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!

Lawrence