Dangers of Downloading Music, Movies, Books, Software, Games and Other Copyrighted Content

Vicarious Infringement

Concerns about copyright aren’t limited to large record labels and big corporate media agencies. In fact, Metallica and Dr. Dre were among the first to take legal action against Napster in the year 2000.

The defense Napster used was that they didn’t have any illegal content on their servers. They simply provided a communications hub for people to share a variety of files, but they couldn’t be held responsible for how people used their network.

Ultimately, the A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. case made it clear that Napster was violating copyright law through vicarious infringement:

“Napster agreed to pay music creators and copyright owners a $26 million settlement for past, unauthorized uses of music, as well as an advance against future licensing royalties of $10 million.” (Source)

Individuals Fined for Copyright Violation

While Napster was vicariously aiding and abetting in stealing intellectual property, the users who were downloading music and other copyrighted content were in direct violation of the law, as were those who participated by allowing their hard drives to be part of the world-wide peer-to-peer network.

Following the shutdown of Napster, numerous high-profile cases resulted in lawsuits and fines of individuals who had only engaged in limited download activity:

Agressive Surveillance and Enforcement

According to a report by NewScientist.com:

“Anyone who has downloaded pirated music, video or ebooks using a BitTorrent client has probably had their IP address logged by copyright-enforcement authorities within 3 hours of doing so.” (source)

Services like YouTube have automated scanning and matching systems that immediately identify copyrighted content and take it offline.

Many employers, organizations, and enterprises, in an effort to protect themselves from vicarious infringement lawsuits, are consistently scanning their networks for any download or transfer of copyrighted content. If network traffic to or from your work computer contains copyrighted materials, your network port may be shut down and your computer may be confiscated. Even if the activity was the result of a virus or malware, or someone else accessing your computer, or using your network port, there could be negative outcomes and implications.

The Irony of Stealing From Your Favorite Artists

In addition to being illegal, there’s an irony to people stealing music and other content from their favorite artists. If a person really likes the music of a certain artist, then why not support that artist financially?

Breaking the Law as a Form of Protest

Some people continue to download illegal content as an act of rebellion and protest. They feel that the MPAA and RIAA are violating privacy laws, that their power is too far reaching, and the penalties are excessive.

Sometimes people serve their own selfish interests by stealing a variety of entertainment media, and then convince themselves that they are serving the public interest. When in reality, their “act of protest” has no impact, and they are just depriving artists and those who support them from having the revenue needed to sustain their work.

Feeling Lucky, Punk?

When there is wide-spread defiance of certain laws, people have a feeling that ‘everyone is doing it’ so it’s unlikely that they will get caught. Like going over the speed limit in traffic when everyone else is speeding. They imagine their defense if caught, “Everyone else is doing it.” That may have worked in grade school, but it doesn’t work when breaking the law. As the cases listed above illustrate, anyone is at risk of being caught.


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