Copyright is what protects original works of many kinds from being wrongly duplicated and distributed. An example of violating a copyright is illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted music, movies, etc. There are laws to protect people that have their material copyrighted. The Recording Industry Association of America is a group that is trying to crack down on those who illegally download and share music through the use of their computers. This past year, they have filed many lawsuits, and will continue to do so to protect the copyright holders, such as artists and record labels. The University of Minnesota, Crookston is also trying to stop students from performing the illegal act of downloading and sharing files on their computers. Actions will continue to be taken by the school and the law until this problem is completely taken care of.
Why buy a CD for fifteen dollars when it is easy and free to download the songs you want and burn them onto a burnable CD? The answer is simple; downloading copyrighted music is illegal. Taking copyrighted material without permission is not only illegal, it is morally wrong. Many Americans today use illegal downloading off the internet as an alternative to purchasing CDs, DVDs, movies, etc. This is affecting the economy, and even though many see it as a good alternative, it is not right for a number of reasons. Also, there will be consequences for those people who chose to download copyrighted material.
Copyright protects “original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression” (United States Copyright Office). Copyrighted materials come in many forms. This includes literary works, movies, and architectural works. It also includes things that get many people in trouble from downloading off the internet, such as music. This is what the Recording Industry Association of America tries to protect the record labels against is illegal downloading of music.
Many Americans today use the illegal method of downloading copyrighted music as an alternative to purchasing CDs. According to an article from CNN.com, the last three years has seen a significant decrease in CD sales (Cable News Network). This decrease in sales is being directly blamed on the many Americans who download music and make their own CDs.
However, just because downloading music is free and easy, it is still not right. The music industry is suing many people. In January of 2004, the Recording Industry Association of America, also known as the RIAA, filed lawsuits against 532 people. These individuals were illegally copying, downloading and sharing copyrighted music on peer-to-peer networks (Recording Industry Association of America). To understand why this is wrong, one needs to first know what a peer-to-peer network is.
The definition of a peer-to-peer network is “a network that relies on the computing power and bandwidth of the participants in the network rather than concentrating it in a relatively low number of servers” (Wikipedia). A peer-to-peer computer network may sometimes be referred to as P2P. Peer-to-peer networks are used for different things, including sharing audio, video, and data files (Wikipedia).A peer-to-peer network is different than a client-server network. In peer-to-peer networks, files that are shared are not taken from one specific computer. They are shared throughout all the computers in the network.
The lawsuits being brought against sharers in peer-to-peer networks are able to take place by a thing called “John Doe” lawsuits. These lawsuits have that name because the Recording Industry Association of America does not specifically know who is downloading and sharing copyrighted files (Cable News Network). Therefore, they do not know the names of those they are suing, so they give them the name of John Doe.
Internet providers no longer need to provide names of their customers, even if the internet provider believes that customer is illegally downloading (Cable News Network). This is a good thing for the person, because of privacy issues. However, if the Recording Industry Association of America knew the names of those individuals they were suing, the lawsuits would be a lot quicker and smoother.
The way the Recording Industry Association of America can trace the illegal downloaders and sharers is by a trail the computer leaves when it illegally downloads music (Cable News Network). This trail is a number known as the IP address. The IP address is an Internet Protocol address, which is the computer's numerical address (Recording Industry Association of America). This is a good way to find out who is illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted files.
Once the RIAA files a lawsuit, the different record labels can subpoena the information to find the name of the defendant (Recording Industry Association of America). A subpoena is a written order by the court requiring appearance in court to give testimony (Yahoo! Education). The move that the different record labels can subpoena is due to a decision by a federal appeals court. This court said that “the information subpoena process allowed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) cannot be used in infringement cases involving peer-to-peer networks” (Recording Industry Association of America). The lawsuits are all part of the RIAA's continuing effort to stop the illegal downloading and sharing of music files. If people start to realize how serious the RIAA is about stopping people from illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted material, there should be a decrease in both downloading and sharing.
Some people would argue that instead of going straight to filing a lawsuit, the record labels should offer an opportunity to settle outside of court (Recording Industry Association of America, Frequently Asked Questions). However, especially in the “John Doe” lawsuits, it is not always reasonable or practical. The RIAA is, however, trying to be fair and nice to the illegal file sharers. After finding out the identity of the people who were caught illegally downloading and sharing files, the RIAA may try to settle outside of court (Recording Industry Association of America, Frequently Asked Questions). This is something that the RIAA does not have to do. The people downloading and sharing are most likely aware that it is illegal, yet they do it anyhow. It's extremely nice of the RIAA to try to settle outside of court.
The University of Minnesota, Crookston (UMC) has a specific policy against the illegal downloading of copyrighted material. The policy is as follows:
The University of Minnesota takes a strong stand against unlawful distribution of copyrighted materials (music, movies, software, etc). We respond to copyright infringement notices from copyright owners who actively search for such violations on the network. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires UMC to take action against anyone illegally distributing copyrighted materials (UMC: Computer Help Desk).
The actions taken differ from those of the Recording Industry Association of America. While neither UMC nor RIAA encourage the illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted material, UMC may be a little more lenient about their punishments.
At the University of Minnesota, Crookston, one gets three chances to stop downloading and sharing before a significant punishment is awarded. After the first offense, the student's internet privileges are lost for a short time until the student goes to the Computer Help Desk for assistance. The workers at the Help Desk reload the student's C drive of their computer. The second offense is the same punishment as the first offense.
The third offense at UMC is when things get more serious, yet it is not as extreme as having a lawsuit brought against a downloader/sharer. What happens is the student has to write a 5-7 page copyright paper. The fourth offense is the same as the third, plus an additional technical research paper on bandwidth issues. After the fifth offense, the student gets no more warnings; their access is disabled.
The University of Minnesota, Crookston policy seems to be very fair. It gives the students many warnings before there is serious action brought against them. The Recording Industry Association of America would not be able to give as many chances to people even if they wanted to. They are doing a good job of protecting the rights of record labels and artists.
It is ridiculous that CD sales have decreased in the past three years, as stated before, which is when free downloading became a popular obsession across the country. Although there are benefits to downloading music, such as making one's own CDs with whatever songs they want, the person downloading should also think about others. With the sales going down, the record labels and artists are being affected in a negative way.
The Recording Industry Association of America needs to continue to crack down on the issues of people downloading and sharing copyrighted material. The president of the RIAA, Cary Sherman, said, “The message to illegal file sharers should be as clear as ever – we can and will continue to bring lawsuits on a regular basis against those who illegally distribute copyrighted material” (Recording Industry Association of America). This is a more serious issue than some people tend to think. It is illegal and wrong, and the action being taken by the Recording Industry Association of America is appropriate and should be continued.
- Cable News Network. (2004). Music industry suing 532 song swappers. Technology.
- Retrieved January 29, 2004, from http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/internet/01/22/online.music/index.html
- Recording Industry Association of America. (2004). New wave of record industry
- lawsuits brought against 532 illegal file sharers. Retrieved January 29, 2004, from http://www.riaa.com/news/newsletter/012104.asp
- Recording Industry Association of America. (2004). Frequently asked questions about
- the recording industry's use of “John Doe” lawsuits. Retrieved February 13, 2006, from http://www.riaa.com/news/newsletter/012104_faq.asp
- UMC Computer Help Desk. (2006). Copyright and high bandwidth processes. Retrieved
- February 13, 2006, from http://helpdesk.umcrookston.edu/policies/copyrightBandwidth.htm
- United States Copyright Office. (2004). Copyright. Retrieved September 22, 2003, from
- Wikipedia. (2006). Peer-to-peer. Retrieved February 13, 2006, from
- Yahoo! Education. (2006). Definition of subpoena. Retrieved February 13, 2006, from