Illegal File Sharing

The reason for the popularity of illegal file sharing on the internet through peer to peer networking is obvious – access to all the mp3 music files and computer programs with registration key code cracks you could ever want – for free. Why pay upwards of $20 for Brittney Spears latest CD when you can get most – if not all – the songs from the CD before it ever hits your local store shelves for free? Why purchase expensive software such as Microsoft Works for Business when you can get a fully functional copy for free? No need to ever renew a subscription to Norton either, as long as you are a few simple mouse clicks away from a list of free renewal codes. And who wants to wait for the latest movie starring Orlando Bloom to hit local theaters or make it to DVD – when you can download a copy illegally filmed with someone’s digital recorder for free?

If you were standing on a street corner and a guy came running by and ask you, “Hey, want this free CD?” Of course you’d assume it was stolen, but would you be tempted to take it anyway and slip it in your bag? Of course most of us would! Free is good. Besides, you can always tell your conscience – well, I didn’t steal it, it was offered to me and I took it. The conscience technicalities involved with illegal file sharing often reasons itself out in much the same manner. Those who participate tell themselves since they did not produce the first illegal copy and offer it on the internet – they didn’t steal it – they simply took what was offered to them.

Some of the horror stories associated with illegal file sharing are so fantastic they’ve reached near Urban Legend status. “There was this kid in (insert a near by town) that was downloading illegal mp3 files from the internet by (insert popular artist of choice) and the next thing he knows there was a knock on the door and FBI Agents came into his house and arrested him. They took (insert his computer, all his CDs, all his DVDs, even his dog if you want to) and his parents were fined (most versions start somewhere in the million dollar range, and go up from there)!” However, as with most fiction – there is usually at least a thread of truth.

There have been arrests made concerning illegal file sharing, and some of the fines have been in excess of one million dollars. As improbable as this may seem – since September 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed more than 6200 lawsuits against individuals suspected of illegally sharing copyrighted music the Internet. The United States isn’t the only country involved in this illegal activity, the August 2004, Forrester Research Report found that “Europeans Love Online Music – As Long As It’s Free”. More than one in three (36%) music downloaders say they buy fewer CDs because they can download music for free, according to the latest Forrester research. Only 10% say they are buying more. The number of downloaders is therefore three times the number of ‘samplers’, making the negative effect on sales larger than the positive effect, by three to one. The “men in black” showing up to confiscate a poor unsuspecting teens worldly possessions and get him or her grounded for life – may even have a shred of fact hiding at it’s base as well.

There are laws in place to protect the rights of artists and such who’s sales are effected by illegal file sharing on the internet, as well as laws to prohibit certain peer to peer networking. Attempts have been made to shut down peer to peer networks that a Court has found to be in violation of these laws. However, as easily as you can find pictures of “TomKat’s” baby on the internet – you can get a “patch” code to restore your peer to peer networking once it’s been shut down. The bottom line is simple – as long as the internet offers a way for people to upload and download files – illegal file sharing will continue to take place.

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