Home Copyright Legal Aspects of File Sharing

Legal Aspects of File Sharing

Legal Aspects of File Sharing


Legal Aspects of File Sharing

File sharing is not specifically illegal in the United States, but transmitting copyrighted material is illegal, and a number of lawsuits have been brought forth since file sharing began on the internet.  Some of the first cases involved lawsuits connected with the file-sharing network Napster, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has brought thousands of lawsuits against individuals along with other petitioners in the United States. 

Examples of Online Copyright Infringement

The following types of online copyright infringement are often investigated and prosecuted:

·         putting MP3 files on the internet within a file-sharing network so other people can download the music

·         downloading unauthorized copies of copyrighted audio and video content, even if you don’t offer content to other users

·         joining a file-sharing network that is not authorized to distribute or make copies of music or video content

·         burning copyrighted CDs for your friends and peers

·         email copies of music or videos to people you know

How does the Government Prove Liability in Copyright Infringement?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the government needs to “prove that a defendant infringed a copyright willingly and for the purpose of commercial advantage or personal financial gain.”  These legal aspects of file sharing apply to the creators of a file-sharing network and individuals who download and share content. 

Even if the creators of the file-sharing network claim “willful blindness” about the content being distributed on their website, they are still liable for copyright infringement because they are profiting from the website and know that content is being shared.  Individuals are liable because they achieve personal financial gain by saving money after downloading the free, copyrighted content. 

Several operations have been launched by the federal government to impose the legal aspects of file sharing and bring individuals and websites that share files to justice.  One of the biggest operations was launched by the U.S. Department of Justice called “Operation Digital Gridlock.”  The operation resulted in the seizure of over 40 terabytes o pirated content. 

Liability of Distributing Pornography

File-sharing networks can result in a person unintentionally distributing pornography and even child pornography files.  The majority of file-sharing software is set up to automatically redistribute and make content available that was downloaded by a user.  So, if an individual accidentally downloads a pornographic file, these files can be redistributed without their knowledge and they are liable for distributing pornography.  Several cases were brought forth against affected defendants and resulted in heavy fines. 

Industry Self-Regulation

As legal aspects of file sharing have caused multiple lawsuits to occur, file sharing is still occurring at an unprecedented pace.  So, many internet providers have decided to start issue their own warnings.  In October and November of 2012, major internet providers have begun to issue warnings before users download pirated content.  There are a series of warnings, and prosecution is even threatened if downloading continues.  The major internet providers can even slow down internet connections if the user refuses to stop downloading pirated material. 

Source: https://www.ftc.gov/reports/p2p05/050623p2prpt.pdf