Downloading and Uploading Content

Downloading and uploading content are commonplace across the Internet. Downloading involves transferring data from a main source, or website, to a secondary location, or a remote computer system. Uploading content is transferring data in the opposite direction — from the computer system to the website server.

Both downloading and uploading content involve copyright infringement issues. One of the biggest challenges exists in the constantly changing nature of digital music distribution technologies, which make it difficult for legal regulations to keep up. There are several different means of recording and transferring music over the Internet. Music is available over the Internet through CODEC software, which allows users to “stream” music directly from a server. Where users stream the music without proper permission, they infringe on the copyright holder’s recording, reproduction, and public performance rights. Users may also “rip” music, which involves copying music to a hard drive from a CD. “Burning” data involves the opposite procedure, wherein users may transfer data from a computer to a CD. Unlawfully “ripping” or “burning” content infringes on a copyright holder’s reproduction rights.

The federal government has passed several pieces of legislation in an effort to curb such infringement. The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 (“AHRA”), under 17 U.S.C. sections 1001-1010, establishes regulations for importers, manufacturers, and distributers of digital audio recording devices. This federal statute requires these parties to file a notice and periodic accounting statements with the United States Copyright Office, implement a serial tracking system to prevent replication of copyrighted work, and pay royalty for each work sold. The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 extends the copyright holders’ public performance right to include digital audio transmission. This law thereby expands copyright holders’ exclusive rights to their works. However, radio and television transmissions through business establishments are still exempt. The No Electronic Theft Law of 1997 allows for criminal prosecution of recording infringements, regardless of whether the infringing party had any commercial gain. An infringing party may face up to three years in prison, fines up to $250,000, or both. The infringing party may also be civilly liable for copyright holders’ lost profits and statutory damages up to $150,000 for each violation. The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 makes it criminal to unlawfully record movies in theaters and post the file for sale on file-sharing networks. Under this law, violating parties may face up to three years in prison for their first offense and up to six years in prison for subsequent offenses. Where the file is made available prior to the release of the film in theaters, offending parties may face up to ten years in prison if there was any commercial gain.

The Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) aggressively pursues lawsuits against infringing parties who illegally share music over the Internet in an effort to curtail online copyright infringement. RIAA has pursued claims against individuals who participate in illegal downloads and uploads, and claims against the sites and hosts that make the content illegally available over the Internet.