By Ryan Stevenson

Poland Regional High School

Imagine receiving a letter in the mail informing you that you must attend court because a civil lawsuit has been brought against you for the illegal downloading of music. The various multi-million dollar record labels are suing you, or your parents, for thousands of dollars for every song that has violated copyright laws. What would you do?

A large percentage of people regularly download music illegally, meaning without the consent of the artist and without regard or permission for the ever-more-patrolling copyright laws. But not all music is illegally downloaded. Many independent and unsigned musicians offer downloads of their music in hopes of attracting more fans according to Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the Washington-based Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which coordinates the industry’s anti-piracy campaign. At web sites such as they offer a wide selection of genres of music and it’s all legally permitted and at no cost.

Because of the rapidly increasing issue of illegal music downloading it is now getting so complex and intricate to even get into a music site without having to worry about being sued by the RIAA. Violating copyright laws is a serious crime and you may not think much of it right now but it happens all the time. Think of it this way: if you are the defendant in a civil lawsuit, you do not have the protection against self-incrimination that the U.S constitution grants criminals. You are required to give a deposition, meaning that the party suing you will be able to ask anything they want in regard to the crime and you are required by law to give truthful and honest answers. Also there is a process called “discovery” that allows the party suing you to use the force of law to require you to turn over any evidence. They are legally allowed to seize your computer and forensically examine your hard drive. Any deleted information, e-mails, and records could be found (provided by Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the Washington-based Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Mike Stone, a current PRHS junior, said that music downloading without the permission of the record label or the artist is illegal. He also stated that because of “Lars,” from the popular rock band, Metallica, all these unnecessary lawsuits have been filed against file traders and just because he doesn’t feel that the millions he already makes are enough.

If you ask Sam Smith, also a current PRHS junior, he’ll tell you that music downloading is just a past time for him. “Why spend $20.00 on a CD that only has a few good songs when you can just download them in a matter of minutes?” he explained.

“Bands are greedy, and music downloading should be allowed legally,” said PRHS junior Bryan Gaghan, an avid music downloader. He also agreed with that statement Smith quoted earlier.

Mr. Haley, an AV technician at Poland Regional High School, had a different opinion about it. “I feel that the artist should be paid for what they do. I feel also that sharing music from friend to friend is fine, such as sharing a tape or CD. I do like the idea if -‘ITUNES’ or something similar as this supports the artist. Ask yourself, do you want to work for free?” Haley explained.

Haley went on to express his view on downloading laws. “My thought is that the law should stop wasting time on end users, spend time on regulating a fair way of distributing downloads. They should make it affordable for end users and pay the artist, trying to keep the -‘middleman’ out of it as much as possible,” said Haley.

Illegal music downloading isn’t something that you can claim you were unaware of when you were doing it. Obviously downloading music off the Internet that doesn’t exactly specify whether it’s free or not probably isn’t the wisest choice. You have to be cautious at all times on the Internet because you could never know who is hacking into your computer. Your computer is part of a shared network that can easily be accessible to others unless you’re not hooked up to the Internet; so don’t do anything that’s going to haunt you in the future. But some people argue that they weren’t aware that they were violating copyright laws.

Mark Radcliffe, an intellectual-property attorney at Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich in East Polo Alto, said in defense of not knowing that file sharing was illegal might generate some sympathy from a judge or a jury.

And some people, like Marvin Hooker, an alleged music distributor from Illinois, claim that it’s not fair. “It’s not fair, it’s just not right. They are calling me a music distributor, like I’m someone selling cocaine on the streets. I’m a fan, they should be happy that I like their music and I’m sharing it. Instead, they are losing a little bit of money and they are going after me.”

In conclusion you should pay close attention to the websites that you visit and be sure that if you are downloading music that it’s legal. You may get away with what you were doing before, but things always have a way of catching up. “Am I upset? If you ask me will I buy any more CDs from these people, I will not. I won’t even go to a concert now,” claims Hooker.

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