I'm with you on this, Alice. The musicians that I know who have CDs in release are generally living pretty close to the bone. They count on selling those CDs at gigs or through local shops and internet sites like Amazon, County Sales, etc. for a big chunk of their income. My understanding is that with Napster and the like, I could post the entirety of, say, The Boney Goat Band's latest CD without their approval and then anyone who wanted to could download it for free. The artist then receives no money for their music.
This seems very wrong to me. I believe strongly that unauthorized duplication vioaltes the law and does hurt independent artists and labels.
But then, this gets all tied up with another pet peeve of mine: Folk artist's work is not held in even the same regard as that of plumbers. We're often asked to play our music for free at schools, fund raisers, etc. Then when we point out that we make our living this way and can't really afford to do all the freebies that come our way, people are offended. However, they'd never think of asking a plumber, accountant, electrician to work for nothing.
But that's another rant for another thread, eh?