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Last week’s column warned about the perils and risks associated with downloading and sharing files on the Internet. Apparently, far more education is necessary, as a recent study reveals that the majority of Internet users, a striking 67 percent, who download music online do not care whether the music they have downloaded is copyrighted. The same is true with respect to Internet users who share files online, such as music or video, as 65 percent of them do not care whether the files they share are copyrighted. Based on recent legal developments, it would be prudent for these people to start caring. THE RESULTS According to the results of a recent study conducted in the United States by the Pew Internet & American Life Project from March through May of this year, 35 million adults download music online and 26 million adults share files online. Stunningly, as mentioned, 67 percent in the former category do not care whether the musical works they download are copyrighted, and 65 percent in the latter category feel the same way about the files they share online. Young adults are the least likely to worry about the copyrights of files they share, as an amazing 82 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 years-old do not care about the copyright status of those files. Likewise, students generally are not concerned about copyrights, as 80 percent of full-time adult students and 75 percent of part-time adult students do not care whether the files they share are copyrighted. The study shows that people with lower levels of education tend to have less concern about copyrights for files they share. Yet, even 56 percent of adults with a college degree still are not concerned about copyrights. While parents seem to care more about copyrights than non-parents, 57 percent of the former and 71 percent of the latter do not express concern about copyrights. PAY ATTENTION, PEOPLE! The days of unauthorized downloading and sharing online of copyrighted works of others are coming to an end, and those people who continue to ignore copyright protections could find themselves in legal trouble in the not too distant future. For example, earlier this year, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) won an important case against Verizon, the result being that Verizon was forced to release the names of subscribers who were suspected of copyright infringement. This result was upheld on appeal, and has provided momentum for the recording industry and other copyright holders to initiate lawsuits against individuals who are alleged to be guilty of copyright infringement. Furthermore, as of several weeks ago, the RIAA has issued almost 1,000 subpoenas requesting information from various Internet service providers so that they could identify and contact customers who may be infringing on copyrights. In addition, proposed legislation has been introduced in Congress designed to curb online copyright infringement. One such piece of proposed legislation, the Author, Consumer, and Computer Owner Protection and Security Act (H.R. 2752), proposed by John Conyers, D-Mich, and Howard Berman, D-Cal, would impose criminal penalties of up to five years in prison for online copyright infringement. It also contemplates $15 million in funding to the Department of Justice to beef up enforcement of domestic and international copyright laws. Plainly, this is serious stuff. So when it comes to downloading or sharing copyrighted works online without authorization, Internet users may be forced to care, and they will care a lot if they are on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris ( www.duanemorris.com), where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology disputes. Mr. Sinrod’s Web site is www.sinrodlaw.com, and he can be reached at [email protected] . To receive a weekly e-mail link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please send an e-mail with the word Subscribe in the subject line to [email protected] .

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