Taken directly from USA Today.
Gateway campaign champions music downloads
By Katie Nelson, Gannett News Service
Tapping into top-notch tunes can be a mouse-click away, but folks enrolled in Gateway computer's new digital-music classes could be burning their way into a controversy between cutting-edge technology and the law.
San Diego-based Gateway recently launched a nationwide campaign advocating the free exchange of digital music, employing TV commercials, Web sites, CD giveaways and free computer training classes.
Other major computer manufacturers, including Compaq, Apple and Dell, also are pushing low-cost or free CD burners as a way to boost business. But none is stepping up for consumer rights as visibly as Gateway, nor enduring the subsequent heat from the entertainment industry.
Opponents of the campaign say it's a ploy for business.
The Recording Industry Association of America is criticizing Gateway, accusing it of profiting from the sale of software used in the illegal downloading of copyright-protected material.
"If only they would devote a little bit of the millions of dollars they're spending on this ad campaign to help stop illegal downloading," RIAA President Hilary Rosen said to NewsFactor Network, a technology news Web site. "But that wouldn't help them sell more CD burners, would it?"
The campaign includes free digital classes that are being offered at more than 100 Gateway stores across the country. Instructors show users how to legally download music, burn and rip CDs and create files for MP3 players. The three-hour class also covers copyright law and how to access subscription and promotion-based MP3 Web sites.
"We feel we are taking a firm step toward allowing people to really use the music that they purchase," Gateway spokesman Greg Lund said.
The campaign was prompted by legislation proposed by Sen. Fritz Hollings, the South Carolina Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill, which is still being debated by the committee, would require the creation of security technology to block the unpaid download of copyrighted material. It also would block consumers from making spare copies of legally acquired material and from burning public-domain and personal digital files — all perfectly legal now.
Still, nearly 1 billion illegal CDs were sold on the black market last year, costing the entertainment industry $4.3 billion, says the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. As a result, sales declined 5%, federation researchers said.
Consumer advocates disagree, pointing to a sour economy as the cause for decreased sales. Instead, they applaud Gateway's involvement in the issue.
Gateway is standing its ground and will continue its campaign.
Nearly three-fourths of consumers who download music from the Internet say they now spend the same amount of money, or more, on music purchases, one Gateway study says. And more than half of computer owners say they are more likely to buy a CD if they can first listen to sample tracks, making the music industry's claims empty.