We’ve all done it. Because its so great. You hear a song or you hear of a song. You log onto a file sharing network and download the song. You listen to it on your computer, you burn it onto a CD, and you put it into your MP3 player. This is the best way to acquire and listen to music that has ever been invented.

I first did this in 1998. I’ve used Napster. I’ve used Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire, and countless other file sharing networks. I had one of the first Rio players. I’ve played MP3s on PDAs and cell phones. And I love the iPod. If this sounds like a confession, it is.

Because stealing is wrong. And it has to stop. And I think it will.

I’ve had file sharing software on all the computers in my house for years. My kids used them. I used them. But the day that Apple came out with the iTunes music service, I removed all the software from all the computers in our house. I gave my kids a monthly allowance on the iTunes service and taught them how to use it (which took about a nanosecond because its so intuitive). We’ve been legal ever since.

I read earlier this week in Frank Barnako’s Internet Daily that the use of file sharing networks is down 41% since the RIAA starting suing people several months ago. That’s a good thing contrary to most people’s opinion. Stealing is wrong and the music industry had to come up with a good PR initiative to make that point loud and clear. I think they’ve finally found that PR initiative in these lawsuits. They aren’t looking to crush anyone. In fact, most of the initial lawsuits have already been settled.

But playing hardball isn’t enough. Because most of us aren’t stealing because we don’t want to buy music legally. We are stealing because downloading is the best way to acquire and listen to music that has ever been invented.

So the music industry had better hurry up and get their entire library online. Do it now. Because they’ve got a window of opportunity to close the deal with consumers. But it won’t last forever. And if they blow it now, then consumers will realize that they don’t ever have any intention of giving us music the way we want it.

And then I will go back to Kazaa, Morpheus, Limewire, and the rest. And I won’t come back next time.

#VC & Technology