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File Swapping

Downloading copyrighted content from the Internet, a practice known as "file swapping," is one of the biggest issues in Internet usage. Because thousands of people can access a file, downloading music or films has a huge financial impact on the artist and copyright owner.

Why is file swapping illegal?

File swapping violates copyright laws.

Can I be sued for file swapping?

Yes. Owners of the copyrighted songs and movies are filing lawsuits against individuals who download copyrighted material.

SIDEBAR: Currently, members of the Recording Industry Association of America, the main trade organization for music companies and artists, have filed several lawsuits against college students and others, requesting $150,000 in damages per song downloaded.

Are parents responsible if their child illegally swaps music files on the family computer?

Parents are responsible for their child's "bad behavior" only to a limited extent, and these limits would apply to a file swapping suit. Typically, state laws put a maximum on the amount of money parents must pay to compensate the injured party. The "cap" can be as little as $2,500.

Can I go to jail for swapping music files?

Yes. If you are convicted of a copyright offense, you are in violation of the Electronic Theft Act, which permits offenders to be sentenced to jail.