Can I get into trouble for downloading illegal files?
What if you accidentally download something illegally? I think I may have and as soon as I found out that I may have, I deleted it, but what can happen to me? I'm a minor and I'm not experienced in computer usage. I assumed that the filters would keep out anything illegal, but one of my friends told me otherwise. I'm worried that I may have done something wrong, but I really don't know. I really don't want to get into trouble because it was an accident and I tried to correct it. I just don't know what to do. Please respond.
There are unfortunately legal precedents that establish clearly that ignorance of the law is not a defense. In this case, it means that if you downloaded an illegal file, hacked commercial application, cracked DVD movie, or whatever, you are indeed guilty of an illegal act and can, theoretically at least, be liable for prosecution.
Before you panic and move to some far-flung island, however, realize that illegal downloads are rampant on the Internet and that some of the busiest sites online are focused on helping people download just this material. Some of them have the gall to actually promise that everything they offer is legal (especially mp3 music sharing sites) without bothering to point out that their corporate headquarters are far from the shores of the United States because they're actually afraid of being prosecuted themselves!
Part of the problem is that some of the tasks you can do on your computer are indeed considered illegal, even if common sense suggests that they should be perfectly legal and fair. For example, if I buy a DVD, it is unclear to me why it's illegal for me to copy it to my laptop or Sony PSP so I can watch it while on a trip, or if I buy an album from the iTunes Store, why I can't convert that data into a format that will work on my non-Apple mp3 player. Both of those are illegal, and one of the big issues that we'll be debating for the next few years is this very topic of "fair use" versus "digital rights management". And it'll be tough to solve, too.
Also, please understand, I'm not condoning this illegal behavior. You should certainly avoid downloading any illegal files anyway because they're commonly carriers of viruses, spyware, or worse,
Anyway, truth be told, I am sure that you are safe from any problem and if you avoid these illegal download sites in the future. Just be careful out there... :-)
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Reader Comments To Date: 27
Some points on what you wrote:
(a) It's true that ignorance of the *law* is not a defense. However, if you know what the law is, but you just didn't know that the specific file you were downloading contained illegal content and you deleted it as soon as you found out, that may be a reasonable defense. (e.g. if you started downloading a file and you didn't realize it was child porn until after it was already downloaded! The police encourage people to report instances of child porn to a "cyber tipline", and presumably they don't arrest everybody who accidentally runs across child porn and reports it to them.)
The poster phrased the question ambiguously -- "What if you accidentally download something illegally? I think I may have." Does that mean he downloaded copyrighted music without knowing that was illegal? (Could still get in trouble.) Or that he downloaded something and didn't realize until after he had the file, that it was illegal content, and then he deleted it? (Probably not liable.)
(b) Are you sure it's illegal to convert iTunes music to MP3? The iTunes program specifically lets you burn the content to a CD, which seems to imply it's legal to make digital copies of your own music, as long as you don't give those copies to other people. (And in fact, iTunes even lets you import those burned CDs back into your computer as MP3s!) Apple undoubtedly doesn't like people doing that, because they want to sell more iPods. But just because Apple doesn't like it doesn't make it illegal.
(c) You said that illegal files are common carriers of viruses and spyware. That's true for pirated software, but viruses generally can't spread through mp3s or movie files (unless you have outdated music-and-movie-playing software that contains security holes, in which case you should get free upgrades for the software right away, *regardless* of whether you're playing pirated content or not!). Most spyware is installed by the file-sharing program itself, like KaZaA!
Personally I wish we could end music piracy because that would mean more money for artists, and more and better music all around as a result, but I also believe that software code (including code for p2p programs that enable music piracy) is protected by the First Amendment.
I have DSL, and my friend told me that i should use BearShare to get free MP3's. I know its a peer to peer network , but can i get in trouble for downloading MP3's? Thank you :@
on some web sites you see things that say things like watch brother f&*% 15 yr old sister is that not illegal one of the sites is lime wire go to movies click on all and scroll down i no longer have lime wire i reported it but nothing got done i still have people check its still there its on alot of web sites some body needs to do something about it please e mail me when you recive this so i know somebody got it thank u stephen
Can I get into legal trouble for cracking my boyfriends password to his email. I mean it was his birthday. i found out that he was cheating on me now he wants to try to get me in trouble for getting in his email. should i be worried
if i download music off bearshare will i get in trouble?
you can delete any kind of illegal file you want. it won't save you from being prosecuted. my boyfriend has come across some illegal files on his computer in the past and had deleted them. the feds track you. and then they come in with a search warrant. and even if you think you deleted something, not everything leaves your hard drive. they will take your computer and still find this crap. then they will come and arrest you for possession. and it being in the recycle bin is NOT a defense. that just shows you knew it was there. knowledge of the file. then they through you in prison for the next 10 years. this is EXACTLY what they are doing to my boyfriend. he has no prior record, a nice guy who always was willing to lend a helping hand. now in prison because of accidental download. do not let anyone tell you otherwise. we are living it. in this so-called free country.
I wouldn't trust anything that is running on the Gnutella network such as LimeWire and BearShare. If you must download illegally, consider being part of a newsgroup. See www.usenet.com for details.
To those with questions about downloading music:
Yes, downloading MUSIC / Audio from websites is illegal UNLESS you've paid for it.
(sorry for double post)
Oh and Tammy, yes, you can get in trouble for "cracking" into somebody's email. That, and it is a violation of one's personal privacy.
I don't think it's illegal because you are sharing music or using torrents. You pay for the ipod/mp3player so why should you pay for the music. you are just sharing files with people. anyway the government doesnt have time to deal with this type of crap. people download music all the time. it's not big deal. also if someone took all the time to download the music and find album covers than why should anyone care. its more work for the person who's downloading music and not buying it. apple doesnt own the songs so why should someone pay for music. only people who love to waste money buy music.
Shannon, really? That's really how you feel? Then how do you suggest that artists, musicians, producers, etc ever get paid?
I believe that what the answerer at the top has said is partially untrue, you are aloud by T&C's of Copyright Laws and usuage policies to make no more than 2 copies of the content you bought whether it be DVD movies, music mp3's or software.
Uploading these files to a secure location like memory banks online is allowed like for instance if you want to save space on your computer. uploading these files to torrent sites is illegal or sharing through P2P's as in the T&C's it states that sharing this content is an infringement of the contents owners intellectal rights. this is not the same for downloading. in downloading the content you are not breaching copyright laws. and i frankly dont know how they can empower that as a law. yes yo obtaining a copy of the material for personal use just as long as you are not sharing it. another higher intelligence might suggest that if somebody dropped some money and you picked it up, would that be considered stealing? not allot of people would say it is stealing. people can go to digital radio sites and record full songs off that and reformat them as mp3's, is that illegal? there are many other ways of obtaining content but by no means should anybody be prosecuted for downloading, its human nature to try and get things for free, it is not our fault that the means in which they are provided is illegal, if you did not copy the content or share it with more people then how can they say its illegal.
For all laws there has to be reason, downloading and not sharing the content has no reason. so moral of the story, you can't get nicked unless you are the one doing sharing the content.
And i would use that as a viable defence. if it was illegal porn like child porn then just report it to the local authorities, they will process it for you and problem solved, that link or site will be deleted or restricted pending investigation.
Oh and no about the girl who cracked her bf's password, he was made well aware when signing up to his email address that he was not to use anything easily guessed and its or that reason. each person is in charge of the usuage of thier email accounts, there is no invasion of privacy law on Electronic Mailing Accounts.
JJ, sorry, you're wrong. If something is illegal, it's illegal whether or not it's easily done. Leaving your door unlocked might not be smart, but it certainly doesn't mean that someone who walks in and steals your TV isn't breaking the law.
I agree with Dave, it is true and a violation of privacy.
Just checking that deleting downloads wont stop you getting prosecuted. thanks.
Hi I just got a letter from my internet provider that I have illegaly downloaded music movies etc files. I only download music from limewire and itunes and I downloaded some movies from vuze and I payed for the program so why would I get introuble? anyways i deleted every movie that i download so willI get in trouble or will this just blow over? please give me a good answer!
if i download a song like imma be by blackeyed peas is that illegal and will i get caught
If u get caught your a loser i guess i think its bs, me and about 15 of my mates have been downloading music for 10 years about 50 to 100 mp3s a day. no one cares and if they do they can stick it up there arse cause if there is a sight to get stuff off thats free wats the problem? but if you are selling it now thats a diffrent storey,so errr shut down the sites that let u download mp3s if you moronic laws have such a problem hahaha blow me
Well I guess the opinion is divided amongst the people in the world... I myself have downloaded lots of commercial software on torrents, however it doesn't mean I fully condone the practice, ie: i don't say it is no deal. I also don't download pirated software ONLY, I buy quite a bit of software. However to the people who want it stopped, it is going to be nearly impossible to stop this completely. And in the case of the boyfriend in jail, it is not completely fair to have him in there because if he is arrested, then all the other people who download illegal software should be arrested and put in jail. Each developed country would have to arrest its own governments!!! There would be no one left innocent.
So i take a neutral/middling approach towards illegal software, even though I download it myself.
btw i've heard that it is the US that is strict on this. Other countries such as Australia and most of the European countries don't care. Well they do but they don't go to the lengths of arresting people and putting on a sentence worse than a murder or something...
Sorry for double posting
I've thought of something that might change the circumstances a bit... Most of the software that I download is legit trials, it is the cracks which replace the exe that people consider to be 'illegal'. But is it really illegal? I mean cracks are not meant to 'cost money' so they can be distributed? However i know there would be people that would argue that the cracks contaminate the legit trials, the whole 'package' makes it illegal so any part of that 'package' is illegitimate. Well i guess, but i would like to see what people think, is the the cracks that people are against?
More on how it's going to be too hard to stop this: just like there is stealing in the physical world, well it's not going to be abolished anytime soon, is it?
I guess i have a lot to say on this topic...
Well about the email accounts, even if people get into other email accounts its an invasion of privacy, makes the person look like a hacker. Eg: you wouldn't want someone to hack into your Windows or Mac account... So if the person does get in, he or she shouldn't look throught all the emails that person has...
Exception, US officials who breach personal computer privacy and stuff... m
A few people get made examples of, like winning the lottery of bad luck. This is a moral issue though.
Illegal downloading helps the economy (especially cable companies) when done right. Perhaps some may not buy computers or gaming systems if they couldn't get the applications or games for free. Perhaps mp3 player sales would significantly go down if people could not afford to collect music. It goes on and on, even mp3's help artist's popularity, and artists get a majority of their money from touring. Also, there's tons of educational software can help people get certifications so they can get better jobs.
The problem is when the downloader is someone who can afford the product. But we are like crows, and covet shiny objects. I think a typical person who can afford the real thing will opt to buy it, because we were all kids once, admiring that toy within its package.
We are still those kids.
OK I GOT A CALL FROM THE FEDS SAYIN SOMETHING ABOUT BOOTLEGGING COD BLACK OPS THATY SAID THER GANNA TURN OFF OR NET WORK I MEAN WTF SOME ONE HELP ME
If you think about I have friends who do this and on some of the websites it tells you how many downloads there were for one program so the first like 20 things that get put up when you search have like a mill downloads each and they would arrest the people who put it up not the one million who download it
While thousands were being sued for piracy a couple of years ago a North Carolina police officer was RECORDED discussing downloading music for free. The officer named the name Kazaa which has appeared in numerous lawsuits and talked about how the songs were arranged in groups and you choose the songs and just click and get them. He said it was the thing to do everybody was doing it. He bet his daughters had downloaded a THOUSAND SONGS on his computer. He said he had to get a new computer his old one FILLED UP WITH MEMORY. He laughed and said he hoped the federal government did not come in and investigate him.
Shortly after this conversation we began reading the news articles people were being sued by RIAA and the FBI. They were calling piracy a crime of stealing and calling these people thieves. They were making serious verbal attacks against school and college students along with warnings being put in the schools of the consequences. The RIAA and the FBI on their websites encourage people to report piracy. The FBI Anti Piracy Warning says they investigate. At that time we reported the officer's conversation as well as his name to the RIAA and the FBI. It was ignored. A few months ago we were still reading news article people still being sued. Three of these cases that stood out were Joel Tennenbaum, Jammie Thomas and Whitney Harper all having to pay outrageous monetary amounts. In other cases included a grandmother and also a 12 year old. Now feeling ignoring the officer's conversation was unfair we began reporting the conversation to the RIAA the FBI the PD and several other anti piracy organizations along with the officer’s name asking why this was not investigated. Again it continues to be ignored. If piracy is a crime as the FBI the RIAA and others proclaim why was this conversation ignored. Considering piracy is being called a crime and the thousands of people that have been sued shouldn't this conversation be investigated to see where the THOUSAND SONGS this officer talks about came from, who the everybody is that is doing this and if he or his daughters may have committed what RIAA, FBI and others are calling a crime. Ignoring this conversation seems to be an injustice to all the people that have been sued as well as to us as a citizen reporting it and it being ignored. How can they sue some and ignore a high ranking police officer discussing downloading music in this way. I feel this is wrong and don’t understand how this is allowed. The funny thing is this officer is married to a Christain School Teacher and her sister is a public middle school teacher.
anonymous, you said that already. get a life. you are stalking this poor police officer. not only listening to his recorded conversations, but researching his family history, and repeatedly reporting him to authorities? don't you think if they thought his offensse was serious they would look into it? these cases you are speaking of are probably people providing the downloads, not merely one of the millions downloading. i repeat, for your own sanity: GET A LIFE!!!
Happened to stop by your web page;
http://www.askdavetaylor.com/get_into_trouble_for_downloading_illegal_files.html and found that your page contains several direct links to so called FREE music download sites!
So I came to the conclusion that either you are completely disingenuous and taking the proverbial p** OR you haven't checked your site recently to find it's been hacked by the very ar*eholes you appear to be condemning. Bet they're laughing all the way to the Bank!
Graham - A struggling Songwriter.
Thanks for your comment, Graham. I am unclear what you're talking about, however, as I just examined this page and nowhere in the original article nor in any of the user contributed comments do I see a link to any download site. I have advertising on the page and perhaps the ads you saw appear were from these sites? But that seems unlikely too: whether it's Google AdSense, Kontera, Chitika, or any of the other ad networks we're affiliated with, they all have standards of acceptability for advertisers. Can you offer a bit more information, please? Thx.
I think you should all be shot in the face in front of your families and then burnt at the stake. Copy, download or rip music/dvd's or software for whatever reason is illegal, end of.
Would you walk into HMV and nick it off the shelves? Exactly the same thing, you just think you are anonymous because you're nice and warm in front of your computer screen but keep looking over your shoulder, because one day they'll have yer.
I do have a lot to say, and questions of my own for that matter, but first I'd like to say thank you, Dave, for all your helpful information by
buying you a cup of coffee!||
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