About Copyright Notices

Have you received a letter from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) regarding music copyright infringement?  Not sure what it means and what next steps to take?  The following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding these legal notices.  We hope you find this information useful and that it helps you to make an informed decision about what to do next and where to find legal music online.

 

1.    I received a communication that says my Internet account was identified as having been used to illegally copy and/or distribute copyrighted material over the Internet. What does this mean?

Music is protected by copyright. The unauthorized downloading or uploading of music is actionable as copyright infringement, even if not done for profit.  


Illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted music is often accomplished using “peer-to-peer” (P2P) software installed on individual computers, which allows your computer to exchange files with other computers that are running similar software. P2P services usually configure their software so that any files you download (and any other files in your “shared folder”) are automatically made accessible to anyone else on the P2P network that requests them.


When you use such services to download and upload files, you are not anonymous. Whenever you connect to the Internet, your computer is assigned a unique “Internet protocol (IP) address” from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This unique IP address is used to identify your computer as the source of available files to all other computers on a P2P network. The infringement notice you received is the result of your computer having been identified as engaged in an illegal transfer of copyrighted music. A notice was sent to your ISP identifying the particular infringement and the associated IP address. Your ISP determined from its records that the IP address was assigned to your account when the infringement was committed. Your ISP then sent you the infringement notice you received.

Remember, the RIAA does not send copyright infringement notices directly to Internet users. Legitimate notices will only come from a user’s own Internet Service Provider.


2.    What If I didn't realize I was uploading copyrighted files?

If you have P2P software installed on one or more of your computers connected to the Internet, it enables computers with similar P2P software to communicate with each other and transfer files. If you have P2P software on your computer delete it or, if you have a legal reason to use the software, delete any unauthorized files in your "shared folder."


3.    What if my IP address does not match the one listed on the notice?

That doesn’t mean that the notice is mistaken. IP addresses are not permanent; they change from time to time. Your ISP keeps records listing the IP address assigned to your account at any given time. According to your ISP’s records, when the IP address in question was identified illegally downloading and/or distributing the music in question, the IP address was assigned to your account. So, even if your account has a different IP address now, according to your ISP’s records it was assigned the IP address in question when the infringement occurred.


4.    But I bought LimeWire Pro, or paid for another version of my P2P file sharing software?

Paying for your P2P software, or paying for technical support for your P2P software, does not include a license or authorization to download or share any music you desire. In fact the companies that take your money often go out of their way to tell you in the fine print that the software or service you just bought does not authorize the sharing of copyrighted materials and that using it to share copyrighted material could result in the buyer being sued and subjected to substantial damages.  They gladly take your money but make it clear that as far as they are concerned, the buyer will be the one left holding the bag if caught.

However, there are a multitude of legal, affordable and hassle free places where you can find your favorite music in high quality formats. Please click here for a list of a number of legal and safe sites where content is available for downloading.


5.    What do I do now to resolve this?

First, you should look carefully at the notice you received from your ISP. That will tell you whether there are specific ISP - or educational institution – imposed penalties associated with receiving the notice and whether you need to contact your ISP or school administration about this incident.
Additionally, as indicated in the notice, you should immediately take the following steps in order to prevent further infringing activity and to prevent serious legal and other consequences:

  • Discontinue downloading and uploading unauthorized copies of music.
  • Permanently delete from your computer all infringing music from all computers linked to the account (for instructions, see #7). If you downloaded the file from a P2P service or a website that seems too good to be legal, then it’s safer to assume it is not legal.
  • If you do not use P2P software for lawful purposes, delete it.
  • If you use P2P for lawful purposes (to upload or download files that you are legally authorized to reproduce or distribute), make sure the only files in your P2P "shared folder" are ones you are authorized to distribute in this way.
  • Secure your internet connection to ensure it is not being used in ways you have not authorized.  For example, secure your home Wi-Fi network to ensure others are not accessing the Internet through your connection to download or distribute unauthorized copies of music, and use virus and spyware protection software.  Visit the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team website at http://www.us-cert.gov/reading_room/ to obtain information on how to secure your computer in these and other ways.
  • Talk with family members or guests who may have used your Internet connection in ways you are not aware of.


Remember, distributing files illegally puts you at risk for sanctions imposed for violating your ISP's terms of service as well as substantial civil and, in some cases, criminal penalties.


6.    I've heard that P2P services can be risky. How are they risky?

Many P2P services are used overwhelmingly to infringe copyright. P2P services are unlike most websites in that they enable files to be downloaded directly from any computer (“peer”) on the network, rather than from a single, centralized computer “server” or website. With many of these P2P services, when you download a file from another user, your computer automatically becomes a distributor of that file to others. When you use such services to download infringing files, you are not anonymous and you subject yourself to serious potential legal penalties and other sanctions.

In addition, malicious users utilize some P2P networks to spread viruses, worms and Trojan horses (programs enabling hackers to gain control of your computer). Illegal file transfers can also expose your private computer files to strangers, increasing the risk of identity theft. To learn more about these risks, see the U.S. Federal Trade Commission webpage at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt128.shtm.


7.    I want to delete the copies of the unauthorized music on my computer. How do I do this?

If you know the name of the title you are looking for, you can use the “search” function on most computer systems to search for your files by name. If you don’t find a title at first, try searching for one particular word of the title, or by entering the filename indicated on the notice. You may also use this same function to search by file types commonly associated with music (i.e., .mp3, .mp4, .wav, .wma, .aac, and .ogg files). Check your user manual or the “help” feature on your computer to find out how to use this function.


8.    I've never downloaded an illegal music file?  Why did I receive this notice?

If you checked for illegal files and found none, and if you are sure that no one illegally downloaded any music using your computer, then contact the technical support staff at your Internet service provider.


9.    What’s the big deal?

Intellectual property industries - such as music, film, television and computer software - are central to the health and stability of the U.S. economy. For example, in 2010, the core copyright industries contributed $931.8 billion to the U.S. GDP, equal to approximately 6.4% of the U.S. economy.

Who pays when music is stolen? Singers, songwriters, musicians, album producers, audio engineers, sound technicians, recording studio managers, and many others that contribute to creating the music we love, and who depend on a healthy industry for their jobs and their families’ income.    

Music theft also has an enormous impact on music fans around the world. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 albums never break even and fail to recover the costs of making and marketing the album. If music is routinely stolen and distributed over the Internet or on illegal CDs, then it becomes less likely that people will invest in the high quality music we love.

Infringing copyright is against the law and increasingly easy to detect.  These violations can affect your Internet account in accordance with your ISP’s terms of service, and can result in lawsuits against you by copyright owners, and under some circumstances even constitute violations of Federal criminal law.  In short, it’s not worth it.

 

10.       So am I being sued?

No. The notice you received from your ISP about a copyright infringement complaint from us does not mean you are being sued.  It is a warning that we have detected unlawful downloading or distribution from your computer and it is meant to put you on notice that this activity should stop.  If you fail to heed this warning and continue to illegally download and share copyrighted material then you do expose yourself to being sued for damages arising from copyright infringement.

 

11.    Where can I get the music that I want online legally?

Please visit whymusicmatters.com, developed by the RIAA and NARM, the music business association, as a resource for music fans about the many authorized digital music models and services in today’s marketplace.

Today there are some 30 million songs available across more than 60 authorized digital services in the United States, and growing.  We can appreciate that with so many options for accessing music online also come questions about which services are legitimate and what kinds of functionality they offer.  That’s why we developed whymusicmatters.com.

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Your feedback is important to us.  Please email us at ispnoticefaq@riaa.com to let us know if you found this FAQ helpful, and to let us know if you have any additional questions or comments.