You may recognize Benni Cinkle as the awkward dancing girl in Rebecca Black’s viral music video, “Friday.” But Benni has a music career of her own, which includes a hit single – “Gotta Get Out.” Check out what Benni had to say about illegal music downloading.

I’m a pretty straightforward person. And even though I care a lot about other people and try to always be considerate of their feelings, I still believe in speaking my mind and pretty much call it as I see it.

So when Naked Magazine asked me to do a guest blog on where I stand on illegal downloading, I was all over it.

Because here’s the thing: We all know it’s not right to take something that’s not yours. I don’t care if it’s a bag of M&Ms from the corner store or 10 dollars from your mom’s purse; if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, then you’re stealing. There’s just no way around it. 

Some people think that stealing is only a problem if they get caught doing it. And that’s pretty messed up. I mean, think about it. Just because you don’t suffer the consequences of doing something you shouldn’t do doesn’t mean it’s okay to do it. 

Think about the guy that owns the corner store with the M&Ms, or your mom and the 10 dollars. If you take something that’s not yours, somewhere along the way, someone is going to be impacted by your choices.

The guy at the corner store will lose out because he’s already paid for those M&Ms when he bought them from his supplier.

And your mom is going to be out money, too — money she or probably needs to pay a bill or take care of you and the rest of your family. 

And that’s just not cool. 

The same thing is true with illegally downloading music.

We all know there are plenty of places online that make it really easy for people to download music without paying for it.

That doesn’t make it right.

Music is a business. And that means that there are a ton of people behind every single that gets downloaded for free who don’t get paid when that happens.

People with families and house payments and maybe even M&M habits to feed!

That might not seem like a big deal when you’re downloading a song that normally costs $1.49 on iTunes and paying nothing for it.

But multiply that across thousands of songs, and tons of people who don’t think twice about illegal downloading, and it begins to add up. 

There’s another side of the equation too, a part of illegally downloading music that doesn’t get talked about too often, and that’s the negative impact it has on the charities that rely on donations from artists who promise to share a portion of their music sales with them. 

When I released “Can You See Me Now,” I decided to donate 100 percent of net profits to a few non-profit organizations that help kids in crisis, including GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms), and a charity I started over a year ago, the That Girl in Pink Foundation, just to name a few.

For my second single, “Gotta Get Out”, I chose Children of the Night, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing children from the streets and providing resources to teens who are forced to live outside their homes, to be the beneficiary of my donation.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

Forget for a moment about all the people who work in the music industry and rely on iTunes and concert sales to pay their bills, and think about the charities that miss out when someone illegally downloads music — plus all the people those charities help.

You take something that doesn’t belong to you, and even if you don’t get caught, someone, somewhere down the line, pays the price. Maybe in ways you’ll never know. 

So next time you hear someone rationalize downloading music without paying for it, remind them that if the artist wanted them to have it for free, they would have made it available for free.

Written by Catherine Powell