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Illegal music downloads

  1. Jul 23, 2009 #1
    I think it's safe to claim that since songs and albums are under U.S. copyright law, it is illegal to download them. However, I have a few questions regarding this matter.

    First and foremost, how exactly does the government track that you are downloading illegal music? Is it through IP addresses? If so, does having a dynamic IP make it harder for the government to track you?

    Also, there are thousands of high schoolers and college students that download music illegally all the time. Why does the government not catch them?

    Again, why are services like Kazaa, Limewire or Bearshare allowed to keep on running? Why doesn't the government shut them down?

    Finally, is torrenting illegal? I believe it is and if so, why does the government allow that to continue running? Is torrenting the type of downloading the Kazaa and Limewire use?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2009 #2
    Torrenting is by no means illegal. Torrenting is a clever way of transferring data (of which a large number of people have identical copies) to someone new. It's merely a question of WHAT you torrent. Banning torrenting would be like banning cars because people can smuggle drugs in them. It's just a good way of transferring data in certain situations. Furthermore, one finds torrents by going to a torrent site, however, the SITE only provides a torrent file. I.e. it only keeps a record of who has what chunks of a given file. It doesn't actually have ANY portions of the illegal file. It's like maintaining a list of who has what stolen goods. It's not illegal to compile a list of criminals or to hand that list out to other people.

    So why doesn't the gov't catch people? Well the first point is that the internet exists as information passed between PRIVATELY owned servers. Constitutionally the government has no right to monitor these servers without a warrent and more then it does to open and go through every letter that passes through a post office (and, in that case, a post office IS owned by the gov't so they have even less right).

    The final point is that even if the gov't knows you are pirating it has to PROSECUTE you. This cost millions of dollars. This means that the gov't has to be very careful in terms of public relations (especially since most of the time, as per the constitution, they got their evidence illegal) on who they prosecute. If for every person who cost the movie companies $5 they spent $20 million on lawsuits people would lose patience with them very quickly. And, in terms of public relations, one bad prosectuion and you could have lost ALL public support (like when they accidently indicted a 70 year old grandma who knew nothing about computers).

    The final point is that the proverbial coals under the gov't feet come from CORPORATE lobbiests, which makes it even more difficult to sell prosecution to the public at large. I.e. we're suspending your civil rights because corporation X is losing money.

    The net result of all these consideration has resulted in the gov't flopping around and creating havoc (trying to force an IPS to provide IP's by breaking the constitution here, and appealing to the publics sense of faith in law and legislation there).
  4. Jul 23, 2009 #3
    In addition, all the popular torrent sides are based in countries with no such copyright laws.

    Ultimately, it's my humble opinion that movie and record companies screwed the pooch by not keeping up with the market. Like think about theaters. A movie comes out in theaters and then it takes 6 MONTHS to get to DVD. Ultimately they were trying to force you to pay twice. They wouldn't push forward the DVD release because it would compremise theater profits and they thought they were all kinds of clever. Now information is far more data and fluid and they can't control its distribution like they used to be able to do and what do they do...? Adapt their business model? Hell, no, sue,sue,sue. They'll either realise the proper tact is to offer their content available through the high speed internet or die and watch movie making be handed over to companies that DID provide high speed internet access.
  5. Jul 23, 2009 #4


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    The government isnt tracking anyones music downloads. It's entertainment companies. Whenever you connect using torrents are through a P2P program, it's pretty simple to figure out where you're connecting to, even for people like you and me. You can also use viruses if need be and such.

    Dynamic IP's don't help I don't believe... ISP's have logs anyhow. Also, the programs are not inherently illegal. You could send over your thesis over a torrent or kazaa if you want. It's the fact that people send over copyrighted information that is illegal. Millions of people do it but there's fees and resources required to go after someone so companies don't go after everyone. They seem to pick some weird people to sue sometimes but other times it's people who host up massive amounts in the hundreds of GB's or terabyte range.

    P2P (such as kazaa, limewire, etc) are run off servers which redirect data between different people I believe. Torrents, on the other hand, don't require the server to traffic data around like that.
  6. Jul 24, 2009 #5
    So it is correct to say that the entertainment companies can track whether you are downloading their music, movies or tv shows through P2P or torrent sites by the IP address provided by ISP's? ISP's can see which IP address you were using when you visited that site and then they can trace it to your computer? And dynamic IP's don't help?

    So even though thousands of people download copyrighted music and movies, they can get away with it because the entertainment companies do not want to spend millions on an investigation and prosecution and the downloading isn't on such large of a scale to bother?
  7. Jul 24, 2009 #6


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    More like the company finds the IP and goes to the ISP with it and asks them for who was on that IP. The ISP logs where their IPs go so dynamic IP's wouldnt help.

    Yah that's basically it as far as I know.
  8. Jul 24, 2009 #7
    Yes, this is a pretty good overview. As you pointed out there are literally millions of people trading copyrighted works. The entertainment companies (RIAA, MPAA, MAFIAA) simply can not keep track of that many file transfers at once. They attempt to find the IPs of some of the people sharing files, this is particularly easy with bit torrent. They then try to get the ISP to give up the info of the owner of that IP. The ISP is under no legal obligation to do anything the MAFIAA wants so it'll depend on the ISP if they cave or not. If the ISP doesn't cave the MAFIAA can sue John Doe, and get the court to force the ISP to give up the identity. This however, requires some proof, as well as prevents them from attempting to extort money out of you first (see settling below). Once the MAFIAA has your info they can sue you. Keep in mind you can sue anyone for anything, they need no proof of anything to sue.

    Since the MAFIAA has billions of dollars at its disposal they will tell you your best bet it to simply settle (pay them a few thousand dollars and they won't sue) rather than risk them winning and you owing millions. As it turns out IP address is a pretty poor way to determine who actually did something. There have been a number of cases where the MAFIAA sued someone who so obviously didn't trade any copyrighted material it'd be funny if it wasn't true.

    Since the MAFIAA has no hope of actually suing even 1% of the people violating their copyrights, they attempt to scare people by suing those they do catch for absurdly high amounts.
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