Distributing other people's music without permission is against the law. When you have the proper licensing in place, you can release your music with confidence. If the foundation is shaky, you may be hesitant or nervous. That's not the kind of mental attitude that will help you spread your music effectively. According to the Recording Industry Association of America the penalties for copyright infringement can be severe:
Making unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings is against the law and may subject you to civil and criminal liability. A civil law suit could hold you responsible for thousands of dollars in damages. Criminal charges may leave you with a felony record, accompanied by up to five years of jail time and fines up to $250,000.
The music industry is tight-knit. As you create music and build relationships, your reputation will affect your ability to further your music. By securing licensing, you build a reputation as a professional that respects his or her peers and their craft. You build trust and gain respect within the music community.
In the music world, what goes around comes around. The licensing royalties you pay go to musicians just like you. Often, composers thank us for doing things right and respecting their music. Musicians make money in more ways than just album sales. The more you make music, the more you will realize the power of earning from royalties. Respect your peers' rights and expect them to respect yours.
"I probably won't get caught anyway, right?" You might be right. But the importance of respecting the copyright law goes way beyond "not getting caught." Do the right thing and you will feel good about your music and good about yourself. Positive thinking and respect for yourself and others will lead you to riches beyond financial wealth including peace of mind and a life full of love, strong relationships, and good health. Trust your heart. Do what you would normally do. Would you steal at the shopping mall?
As a musician, a parent, an example to your peers and to future generations, integrity may be one of the most important lessons you teach. By educating your peers about these matters by word and by example, you strengthen tomorrow's musicians, and give them knowledge and respect for their trade.