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Is Online Television Legal?

Within the last several years, websites that offer streaming video have taken a very large portion of the market for video content taken in by American consumers, mostly including young adults and teenagers. Sites like Google Video, YouTube, and countless other entertainment sites started by featuring short videos with humorous content, but quickly morphed into fully functional entertainment mediums. It is now possible, for instance to watch some feature length movies in their entirety on Google Video. Users are encouraged to upload videos to a site for others to enjoy, rate, and comment on.

Unfortunately, some users miss the point of user determined content, and upload copyrighted material. While this is against the terms of use agreement for many of these video sites, copyrighted content such as television shows (either in their entirety or clips of them) are regularly available for viewing. Because of the sheer size of the sites involved and the number of files uploaded daily, monitoring and censoring every single video that is uploaded is impossible. At one point in time, anyone could go to one of these sites and effectively watch television on their computer. This, of course, is illegal. Most sites rely on other users to report copyrighted videos. Sometimes, though if there is demand for a certain show or movie, the copyright holder will allow it to be uploaded, but only by them, and they will embed paid advertisements, so at least they are getting some kind of reimbursement for their content.

Luckily for some fans of online video, several television studios have caught on to this growing trend among Internet users. Some of the major networks and even a few cable networks are allowing their content to be displayed for free online, with advertisements either embedded in the video itself or displayed prominently on the web site itself. This has allowed fans of certain shows to see the episodes they like when they want to see them. The major studios have decided that it is better to spend the money to get the material out there through legitimate channels than waste resources tracking down every single person that has ever uploaded their content to the Internet. The added bonus of driving traffic to their website where paid advertisements are displayed just adds to the benefit to the studio.

Some websites are even created with the express intention on offering television shows, past and present, online for free. Sites like Hulu.com and Beelinetv.com offer users archived shows a well as some live streaming content. These sites and those like it usually offer the shows with minimal commercial interruption, and pay a fee to the copyright owners for the privilege of showing the content. Some sites are even beginning to build up their feature length movie content and are offering some pretty current and popular movies. Television shows are also offered usually a week or so past their original air date to help the networks continue to promote their traditional television presence.

So, is online television legal? Five years ago, perhaps the answer would have been a resounding no, but now, with television companies willing to open up their libraries for a small fee, the miracle of television is now available 24/7 for free on the Internet.

Have a great day!


Illegal P2P Networks and Your Child

Peer to peer networks have gotten a lot of media attention over the last decade or so. Peer to peer networking developed from the idea that one server doesn’t necessarily have to hold all the information. In a standard network, a file is downloaded from one server to one computer. If that file is copyrighted, and the copyright owner finds out, they know who to go after. Peer to peer is a little bit different, in that one computer connects to several at once, downloading the file from multiple users. Without a central server, it becomes harder to track who gets what from whom.

Despite all the controversy over what is legal and what isn’t, there are actually legal ways to use peer to peer networks to download copyrighted material. In the early days of Napster and Gnutella, users didn’t have to pay a fee, and subsequently, the artists never received any remuneration for their work. After several landmark lawsuits and court cases, many file sharing services are now offered in a legal version. The network pays artists a fee for the right to distribute certain materials over the Internet, and users pay fee to the network for the right to download them. Illegal peer to peer networks have fought past court battles or eluded them entirely. They have continued to operate despite numerous court ordered injunctions and rulings.

Now, some parents might not understand what is so dangerous about their kids using these peer to peer networks to download or distribute their favorite songs or television shows. That is understandable, but here are the facts. Distributing copyrighted material without the copyright owner’s consent or compensation is illegal. That’s it. Everybody knows it, even those that operate on the fringe of legality with BitTorrent. If the copyright owner knows who is doing it, they can and often do press charges. It is a federal offense, which brings the FBI into the mix. If the federal government catches the person responsible, there are some pretty hefty fines and possibly jail time.

It’s natural to want to keep your kids out of trouble for their sake, but think about what happens if your 14 year old is caught downloading illegal material. That person is a minor, which means the parents are responsible for his or her actions. Your ISP could ban you from ever using their service again, which can be really bad if there is only one ISP available in your area. The courts could choose to charge you instead of the minor, claiming that you are complicit in the commission of a crime by a minor under your care and control. That means those fines and possibly jail time are yours.

Aside from all this scary business about going to jail or bankrupting your future in fines paid to the government, downloading copyrighted material is stealing. If you wouldn’t want your child to steal a movie from the store, why would you allow them to steal one over the Internet. At least if they steal it from a store, it is misdemeanor larceny, and all you’ll have to do is pay for the movie. Parents can control what their kids do online through site blocking software, programs that monitor Internet searches, and even programs that only allow a certain amount of information into your computer. If you’re concerned about your kids’ safety or your own, you owe it to yourself to make sure nobody in your house is using illegal peer to peer networks. It’s easy to do, and the benefits more than outweigh the risks or not doing it

Have a great day!