The difference between stealing and downloading (copying) is that if I steal a car, the owner no longer has it; if I copy a file, the owner still has it.
Imagine if the “replicator” machines on Star Trek became reality, and you could just replicate your neighbor’s Ferrari…
This is why I object to the “stealing” analogy: it’s not analogous. Still, doesn’t make it right. But consider these scenarios:
If I download a song that I would never listen to if I had to pay for it (e.g. something by the Spice Girls or Jolin), the artist loses no money.
If I download an obscure song that’s unavailable in my market, the artist loses no money. They should have released it into my market.
If I download a song I already have in my CD collection in the US, the artist already has my money.
If I decided to download a song to see if I like the artist’s work, and I find I do, I might end up buying CDs by the artist. This “try before you buy” scenario can help boost sales.
The recording companies could have prevented piracy by reducing the prices of CDs. Back when CDs first came out, they cost about US$15, whereas a record or tape cost about US$7.50. But they cost no more to manufacture. It was predicted that the price would come down. It never did…they still cost an average of US$15 per CD. This opened the way to piracy, something that always happens when a product is grossly overpriced. And now instead of accepting piracy as part of the territory and a natural reaction to overpricing, the greedy companies, afraid of that instead of making billions and billions of dollars they’d only make billions of dollars, decided to act like assholes and sue 12-year-old girls and old grandmas. They made their own situation worse instead of doing the right thing: reducing their prices.
I wish there was a way to pay the artists directly and bypass the greedy recording companies altogether.