Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2001

The fine line between right and wrong

March 8, 2001

When searching for that one special person to spend the rest of your life with, there are certain characteristics you look for.

A sense of humor is a must. The person should also be ambitious and somewhat intelligent. But above all, he or she should be of good moral character.

I've always made it a point to seek out people who are just a little better than I am in all of those categories, giving me something to strive toward. What better way to improve yourself than to have someone pushing you in the right direction?

I thought I had found all of that with my husband. During the 10 years I have known him, he has always been the one person I could count on to take the high road. If a cashier gave us back too much change, he would be the first to point it out. If he borrowed something from a friend, he returned it in the same condition.

Too good to be true? Apparently so.

I recently found out that my husband is a thief.

That's right, for the past two months, he has been stealing music over the Internet.

It seems he has been caught up in the Napster craze that has turned so many good people bad over the past couple of years.

For those who don't know, Napster is an Internet site that provides a means for people to log on and share their music files. In other words, it allows users to download copyrighted music for free.

It's stealing, plain and simple.

The Napster folks and the recording industry have been fighting it out in court since the site began in January of 1999. According to Napster, they don't participate in the transfer of files; they simply provide the technology for users to do so. According to the record industry, the site is guilty of aiding and abetting the music thieves.

A judge recently ruled in favor of the record industry, and ordered Napster to install software that would prohibit the downloading of copyrighted material.

In the meantime, millions of music thieves have flooded the site, trying to get all of the ill-gotten booty they can before the change is made.

The issue has divided my household. Chris (the aforementioned thief) has a thousand arguments, or as I call them, rationalizations, for why it is not wrong.

First of all, he says, the site simply allows him and other music fans the opportunity to sample music before buying. It allows them to find new bands they may never have otherwise heard, therefore actually increasing record sales.

That argument could be valid were it not for the fact that he has downloaded hundreds of songs in the past couple of months and has yet to purchase a new CD.

Second, he says, the record industry has been overcharging the public for too long and he and his fellow band of thieves are heading up a revolution. Technology has finally caught up with them, he says, and they now have to re-think the way they do business.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the flaw of that logic. The record industry has made a hefty profit over the years, no question. But the fact remains that we live in a society driven by supply and demand. The record companies, like all other successful businesses, charge exactly what the public is willing to pay.

Finally, my husband argues, Napster allows people to find music that is not available in stores.

When it gets right down to it, that may be my biggest complaint about the site. Even in my worst nightmare, I never imagined there would be six versions of the Spiderman theme song.

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