Piracy: On the Street
Digital music theft often grabs headlines, but millions of illegal music CDs are manufactured and sold in the United States each year. They can be manufactured by corrupt CD plant operators as well as in clandestine operations engaged in the large-scale burning of music to blank CD-R discs that are then sold in flea markets, on street corner tables, even in local retail stores. The copying and trafficking of pirated music is an increasingly sophisticated trade plied by savvy multi-state criminal operations that distribute illegal product designed to resemble authentic CDs and replace legitimate sales.
But what is the crime? Why is this important? Who gets hurt? The answers are simple. The crime is theft. If music is important to you, then this is an important crime. And everyone who makes, enjoys or earns a living in music is hurt.
Think about it: the makers of fake products don’t pay the songwriter, the musician, or the recording studio costs. They don’t develop new artists or finance the promotion or the marketing of new music. Music pirates aren’t in the music business, they are in the plastics business. They buy and sell plastic and get consumers to pay them 10 to 20 times their cost for a blank disc by simply loading that plastic up with stolen music.
We also know that not only music creators and fans are impacted by theft of music but so too are taxpayers. One credible study by the Institute for Policy Innovation pegs music piracy’s ANNUAL harm at $12.5 billion dollars in losses to the U.S. economy as well as more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American workers.
In short: legitimate sales are being replaced by sales of counterfeit goods, and the people who create, package and legally sell music are paying the price. The damage is real and demonstrable and undercuts the economic foundation of the most creative and vibrant music industry in the world.
We are fortunate to have federal, state and local law enforcement working tirelessly to combat street piracy – a problem that costs local economies millions of dollars in tax revenue and is frequently tied to other criminal activities. Each year, hundreds of law enforcement departments across the country engage in thousands of anti-piracy actions. Yet the sophisticated, multi-state operations of today’s pirate trade demand even greater awareness and action across the board – from us, our partners in the music community, law enforcement and music fans.
When consumers buy the real thing, everyone wins – not only the fan who bought a high-quality CD, but also the enormous cast of industry players working behind the scenes to bring music to your ears. That cast includes songwriters, recording artists, audio engineers, computer technicians, talent scouts and marketing specialists, producers, publishers and everyone else involved in making music.