A Lesson In Copyright Law

Richard Schlesinger. Music web page.
CBS
They used to be the music industry's best customers. Now they're its biggest pirates: college kids.

Instead of buying songs for 99 cents each, legally, on sites like iTunes, the Internet has given them instant access to free music.

"It seems so easy that it's almost not like stealing," a University of Southern California student named Paul told CBS News business correspondent Anthony Mason.

Mason asked college students if they illegally download all of their music.

"Not all of it," a student named Brianna told him.

But they do download most of it, according to some USC students — even though the recording industry has sent threatening letters here. Do the letters scare them?

"No matter what they do, it's never gonna stop completely," Paul said.

A real-time readout of illegal downloads puts the problem in perspective.

Downloaders go by in the hundreds per second — requests for Buddy Holly, Miles Davis, Avril Lavigne and many others.

These are big numbers.

"They're terrifying numbers for the recording industry," said Eric Garland, the head of bihchampagne.com. a research group that tracks illegal traffic.

Today alone, reports Mason, Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" was downloaded illegally more than 137,000 times.

For every song that is downloaded legally, how many are downloaded illegally?

"At least, very conservatively, at least 20," Garland said.

That's right, 20 to one. It took iTunes five years to sell 2 billion songs. But there are 1 billion illegal downloads every month.

"The world now, more often than not, gets its music for free, gets its music online and gets its music without permission," Garland said. "That's broken. That is not a marketplace."

And if the music industry can't find a solution, it's looking more and more like the song is over.