Jason Nikouyeh

Jason Nikouyeh Professor Willis English 111, Section 133 4 November 1999 Technology is Changing the Way We Listen to Music Downloading MP3s from the Internet should be made legal. An MP3 is a near CD quality digital recording of a musical piece that is compressed so it can be distributed through the Internet (Simple Net). High prices, new technology, and availability are causing most music lovers to turn to the Internet to listen to their music. It’s convenient to search a computer database for a song you’ve been wanting to hear by your favorite artist, download it, and copy it on to a CD. More and more people are doing this because with the help of search engines it’s possible to find any song imaginable and download it for free.

What most people don’t realize is that the reproduction of a musical work, distribution of copies of a musical piece, and the public performance of the work without the copyright owner’s consent are all violations of copyright laws (Anderman and Paez 5). However, they do know that getting caught for this crime is very unlikely. Catching those who violate copyright laws is very tricky because in most cases it’s hard to tell who is at fault. Because of very detailed, complicated copyright laws even prosecuting a web site for promoting pirated music is almost too difficult to attempt. New digital audio compression technologies have made promoting, distributing, and selling music very easy (5).

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Sound files called MPEG 1 Layer 3 or MP3 for short allow users to download digital quality music for free over the Internet. These compressed audio files can be played on an individual’s computer by using special software. With the help of CD-writers, a relatively new computer technology that allows people to create there own CDs, illegal copies of the copyrighted material can be made at near compact disc quality (Anderman and Paez 6). Portable MP3 players have now been developed that make pirating songs even easier. Instead of having to search for and buy expensive music, people are simply downloading the songs they want and designing their own CDs or just listening to the music on an MP3 player. In any case these new technologies are concerning the music industry because composers and production companies are losing a tremendous amount of money (MacDonald 1).

The increasing popularity of MP3s has resulted in the need for copyright law reforms. Because MP3s violate copyright laws, service providers have to take extreme precautions to avoid liability for copyright infringement (Anderman and Paez 7). The first of many says that service providers are not liable if the provider doesn’t start the transmission of the audio file nor manually carry out the copying process (8). The provider can not select the recipients, nor can the transmissions make any changes to the online material (8). The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, otherwise known as DMCA, addresses many issues associated with copyright infringement and rules for digital audio transmission over the Internet. It deals with many issues that include anti-piracy provisions, liability for online copyright infringement, and requirements for digital music delivery (1).

These reforms, designed to protect the Internet Service Providers from liability, make catching individuals who break copyright laws very hard. It’s difficult for providers of interactive web sites and networks to search through all of their hosted web sites for pirated materials so in order for them to be shielded from liability, they can’t have anyway of knowing about the pirated material stored on their server. If the provider is notified of the infringing material, they have to stop accessing to the particular web site immediately. There are many specific rules that the providers must follow in order to avoid blame for copyright infringement if one of their web pages is hosting pirated materials (Anderman and Paez 8). Deciding whether or not copyright laws were violated intentionally is too difficult because there are two types of copyright infringement, direct and indirect (7). If someone makes a digital copy of a musical work such as a MP3 and makes it available for downloading on the Internet, they have directly violated copyright laws.

Direct copyright infringement occurs when a person knowingly makes illegal copies of copyrighted material and distributes it to the public without getting permission from the copyright owner (7). It doesn’t matter whether they’re getting financial gains out of it or not. In other words, an individual doesn’t have to be selling CDs with MP3s on them to violate copyright laws. However, if someone is willfully infringing copyright laws for financial benefits, they can be sentenced to five years imprisonment and $250,000 in fines (Simple Net). Simply downloading a song without the author’s permission to the hard drive of your computer violates copyright laws, and if convicted of this the penalty of $100,000 per infringed sound recording can be imposed (Simple Net).

An Internet Service Provider can be held liable for pirated materials if a web page they are hosting contains pirated materials. However, if the provider unknowingly hosts a web page that has MP3s on it they are indirectly violating copyright laws, but they can still be held liable for up to $20,000 for each infringed sound recording (Simple Net). Something had to be done to protect them from being persecuted for an offense they committed unintentionally. Under the DMCA a service provider is required to provide designated information about them so they can be notified of pirated materials, such as MP3s, on their web sites (Anderman and Paez 7). They must also develop a policy that allows them to punish or get rid of all account holders who infringe the material (10).

An Internet Service Provider or ISP does not have the right to alter any measures taken by the copyright owner to protect their work. If the copyright owner asks a service provider for the name of a copyright law offender, the ISP has to disclose the information to them (10). However, the issuing of a subpoena for this information is a long, rigorous process, and now the problem is deciding whether or not the violator of copyright laws should be prosecuted for committing the crime or not. Safe harbors from liability, specified in the Digital M …