Illegal Online File Sharing: How Are Your Kids Contributing?

Harrison is 17 years old from New Jersey, and loves playing guitar, tennis, and learning about current events.  He wants to be a genetic counselor when he’s older and hopes to travel around the world.

If you are not already familiar with it, please allow me to formally introduce you to the world of online file sharing.  First, let’s take a look back at the history of this technology…

Removable media on a computer was finally available with the release of the 8 inch floppy disc in 1971- way back before any of your kids were born.  Since then this revolutionary technology has evolved to become something much bigger, and something much more relevant- something your kids can and are utilizing to its full potential.  Compact discs came to the forefront of the industry, and it was soon enough possible to quickly share information and files wirelessly over the internet.  Things like USB flash drives have popularized as well, which can fit right in your pocket and hold tons of files and other useful information.

But what is this information that is being stored?  The content is mostly music, games, movies, pictures, and documents.  Tools like CDs and flash drives, used to hold all of the content, are not the problem here.  These things are actually great inventions that have revolutionized the world, how we use technology and go through out daily routines.  However the process of obtaining these files that are being stored can sometimes become a huge problem.

Napster, created in 1999, was originally a free file sharing application that utilized a central server to organize the file swapping.  Put more simply, users could go on the computer and download copyrighted material shared from other users over the internet…for free.  Now you may be asking: is this legal?  No, it is not.  Your child, the other users in the site, and Napster did not own the rights to this music, and therefore was violating various copyright acts, resulting in the committing of millions of piracy crimes all over the web.

Since this time, Napster has been forced by the government to become a music purchasing service, so instead of illegally sharing files over the web, users are charged a small price for every song they download.  Now this doesn’t mean that illegal file sharing services don’t exist anymore.  In fact, they are alive and well- better than they have ever been, and more popular than ever as well.  Applications such as FastTrack, eDonkey, Mininova, isoHunt, and The Pirate Bay have grown over the years, experiencing legal trouble, temporary governmental shut downs, and many court appeals, most recently seen with The Pirate Bay trials.  The most appealing thing about these sites is that not only can users download music tracks, but they can also download computer games that are worth around $60 each, and DVD movies that they can download and play right on their computer.

These services and many, many more most likely have been used by your child at one point, even if they did not realize they were doing something wrong.  In fact, there is no warning before downloading a song or other file type telling the user that it is illegal, so they might have not even known what they were really doing.

Now before you go into your child’s room and freak out on them for using iTunes, please understand that iTunes is perfectly legal, and it is most artists’ main channel of releasing their music over the web to their fans.  iTunes users must purchase songs at a rate per song, and it is actually the preferred and most popular way to obtain music these days, especially with the popularity of the iPod.

In today’s world the music and movie selling industries are doing the worst that they have been doing for a very long time, and this can be mainly attributed to third party illegal distributers such as these file sharing sites.  Is it really right to do to the artists, producers, mixers, record labels, and other people in the industry to be stealing their music and not paying for any of the work that they spent so much time creating?  It is immoral, and it certainly needs to stop.  If the government hasn’t already found your child, maybe you should find them first.  It’s truly surprising to see how many kids have been charged for piracy because they downloaded a meager 30 songs from a file sharing site, when many of my friends have downloaded thousands of songs.  A fine from the government can be as low as $750 per song downloaded.  Just something to think about…99 cents for a song just might be worth it after looking at the consequences for downloading illegal music.



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