Five Things You Must Know About Illegal File Sharing

The following guest post was written by Dave Owens, a 2010 graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law.

In a post Napster world, fewer and fewer young people have an ethical dilemma with using peer-to-peer (“P2P”) file sharing to download copyrighted material. To some it may seem so common that legal ramifications are not a reality. But those who engage in P2P file sharing should be aware that media companies have been vigilant in enforcing their copyrights.

For instance, earlier this year the producers of The Hurt Locker sued 5,000 individuals who illegally downloaded their film via Bit Torrent. Now it’s important to note that P2P programs can be used for a variety of non-infringing uses. But before downloading or sharing any material, an individual should be aware of the following:

Find Out the Five Things You Must Know About Illegal File Sharing


5.  File Sharing Can Make You Susceptible to Viruses

This is not a legal issue, but something you should definitely be aware of. You generally will not know with whom you are sharing files. The files may contain spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, and/or worms. Open ports on your firewall can make you susceptible — a hacker may be able to access your personal computer. Enabling your firewall or installing anti-virus software can minimize these risks.

4.    The Internet Isn’t as Anonymous as you Think

The Internet allows you to create email addresses, usernames, and avatars to disguise your identity. You may think that these measures will shield you from liability. They won’t.

The infringement can be identified through your IP address. What’s an IP address? It’s basically a social security number for your computer. Your network assigns a unique identifying number to the computer. A copyright holder can then subpoena the Internet Service Provider and trace the infringing activity back to you.

3. File Sharing is Likely Not a Fair Use

There is a great misconception about what “fair use” means. It is an affirmative defense, which means you have a right to raise the defense if you get sued. The Copyright Act lists four factors that courts should consider:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for the value of the copyrighted work.

It is unlikely a court will find that sharing or downloading a full copyrighted work meets this criteria. Recently Harvard law professor Charles Neeson argued on behalf of his client that sharing 800 copyrighted songs via P2P networks was a fair use. The judge didn’t buy it. And it’s unlikely any judge would. If you get sued for sharing full copyrighted works, you’re most likely going to lose.

2. Litigation is Draining

If you don’t settle with the copyright holder, litigation will be a trying process. Copyright litigation can costs tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

But beyond just monetary concerns, it can be emotionally draining for you. The legal process can take months, even years, to resolve. For a client this means responding to discovery requests, testifying at depositions and trial, and constant stress and worrying.

No one can fully appreciate the emotional toll of litigation until they experience it firsthand.

1. The Fines Are Expensive

In 2009 Jammie Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $1.92 million dollars for illegally downloading 24 songs. The Copyright Act allows juries to award damages of $150,000 per infringement.  A judge later reduced the fine to $54,000, which is still an enormous fee for anyone.

To be fair, the average defendant won’t be required to pay this amount. Thomas-Rasset opted not to settle with the plaintiff, the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”). But it was reported that the average settlement with the RIAA was still $3,500. Either way, it would have been much cheaper to purchase the content in the first place.

Dave Owens is a 2010 graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law.  He can be reached at dao1282@gmail.com.  The information contained in this blog post is provided only as general information for education purposes.

Photo Credit: Flicker/Mariosundar

Comments

  1. I merely need to advise you which I am certain raw to blog posting and thoroughly adored your report. Likely I am prone to remember your webpage post . You really have fantastic article topic. Value it for swapping with us your web report.

  2. Might be near impossible to encounter well-informed women and men on this theme, then again you look like you understand exactly what you’re covering! Appreciation

  3. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful information particularly the last part 🙂 I deal with such information much. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thanks and best of luck. |

  4. I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  5. We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you.|

  6. It really is nearly extremely difficult to come across well-qualified individuals on this theme, even though you seem like you fully grasp what you’re indicating! Thanks A Lot

  7. Might be mostly impossible to encounter well-updated individuals on this area, however you look like you are familiar with what you’re preaching about! Cheers

  8. It truly is mostly unthinkable to see well-qualified women and men on this matter, fortunately you come across as like you fully grasp whatever you’re talking about! With Thanks

  9. looper trailerlooney toons pictureslook at me nowloosing weight without dietinglord of the rings actorsloopzooklongview news journall’oreal hair color removerlongest bridgeloopz

  10. I just wish to inform you which I’m just new to online blogging and genuinely loved your post. Very likely I am probably to remember your blog post . You certainly have great article content. Appreciate it for sharing with us your site information.

Trackbacks

  1. go to says:

    Looking around

    I like to browse around the online world, regularly I will go to Stumble Upon and follow thru

Speak Your Mind

*