10 Music Download Legal Points

By Vicente Applegate

Everybody's doing it: downloading music and sharing files. People who share music files on the Internet argue that downloading is legal; today they can be sued by the record industry. Can one be sued without a great intrusion into personal lives of an individual?

1. Enjoy music downloads from safe and legal sources. Get the facts and not the scare tactics, about online music services.

2. The prosecution has to able to prove, with adequate evidence, that the IP address used for music downloads can be linked to the person accused of illegal content sharing. There is a growing concern for "privacy". Legal experts worry about the "intrusiveness" of Internet monitoring in order to prove a court case.

3. These IP address--numbers--given to user by the ISPs are dynamic and change rapidly. The starting point is to establish that there is enough bona fide evidence to prosecute.

4. It is difficult to a pin an IP address on any one person. The IP numbers that some ISPs assign to their users can change from one "session" to the next. The music industry must be able to link file-sharers to specific IP addresses at the times those addresses were used for file sharing.

5. Since their are personal freedoms involved, the courts want to make sure that the individual is revealed to the public.

6. These copyright allegation lawsuits are a minefield, because they involve the personal information of the defendant.

7. In Canada, under its privacy laws, people are protected through court confidentiality orders. In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) must get a order to reveal the downloader's identity.

8. It is difficult to give a definitive decision on the interpretation copyright law itself.

9. The legal tactics of the U.S. recording industry, which have been suing individuals for sharing music on-line. The entire music industry has changed dramatically. Since file sharing began, there has been an increase in the popularity of DVDs and video games that have put recording sales revenue in a slump.

10. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) desires the industry be compensated for losses due to copying, but what decision would make it a flat-out victory. Can the recording industry prove that its bottom line was really affected by file-sharing. In the U.S. the RIAA can sue for statutory damages of $750 per song on a file-sharer's hard drive. But look dramatic price cuts by "big box" retailers. Once selling music files for charging 99 cents a song was the norm, now look at Yahoo who now offers $60 a year for all you can eat program. How can the RIAA or CRIA claim such high damages?

Downloading music has been around only a few years and is still evolving. A good road map is needed for what we have to do in the future in the area of copyright on the Internet. It doesn't mean copyright law does not protect "content". For sure, whatever rulings are arrived at, will have long-term effects for us all.