Legal Risks of File Sharing Over P2P Networks

by Barbara J. Feldman on January 19, 2008

Legal risks are a real concern of peer to peer file sharing. Most people who file share do not even consider the legal side. They know they run the risk of getting viruses, or spyware, or malware, but they forget about the legal side of downloads and sharing.

So, let’s take a look at the legal risks of file sharing over peer to peer networks:

The biggest legal concern is that file traders who violate copyright laws risk lawsuits, civil penalties, and even criminal prosecution.

So, how does this happen? Well, usually if someone wants to pursue you for copyright violation they will first try to find out who violated their copyright. This usually leads to disclosure of personal information, so while it sucks for you, it is part of the digital media protection stuff. Your personal information is not going to be as important as keeping copyright laws, and prosecuting those who break them. So, if you want to steer clear of these legal risks of file sharing over peer to peer networks, then make sure you are aware of the legal penalties for copyright infringement and share legally, and responsibly. If you are not sure if something is being shared legally, look into it before accepting it, or you are liable…ignorance is not a good excuse for breaking this law.

One of the biggest risks of this is the flaw in legislation. Basically, according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act anyone holding a copyright can unmask the Internet user they think have broken their copyright. This means where they did or not, their identity and personal information can be viewed, without their knowledge.

So, because of the legal side of file sharing and breaking copyright there is a real privacy issue. It is understandable that copyright holders need to identify potential infringers in order to enforce their legal rights online and curb the increasing piracy of digital content. So this means, that as a person who will be file sharing, even if you are not sharing copyrighted information, you need to be aware that you can be investigated, and your personal information can be looked at. So, as a file sharer, your privacy is at risk.

How is your privacy at risk? Well, according to section 512(h), any copyright holder – possibly millions of organizations and individuals — can compel an ISP to disclose the identity of an Internet user based on an allegation of copyright infringement, whether it is true or not. The bigger problem is that this disclosure of personally identifying information can happen without you, the Internet user, even knowing. So, without any proof of the allegation, your identity could be unmasked.

Because file sharing is a common form of distributing pirated information, as well as pornography, copyrighted information, and other illegal forms, it is important that you recognize the potential problems and the reasons your privacy may be invaded in order to enforce the legal rights of the copyright holder.

So, if you break legal rights of copyright holders, make sure that you know what you might face. You could be in a lawsuit. You could be given civil penalties, or even a criminal prosecution. So, decide if the risks are worth it, and the answer should be no. The truth is, you could get caught in the illegal world of downloading copyrighted information if you are not careful, and if you share with people you do not know or trust.

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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Legal Risks of File Sharing Over P2P Networks." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 19 Jan. 2008. Web. 1 Sep. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/1272/legal-risks-of-file-sharing-over-p2p-networks/ >.