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The Legality Of P2p File Sharing Software
By pnisbet
The legality of free p2p file sharing has always been in question, and the p2p networks have been in the news again recently: when are they ever out of it! I have made my views known about those that make a fortune from us while breaking the law themselves with their drug-taking and other anti-social activities, but what exactly is the legal situation?

Peer to peer file sharing is not illegal. That is fact! A few friends sharing files online between themselves is no more illegal than them swapping CDs or DVDs. Where the confusion arises is the scale. At what scale of sharing does it become illegal, rather than just people swapping their belongings.

It is certainly illegal when individuals, or even companies, download material using p2p in order to create CDs and DVDs for sale in the same way that is was illegal for these same people to copy audio tapes for sale. That is understandable and nobody could realistically condone such behaviour. It is no illegal, however, for you to allow others to copy files from your computer as long as you are not doing so for gain. However, if these files are copyrighted, it is illegal for the copier to copy them.

There appears to have been a distinction made between downloading otherís files and swapping their physical hardware. In other words, you can give your friend your Elton John album in exchange for his Prodigy album, but not for you to download a copy of his album, and he yours.

Perhaps rightly so, and I believe most would agree were it not for the double standards being operated, and the lack of firm direction on behalf of the artists themselves. Artists who are more than happy to have their work downloaded by interested listeners or viewers when they are trying to make their name, but take the opposite view once these same fans have promoted them to the position that they desired.

Actual court cases have been sending out mixed signals over the years, though it is a fact that breaking of copyright is illegal. P2P file sharing is not illegal as long as the files being shared are not copyrighted. However, most movies, videos and MP3s that are downloaded are done so illegally. The vast majority of P2P is being used illegally, but if you consider the number of downloads compared to those actually prosecuted, you have a higher chance of being killed by a coconut falling on your head than you have of being prosecuted for an illegal download.

The important thing is that you donít overdo it, and make a business of recording the downloads onto disks and selling them. These are the people the music and video companies are mostly after, though it is true that a few high school kids have also been fined. They are by far in the minority though.

You can reduce the risk if you download but do not share. If you own p2p software, then turn of the file-sharing option that allows others to access your hard disk while your computer is switched on. Just about every peer to peer file sharing package allows you to switch

this off. The authorities are looking for those who commercialize their downloads in a big way by compiling pirate albums, and those who share thousands of files on their computer with others throughout the internet.

In order not to break the law, do not download any music or video file that does not specifically give permission. Many artists, bands and new film makers do give this permission, if not in actual writing, then at least tacitly. This is especially true of those up and coming artists who want to have their work published throughout the internet. A lot of single tracks from albums are offered for free download in the hope that the listener or viewer will purchase the whole thing. If you decide to break the law, then the chance you take is minimal. But you never know . . .

However, it is ludicrous that drug-taking lawbreakers should be complaining about others breaking the law. These same people would have been delighted at having their work downloaded before they were famous, and that is one of the major benefits of file sharing to young or new artists. They get their work and their name known by offering their products free of charge to those that want to download it, and many do.

However, once they have made their name they rapidly pull the plug on the free downloads, and those who supported them when they were struggling suddenly find themselves breaking the law. Little wonder that the legal eagles the world over cannot agree on what is allowed and not allowed.

Certainly, copyright should not be infringed, but hypocrisy should not be allowed to prevail over people who wish to listen to single tracks that they would otherwise find impossible to access. There should surely be little wrong with an individual downloading a track otherwise unavailable, and then purchasing tickets to watch their idols (or perhaps Ďidlesí?) playing or singing live.

In case anyone laughs at this interpretation of one of the main uses of file sharing, it is in fact what happens in many cases. Why should somebody have to purchase a complete album to determine whether or not a particular artist is worth listening to for a $100 ticket for a live show?

If used properly, peer to peer file sharing and downloading can be used to the advantage of the artist. Rather than complaining that high school kids can make better use of the internet than them, media moguls should waken up and realise that the second decade of the 21st century is only 3 years away while they are still living in the 20th.

If they are unable to use modern technology to their benefit, then they should not castigate those that can.

More information on p2p file sharing can be obtained form Peteís websites Legal and Free and Online Free Movies where options are presented and the ethics discussed.


 

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