Downloading that Music or Video? Avast, Me Hearty!

No doubt that music video just begs to be shared with your friends. That latest song will be perfect as the soundtrack for your slide show. And look here—a link to that blockbuster that’s still in theaters! Best yet, all yours for the downloading and all free! You gotta love this Internet!

Piracy, it appears, is no longer just a practice for the high seas. Even if a video or song is publicly posted on popular websites such as Hulu or YouTube, there are rules regulating proper use. For example, here is the paragraph from YouTube’s Terms of Service Agreement for “Your Use of Content”:

“Content is provided to you AS IS. You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content.”

And penalties can range from a cease and decease order to significant fines and lawsuits for copyright infringement. In some situations, criminal prosecution is possible. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), here are the legal realities under copyright laws and the “No Electronic Theft Law”:

Criminal penalties for first-time offenders can be as high as five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Civil penalties can run into many thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees. The minimum penalty is $750 per song.

Criminal penalties can run up to five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines, even if you didn’t do it for monetary or financial or commercial gain.

If you did expect something in return, even if it just involves swapping your files for someone else’s, as in MP3 trading, you can be sentenced to as much as five years in prison.

Regardless of whether you expected to profit, you’re still liable in civil court for damages and lost profits of the copyright holder, or the copyright holders can sue you for as much as $150,000 in statutory damages for each of their copyrighted works that you illegally copy or distribute.

Given these realities, and the fact you will not be protected for such acts under your homeowners coverage, your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent reminds you the best protection against an accusation of digital piracy is not the oft-cited cliché of “better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.” The best choice is to honor the wishes of the content creators and providers.

As the YouTube terms make clear, many artists will freely give permission to share their work via links and posting on such social sites as Facebook. But for those who don’t, help them protect their investment in time, talent, resources and future career by agreeing if it’s worth your attention, it’s worth playing (and, if necessary, paying) by the rules.

Leave the piracy to the high seas. When surfing those digital oceans, deal, don’t steal.

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