Digitalisation and the increasing use of the internet have made music widely accessible. But since most fans do not buy the albums or songs of their favourite musicians in a brick-and-mortar online store, musicians often lose an important portion of income. But they stress that the damage is more than just financial.

Many users have access to music through various platforms free of charge but most such practices are illegal. When an author creates a piece of music, it becomes their private property. The author has the freedom to decide how it should be used.

Under the law - in Slovenia, the copyright and related rights act - any such piece of music is protected by copyright from the moment it is created. A violation of copyright is thus similar to stealing private property.

The violations cause more than just financial damage to authors. Illegal use of the material can mean streaming it in low quality, without reference to the author or in a modified form.

By protecting authors' copyright, users enable musicians to continue to make quality music and indirectly finance the organisations that help regulate the industry.

Illegal downloading is not the only violation of copyright

Collective organisations have been created to ensure effective implementation of authors' rights and enable easy access to copyrighted music. In Slovenia, copyright in music have been managed by the SAZAS organisation since 1998. The organisation negotiates on a fair fee on behalf of authors, issues permits for the use of music works, monitors their usage, and pays royalties.

SAZAS also oversees the implementation of other copyright. If, for example, an owner of a hair salon wants to play music to their costumers they must not only buy a CD or pay for an on-line streaming but must also pay a fee to SAZAS. The money is then distributed among the authors based on the actual usage of their works.

The organisers of any kind of musical events must also obtain SAZAS's permit before the event takes place and afterwards inform the organisation of the number of music works performed.

Numerous violations and millions in damage

While it is impossible to precisely determine the number of illegal downloads of music, SAZAS has data on some other violations. Last year, a total of 5,795 events by 814 organisers were carried out without SAZAS's permission and 4,213 users paying a lump sum failed to obtain a permit for using protected musical works in their offices.

A total of 1,440 users did not submit the necessary data for calculating the royalties for 4,155 events, while 2,557 users did not pay a fee to SAZAS. In copyright for music alone, the annual damage is estimated at EUR 4m. No other EU country has such systemic violations of copyright rules at the state level, the organisation says.

According to SAZAS, piracy remains the biggest problem, because copyright cannot by regulated in the digital environment. "Piracy or the illegal use of contents is so strongly rooted in our society that it seems we can no longer distinguish between legal and illegal use."

Paying for music allows authors to continue creating

The band Joker Out, comprised of Bojan Cvjetićanin, Matic Kovačič, Kris Guštin, Martin Jurkovič and Jan Peteh, has been active for just over two years. The boys are making their own music and do not want to focus on adaptations of existing songs, according to Kovačič.

The young band - the members are between 19 and 20 - already has experience with copyright violations, as their music appeared on a Russian illegal downloading portal without their knowledge.

Jurkovič says the band suffered no direct damage as a result but would at least want to be named as the author. They believe the work of musicians is equal to any other type of work, so they consider respecting copyright an absolute must.

Music listeners should be aware that if musicians were stripped of the possibility of making music no new music would be made, the young musicians warn. There is no such risk for world acclaimed musicians, who top music charts, but many others, who make far less with their music, can easily run out of money.

Payable on-line services as an alternative

The members of Joker Out are aware of the fact that in the digital age it is hard to persuade people to buy CDs, so they advocate streaming platforms, which Guštin sees as one of the best alternatives to illegal downloading of music.

"For five euro a month, you can get virtually any kind of music in the best possible sound quality and artists get paid. If you download music illegally, you steal quite a lot of money, mainly from less known authors," Cvjetićanin says.

However, sound and poetry artist Gašper Torkar, does not think streaming platforms are the best solution because the authors of music receive just a fraction of the money.

He sees intellectual property in the information age of rapid information flow as a multi-layered notion. Internet, where music has the biggest range, can be an area where the authors lose their rights through illegal downloading but also a tool that can empower individuals and small music labels to be autonomous and work without the traditional go-betweens.

Torkar is also the author of an installation dubbed Zvoki Sprememb (The Sounds of Change), which he created as part of EU projects Sounds of Changes/Zvoki sprememb and ICYDK: In Case You Don't Know. He used and interpreted the sounds that were recorded and is now presenting them at the Technical Museum of Slovenia in Bistra.

Piracy as a marketing tool?

Rapper Rok Terkaj aka Trkaj believes piracy has a positive side as well. People who do not have money to buy music can also enjoy it, and the author reaches a wider audience. "It's a kind of free marketing," he believes.

"Networks that could be described as a source of pirate contents did me a huge favour at the beginning of my career, so in a way I support them. But of course it would be good if people also paid a little something so the artists can survive," he says.