Downloading unauthorized copies of music, movies, and software is illegal. Tell me something I don't know.
We all know it's illegal, but some things just feel more illegal than others. Well, here's what you may not know: Your chances of getting caught illegally downloading files at a university are much, much higher than at home. Get caught and you'll face penalties that could include prison time and huge fines.
Even though you feel anonymous online, the reality is that the files you download can be traced to your computer.
Distributing unauthorized copyrighted material in any way is illegal. Here's a short list of some of the most frequent violations:
If your downloading from iTunes or another well-known site, then you're okay. But you have to be on your toes. The Internet is full of scams, and some of the music download services that look legit and call themselves "legal" are not licensed distributors of the music on their sites. You may be trying to be a good digital citizen, but someone else may be trying to take advantage of you. To keep from being scammed, check out this list of popular legal music sites.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a federal law that prohibits the distribution of copyrighted materials without the consent of the owner. Copyright owners like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America contact individuals and universities when they discover a file sharing violation. The violation could involve music, videos, movies, games, music, or software. Penalties for violating the DMCA can be severe.
For more information on copyright protection, see:
How To Not Get Sued for File Sharing, Electronic Frontier Foundation