The Mp3 Controversy

What used to be just an audio compression format has become the heart of an enormous controversy.

The Mp3 format lets anyone who has access to the Internet download any song they want and in doing so, bypass recording companies and musical artists.

Mp3 is wonderful for people who want to get songs quickly and efficiently, or for people who are too cheap to buy the CD, but it is frustrating for all the companies who are watching their profits go down the tube because of musical piracy.

WAV has been the best quality sound type for quite a while.  WAV files are typically digital audio data files that work with Microsoft Windows WAV. A WAV file is a binary file, which consists of a 44-byte header and its corresponding sound data (dadisp.com). CDs are just a collection of WAV files that make up the tracks.  Mp3 is a compressed form of a WAV.  Mp3 stands for MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) Audio Layer three.  This is the most recent of three progressively more advanced audio coding schemes, and it adds a number of advanced features to the Layer 1 and Layer two designs. Among other features, layer three uses entropy encoding to reduce to a minimum the number of redundant sounds in an audio signal (CNET 1999).  MPEG sets the standards for audio and video compression.  With this layer three technology, the WAV is converted without a loss of sound quality and is shrunk down to 1/12th the size of the WAV format.  This size difference allows people to save more space on their hard drives, and also lets them download songs in 1/12th the time.

How does the Mp3 reflect my culture?  Well, I am a computer science major.  Computers consume a big part of my life, so I hear about all about computers and computer-related subjects.  When I talk to other people who are interested in computers, the question of Mp3s usually comes up.  Discussion of the Mp3 format is widespread because it is a standard computer audio format.  I listen to Mp3s, update my Mp3 software, and talk about Mp3s daily.  The prevalence of Mp3s makes them a part of my culture as a computer savvy person, and also a part of my life.

There has been much controversy over this format.  Because the Mp3s are so small and easy to obtain, there have been many people downloading them and listening to full version songs.  There are websites popping up daily claiming to have thousands of songs on their servers.  Songs are being given away without respect to their owners.  The illegal use of the Mp3 format infringes on the basic rules specified in the Home Recording Act of 1992.  This act deals with the duplication of audio and adds the tenth chapter to the Copyright Act.  The second part of this chapter states that “infringement actions for home taping by digital or analog methods are prohibited.”

Music artists record songs to earn money.  When a person copies a song in any format to his or her computer, he or she is stealing that song from whoever owns the copyright on it because of the amendments to the copyright act enacted by the Home recording act on October 28, 1992.  People do not understand or do not want to recognize that downloading a song off the Internet is the same as stealing the album from the store.  In both situations, a music title is attained without payment to the copyright holder.

Here is a look at the legality of this issue.  It is legal for people to make duplicates of the songs they own and put them on their computer, but it is illegal to distribute them.  It is also legal to download a Mp3 album provided that one deletes the song after 24 hours.  In some cases, people are allowed to listen to songs for 24 hours so that they can preview them before they make a purchase.  Song previews were not intended to be in the place of actually purchasing the CD.

The illegal use of Mp3s is a definite Christian conflict.  If something is illegal, it violates our Christian beliefs.  There are Christian websites that speak out against the unlawful use of Mp3s.

My advice for people who are interested in Mp3s would be to stay within the legal guidelines stated previously.  The FBI may be chasing after more significant things than music pirating, but it is misguided to think that if someone will not get caught using Mp3s illegally, it is right.  Mp3 is a temptation and a controversy that is not likely to end anytime soon because the government is still addressing issues concerning the use and legality of Mp3s.  Mp3s themselves are not illegal, but some of the uses of Mp3s can be.  Please make the right decision when downloading Mp3s.



About The Author


Eric Vanderburg

Eric Vanderburg is an author, thought leader, and consultant. He serves as the Vice President of Cybersecurity at TCDI and Vice Chairman of the board at TechMin. He is best known for his insight on cybersecurity, privacy, data protection, and storage. Eric is a continual learner who has earned over 40 technology and security certifications. He has a strong desire to share technology insights with the community. Eric is the author of several books and he frequently writes articles for magazines, journals, and other publications.

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