Generation X is an age group exposed to hi-tech innovations like the flip phone, the Internet, peel stamps, and the availability of free music downloads. Shawn Fanning, a revolutionary and technologically-minded young person, changed the music industry forever with the idea of swapping music files via a computer’s central server. The creation of “Napster” united music lovers across America. As new file-sharing companies like Kazaa and Limewire emerged, the men and women controlling the music industry grew increasingly dissatisifed. College campuses in particular are constantly under attack for downloading illegal and free music. Universities are attractive marketplaces to record companies because of thousands of potential consumers– but the campus Internet connections are among the fastest in the nation, making music downloads seem easier than a trek to the record store to drop upwards of $20 for a cd.
Companies such as the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) are known for suing schools, individuals, and web sites for illegal file sharing. Only weeks ago, the RIAA sued 68 individuals at large universities such as Havard University Medical School, Texas A & M, and students right here at Michigan State University.
Last week’s accusation was not the first for a Michigan State student to be included in a civil suit against the RIAA. While the crime is titled “file-sharing,” the term is not actually considered a criminal act by many. Many avid and knowledgeable computer users believe that file sharing is a legitimate action: the line of legal and illegal file sharing is unclear in the minds of many computer users. It technically becomes illegal when users upload songs from CDs and DVDs onto a computer, then compress the songs into MP3s. But the tricky part is that the majority of MP3 music files on the Internet are legal. An MP3 can turn a four minute, 40-megabyte song into a tune that takes up one-tenth of the memory space.
The legal MP3s are pieces of music generally used by local, up-and-coming bands. They make their music available on web sites as a tactic to gain exposure with a wider audience.
There are many myths about “getting around” the boundary lines of file sharing. In the past, users would use the idea that if a file did not have a copyright notice, then the file was not copyrighted. However, the Berne copyright accepted worldwide says users are legally unable to assume files are not copyrighted. Although it may be difficult news to swallow, but the easiest and safest way to avoid being sued by a record corporation or your favorite artist is simply to avoid file sharing altogether.

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