey's that livelihoods are threatened as a result. Intellectual property industries get no help from the police or government to tackle piracy so yes, the BPI is right to take direct action. I hope they are awarded thousands in punitive damages.
Mark Fulford, Southampton, UK
The current copyright system gives record companies an effective monopoly over an artist's material, and has been ripping off the consumer for decades. Instead of prosecuting file-sharers, why not return to the model that was in effect before the advent of recorded music, where musicians made the majority of their income from live performances. This would be supplemented by radio and TV royalties etc, and there would still be plenty of people will to pay a reasonable price for well packaged CDs, copyrighted or not.
Johnny W, Hull, England
Technology is changing the music industry and as mp3 players are becoming cheaper and also available now on most new phones, the CD Music industry will eventually Die out and new Bands and Artists will find it hard to make profits, Just like cassettes did its just a matter of time until big stores wont make profits.
S Rostron, Manchester
The trouble with the music industry is that it is now run by talent less bean counters. How else can you explain them threatening the very public who they rely upon to buy their product? What's next? McDonalds suing customers for eating home cooked meals? The music industry is dying because of its own lack of imagination. Will the last one please turn off the light?
Geoff, Winsford, Cheshire
It is the case that for many people using file share sites to download music files, these sites act as samplers for artists and in many cases actually stimulate sales of the legitimate cds, not diminish them
|Martyn Lee, Meriden, UK
The music industry has spent years putting all of its efforts into short-term gain by force feeding us a diet of talent less reality pop stars. If the singles chart is in freefall and record companies are taking a battering, they only have themselves to blame. It's very unfair to threaten music fans with litigation to remedy a problem they have brought upon themselves.
Let me see £2 for a single of £15 for an album or free from the internet not a hard choice maybe they should consider re pricing cd's instead of ripping us off
John, Dundee Scotland
If it's illegal then corrective action is just and fair. But, be sure to target those profiteering and not the ordinary man on the street. Cut off the source, the problem gets less. That said, the music industry must look to why this has come about and start giving the listener more quality over quantity, variety, equality as to what gets played on the radio (or TV) and finally price their wears more fairly.
IanC, UK, Midlands
I've said it once before the last time this discussion came up. It's already too late. We want it for free and we want it free now! If they hadn't ripped us off to start with it might be a different story and the film industry is next. Personally I don't use the 'targeted' file swapping systems - too slow, you can get the music and movies you want much quicker elsewhere!
There are a few reasons for the slump in music sales over the past five years, and none of them have anything to do with file-sharing. Firstly there has been a massive increase in video game and DVD sales, and secondly the standard of music being signed the majority of labels is quite truly pathetic.
The music industry has to understand that they can't keep trotting out untalented R&B 'acts' who just recycle perfectly good old tracks and make them sound terrible. Plus of course they should maybe consider not ripping off the public by charging £15.99 for a CD that cost them pennies to make. These are complete crooks trying to sound virtuous - it doesn't wash. Besides which, I don't see them attacking people with CD-burners, or tape machines... or anything else that allows you to copy music illegally. It's just a smoke screen to enable some corporate crooks to justify their jobs and inflated wages.
Guy, London, UK
I tend to download things before buying them. I believe in voting for things I like with my wallet that way artists I like can survive. Unfortunately, not all people think this way. I have friends who earn a (very) decent wage but still (exclusively) download music. Why pay for something when you can get it for free seems to be the thinking. It's not helped by prices or the industry itself (why are they surprised sales are down when they've become increasingly short sighted as to their acts? Make quick money now rather than plan for the future). I'm just not sure that there aren't a lot of people out there undermining the good arguments for file sharing (the try before you buy model for example).
With the price of CDs still as high as it is, is it any wonder that people would rather risk pirating than paying extortionate prices for music. I think not!
Amanda T, Stourbridge UK
I object to being asked to pay almost £1 per track for a download. This equates to the same price for an album's worth of tracks as buying the physical CD in a store, despite there being none of the associated costs such as physical manufacture, distribution, retail outlet rental, store assistant wages etc. In other words the record companies and still profiteering. Downloads should be 10p each at most.
Andy Massey, Hertfordshire
I regularly download music illegally. I refuse to pay any money to record companies so they can sign and promote the atrocious noise that is currently in the charts. When the musical quality is improved I may change my stance of music purchase. The blame being passed to file-sharers is unfair as the bigwigs in the music industry needs to look more closely to what they put out under the guise of music.
The majority of musicians make their fortunes (in some cases obscene amounts of money) through promotions and touring, not through the sale of CDs. Finally there are several pay per download sites which means the reliance on swapping music freely is in decline. I think the industry would be better off embracing the technology than trying to fight against it.
It has been proved that the music industry combined the sales figures of tapes and cd's to make it appear that file sharing had caused a slump cd sales, when in truth the sale of cd's has in fact increased year on year.
Silent Bob, Southampton
I don't understand the music industry, they have been making large sums of money out of the general public for years, so its time the industry had a re-think on the whole subject. Itunes and others are downloading at a cost but this cost is just the same as buying a CD from the high street, so people will still carry on downloading for nothing if they cut the price of music then paying for it would increase.
I used to buy a lot of CDs. However I will never buy another CD again. My reason for this is simple. With the new copy protection rubbish that CDs have now they have become useless to me. The only music player I have in the house is my IPOD linked up to an amp. If I can't copy the CD onto my mp3 player than it becomes a worthless beermat. If the recording industry insists on treating me like a thief by refusing to let me use my music in the way I want then I shall become a thief.
CD prices have been unjustifiably high from the outset, leading to monstrous egos in the music industry. They all earn far too much and downloading music is a just revenge until prices get sensible.
The BPI claims that musicians livelihoods are being affected by people downloading songs for free. The problem with this statemement is that you only have to look at the obscene amount of money that is given to these people for making records. One look at MTV's Cribs programme is enough to realize that even the most average artist is living in the lap of luxury and is worth millions. If the record companies charged nominal prices for a CD, ie £2 per CD, and paid the artists more sensibly, file sharing would probably become irrelevant
Simon Cutts, Sheffield
It seems that instant money is the only motivator as usual. The industry does not seem to understand that many people may download a few album tracks, and as a result go out and buy the CD, but would never have done so if they had not had the opportunity to 'preview' the material'. The same was the case of taping LPs years ago. With radio stations only playing a limited playlist of top 40 dross, there is no other means to hear most artist,s work. For every £ or $ the industry loses from one downloader, it will gain from another, but I doubt the industry has researched this, and even if it has, chooses to ignore in the pursuit of more profit.
Easy answer - make CDs cheaper! We know that we are being ripped off compared to what people in America and Europe pay. There was a massive debate a number of years ago about the pricing and what happened after? Prices went up again! I have stopped buying CDs and don't blame others for swapping on the net - it is about time the music companies realised they are at fault for this surge in piracy.
Rob, London, UK
I'll tell you what should be done. The British Phonographic Industry should stop ripping off artists and consumers alike and start playing an honest game. They operate an immoral cartel whereby they hold British consumers to ransom and squeeze the very last penny out of them. Never mind telling us we are stealing from them, they have been lining their own pockets in the most despicable and cynical way for years. Stuff 'em!
Chas Knight, Duxford, UK
If you go to a shop buy a CD/DVD/video, then it is yours and I think it should be entirely your choice if you wish to share that media with the world. You paid for it thus you own it and you should be able to do what you like. These new laws are coming out just so that music companies can make more and more money.
Rizwan Saleem, UK
I have been downloading music for around 7 years. I have bought countless albums which I would have never been exposed to if I hadn't sampled the music first. The industry is scared that when we get music for free, we can evaluate it unbiasedly. We might just click on that most music these days is rubbish.
Danny Austin, Notts, UK
Perhaps the fact that CDs cost £10+ has a lot to do with this so-called problem. I would also add that I believe the increased exposure that musicians have due to the internet can and does lead to an increased awareness of the artist or group and a subsequent increase in legal sales in many cases. It's a great way of getting to know about new groups outside of the clutches of big business.
Jez, Rochdale, England
How is the music industry going to sue 52 million PC users? They should just face facts and find someone else to rip off.
Alfie Noakes, North of England, UK
I stopped buying music a number of years ago due to financial constraints, and fell out of the habit of listening at all even once I had money again. It was only once I got a PC and downloaded music that I started buying again. It was downloading that reawakened my love of music... and re-opened my purse. Make music affordable (and give us more variety) and we will buy.
Reading, Reading, UK
File sharing is killing many forms of popular culture. If you file share, think how you'd feel if it was your stuff being nicked. What if you spent a couple of years making your first album only to have it hijacked? All the time you invested, the debts you incurred and the promise it held for you will come to nothing. The music industry also needs to help people play by the rules. They need to rein in their rapacious greed and start offering people better value.
David Alexander, London
Can't the music industry see they are fighting a losing battle? Next, we will be sued for using a screwdriver for anything else but turning screws. Perhaps they should look for other ways of making their money BEFORE the music hits the streets. Live concerts, radio stations, licensed DJs, just some ideas...
Holger, Bristol, UK
This is nothing new - 30 years ago when I was a student we used to copy albums many times onto cassettes (audio tape). The problem now, as then, is that music is too expensive, distributed inefficiently and too often when you have bought the album, much of it is rubbish. The industry has been slow to embrace legal downloading and has put petty obstacles in the way like needing special software. They have only themselves to blame.
Mark, Glasgow, UK
The current reaction to illegal music downloading is completely off the mark. What the BPI should be concerned about is the proliferation of copied CDs, which appear for sale in markets and, unwittingly, in high stores. This is piracy for profit. When I download or copy music to share with my friends, it is almost invariably a compilation rather than a full album. We don't share music for profit, but for pleasure. The music industry should thank us for spreading the word about the products.
Dan H, London, UK
I download music "illegally", in that I don't pay for the download. However, I almost always go on to buy the music on CD. For me the attraction of downloading is the ability to try before I buy, and thus to avoid wasting my money on music I don't enjoy listening to. And of course my actions are affecting record sales - if I don't like what I hear, I won't buy it! However, the converse is also true - being able to download samples of an artist's work makes me more likely to buy things I wouldn't otherwise have bought. Admittedly I'm very honest and will always either buy the music on CD, or delete the mp3s - probably not typical of the people being targeted by the BPI.
Jack Hatfield, UK
£2 - that's how much it costs to buy a single and to download one from a legal site costs about 67p. If you don't pay your money, record companies can't sign new acts and to be honest British music needs decent new acts.
Graham Campbell, Lossiemouth
Hang on a second. Has anyone ever considered what would happen if we removed the billions of pounds spent on the music "industry"? And that is what it is, just manufacturing artists and marketing them. Wouldn't we just be left with talented artists, and good music, made by people who do what they do for pleasure and a reasonable living?
I've downloaded music in the past but have recently stopped doing so. Not because of the threat of legal action but because of the spyware that has become an integrated part of any file swap software. I refuse to allow my computer to be hijacked for a few free songs. Also as I don't own an mp3 player and my car only takes cds I get very limited use from the tracks I have downloaded. As for the legal action I believe the BPI has the right to do what it is doing. But only if it works with its members to improve the quality of music available to buy. No wonder CD sales have increased in the last year with the arrival of new fresh acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Keane and more recently Kasabian. Keep churning out rubbish like the Cheeky Girls and CD sales will decline once again.
This is how an angry public reacts when you spend the last 10 years charging £15 for a CD. The industry has ripped us off for years so perhaps this is a fair retribution.
Rob Watson, Winchester, Hampshire
The BPI is right to take action, but it needs to be aware why people download music. Putting it simply, it's too expensive! Consumers realised they were getting ripped off when you could buy the exact same recording on LP or cassette and it cost considerably less. I personally think downloading is good for the industry, and cannot be blamed for the decline in sales. Cost and taste have big influences.
Anthony Collins, Basingstoke
If music was sold at a price that was more acceptable in the UK, then maybe piracy would end. I can buy two CDs in Europe for the price of one CD in the UK, from the same range of music. I can even import music cheaper than buying it in the UK.
Dan A, Manchester, UK