There are certain things that a person’s college experience wouldn’t be complete without: a roommate whose idea of courtesy is asking, after using your towel, to “clean up,” frustration over grades (A-/B+? It can’t be both! Which one is it?) and the endless downloading of music and movies off of the Internet. Recently, however, the college students who usually choose to ignore the fact that their downloading of media off of the internet is illegal have been forced to reconsider because of the lawsuit by the recording industry against 261 seemingly random people deemed guilty of violating copyright laws by their illegal sharing of music. For some this action taken by the RIAA comes as no surprise, but to others it has prompted fear that they might be next. This is certainly not the first time that the users and distributors of illegal media have come under fire, and it certainly won’t be the last. Current software, such as programs like Kazaa and Morpheus, uses what is referred to as “p2p” technology, where files are shared among users and are not taken from a central database, as was the case with the not-so-recently deceased Napster.

During my constant summer channel-surfing I came across an infuriating commercial in relation to the above issue. It was a commercial, in so many words, that decried and berated the public’s illegal sharing of media files, claiming that the money that should have been spent to buy those CDs and movies pays the salaries of the many ordinary and hard-working people who make the recording and distribution of entertainment possible. In other words, the key grip guy ain’t gettin’ a raise because I illegally downloaded a few episodes of “Sex and the City.” But as much as I’d like not to, I guess I can understand where they are coming from. It is the revenues from the sales of movies and CDs that pays a large part of these people’s salaries and to opt for an illegal method of obtaining them does make a difference. It gets better, though. The commercial featured Ben Affleck as the industry’s mouthpiece responsible for guilting us into buying our music legitimately. He has the nerve to lambaste us for downloading a few free songs when he and every other actor and actress like him insist on being paid exorbitant salaries in the millions of dollars for, compared to the multitude of “behind the scenes” people that he has just jumped to the rescue of, considerably less work. Not until actors and actresses begin demanding significantly less for the jobs they do will I even consider stopping my illegal downloading of music and movies. Not only would this act of graciousness and humility on the part of Hollywood more than make up for the revenues lost to music piracy, there would be, I’m certain, more than enough left over to feed a handful of Third World countries. And since I don’t see that happening anytime soon, bring on etallica!

Now as much as I may present a facade of calmness when it comes to this issue, I am personally scared stiff that I might be next on the recording industry’s hit list. Despite this, however, I do think that the industry’s random targeting of alleged “criminals” is inane and serves no purpose but to punish a few for the indiscretions of the many.

There are currently more than 3.5 million users logged into Kazaa and this by no means includes every single user. To hunt down and prosecute each and every user of Kazaa and other file-sharing programs would be inefficient and entirely impossible. And if memory serves me right from my Intro to Ethics class, this form of punishment would merely serve as a deterrent, hoping to curb the use of these programs by current and potential users. It is because of this that I am quite certain that no one from the RIAA has ever come in contact with a college student. There are plenty of things that are forbidden on Georgetown’s, and practically every other college’s, campus. In fact, they’ve been compiled into a book called the Student Code of Conduct. These rules, however, are broken and re-broken by students on a fairly regular basis. If university sanctions cannot deter its students from participating in illegal behavior then I highly doubt the miniscule chance that one might be prosecuted will. So on behalf of myself and all my fellow students, I have just one thing to say to the Recording Industry in response to its threat of lawsuits: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Geofrey Pickering is a junior in the College.

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