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Dialogue Café tackles Internet downloading issue

What: Dialogue Café: The Lowdown on Dowloading

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What: Dialogue Café: The Lowdown on Dowloading

Where: Telus Conference Centre

When: Monday, April 19 at 8 p.m.

The Whistler Forum for Dialogue has handled some hot topics in the past year through its open Dialgue Cafés – the extinction of native North American languages, the Olympic Games, social sustainability, helmets, world peace – but the next item on the agenda should spark a lively debate: The Lowdown on Downloading.

Are people who download music off the Internet breaking the law? Is the practice of downloading copyrighted materials a crime or a civil offence, and what are the overriding moral implications? Are the artists wrong to complain? Are the recording companies?

Is it a problem with the technology or a problem with people? Is it time to crack down? Is it too late? Is it even possible? And why oh why can’t our court system decide the issue once and for all?

The Lowdown on Downloading takes place during the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, which is a celebration of arts and music as well as sports, and features performers that are sensitive to copyright issues. The discussions will be moderated by Hal Wake from UBC’s Talk of the Town.

"No one is sure what the moral high ground is here," said Wake. "We need to hear all points of view to explore what the current issues are and how the relationship between creator and consumer might look in the future."

The Dialogue Café on music downloading is particularly timely with the Canadian Recording Industry Association appealing a March 31 decision by Federal Judge Konrad von Finckenstein that downloading music from the Internet is no different than photocopying pages from a textbook.

The CRIA recently took Internet Service Providers to court to force them to reveal the identities of 29 music sharers, whom they intended to pursue with civil suits, just as their counterparts in the U.S. have done.

So far the courts have been confusing at best. One judge found it was legal to download but illegal to upload. Another said it was legal to do both.

The music industry meanwhile is faced with a crisis. The CRIA says that sales of CDs in Canada have fallen by more than $450 million, or 23 per cent, since 1999, and they place the blame squarely on peer-to-peer services that allow people to trade music online. Some traders have libraries consisting of thousands of songs.

While most people acknowledge the fact that the music industry is suffering, some music fans defend downloading. They believe CD costs were too high in the past, and that the music industry is essentially a monopoly that sets prices and trends while keeping independent musicians down. Many say they would give money to the artists, and object to the size of the music industry’s share of profits.

Some people have also claimed that the music industry was too slow to embrace the latest technology and create an Internet business model, and as a result is at least partially responsible for its current problems. The rapid emergence of online pay music services like Apple’s popular iTunes gives credence to that claim,

The Dialogue Café discussions are open to everyone, and all participants are encouraged to take part in the discussion.

The Whistler Forum for Dialogue was created in conjunction with the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue. This is the 15 th Dialogue Café since the discussion series kicked off in June of 2003.

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