Music Downloads, Peer-to-peer, Copyright and You Print E-mail

Downloading media from the Internet is one of the more popular online activities. However, due diligence is required to avoid legal hazards with this activity.

A large amount of the "free" media such as music and movies is distributed illegally. Downloading these illicit files is a violation of copyright. Even more serious is the redistribution of these files. Serious financial penalties can occur if you are found guilty of violating the copyright on media by redistributing it without permission from the copyright owner. Media industry groups such as the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America) are actively monitoring the common distribution systems known as P2P networks (peer to peer) to identify individuals involved in these activities. Several Tech students have been targeted in the past with lawsuits from the RIAA.

You do not want to be the subject of a future Tech Talk article on the topic of illegal downloading. There are sources for legitimate downloading of music, but most legal music is not free. Some independent musicians distribute their music for free, but that song you heard on the radio is probably not one of them. The movie industry also does not release their productions on the Internet either.

The most common method of downloading unauthorized copyrighted materials is via the use of "peer to peer" (P2P) software. Examples are "Limewire", "Ares", "Kazaa", and "BitTorrent". Most of these programs by default share the media files downloaded back out on to the P2P networks. Each user becomes a server of the files that have been downloaded, making them complicit in the unauthorized distribution of the copyrighted materials. While some of these system have legitimate uses (BitTorrent for example), most of the content found on these P2P networks is not legal. Use of them should be avoided to eliminate the risk of inadvertantly distributing copyrighted materials. The exchange of malware (software which disrupts normal operation of your computer) is also an issue with these P2P networks. Some of these programs can be difficult to remove. Disabling sharing is also risky as many re-enable sharing automatically each time the computer is restarted.


Infringement enforcement by the RIAA and other trade associations generally begin with a "take down notice", a legal notification described in the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act).  The message will look similar to the following:
 Subject: Case ID ######### - RIAA Infringement Notification


Month *, 200*

Contact Name
Louisiana Tech University
Computing Center
Wyly Tower, Railroad Avenue
Ruston, LA  71270  US

Re: Copyright infringement

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am contacting you on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA) and its member record companies. The RIAA is a trade association whose member companies create, manufacture, and distribute approximately ninety (90) percent of all legitimate sound recordings sold in the United States. Under penalty of perjury, we submit that the RIAA is authorized to act on behalf of its member companies in matters involving the infringement of their sound recordings, including enforcing their copyrights and common law rights on the Internet.

We believe a user's account on your network was used to reproduce and/or distribute unauthorized copies of one or more copyrighted sound recordings.  We have attached below the details of the infringing activity. 

We have a good faith belief that this activity is not authorized by copyright owners, their agent, or the law. We are asking for your immediate assistance in stopping this unauthorized activity. Specifically, we request that you remove or disable access to the infringing sound recording.

We believe it is in everyone's interest for music consumers to be better educated about the subject of copyright law and music. In addition to taking steps to notify this network user about the illegal nature of this activity, we encourage you to refer him/her to the MUSIC Coalition's website at The site contains valuable information about what's legal and what's not when it comes to copying music.

You should understand that this letter constitutes notice to you that this network user may be liable for the infringing activity occurring on your network. In addition, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if you ignore this notice, your institution may also be liable for any resulting infringement. This letter does not constitute a waiver of any right to recover damages incurred by virtue of any such unauthorized
activities, and such rights as well as claims for other relief are expressly retained. Moreover, this letter does not constitute a waiver of our members' right to sue the user at issue for copyright infringement.

Thank you in advance for your prompt assistance in this matter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , via telephone at (202) 775-0101, or via mail at RIAA, 1025 F Street, NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C., 20004.
Please reference Case ID A######## in any response or communication regarding this infringement.


Jeremy Landis
Online Copyright Protection

List of infringing content:
List of titles here



Infringing Work: Song name
Filename: Sone-filename
First Found: * Month 200* **:**:** EDT (GMT -0400)
Last Found: * Month 200* **:**:** EDT (GMT -0400)
Filesize: 3,035k
IP Address: IP-Address
IP Port: 61682
Network: Gnutella
Protocol: Gnutella

If you receive one of these, you should not ignore it.  If you are in fact distributing the listed item, you must stop immediately. Delete the file if you did not purchase it.  If you legally have a right to the file, stop sharing it.  If you are not knowingly sharing the file, search the files on your computer for a file with the name(s) listed in the notice.  If they are found, delete or stop sharing immediately.   If the file cannot be found, then it may be an erroneous detection by the notifying party, but it is extremely important that you are sure that the file(s) are not being shared.  Otherwise you could end up at step #2:


Early Settlement Notification

An early settlement notification is sent to the University to be forwarded to you.  This means that the RIAA (or any other trade association) is offering to settle out of court for their claimed damages.  If you receive one of these, you should seek legal advice.  Your identity is not turned over to the trade association.  However, if you do not settle, then you will probably end up in a civil suit.  Settlements at this stage are generally thought to be a few thousand dollars, depending on the number of items involved.


Identity subpoena

At this stage, the trade association has chosen to proceed with a civil suit against you and will subpoena the University for your identity.    The civil suit will most likely seek damages in excess of $100,000.

So what does this mean to you...don't do it.  It's not worth it.  Music from legal sites is not exhorbitantly priced.  Get your music from a legal source and sleep comfortably at night. 

More info:





    * (DMCA text)

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