Copyright Infringement and You — What is Illegal File Sharing?
Illegal file sharing is the sharing of copyrighted movies, TV shows, music, games, software, and other files, without the expressed permission of the copyright owner.
How is this illegal file sharing done?
Generally the sharing is done using a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. There are many software programs that allow a computer to connect to a P2P network and facilitate the downloading and sharing of all types of files with other people on the network. Most commonly, the file sharing software is based on a method called Bit Torrent. There are dozens of applications that use this method. Even though there are legal uses of Bit Torrent, the vast majority of content on Bit Torrent networks is copyrighted material that cannot legally be shared.
Everyone is doing it. How will I get caught?
An increase in illegal file sharing globally has led to a dramatic increase in the anti-piracy efforts of organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and others. They have expanded their efforts to identify Internet connections that are being used to share copyrighted material on the Internet. They regularly troll these Torrent networks and record who is sharing their copyrighted property.
How will I know if I have been identified?
Every week WestPA.net receives Copyright Infringement Notices from various copyright holders indicating that someone with a WestPA.net Internet connection has downloaded their copyrighted property. They identify the IP address of the connection and WestPA.net must identify who’s Internet connection was used. Then we must forward their “cease and desist” email to the offending party. That email tells the file sharer what was stolen and what needs done.
What are the potential consequences?
If the illegal file sharing continues two things might happen. WestPA.net ultimately must cancel that person’s Internet connection to stop the sharing. But that is not the worst news. The Movie, TV, Recording and Porn industries have become aggressive at filing civil suits against offenders. Government legislation has also been enacted to allow severe penalties for those convicted of sharing copyrighted material. The copyright holders seek, and many times get, substantial damages for the copyright infringement.
Can I download music and movies legally?
Music, TV shows, and movies can be legally obtained through a wide range of sites that are licensed by the copyright holders to offer these materials as downloads or as streaming content. Netflix, Hulu, the iTunes Store, Amazon Video, Pandora, etc are just a few examples of places where content can be obtained. In most cases you only pay a monthly subscription fee or a per program fee. Though not free, the cost of legally downloading content is dramatically less costly than the expense of losing a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Play it safe. The fines and court costs are not worth a ‘free’ movie, song, video game, software package. It’s part of our terms of service, too — if you can’t stop downloading copyrighted content, we will have to turn off your Internet connection!