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There is a full force battle over the legality of music downloading websites/applications, and the recent law suit against the popular site YouTube MP3 (youtuve-mp3.org) has once again shed light on this issue. The question being asked: Are music downloaders legal? The answer: sometimes.
Currently, YouTube MP3 is still standing strong despite the RIAA claiming that the downloader (and similar websites) are copyright infringement. The website claims its innocence in the great debate by stating that it is merely providing a service to its customers (using cached links), and is only a tool that certain users may or may not be using for copyright infringement.
“You can use a knife to chop onions, but you can also use it to kill someone. Should we ban the knife, simply because it is sometimes used to murder someone?”
The same can be said about music downloaders, since there are many legal uses for such websites. For example, a garage band recording uploaded to YouTube, since it is not copyrighted, may be downloaded legally (as long as the songs/sounds being made are original to the creators). However, copyrighted material is protected under the US Copyright Law, which gives owners of copyrighted music the following rights:
“(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.”
The repercussions for breaking such a law, according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), are:
- Up to five years in jail
- Fines and charges of up to $150,000 per file
- In addition to any other charges, the copyright holder can file a lawsuit again you. That can result in legal fees and obligations to pay legal damages.
The decision made in this lawsuit against YouTube MP3 will help settle the age old argument of whether or not music downloaders are legal, and may play a hand in the future of music sales. If the downloaders are deemed legal, illegal music downloads/copyright infringement will remain easily accessible to the public, which will continue to cause a shift in the way artists and labels earn their money. Musicians will have to continue to adjust to an industry in which music sales alone are not a substantial source of income. This era has already begun, and this future verdict will determine where this issue will go next.