As soon as I heard that there was a single from the new Annie Lennox album (Bare) floating around ("1000 Beautiful Things"), I immediately surfed until I could find it...I had it about six weeks before the album came out and it was beautiful to listen to and I knew that I would be buying the album (I own ALL of the Eurythmics albums (most on vinyl, cassette AND CD) and both of Annie's previous albums). I couldn't afford to buy the album on the day it came out so I downloaded all the songs that night. On the Friday of that week (three days later) I bought the album...
I intended to buy the album from the beginning, but only downloaded the .mp3s to tide me over until I could afford to buy the album. I don't consider that stealing, but merely borrowing/previewing. Considering that I could just as easily rip the copy that I now own, I don't think it's a problem that I STILL have those same .mp3s to listen to when I'm at my computer since I don't have a portable .mp3 player and I've got my purchased copy of the album in my car stereo.
Many of the .mp3s in my collection are songs that I own anyway. I've got a lot of my old 45s and favorites from my 33s. I've gotten things that I've had on cassettes that are dying (including those old "Personics" mix tapes that used to be sold at Square Circle/Record Town years ago).
I occasionally will download .mp3 of things I have on CD since I haven't yet sat down to rip mp3s from my own CDs, though I consider that it's pretty much the same end result, so who is it hurting?
Many of my other .mp3s come directly from http://www.mp3.com and are from bands/artists that don't really have actual recording contracts or are copies that the record companies themselves released to the fans for free in this fashion.
Some of my other .mp3s come directly from the artists' webpages (particularly my Jill Sobule and Janis Ian stuff). These are songs that the artists themselves gave away to their fans...what do the RIAA have to say about sharing THESE files that were MEANT to be shared freely?
Okay, it's true that I have the oddball file here and there that is merely a new single that I've downloaded instead of buying an entire album...but I'm currently poor. When I've had/I have a regular stream of income again, I intend to support many/most if not ALL of these artists by buying the actual albums (I SO prefer to hold the CD book in my hand and read the liner notes/lyric sheets and look at the pictures...gosh, I miss the old vinyl album covers and the great artwork they held). Some of the .mp3s in my collection are a song or two from artists that were on my "recommendations" list at Amazon.com and I downloaded a song or two sound-unheard to decide whether or not I would like them (quite a bit of the time, I just end up deleting the song and clicking on the "why was I recommended THIS" link before clicking the little button that says "not for me"...ugh...). This is no different from utilizing the listening stations at FYE where I work to preview the CD before buying it.
Also, since I currently work at FYE, it's important for me to KNOW the new songs/artists. Some of the stuff I download is merely for research purposes. I read a few columns online about new music and like to download to listen to the artists that I've never heard of so I know who I might be able to suggest the music to. THIS is, I feel, a legitimate use of the .mp3s that I download. I love to recommend great new music/artists to my customers. Hell, I love to recommend great new music to my FRIENDS, too!
When I worked as a karaoke host at a local bar in town, we'd often get new discs. Since I wouldn't necessarily know a lot of the new songs, I would occassionaly just download an .mp3 and keep it only as long as it would take me to learn the song (since I was one of the two hosts, I would be expected to know more songs and be able to take requests). Remember, if I'm singing the song in the bar, someone may never have heard it before...that person may come up and ask me later what that song was and who did it...(or they may see that information on the karaoke television screen)...and they would go out and buy it THEMSELVES!
I also have an extensive collection of Old Time Radio shows that I share. I have many selected episodes of Suspense, Dimension X, Lux Radio Theater, Fibber McGee and Molly and many others. Many of these shows are only sparcely available for purchase. If I COULD I WOULD purchase them (but I don't want to purchase them merely from someone ELSE who is bootlegging them). I've recently become obsessed with completing my collection of an odd little show called "I Was a Communist For the FBI"...there are only 78 episodes and I've so far acquired 33 (with at least 9 more incomplete in my "Napster"-type program (though they may resume at any time)).
Meanwhile, Paul produces a radio show. Any songs that HE downloads are meant for airplay on his show. That's right, he has a legitimate use for EVERY SINGLE THING he downloads. He plays them on his show, therefore promoting ALL of THOSE wonderful novelty artists (many of whom, by the way, send him CDs to play on his show). Some of the various artists that you might hear on his show (or on Dr. Demento) are no longer in print (or may never have BEEN in print). This is the only way for him to acquire many of these songs.
Come on, RIAA...it's time you re-evaluate why many of us use our file-sharing programs. Many of us DO have legitimate uses for these programs and also DO believe in supporting the artists that we listen to (and I'm sure many of us also simply grab .mp3s from others because they can't figure out how to rip their own CDs!).