Legal Action

Downloading copyrighted material is considered piracy and is against the law. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) to sue individuals and owners of networks for acts of music piracy, sometimes with warnings, but most times without. The RIAA matches screen names to actual identities through ISP subpoenas. The RIAA has sued music down-loaders up to $150,000 per song, but the average settlement is about $3,000. Down-loaders who share “substantial” amounts of copyrighted material are the main target for lawsuits.

The subpoenas by the RIAA have become a controversial issue among ISP owners as well as individuals downloading on personal computers. The major case study on this issue is between the RIAA and Verizon Internet Services. The RIAA wanted Verizon to submit the name of a subscriber who was allegedly sharing thousands of files. Verizon refused to identify the subscriber claiming that the provision didn't cover alleged copyright-infringing material that resides on individuals' own computers, it only covers material that resides on an ISP's own computer. For more information on this case, visit

Two Web sites are available to aid music down-loaders in avoiding getting caught:, hosted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and, hosted by a private Web developer. Both sites allow users to search for their user names or Internet protocol addresses. If your name is there, the sites offer advice.

Some advice included in these sites:

-Make sure that you aren't sharing copyrighted material.

-Configure your software so that you are not sharing files.

-Take all potentially copyright-infringing files out of your shared folder.

-Remove all potentially misleading file names, such as Madonna or Usher, that would lead the RIAA to believe you are sharing copyrighted material.

For the full text of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, visit

RIAA v. Verizon

Electronic Frontier Foundation

RIAA's Hit List

Digital Millennium Copyright Act