Q I have a hunch my kids are pirating music, and I want them to stop. They claim it’s no big deal. Should I worry?
A In 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that it would be drawing down its lawsuits against file sharers, instead relying on Internet service providers to issue warnings. This gave some the impression that file sharing has become, if not legal, safe. It hasn’t. Hosting and sharing copyrighted materials for free is still illegal, and looser enforcement doesn’t change the fact that file sharers’ identities are exposed.
BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing service, exposes users’ IP addresses to whoever might want to see them, be they copyright holders or law enforcement. Free download sites such as MediaFire are themselves vulnerable to lawsuits, which could result in the subpoena of user information – the biggest, Megaupload, was shut down by authorities in January. Getting slapped with a hefty lawsuit for downloading files may be statistically unlikely, but it’s not impossible.
It seems the message is getting out. We were told by someone who regularly sources (presumably pirated) e-books from a certain Web site that the site’s download facility was suddenly removed without explanation. Now he’s feeling slightly nervous.