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18. Is it legal to use network file swapping or (peer-to-peer; P2P) software to download audiovisual works of others? What legal penalties may be imposed?

When ordinary citizens engaging in swapping audio/visual files via software or platforms provided by software firms download the files onto the hard drives of their personal computers without licensing by the copyright owners or burn them, they are reproducing works of others. If it is merely for their personal or home use, it is considered fair use if they are downloading just a small quantity and are not adversely affecting sales in the market for audio/visual goods. Although such behavior does not constitute infringement of economic rights if it remains within the scope of fair use, as soon as it extends beyond the scope of fair use, it becomes infringement of reproduction rights.

Using software provided by software firms to swap music not only involves the above issues of downloading (reproducing), but also involves making copyrighted files stored on one's own computer available for downloading by other Internet users. This act of "making available to the public" constitutes "public transmission" under the Copyright Act. Unless "fair use" standards are met, it is an illegal act if done without first obtaining consent or licensing from the copyright owner. Publicly transmitting works of others over the Internet has far-reaching effects and ramifications, and it can easily constitute infringement, as the scope of permissible "fair use" is very limited.

  • Publish Date : 2008-04-24
  • Update : 2008-04-24
  • Organization : International Affairs and Planning Division
  • Visitors : 117

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