Britney, Nelly, Missy Elliott Want You To Quit Stealing Music

By | September 27, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Remember when Michael Greene, then-President of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, warned us all about the unlawful evils of Internet file sharing during the Grammy Awards back in February? Soon people will get an earful straight from those who make the music.

Britney Spears, Missy Elliott and Nelly are among the artists set to appear in TV spots as part of an awareness campaign to educate people about the legal and financial ramifications of unauthorized file sharing, according to a Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) spokesperson. The ads were first shown Thursday at a congressional hearing in Washington and are expected to be broadcast nationwide next week.

A print ad campaign also launched Thursday (September 26) with full-page ads appearing in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers and legislative trades. On a bright yellow backdrop, the ad poses the question, “Who Really Cares About Illegal Downloading?” then proceeds to list 80 artists who apparently do, including Ashanti, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Ludacris, P.O.D. and Marilyn Manson.

“Would you go into a CD store and steal a CD?” Britney Spears asks in the ad. “It’s the same thing, people going into the computers and logging on and stealing our music.”

The industry’s case against unauthorized file sharing is about more than preventing successful artists such as Spears, Dr. Dre and Jay-Z from adding to their bank accounts, according to the RIAA. The purpose of the campaign is to combat “the wholesale theft of music that threatens the livelihoods of everyone from artists and songwriters to manufacturers, sound engineers and record store clerks.”

“We really look at it as stealing,” Nelly’s pull quote in the print ad reads, “because to us it’s black and white, either you pay for it or you don’t. And, you’re not paying for it.”

The recording industry views unauthorized file sharing as copyright infringement and blames its prevalence, in part, for the slump in CD sales over the last several months. More than 2.6 billion music files are downloaded without authorization each month, mainly through unlicensed peer-to-peer services such as Morpheus, Gnutella and KaZaA, the RIAA estimates. Last year, CD shipments were down five percent from the previous year, and the first half of this year finds shipments down another seven percent, according to their statistics, which also estimates the industry loses $4.2 billion to piracy, including illegal bootlegging.

Spearheading the campaign is Music United for Strong Internet Copyright (MUSIC) Coalition, a four-year-old organization consisting of the RIAA (which represents the major labels), the Association for Independent Music, the American Federation of Musicians, NARAS, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and the Christian Music Trade Association, among other industry groups.

“I understand why people download music, but for me and my fellow artists, this is our livelihood,” P. Diddy said in a post on MUSIC’s Web site. “When you make an illegal copy, you’re stealing from the artist. It’s that simple. Every single day we’re out here pouring our hearts and souls into making music for everyone to enjoy. What if you didn’t get paid for your job? Put yourself in our shoes!”

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