Looking for music on the Internet? Does the site you are looking at say that you can download songs for free? Do you know this site could compromise your position as a law-abiding citizen? Are you ready to get slapped with a criminal record?

Under pressure from greedy record companies and grumbling artists, the Recording Industry Association of America is considering prosecuting children as young as eight (maybe younger) for downloading free music and other files off similar sites. ''Why do they do this?'' you might ask, after all wheres the harm in sharing? After all, somebody had to initially buy the CD in order to let others download it. Unfortunately this isn't how most the record companies see it.

They say you are effectively stealing from the artist every time you download a song without paying for it. However, contrary to this, some artists have openly come out in favour of file-sharing and this new freedom to listen and share their music. Artists don't really make a great deal of money from their CD and album sales; the megabucks come from concerts and merchandise. Besides, although big names like Britney Spears and Matchbox 20 make so much money anyway, they are the real ones losing out. The advantage is that small bands can be heard with this file-sharing. If a few kids start a band in their basement it is much easier to generate a large fan base now. There may soon be a lack of starving artists dying on the streets, trying to find the right "contacts" (alas, those greedy record labels appear again).

Meanwhile, the record companies, which sit there and take all the credit, are the only ones losing money.

The record companies' point-of-view can be summed up in this argument: "Do you expect me to believe file-sharers are 'Robin Hoods' stealing from the rich to give to the poor?" No, I highly doubt anyone who owns a computer and can worry about downloading songs is actually poor. Maybe by our new "modern" standards of poor. All I am saying is file-sharing really isn't all that bad. It is like taping a song off the radio or your favourite show while you go out for the night. It may be higher quality, but that comes with technology.

Until there is a reasonable way to stop downloaders (I am sure this system of sparing millions and nabbing children for file-sharing is somewhat off), they will continue. A decent hacker will always find a way around all society's ties and restraints. Sure there are some good ideas (i.e. charging 99 cents a song being the best yet), but the businesses need to get over it. Big business is the one that started the progression of pushing others to be the best and newest. Well, free music and the freedom to choose anything to listen to is the newest and biggest thing. Who cares why businesses suffer for the adaptation of the new times? We are coming into a new era and those businesses are either with us or against us, right? What can I say? They started it. Ultimately, we must finish it.

We must rally together and get the artists to sell their music directly to their fans; eliminate the complaining middleman. If companies would make ways to sample their music on their sites this would not be a problem. Besides the expensive prices and unavailability of certain songs purchased any other way, we can also consider how easy the "illegal" way is. First of all, all you have to do to get free downloads is go to a search engine which will find you thousands of free downloading sites. Second, they are very easy to listen to with media players installed in computers, not to mention portable mp3 players and ipods making it fairly easy to have four weeks of music on one tiny disk.

It is a hard fight, and no one knows which way to go. Record producers and businesses involved in those sales hate this free downloading and file-sharing, while at the same time businesses are profitting by selling expensive technological hardware so that the public may listen to these files. Everyone should have a fair 'piece-of-the-pie,' and although no one should "take" music, until there is a better way, it is the duty of everyone who loves music to spread the word and help create an easier way to share music legally.