Music is protected by copyright. The unauthorized downloading or uploading of music is actionable as copyright infringement, even if not done for profit.
Illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted music is often accomplished using “peer-to-peer” (P2P) software installed on individual computers, which allows your computer to exchange files with other computers that are running similar software. P2P services usually configure their software so that any files you download (and any other files in your “shared folder”) are automatically made accessible to anyone else on the P2P network that requests them.
When you use such services to download and upload files, you are not anonymous. Whenever you connect to the Internet, your computer is assigned a unique “Internet protocol (IP) address” from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This unique IP address is used to identify your computer as the source of available files to all other computers on a P2P network. The infringement notice you received is the result of your computer having been identified as engaged in an illegal transfer of copyrighted music. You should immediately take the following steps in order to prevent further infringing activity and to prevent serious legal and other consequences:
- Discontinue downloading and uploading unauthorized copies of music.
- Permanently delete from your computer all infringing music from all computers linked to the account (for instructions, see #7). If you downloaded the file from a P2P service or a website that seems too good to be legal, then it’s safer to assume it is not legal.
- If you do not use P2P software for lawful purposes, delete it.
- If you use P2P for lawful purposes (to upload or download files that you are legally authorized to reproduce or distribute), make sure the only files in your P2P “shared folder” are ones you are authorized to distribute in this way.
- Secure your internet connection to ensure it is not being used in ways you have not authorized. For example, secure your home Wi-Fi network to ensure others are not accessing the Internet through your connection to download or distribute unauthorized copies of music, and use virus and spyware protection software. Visit the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team website at http://www.us-cert.gov/reading_room/ to obtain information on how to secure your computer in these and other ways.
- Talk with family members or guests who may have used your Internet connection in ways you are not aware of.
Remember, distributing files illegally puts you at risk for sanctions imposed for violating your ISP’s terms of service as well as substantial civil and, in some cases, criminal penalties. Intellectual property industries – such as music, film, television and computer software – are central to the health and stability of the U.S. economy. For example, in 2007, the core copyright industries contributed $889.1 billion to the U.S. GDP, equal to approximately 6.4% of the U.S. economy.
Who pays when music is stolen? Singers, songwriters, musicians, album producers, audio engineers, sound technicians, recording studio managers, and many others that contribute to creating the music we love, and who depend on a healthy industry for their jobs and their families’ income.
Music theft also has an enormous impact on music fans around the world. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 albums never break even and fail to recover the costs of making and marketing the album. If music is routinely stolen and distributed over the Internet or on illegal CDs, then it becomes less likely that people will invest in the high quality music we love.
Infringing copyright is against the law and increasingly easy to detect. These violations can affect your Internet account in accordance with your ISP’s terms of service, and can result in lawsuits against you by copyright owners, and under some circumstances even constitute violations of Federal criminal law. In short, it’s not worth it. There are a multitude of legal, affordable and hassle free places where you can find your favorite music in high quality formats and legal and safe sites where content is available for downloading.