MP3 Facts, version 0.1

Despite the demise of Napster, mp3 trading is increasing at a rapid rate. Is mp3 downloading legal or illegal? Is "lending" mp3 files legal or illegal? Is it right or wrong? These are all questions that I will attempt to answer. I am not a lawyer, nor a professional in this field, but I have done research and feel that is necessecary to post this information for all to see on the world wide web. When I say mp3 file, I am refering to any type of downloadable music file, including liquid audio, real audio etc. Before we begin, I must say that I have downloaded and possesed several gigabytes of music which I did not own the copyrights to, which I have all since deleted. This personal experience has taken a part in leading me to these conclusions. The things I write below are not popular. But may I remind you that often what is popular is not right, and what is right is not popular.

Is downloading mp3 files illegal?


Yes, and no. According to copyright law, distribuiting or obtaining a copyrighted work (such as a music file) without the permission of the copy right holder is against the law. This is why the answer was both yes and no. Some music files are copyrighted, some are not. To go one step further, even though some music files are copyrighted, the artists freely give away and provide the songs for download on the internet. So, according to copyright law, here is the breakdown for what is illegal and legal.
Illegal:
  1. Downloading music files which are copyrighted that you do not hold the copyright to. For example, logging on to Audiogalaxy or Napster and downloading the newest song by Matchbox 20 (which is copyrighted like 99% of the music on Audiogalaxy and Kaaza). Once you obtained the work of music on your computer you would be in posession of copyrighted material which you did not pay for, and thus this would be illegal, and you could face prosecution.
  2. The same thing applies for burning compact discs of music that you have not purchased. It is also illegal, and you could face prosecution.

Legal:
  1. Downloading copyrighted songs, which have been made available by the artist for free download. In this case the copyright holder is allowing the free distibution of their work by posting it themselves and controlling the distrobution. For example, logging onto Mp3.com and downloading a song by delirious, a popular group from the UK. They have several songs available, which are all copyrighted, for download. However, to stay in the realm of the legal, you must abide by their usage restrictions on the music, which are usually minimal, such as the music is for your personal use only. By downloading these types of music files, you agree to any restrictions there may be on the music.
  2. Downloading non-copyrighted songs, that are freely available.
  3. Downloading copyrighted music which you "own". For example, I went out and purchased a Bon Jovi compact disc. A few months after I buy the disc, I drop the disc on the ground, and it becomes so scratched it skips when it plays. Since I have already purchased the music, I can get online and download all of the songs which are on that disc, and go ahead and burn a copy for my personal use.

Is "lending" mp3 files illegal?

Yes, if someone else is possessing them without owning them, it is an infringement of copyright law and is illegal.

Can't I let my friend "borrow" a cd of mine via mp3 files?

Yes, you could, but in that case you would not be able to posess either the physical copy of the mp3 files either on your computer or on compact disc. You can let a friend borrow your compact disc, or other form of media, but then in essence they are borrowing the copyright for the music as well. Once you have the music in 2 or more places at the same time, not all being in your posession, you have distribuited the copyrighted music illegally since there is someone other than yourself posessing the music which you have purchased and is currently in your possession.

Is downloading and distributing copyrighted mp3 files right ?

Absolutely not. Romans 13:1-7 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Bottom Line: God has established our government, and we are to OBEY it, less it forces us to turn from God (for example, if the government forced everyone to do something immoral, or bow to an idol, this would be wrong and we could forsake them). Although there are some grey areas in this issue, the Bible is black and white.

Links and references:

Harvard law school: MP3 Copyright protection for music on the move

The Bible


Privacy Policy