FYI: copyrights and downloading/sharing

As this is coming up a lot lately, I wanted to lay down the law so to speak. We've had to remove a number of posts about illegal downloads and the like, and nearly every time, the response is that the person who posted is SURE he has the right to share the Finn's (or whomever's) music. Let me explain the law.

You may videotape any show that you want for you to watch. You may tape something off the radio or burn a mix CD of your favourite tunes from your CD collection. Once you show the TV show to your neighbour or trade it with someone or sell it, you've gone beyond your "personal use." You are distributing or rebroadcasting it, which you would need permission in writing to do. The law has nothing to do with whether or not you make money off it. It's the law. Does that mean that everybody who shows something to a group of people is going to jail? No, they can't crack down on everybody, but I bet they would if they could!

Here in the US, we have Major League Baseball. EVERY TV broadcast of it has a disclaimer that they read... I used to have it memorised, but now only remember that they basically say that you can't do ANYTHING with this show. They make it sound like you can't even tell someone else what the score was without getting permission from MLB! And evidently MLB is not the only ones using that type of statement...

Check this out: http://legal.web.aol.com/decisions/dldecen/nbadec.html Basically, the NBA sued Motorola and another company, SportsTrax, for broadcasting NBA scores and updates (on pagers - this was 1996) without licensing that info from the NBA. You may have thought that info was "public domain" and anybody can give it away or sell it. You and Motorola. Smiler The doc says, "I hold that defendants' conduct in connection with SportsTrax constitutes commercial misappropriation and that plaintiffs are entitled to permanent injunctive relief to remedy defendants' ongoing unlawful conduct." That means that the NBA won the case.

Something going over the radio or TV doesn't make it public domain or free of intellectual property rights. The radio station PAYS to play these things. TV networks have deals with the shows and producers. You're supposed to as well once you go beyond personal use. Restaurants pay for the music you hear while you eat. TV shows pay for the song you hear in the background.

The fact that there are websites or systems out there that allow or encourage "sharing" or "swapping" has made many people think this is OK. The web's very existence has made people completely misunderstand the law on it... some people think that if it's on a web page, it's free for anybody to take and use as they like. NOPE! So there are thousands of websites out there offering you illegal things from products banned in our country to child porn to illegal downloads of media. Doesn't make it right or something we want here.

There is another reason that we police this so efficiently. From time to time, this forum is read by the artists, PR firm, management, record company, and other people directly involved with the artists. Do you want to be admitting to a crime in writing when all these people can read who you are and what you're doing? We're assuming not, so we remove your post partially for your own legal safety!

I hope this helps clear up some common misperceptions about the internet as well as copyright law, "fair use," and "personal use." Personal use means one person - YOU. Once your use extends outside of that, you're supposed to be getting permission in writing or paying for the rights.

Thanks for your time in reading this!
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