Digital Citizenship

Your Music and Movies

Your computer is significant to you when communicating with your friends and in providing you with access to entertainment including movies and music. But beware, there are many technology and legal dangers surrounding music, movies, software, sharing files and copyright laws. Your role as a college student does not exempt you from the law. You may not agree with current laws. Certainly, distribution channels for music and movies exist. However, you can still be caught, fined and punished if you are breaking the law. And remember, it only takes one illegally held file to get you in trouble.

Peer to peer file sharing:

Ever used Morpheus, KaZaa, Limewire or AOL Instant Messenger? If you have, then you have used a peer to peer (P2P) networking program. Peer to peer networking allows you to connect to a network to share information, bandwidth, storage space and computing power.  It allows computers to “talk” to each other. Unlike email, users can share information without have to know each other’s identity or location. Users most often share files stored on their computer. File sharing happens over the Internet. Most software programs that allow you to share files provide uploading and downloading capabilities by default although these settings can be changed.  Because computers are connected through this network, users can also “share” the “bad” stuff: viruses, worms, and Trojans.  

It is never a good idea to let hundreds, thousands or even millions of users access to your computer without your knowledge of who they are or what they are doing.

P2P networks are often used by students to share files, particularly movie, music and software files. Sharing of files in this way is typically illegal. Unless you purchased the file or have the express written permission of the copyright owner to posses the file, you are in violation of copyright law. The copyright holder has the exclusive right to copy and distribute his/her work. According to the music industry, 243 million files were illegally downloaded in one month.

Many of the P2P files sharing programs come with “sharing” enabled. You can usually change that setting and disable file sharing.  Consult the software’s help menu to determine how to make that change.  Nearly all P2P file sharing programs turn your computer into a server allowing anyone to access and possibly place files on it. You can become legally liable for any illegal content “deposited” on your computer, whether you have knowledge of it or not. We recommend the file sharing option be turned off if you choose to use these programs.

Copyright Laws

International, federal and state law governs the distribution of copyrighted material. In general, you must purchase or have the express written permission of the copyright holder in order to own copyrighted materials.

The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed in 1998 also governs the intellectual property. Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs. In general, according to http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/iclp/dmca1.htm, this act:

  • Makes it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software.
  • Outlaws the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.
  • Provides exemptions from anti-circumvention provisions for nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions under certain circumstances.
  • Limits Internet service providers from copyright infringement liability for simply transmitting information over the Internet but requires them to remove material from users' web sites that appears to constitute copyright infringement.
  • Limits liability of nonprofit institutions of higher education.

Breaking the Law

If you distribute copyrighted music, movies or software without authorization from the copyright owner, you are breaking the law. Distribution can mean anything from "sharing" music files on the Internet to burning multiple copies of copyrighted music onto blank CD-Rs and selling or giving them to others. Under federal law, first-time offenders who commit copyright violations that involve digital recordings can face criminal penalties of as much as five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines. You could also be sued by the copyright holder in civil court, which could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars more in damages and legal fees.

Examples of ways you could violate the law:

  • You join a file-sharing network and download all the copyrighted music you want for free
  • You make an MP3 copy of a song because the CD you bought permits you to and then put the copy on the Internet, using a file-sharing network
  • You get a copy of a copyrighted song in your email and email it to all of your friends
  • You burn CDs of all your music and give it to your friends

Fines

According to http://www.campusdownloading.com/resources.htm, first-time offenders who commit copyright violations that involve digital recordings can face criminal penalties of as much as five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines. You could also be sued by the copyright holder in civil court, which could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars more in damages and legal fees.

Ithaca College

The music and recording industry employ people whose only job is to find people who are illegally sharing files. If the company determines that that is happening, a letter is sent to the Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP is then required to notify the user and ask for the file to be deleted. In recent years the recording and music industry have become more aggressive in prosecuting illegal file sharers and, in particular, in targeting college students and higher education. In come cases, users have had a law suit filed against them and have been forced to “settle” the lawsuit at a cost of thousands of dollars. Students can get in trouble for have one file or for having thousands of files.  Please see a recent Intercom article regarding these issues at Ithaca College.

At Ithaca College, Apogee (our ISP for residence hall students) is typically notified if it is determined that a student is illegally sharing a file. Apogee notifies the College and the College may determine that judicial action is warranted. If the industry brings a lawsuit against the student, Ithaca College can not do anything to protect the student. At that point, the student will be encouraged to get legal counsel.

Legal Downloading Sites

Many sites exist that allow you to get music legally. The Recording Industry of America lists a number of these sites on http://www.riaa.com/toolsforparents.php?content_selector=legal_music_sites. The Motion Picture Association lists these sites for the legal downloading of movies: http://www.mpaa.org/contentprotection/get-movies-tv-shows

Also, artists may make free downloads available to consumers from their web sites on YouTube or iTunes. If the artist says it’s free, it’s free. If you get it from a friend, you are probably breaking copyright.