It is time to end an era of tainted tunes September 11, 2009 — by Denise Lin These days, most teenagers can be spotted, earbuds attached, mouthing the lyrics to their favorite song—idolizing the singer, imitating the singer and, in some cases, becoming the singer to the surprise and fright of the surrounding passersby. Suddenly, her headphones emit an unintentional, high-pitched hiccup and cease to play, leaving our energetic teenager in mid-strum on her virtuoso air guitar performance. Welcome to the world of illegal downloading. These days, most teenagers can be spotted, earbuds attached, mouthing the lyrics to their favorite song—idolizing the singer, imitating the singer and, in some cases, becoming the singer to the surprise and fright of the surrounding passersby. Suddenly, her headphones emit an unintentional, high-pitched hiccup and cease to play, leaving our energetic teenager in mid-strum on her virtuoso air guitar performance. Welcome to the world of illegal downloading. Considering the sheer number of culprits, illegal downloading poses quite the pickle. This file-sharing lowers the quality of music but, more importantly, it jeopardizes nascent song artists’ chances to make it in the industry. France has already taken action by approving a “three strikes” law that allows officials to block offenders from the web if they continually download copyrighted material. However, this law is proving to be difficult to enforce. According to Turkish Weekly, legal experts say the law will not hold up in court because it requires the government to cut off people’s Internet access before they can defend themselves. Freedom to use the Internet is considered a right, just as the freedom to access information. According to Cnet News, the European Parliament has shown its stance on this issue by passing a measure that forbids the European government from interfering with an individual’s internet access without a judicial order. In this situation, it is difficult for the government to regulate and limit file-sharing on the Internet without being accused of violating people’s freedom to exchange information. The solution to this international dilemma is to draw the public toward buying music legally, rather than repeatedly punishing illegal file-sharers. While people who illegally obtain music are unlikely to suddenly start paying for their songs, they would perhaps be swayed toward purchasing legal songs if illegal music became sparse and legal music became cheaper. If iTunes were to lower the cost of their songs, more people would be willing to spend the money in exchange for legal, good quality music. The government can further alleviate the problem by unplugging illegal transactions at the source. To avoid potential complaints about privacy invasions and freedom restrictions, they should switch their target from individuals to companies that are using copyrighted material illegally. It is basically impossible for the government to catch all the people who illegally download material; many people are even dodging the bullet by using overseas sources. This method of exposing, challenging and banning illegal websites has already been proven to be achievable through the case of Napster, which used to be a popular base for exchanging free music. It collapsed after being challenged in court and later became the legal site it is today. That proved to be a victory for music artists, because Napster users now have to pay for their songs. The crackdown on Napster was a step forward for the government as well, and if the government takes similar action on companies such as LimeWire, the amount of illegal downloading will begin to decrease. In order to prevent illegal downloading in the future, preteens should be educated on the topic of illegal downloading, especially the negative effects it has on them and their society. It is time for the end of an era of tainted tunes.