Have you ever tried to download music from the Internet? Where do you go? A logical starting place is to type in “download music” at a major search engine. The search results you would see include a number of well known music services like Apple iTunes, Rhapsody, and Yahoo! Music Report Scam and get your money back. But a majority of the sponsored links scream to you with messages like “99 Billion Songs”, “Free”, and “No Download Fees”. Sounds pretty enticing? But, is it too good to be true? Read on to find out.
When you click on one of these sponsored links you will be taken to a very professional looking site. For this article we’ll call the site MusicScamSite.com. The home page again reiterates the messages “Free!”, “No monthly fees” and “No per song fees”, along with promises of a very large library of songs; 12 million, 99 million or even 99 billion. Just “click here to download”.
If you still decide to proceed further and volunteer your email address, you get another surprise on the next page: This free service requires a $34.95 membership fee for unlimited access. Or you can pay $1.37 per month for 2 years access. Hmm, this is an odd definition of free. But it’s not unusual that “free” things often have a small fee associated with them, and $35 is a reasonable price to pay for unlimited access to music. And since you are paying a fee, it must be a legitimate service, right?
You have already given up your sacred email address, so what’s another screen with your address and credit card information? You proceed. After successfully completing the transaction you finally gain access to the secret member’s area. Here you will find links to software that you need to install on your computer in order to start downloading music. Commonly linked to software include LimeWire, and various versions of Kaaza and Gnutella. But wait a minute! Are these not all freeware, peer-to-peer type applications? Indeed they are. And all the music files that you thought were provided by MusicScamSite.com are in actuality coming from your peers – users of the same peer-to-peer software.
Now you start to feel scammed. Isn’t this illegal? While most people would probably agree that it is unethical to charge money for something that is otherwise available for free, it is probably not illegal. And besides, when you read the fine print of the terms of service you will notice that “the fee assessed by MusicScamSite.com entitles you to access the location, evaluation, and or recommendation of software products available from the web site and for the installation and technical support provided. All software recommendations refer to software that is available without charge to individuals at large for specific purposes.” In other words, you are not paying for the software, just their recommendation of the software and their technical support.
But isn’t it illegal to download music from peer-to-peer networks? Again the fine print absolves MusicScamSite.com from any responsibility: “Original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain intellectual compositions are protected by copyright law. Purchasing a membership in MusicScamSite.com does not give you license to download or upload copyright material. MusicScamSite.com implores you to respect copyright laws and share responsibly.”