Downloading not Illegal?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

After reading this, I'm beginning to rethink some issues with regards to downloads. I think this point isn't totally valid, but it does raise some interesting issues with regards to downloading.

Now piracy is illegal. I'm not saying anything about the ethics behind it, but the law clearly says it's illegal. However, to equate downloading to piracy requires deeper inspection. The issue is that downloading involves a bunch of ones and zeroes somehow making its way to your computer, which may turn into something useful. I use the word MAY because UNTIL you have downloaded the file, you cannot guarantee that what you download is legal or illegal. Let's say you downloaded a file with the name "Introduction_To_Quantum_Physics.avi", which CLAIMS to be an un-copyrighted educational video and found out after you downloaded it that it was, in fact, a DVD rip of Spiderman? Or let's say we TRY to download a file called "The_Matrix.avi" and find that it is actually a text file filled with random garble or repetitive phrases? You can't really tell until you've opened the file.

The point I'm trying to make, is simply that to equate downloading to 'piracy' seems a little unfair. I could simply set up a website claiming to offer the latest mp3s and actually send them mp3s of a recording of me farting being played over and over again for three minutes, and there might be a chance that SOMEONE might get sued for downloading it, if nothing else because of the file name. Now this could probably not happen if people actually monitor the files and can somehow check that they really ARE copyrighted material. Unfortunately, it seems that till now, that's not happening. I mean, do the RIAA actually check and make sure the 'songs downloaded which are being stolen' are really copyrighted songs? How do they do it?

The fact remains that downloading and obtaining a file does not equate to 'stealing' the file. It is not the act of downloading that is illegal; it's when what is downloaded is proven to be illegal, and STILL kept that it becomes infringement is it not? Is this illogical or is this making sense? Wouldn't this be the right way to handle these cases?

I do not claim to be an expert in the law, but copyright infringement is a highly controversial topic which many people feel strongly about, particularly in this new age of iPods and HDTVs. It is important to spell out the guideline for which one should follow in internet downloading so that people don't mistakenly fall victim to draconian law.

Fair use is a tricky issue, of which many people are blatantly ignorant of. While there are some people who abuse it, many others simply enjoy the convenience it gives. I for one, like to rip my CDs into mp3s so that I can listen to them without spoiling or scratching the disc. I usually skip albums and buy only compilations since they have a higher number of songs that I enjoy listening to instead of only one or two. No, I don't open up Limewire or Ares to share my music; it eats too much of my bandwidth anyway. BUT to impose DRM on all media is going to make me stop and think twice about buying ANY CD. It's going to be troublesome and chances are, I'd rather just not listen to the song. After all, it's just a song. If I can't use it the way I want to after I buy it, I'd rather not have it.

In relation to this, here's my personal experience with downloads. I have a compulsive streak where I WILL go and buy originals when I really enjoy something. There's something about owning originals that's simply irresistible. For example, I watched Gundam SeeD Destiny by downloading the fan subbed Anime. However, I STILL went and bought the original because it was simply too good a show. If it weren't for watching the downloaded episodes, I wouldn't have even heard about the show, much less buy the DVD. The same goes for music. I enjoyed The Calling's Wherever You Will Go, and when I found an Alternative Rock compilation album from HMV, I bought it! If I'd just walked into the store without hearing the song before, I'd never have done that.

I'm not advocating that people ignore intellectual property rights. I'm just asking for a little more thought into policy making when it comes to protecting your rights. It HAS to be a case of give and take, and so far, the consumers have been doing all the giving. I'm still waiting for a better resolution to this issue.

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Posted by Gerald at 3/20/2007 10:08:00 PM