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Eagletech explains illegal downloading music, copyright law

Contributed Column

By Sarah Bran
On November 7, 2018

In a digital age such as this, the availability of media downloads and streaming has risen exponentially with the growth of companies like Netflix, Amazon Video and Spotify. 

While the options for accessing media legally has grown, this has also caused the amount of illegal downloading and the piracy of music, movies and video games to rise. 

James Geddes of Tech Times reported in a study that 57 million Americans chose to illegally download their music instead of purchasing it. 

Interestingly enough, the same study revealed that many of the downloaders also frequently bought their music legally.

What exactly is piracy? Piracy is considered the “unauthorized use or production of another person’s work.” 

Some common examples might include “stripping” the audio from a YouTube video and keeping the file, downloading a free copyrighted movie or making an MP3 copy of a CD and putting it on the internet for public use.

 If an individual owns a CD, copying that CD onto a laptop for personal use is not considered unlawful; it is the act of taking the copy and distributing it to other people that is illegal. 

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, copyright infringement can result in up to five years in prison, and fines of up to $150,000 per file. Copyright laws also apply to streaming and downloading just as in the world of DVDs and CD.

Additionally, the impact of illegal downloading can also cause major repercussions for the economy. Piracy causes artists to earn fewer royalties and subsequently lose money. 

Experts from the Institute for Policy Innovation estimate that $12.5 billion dollars in economic losses has been caused from global music piracy, along with over 70,000 US jobs lost. 

The effect of illegal downloading is not limited to established artists; emerging acts are less likely to be signed to a record when said record company is forced to slash their budget because of the millions lost through free fraudulent downloads.

Besides economic issues, piracy can create personal problems as well. 

Many file-sharing sites used for illegal downloads are also ripe with viruses and spyware (software that allows someone to obtain private information/data about an individual). 

File-sharing software such as Peer-to-Peer can also expose devices to hazardous viruses and compromise privacy and security. The impact of viruses can range from causing excessive pop-ups, a slower internet connection, or even possible identity theft.

Music and media continues to evolve, and it can be difficult to always distinguish what is ethical and lawful. When in doubt, as the old adage states, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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