March 2008

Can I Really Get in Trouble for Downloading Copyrighted Music?

Author: Chris Warren

I’ve been asked this question numerous times and the answer is really: who knows, but why risk it? The problem is people generally get wrapped around the idea of: “I like it, so it should be legal.” As a former police officer, I found that most drug busts resulted in someone sitting in the back of my patrol car in cuffs saying: “Marijuana should be legal; it’s not fair.” The truth of the matter is, just because you want to do something and you don’t see the harm in it doesn’t mean that it’s legal and/or right. So if the question is dependent upon an answer that is ethical or legal, then I have bad news.

Rumors have been drifting around for some time now that if you download music illegally but only have it on your PC or MP3 player for 24 hours, you are not breaking the law. Unfortunately this is a myth. There are no revisions under U.S.C. Title 17 Section 109 of the copyright law that state any form of duration-based provision under which you can have illegally downloaded music.

So you’ve downloaded music you should not have; what now? Hopefully no one is going to come knocking down your door because you downloaded yet another Britney Spears song. However, you never know at what point you will end up on the Recording Industry Association of America’s radar. As of October 2, 2007, the first case of this type has gone to trial (Capitol Records vs. Jammie Thomas). According to arstechnica.com, in the opening statement, “Gabriel accused Thomas of distributing over 1,700 songs over KaZaA, although the case is only focusing on 25 of those songs.” This is where it gets risky. Record companies are only really concerned about their clients. If you happen to get tracked downloading one of their clients’ songs, you can end up on their list.

So what are your alternatives?

There are many online radio stations such as shoutcast.com that play your favorite music. You can listen to a wide range of artists and determine if you want to buy a CD or not. Is the end result still purchasing a CD from an artist that only has two of fifteen songs worth listening to? Probably, but at least you can listen legally!

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