copyright question
Dear Doc:

A friend of mine (if ya know what I mean) uses peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software.  She downloads cool things from the Internet, but then sorta-kinda-almost instantly erases them from her computer.  Is this okay?


Dear Fan:

Ahem…If I were your friend, I would stop doing that stuff.  NOW!  You see, those “cool things” are mostly protected by Copyright.  While there are some movies and music that are not protected because they were made early enough that the registration has expired (think 1920s silent films) or whose owners failed to renew the copyright registration many years ago, it is really difficult to know which “cool things” are now in the “public domain” and which are still under registration.  Making a mistake about that kind of thing can ruin your day.

Copyright owners and rights organizations now use pretty sophisticated computer programs to sniff around for unauthorized copying on the Internet, and they can track down users of P2P software programs right to the actual computer running the software, the time, date and Internet address used.  Also, internet service providers are cooperating with rights owners in sending legal notices to P2P users.

One thing that you may not know is that when you use P2P software, you are not only downloading a copy of the files you see, but also your computer is being used to store and upload lots of other files that you may not see or even know are there.  There have been cases where P2P users have been accused of distribution of child pornography because certain files were flowing from the Internet to their P2P software, being stored on their hard drives, and then re-transmitted to other P2P users – all without the knowledge of the person who used the P2P software in the first place.

So…think very hard.  iTunes? NetFlix? HuluPlus?  Or…you could make the Doc’s day by continuing your outlaw ways, and getting one of those letters.  If you do, however, the attorneys at LW&H deal with this kind of thing.  Give them a call.

— Lawrence A. Husick, Esq.