File Downloading Legality

I heard something today, in respect to file sharing/watching films online. I quote: ‘It’s not illegal if you stream it, but If you download it to your computer, that’s illegal’

I’m no expert in copyright law but I’d say this is a considerable flaw in understanding how copyright licensing works. Firstly let’s look at why it’s illegal download files at all. If you own a file/video/picture, you can distribute it as you like. Your holiday snaps are yours through and through (Usually always, anyway).

The reason you can’t share the latest blockbuster film is because you don’t own distribution rights. Buying a DVD from any shop gives you license to privately view the film within your own home. Licenses vary but this is usually the package. It’s illegal to be the receiver of a copyrighted file, just as much as it is to be a sharer. Although in reality sharers are often easier to find and so penalised and exposed more, as individual examples. In this plain sense it’s easy to see what’s illegal. If you didn’t buy it, anything you watch on the internet (that isn’t free) is illegal.

This is true regardless of the method you get the file by. I was amused to hear that someone said they got all their music by downloading the music video from YouTube and then converting them to mp3. Well, the amusing part is that they thought this was legal, in comparison to someone simply downloading the file through a P2P network. Because that’s another thing, just because YouTube exists and is big, doesn’t mean it’s legal. YouTube doesn’t endorse copyright material, when submitting a video, you will be asked to confirm you own it. This doesn’t mean people don’t lie, but copyrighted videos will be removed.

AH! You say (I assume you say this a lot to things I write) but just this morning I watched the music video for band ‘xyz’. Firstly, the video deletion process isn’t perfect so it’s more than likely you can find hundreds of copyrighted lk21. If this isn’t the case, look to the right of the video, there’s probably a record label banner. Because BMI, etc recognise YouTube is a useful advertising platform and allow their videos to be there, as long as it’s under their control. If your in the UK, you may notice channel 4 have a YouTube page for some of their programs. It’s perfectly legal to watch these through the 4od channel, but if you watched them on YouTube through another YouTube account, it would be Illegal.

I’m sure you’re sick of examples but just one more. Although iPlayer lets you watch videos online for free, that license only extends to watching them over 30 days or within 7 days of the first play. Even if you cracked the DRM, It would be illegal to watch the file the 8th day, even when it was legal the 7th. It’s all about the terms of the license. I suppose there’s no real point to this, it’s not even a rant, I was just surprised at how unclear the legality of online media really is. Not that this is even exclusive to online content, copyright applies to CDs, tapes, records (should I go farther back?). And also nearly everything else.

On another note of misunderstanding, I overheard someone talking about their new laptop, claiming that it had been on hibernate since the previous night and the battery was still at 98% (which they thought was amazing). What was more worrying was that they thought it was a ‘super-low power mode’ which allowed their programs to keep running in the background (sort of true). They were hoping all their downloads would have finished since the previous, aforementioned night. Oh dear.

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