According to a recent survey by Broadcast Music Inc. ("BMI"), one of the three largest entities in the USA which deal with the right to play musical works in public, about 26,000 Internet sites incorporate audio files. Some files first have to be saved to disk by the user and then played (e.g. .wav or mp3 files). Others, like Streaming Audio, play on the user's computer without his first having to copy them.
Like everything else on the Internet, the range of music is amazing: from simple passages on private sites to whole virtual record shops (like CDNow or Music Boulevard), which offer the customer brief clips to encourage him to purchase recordings; from commercial sites, which integrate music for encouraging surfers to do business with the site, to radio stations which broadcast over the Internet; from midi files made by enthusiasts to complete recordings (Interjuke Home) or live performances (http://www.liveconcerts.com).
Alongside all these are pirate sites that offer music files which have been copied from recordings without the copyright owner's permission. The mp3 file type especially encourages the establishment of such pirate sites. An ordinary music file tends to be very large. On the Internet, large file size means long downloading time. The advantage of the mp3 format is that it reduces file size by compressing it ten or more times with negligible loss of quality. Such a file, when played on computer, produces first class FM sound, very close to CD quality. It is therefore not surprising that at the beginning of 1997 student sites were flourishing in the USA, having converted to mp3 without the copyright owners' permission. The recording companies are taking aggressive action against sites of this type.
This profusion, involving new technology and global access, is confronting copyright owners with new problems: basic policy problems; new legal issues; and problems in the area of enforcement and collection. Here are some of them:
Translated by Word Power