Illegally downloading music and movie files over the Internet is pretty common among high school and college students. However, over the past few years, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have become more aggressive in targeting students who illegally download and share copyrighted music and movie files via peer-to-peer networks like Ares, Limewire, and Morpheus. Copyright holders are issuing infringement notices to students across the country (mainly students on college campuses), and the cost to settle these infringement lawsuits can be pretty high. Use these tips to deter your child from downloading illegally.
Warn your student about the risks. There are several risks involved when a student chooses to download files illegally. Monetary risk is the most worrisome. The cost to settle copyright infringement lawsuits for students averages around $5,000. Students can also incur damages up to $250,000 per illegally downloaded file under federal law. Other risks include:
Confiscation of computer and associated files and discs.
Exposing computer to viruses.
Exposing computer to spyware and other unwanted spyware.
Hold your child responsible. Let your student know that if he decides to download illegally, he will have to suffer the possible consequences. If he is fined, it will be up to him to pay the fine or pay you back. When the financial burden is placed on the student, he is usually more inclined to think about his actions. In the long run, it's much cheaper to buy legal downloads from sites like iTunes and Amazon.
Supervise your child's online activities if he still lives at home. If you have warned your child about the risks of illegal downloading but are still not 100% sure that he will heed your advice, you may want to supervise your child's activities on the computer. This may seem a little intrusive, but it beats paying fines. If your child has a desktop computer, keep it in the central room of your house. Define certain times he may and may not use the computer. Utilize a Web service that allows you to keep track of your child's online activities.
Inform your student of ways to download legally. There are a number of Web sites that provide music and movie files that can be downloaded legally for free or for a minimal charge. Be sure to share these resources with your child:
MusicUnited.org – This site is sponsored by several recording industry organizations. It maintains an extensive list of other sites where MP3s and other digital music can be legally downloaded.
CampusDownloading.com – This site is maintained by the Recording Industry Association of America and contains a list of sites for downloading legal music on the web.
RespectCopyrights.org – This site is sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America and holds a list of other sites where you can download and watch movies.
When students download and share copyrighted music and movies without permission, they are stealing and may face real consequences. Make sure your child is aware of the laws and penalties of illegal downloading.