The Pros And Cons Of Digital Music Files


Very much has changed about the way businesses and people in society handle their work and personal business. With the introduction of advancements in technology, a great many improvements have been made that have benefited us and helped improve our quality of living. The internet, for example, has greatly revolutionized the way we retrieve information, and it has also expanded our ways of communicating with one another. What could only be done through landline phones can now be done over the computer via instant messaging, chat rooms, and video conferencing.

How we communicate and how we conduct business are not the only things that have changed. One sector that plays an important role in a lot of people’s lives has also made great strides in technology. That sector is music and all things that are related to music.
The way we listen to music has changed, and the way we record our music has also changed as more instruments feature better ways of recording. From instruments to the very songs that we listen to, technology has definitely changed the way we utilize these things in our everyday lives.

First came the 8 track. Then the cassette tape. Then the compact disc, and now music is downloadable via the internet. The usual cost of a single song is about 99 cents, but some sites will offer whole albums at a discounted price, and sites like Zune allow unlimited downloads for just a few bucks every month. There is no need to buy an actual compact disc at a record store anymore, which has affected music stores nationwide. Many big music names, such as Wherehouse and Virgin, have shut down many, if not all, of their outlets.

The other bad side about digital music files is the issue of piracy, and it has cost many musicians millions of dollars in lost sales. File-sharing programs and sites are readily available and accessible by just about anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. Thus, these files can be uploaded onto a computer and shared freely over these file-sharing sites and programs. At the expense of musicians, all it takes is one person to buy these files, make them available on these sites or programs, and virtually anyone can download them.

There is no way to monitor each individual who downloads files that are protected by copyright laws, and it is up to the individual to decide whether or not they will or will not use these file-sharing sites or programs for their music.

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Cypherpunks Freedom and the Future of the Internet – Julian Assange with Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Muller-Maguhn and Jeremie Zimmermann
internet piracy
Image by Iron Man Records
"Cypherpunks is gripping, vital reading, explaining clearly the way in which corporate and government control of the internet poses a fundamental threat to our freedom and democracy". — Oliver Stone

"Obligatory reading for everyone interested in the reality of our freedoms." — Slavoj Zizek

"The power of this book is that it breaks a silence. It marks an insurrection of subjugated knowledge that is, above all, a warning to all." — John Pilger

Buy Cypherpunks Freedom and the Future of the Internet here:

Cypherpunks are activists who advocate the widespread use of strong cryptography (writing in code) as a route to progressive change. Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of and visionary behind WikiLeaks, has been a leading voice in the cypherpunk movement since its inception in the 1980s.

Now, in what is sure to be a wave-making new book, Assange brings together a small group of cutting-edge thinkers and activists from the front line of the battle for cyber-space to discuss whether electronic communications will emancipate or enslave us. Among the topics addressed are: Do Facebook and Google constitute "the greatest surveillance machine that ever existed," perpetually tracking our location, our contacts and our lives? Far from being victims of that surveillance, are most of us willing collaborators? Are there legitimate forms of surveillance, for instance in relation to the "Four Horsemen of the Infopocalypse" (money laundering, drugs, terrorism and pornography)? And do we have the ability, through conscious action and technological savvy, to resist this tide and secure a world where freedom is something which the Internet helps bring about?

The harassment of WikiLeaks and other Internet activists, together with attempts to introduce anti-file sharing legislation such as SOPA and ACTA, indicate that the politics of the Internet have reached a crossroads. In one direction lies a future that guarantees, in the watchwords of the cypherpunks, "privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful"; in the other lies an Internet that allows government and large corporations to discover ever more about internet users while hiding their own activities. Assange and his co-discussants unpick the complex issues surrounding this crucial choice with clarity and engaging enthusiasm.

Publication November 2012 • 192 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-939293-00-8 • Ebook ISBN 978-1-939293-01-5

Julian Assange is the editor in chief of WikiLeaks. An original contributor to the cypherpunk mailing list, Assange is the author of numerous software projects in line with the cypherpunk philosophy, including the Rubberhose encryption system and the original code for WikiLeaks. An ‘ethical hacker’ in his teens, and subsequently an activist and internet service provider to Australia during the 1990s, he is the co-author (with Sulette Dreyfus) of Underground, a history of the international hacker movement. "Julian is currently a refugee under the protection of the government of Ecuador, and lives in the Ecuadorian embassy in London."

Jacob Appelbaum is a staff research scientist at the University of Washington, and a developer and advocate for the Tor Project, which is an online anonymity system for everyday people to fight against surveillance and against internet censorship.

Andy Müller-Maguhn is a long time member of, and former spokesman for, the Chaos Computer Club in Germany. A specialist on surveillance he runs a company called Cryptophone, which markets secure voice communication devices to commercial clients.

Jérémie Zimmermann is the co-founder and spokesperson for the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, the most prominent European organization defending anonymity rights online and promoting awareness of regulatory attacks on online freedoms.


I want to look at what I see as a difference between a US cypherpunk perspective and the European perspective, which I think is quite interesting. The US Second Amendment is the right to bear arms. Just recently I was watching some footage that a friend shot in the US on the right to bear arms, and above a firearms store it says ‘Democracy, Locked and Loaded,’ and that’s the way that you ensure that you don’t have totalitarian regimes – that people are armed and if they are pissed off enough, then they simply take their arms and they retake control by force. Whether that argument is still valid now is actually an interesting one because of the difference in the types of arms that have occurred over the past 30 years. So, we can look back to this declaration that code-making, providing secret cryptographic codes that the government couldn’t spy on, was in fact a munition, and this big war that we fought in the 1990s to try and make cryptography available to everyone, which we largely won.

In the West?

In the West we largely won and it’s in every browser – it is now perhaps being back-doored and subverted in different kinds of ways. The notion is that you cannot trust a government to implement the policies that it says that it is implementing, and so we must provide the underlying tools, cryptographic tools that we control, as a sort of use of force, in that if the ciphers are good no matter how hard it tries a government cannot break into your communications directly. Maybe it can put a bug in your house or whatever.

Force of authority is derived from violence. One must acknowledge with cryptography no amount of violence will ever solve the math problem.


And this is the important key. It doesn’t mean you can’t be tortured, it doesn’t mean that they can’t try and bug your house or subvert it some way but it means that if they find an encrypted message it doesn’t matter if they have the force of the authority behind everything that they do, they cannot solve that math problem. This is the thing though that is totally non-obvious to people that are non-technical and it has to be driven home. If we could solve all of those math problems, it would be a different story and, of course, the government will be able to solve those math problems if anyone could.

But it’s just a fact. It just happens to be a fact about reality, such as that you can build atomic bombs, that there are math problems that you can create that even the strongest state cannot directly break. I think that was tremendously appealing to Californian libertarians and others who believed in this sort of ‘democracy locked and loaded,’ and here was a very intellectual way of doing it – of a couple of individuals with cryptography standing up to the full power of the strongest suit of power in the world. And we’re still doing that a little bit, but I wonder, I have a view that the likely outcome is that those are really tremendously big economic forces and tremendously big political forces, like Jérémie was saying, and that the natural efficiencies of these technologies compared to the number of human beings will mean that slowly we will end up in a global totalitarian surveillance society. By totalitarian I mean a total surveillance, and that perhaps there’ll just be the last free living people – and these last free living people are those who understand how to use this cryptography to defend against this complete, total surveillance, and some people who are completely off-grid, neo-Luddites that have gone into the cave, or traditional tribes-people. And these traditional people have none of the efficiencies of a modern economy so their ability to act is very small. Are we headed for that sort of scenario?

First of all, if you look at it from a market perspective, I’m convinced that there is a market in privacy that has been mostly left unexplored, so maybe there will be an economic drive for companies to develop tools that will give users the individual ability to control their data and communication. Maybe this is one way that we can solve that problem. I’m not sure it can work alone, but this may happen and we may not know it yet. Also it is interesting to see that what you’re describing is the power of the hackers, in a way – ‘hackers’ in the primary sense of the term, not a criminal. A hacker is a technology enthusiast, is somebody who likes to understand how technology works, not to be trapped into technology but to make it work better. I suppose that when you were five or seven you had a screwdriver and tried to open devices to understand what it was like inside. So, this is what being a hacker is, and hackers built the Internet for many reasons, also because it was fun, and they have developed it and have given the Internet to everybody else. Companies like Google and Facebook saw the opportunity to build business models based on capturing users’ personal data. But still we see a form of power in the hands of hackers and what is my primary interest these days is that we see these hackers gaining power, even in the political arenas. In the US there has been these SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) legislations – violent copyright legislation that basically gives Hollywood the power to order any Internet company to restrict access and to censor the internet.

And banking blockades like the one we’re suffering from.

Exactly. What happened to WikiLeaks from the banking companies was becoming the standard method to fight the evil copyright pirates that killed Hollywood and so on. And we witnessed this tremendous uproar from civil society on the Internet – and not only in the US, it couldn’t have worked if it was only US citizens who rose up against SOPA and PIPA. It was people all around the world that participated, and hackers were at the core of it and were providing tools to the others to help participate in the public debate.

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