Copyright law protects any original expression of an idea, whether published or not. Songs, films, TV programs, games, and software are among the works protected by copyright. Only the copyright holder has the authority to reproduce or distribute such content, unless this authority is explicitly delegated or licensed to another party.
It is imperative to understand the difference between legal and illegal downloads and file sharing. Unauthorized sharing or downloading of copyrighted material is stealing. Students across the country, including several at Boston College, have already been served with lawsuits by copyright holders, paid thousands of dollars in fines and legal costs, and in some cases faced criminal charges. Don't be one of them. Remember: ignorance of the law is not a legitimate defense.
Not sure if you may be infringing on copyright laws? Here are some common examples of copyright infringement:
- Joining a file-sharing network and downloading unauthorized copies of copyrighted music for free.
- Sharing unauthorized MP3 copies of a song on the Internet or through a file-sharing network.
- Emailing copies of a copyrighted song to all of your friends.
- Transferring copyrighted music using AIM or other instant messaging services.
- Burning CD copies of music you have downloaded and then giving them to your friends.
Criminal and civil penalties may result from copyright violation, alongside disciplinary action by Boston College. Primarily, the negative consequences are financial, often to the tune of several thousand dollars. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has well publicized its campaign to target college campuses for legal action.