How to avoid getting a copyright violation complaint
Surveys of young adults show that they generally understand that
sharing copyrighted music (or TV, movies, books, software) without
permission is at least a technical violation of the law. Interesting
things can be said about (1) is this stealing (2) record companies
are robber barons (3) fair use (4) sharing exposure promotes artists
which helps sales and (5) just sampling to see if you like it. They
will not be said here.
Nothing said here should be relied on as legal advice.
If you need legal advice, you should contact a lawyer. University policy
is clear: Users may not use University networks or computers to violate
intellectual property rights.
What is actually illegal: Uploading or Downloading?
Probably both, since both are copying and users don't have
permission to make copies. But as a practical matter, the RIAA
and MPAA focus on Uploading (sharing with others). And as a
technical matter it is much easier for them to find Uploading than
How do people get caught?
Copyright owners hire companies that specialize in finding materials.
They join the Internet with automated clients -- some would call them bots --
that hunt the net looking for titles. The focus is on popular material,
but any copyright owner can purchase services to check up on their
property. We have never seen a copyright complaint about Hungarian
If I use a chat program like IRC to send a song to someone, is
that Uploading or Downloading?
It is copying without permission, and therefore illegal. The name
doesn't matter. Surveillance by copyright owners of file sharing networks cannot
see this kind of transaction. If you met someone on-line and she
asked you to send a song, and if that person was under
cover working for the record industry, you would be nailed.
Can I rip my CDs?
Permission to make a personal copy relies on the license you purchased
when you bought the CD. If you sell the CD after you rip it, you no
longer have the license.
How about not sharing?
is a good strategy to avoid copyright problems, but only if you are sure you're
really not sharing.
File sharing as a phenomena would not work well if there were no Uploaders
to provide materials for the Downloaders. File sharing programs compete
with each other for your attention. They are selling advertising. They
need to be popular. They get popularity by having content. One thing they
do is make it easy to share and hard to not share. The program might, for
example, continue to run (and share) even when it is not visible on your
screen. And many of the programs are written to reward members of their
community that give back (share) by arranging for faster
downloads. If you don't share, you get poor performance.
A problem with a not sharing strategy is that many programs Download into
the Upload directory. Everything you pull down becomes immediately
available for Uploading. And immediately means immediately. During
the download process, your computer may start sharing parts of the files
as the download progresses. You are then downloading and sharing (uploading)
at the same time.
So even if you move all your booty out of the download directory as soon as
it's complete, you were offering uploads long enough to get found.
But I paid for my file sharing program
A commercial copy of LimeWire PRO is available for $34.95. It may give you some advantages relative to the free version, but the terms and conditions make it clear (should you actually read them) that you can only share materials where you have permission. Failure to read the fine print would not get you off the hook for a copyright violation.
Private file sharing?
A dark net runs on limited scope inside a campus network. Reconnaissance
on campus internal networks is certainly an extra challenge for the copyright
services companies. In 2003 some students publicized private file sharing on
their campus networks. http://news.com.com/2100-1027-995429.html Perhaps the
publicity of an in-your-face challenge was too much for the RIAA to ignor.
This is the sole example of private file sharing that has led to a
settlement where users paid money to copyright owners.
Theory: First one's free
This theory holds that every student is entitled to a warning before there
are serious penalties. "The first time I get caught, I'll stop."
Similar theories for unprotected sex have been largely discredited.
In the case of copyright, a more accurate theory is "first one is $4000."
As legal things go, that really isn't very much money. Last year,
copyright owners sent twenty takedown request warnings for every letter
demanding payment. But some users got the $4000 surprise as their
Theory: It was an accident
$4000 is not a fine for a criminal violation. It is a settlement of
a claim for damages. Criminal intent is not required. If you damage
a record company by taking their stuff, they can sue you whether or
not it was on purpose.
Which sharing programs cause trouble for users?
We do not have an exhaustive list because there
are so many. There are lots of different file sharing networks
(BitTorrent, WinMX, DirectConnect, Gnutella, etc) and then for each
of them, there are many programs that permit users to join that network.
There is a list at http://www.slyck.com/programs.php
What color car will minimize your chances of getting a speed ticket? It
is probably easier to answer that question than Which P2P program
is least likely to be seen?