Online piracy can be many things, but the most common forms are downloading songs and movies illegally. Many sites offer free servers (i.e., Kazaa, IMesh, etc) that allow a person to download movies and songs absolutely free. Since people can just get pirated songs and movies for free rather than pay for it, musicians and movie producers suffer heavy losses.
There are no specific laws addressing online piracy (though some are definitely in the works). However, just because there are no specific laws doesn’t mean online piracy is legal. Online piracy is federal copyright infringement. The fact that many people engage in online piracy does not change that fact.
Online piracy is difficult to catch because of the nature of the internet. However, if you are caught, punishment can include:
- Getting sued for copyright infringement that may result in heavy fines
- Being subject to raids, searches and seizures by federal agencies
- Using illegal servers to download may allow others to access personal information on your computer.
- Higher prices for movies and CDs
A successful online piracy charge consists of a few elements: (1) downloading or using material (2) which is copyrighted (3) without paying for the material to the producers or disturbers. As such, there are a few defenses:
- Fair use – people have the right to use the material provided that the material is for educational purposes or satire.
- Free speech – If there is original work mixed with the copyrighted work, the government may not be able shut the whole website down.
- No knowledge or intent – If the downloader didn’t intend to infringe on copyright, some or all the damages demanded may be waived.
If you are accused of online piracy, you most likely will have to pay heavy fines for the items you have downloaded. Contact a business attorney to learn more about your rights, defenses, and the complicated legal system.