Symbols are communication shortcuts, allowing people to convey information almost instantly. 


The stop sign. The recycle symbol. The simple stick figure of a man or woman. 


But what symbol would you use to curb the theft of music online?

Most people may think that illegal downloading and sharing music ended when the original peer-to-peer network Napster had to shut down in the early 2000s, but Joanne Ullman says that is not the case.

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Ullman is a psychology instructor at UNLV. She is researching which symbol might be able to stop people from illegally downloading music.

The reason many people believe illegal downloading music has ended is legal streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, which allow subscribers to stream music from their devices, are easy to use and offer songs by thousands of artists.

But Ullman said there are still websites and apps that allow people to illegally download and share music.

“Since it’s a worldwide phenomenon the United States as the biggest producer of music it is very concerned about this,” she said.

The music industry loses millions of dollars a year because of illegal downloading. Ullman said it is a constant battle between peer-to-peer sharing sites and copyright holders. As soon as one site is taken down, another one sprouts up.

Ullman said there are two kinds of people who download music.

“Some of them know they are doing it illegally, but others unknowingly do it illegally,” she said.

Ullman would like her symbol to target both of those groups. She thinks it is unlikely that those who are committed file sharers will change their ways, but it might alert people who don't know what they're doing is illegal. 


Joanne Ullman, psychology instructor, UNLV

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