Downloading Music, Movies, and More
“Why do they sell PC’s with CD burners if it’s illegal?”
Most adults understand that no matter how much money a company makes, taking something without paying for it is stealing nonetheless. It doesn’t matter that what a child takes from Walmart only costs $1.29, it’s still stealing. And, further, it is not a victimless crime. Other consumers must make up for the loss of profit which means that the rest of us pay more for other merchandise and security measures as a result. In a high-tech world, a child (or anyone else for that matter) need not hide the merchandise they want to steal, nor do they have to sneak it out of a store. They don’t have to worry too much about store employees or cameras that could catch them in the action. Today, stealing can take only seconds and can be done in the comfort of one’s own home. The chances of “getting busted” are minimal and, in fact, many kids don’t even perceive high-tech theft as stealing at all. Theirs seems to be a downloading culture. A few clicks of a mouse bring them not just music, but movies, games, and hundreds of dollars of software as well. Legality seems to be a fleeting thought as they click their way through licensing agreements, impatient for the software or files at the other end.
How do kids find and download stuff for free? Sometimes its as easy as a kid who copies a song from a CD (called ripping) and e-mails the resulting MP3 file to their friends as attachments. Friend saves the attachment and again adds another song to their expansive collection. Some kids are “zipping” whole albums into one file which can then easily be sent to others, especially given that e-mail services now allow very large files to be transferred and stored, for free. If a file is too large, they can always use one of many free online services that allows a user to upload a large file and e-mail a link to that file to several others for download. Such services includes http://www.gigasize.com/, http://www.yousendit.com/, http://www.sendthisfile.com/, http://www.transferbigfiles.com/, http://megaupload.com, and http://rapidshare.de to name a few. As previously mentioned, other times people are actually ripping their songs and other media files and putting them up on the web so that they can access the songs from anywhere in the world (or intentionally share them with others).
A third way that kids find and download music is by simply visiting websites that provide links to known music files such as http://www.airmp3.net/ or http://free-music-downloads.ws/. You are probably wondering how websites like this can continue to exist without being sued. I’m not a lawyer, although from my understanding, they can do this because they are not storing any of the illegal files on their equipment. Instead, they are merely finding links to music stored by others and indexing those links for easy access and retrieval. In essence, they are just pointing the way to the culprits. Kids also get access to music files via chat rooms and instant messaging programs which now have the capability for transferring files . Other kids are burning CD’s from their collections of legally downloaded music and handing it over to others. Software does also exist to quickly “backup” the thousands of songs on the iPods of some children and transfer them to another computer. Similarly, software exists on the web to make copies of protected DVD movies.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) File Sharing
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), every day, millions of computer users share files online. Whether it is music, games, or software, file-sharing can give people access to a wealth of information. And they are doing it using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks. You simply download special software that connects your computer to an informal network of other computers running the same software. Millions of users could be connected to each other through this software at one time. The software often is free and easily accessible and includes such popular ones as:
- Kazaa (http://www.kazaa.com/)
- Limewire (http://www.limewire.com/)
- BitTorrent (http://www.bittorrent.com/)
- Shareaza (http://www.shareaza.com/)
- Morpheus (http://morpheus.com/)
To be more specific, P2P software has each user put in a special folder any and all files that they want to share: movies, music, software, photos ... whatever. By placing the files in the designated folder, they are essentially allowing others to find, access and download the file using the users own computing resources (i.e., bandwidth and computing power). What makes this type of file sharing so powerful is that the files are indexed and searchable for very rapid identification. Also, if the P2P system detects an identical file on someone else’s computer, it will actually determine the fastest way to download it. Given today’s powerful computers and fast bandwidth, it doesn’t take very long to download very large files, including movies.
From talking with kids and those who use P2P, my guess is that movies, pornography, and software serial numbers are the most popular files being shared.
File sharing in general and P2P sharing in particular comes with a number of risks. For example:
- When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unknowingly allow others to copy private files you never intended to share;
- You may download material that is protected by the copyright laws and find yourself bogged down in legal issues;
- You could easily download a virus or be part of a security breach;
- Also, it is somewhat well known that P2P software tends to interfere with other programs on your computer;
- Finally, a very common risk is that you may unwittingly download pornography labeled as something else.
I can’t think of anything that you can get from being part of a P2P that is worth any one of these risks. My recommendation is to simply not use public P2P applications that are not specifically designed for productivity in the workplace.
If you have P2P software installed and you want to remove it, realize that in some instances closing an existing file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. Even when you exit the program, file-sharing may continue in the background and could increase your security risk. You must completely uninstall the software. For example visit http://www.pchell.com/support/kazaa.shtml to learn how to completely uninstall Kazaa and the programs that it comes bundled with. Use a search engine with the words “remove” (no quotes) and the name your P2P program to get the details for getting it off your computer.
So what else should I know about downloading music?
For a list of frequently asked questions and answers about copyrighted music and downloading, visit http://www.campusdownloading.com .
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