Debate: Downloading Music

By Glenn & Jake 

Ever since the sleeper success of Napster in the 1990s, downloading music has been, much like apple pie and pizza pie, an American staple. One now has the option to legally download the latest Katy Perry songs via services like iTunes, yet many choose to illegally download songs and albums through shadier means. Is illegally downloading music an ethical dilemma or merely a thrifty way to discover the latest underground bands and indulge in Britney Spears’ classic hits?

Glenn: I was there, with you and with the rest of America, in 2000. We logged onto Napster and finally saw a world without the music industry in it. Music was all free and anything you could search for, someone could host on a 28.8k connection. Much like the dawn of human cloning, this was uncharted ethical waters. Anyone with a computer and an interest in David Bowie’s “back catalog” explored Napster and illegal downloading in the same way people with an interest in human cloning sought to catch the Thin White Duke’s DNA sample from the Earthling tour. Now that the dust has settled, the verdict is in: stem cell research is wrong and so is downloading music.

Jake: If it were not for the over-availability of music for download, I would not have ever sampled many of the songs of jazz legends or avoided many of Katy Perry’s lesser hits. Thankfully, in the internet age (of which we are currently living), there is a better way to hear new music than on the Dr. Demento radio program. Is it ethical to download music? Well, it would be unethical for me to say it is when I shoplift regularly, How can one say that one form of stealing is wrong, while another is a-okay. All stealing is fine.

Glenn: “All stealing is fine” is one of the most outrageous statements of ethics I have heard since I attended a town hall presented by President Barack Obama. During the event, Obama was asked if it was okay to download music you didn’t like and he said it was. The logic is a bit shaky but the analogy he used was walking out of a grocery store with a rotten watermelon that you threw off a tall building. Since I’m not a conservative I think about the consequences of my actions. If I download music illegally, I’m not giving money to the bands I like. Then they can’t afford their drug addictions and I develop a drug addiction based on the leftover money I have. I support the legalization of marijuana (like any thinking person) but cannot advocate drug addiction or the unstable actions of an indie star going through withdrawal.

Jake: Glenn would rather have us living in some sort of drug-addled capitalist nightmare than to be able to acquire our music for free, digitally. Fact: Glenn has asked me at least 20 times to find albums for him to illegally download. Fact: Glenn has burned more American flags than members of Built to Spill have burned marijuana cigarettes. Is this really the man you want representing you? I have only burned one American flag and openly advocate downloading music. Is it ethical to burn an American flag? Yes, it is the best way to protest anything going wrong in America. It is a metaphor for the way our country is going up in flames due to Tea Party idiots and President Obama bending over backwards to make a deal with conservatives. Steal music, burn a flag, live your life.

Glenn: We already live in a drug-addled capitalist nightmare. Of course I have asked Jacob to download albums for me illegally- I’ve even done that myself. But I’ve also killed someone in a hit and run accident. Does that mean I cannot condemn such behavior and work to defeat Iowa Governor Terry Brandstrad’s efforts to decriminalize it? There are so many ways to legally download music now: iTunes, Motherless, Amazon, eMusic, Spotify, Redtube. Why bother with the illegal and less reliable ways? When the gap between rich and poor increases to the point there is no choice but armed revolt, most music will cease to exist anyway. The new Democratic Socialist government will pay musicians to create music like the early Soviets paid artist to create art. All the songs will be about the glory of the revolution and covers of old Smiths songs. So please download legally while we still have laws and viva Morrissey!

Jake: Why bother to illegally download music when I can pay for it? Because it cost a lot of money to purchase an album. I could spend $10 to buy a digital copy of the latest GWAR album or I can illegally download it. Either way, I will never listen to it! If I go the route of illegally downloading it, I can spend that $10 on half a gallon of gas or a small popcorn at a movie theater. While, I would agree that music is more important than popcorn drenched in a butter flavored oil, it is still a necessity and I could not go see any of the eight unforgettable remakes Hollywood releases every weekend. Gas is also a necessity to commute without being a victim of frottage or to make a molotov cocktail, which I can throw through the window of my noisy neighbor’s house.


  1. I learned two things from this post: Terry Brandstad is trying to decriminalize manslaughter, and people regularly come up to Jake and rub their genitals on him when he tries to walk to work! I think the morality of illegal music downloads is the least of your worries!! Great Debate!!!

  2. I just read "Terry Brandstad" as "Terry Bradshaw" and was wondering what a football commentator had to do with laws, besides the laws of football, that is.

  3. I read this on my Kindle last night and I laughed several times! This is a pretty good debate.

  4. In the dimension from which I come, downloading music is not illegal. Nobody pays for music anymore. Concerts are very expensive, though. It cost me $500 to see The Eagles.

  5. Obus your dimension is the same as ours in this respect.


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