Harry L'École des Réseaux Sociaux
  • Illegal downloading (also known as piracy) is when a user downloads a copy of paid content for free without permission from the owner. This includes music, TV shows, movies, video games, audiobooks, ebooks and sports broadcasts.
  • Streaming paid content for free (by watching it on a video sharing site) is often not considered to be illegal downloading by an individual (as the content has not been downloaded) but the site hosting the content would have infringed copyright. While not often considered illegal for an individual, streaming movies or music for free instead of renting/buying them raises moral questions.
  • Most illegal downloading relies on peer to peer (P2P) networks. Using these networks requires a user to install a piece of software on their device to allow them to share and download files. These networks allow users to download a file while also uploading the parts of the file they already have at the same; this allows for very quick downloads of large files and rapid sharing of a file among many users and devices.
  • Using P2P networks can introduce security risks. Some files shared on these networks may be labelled as a music album or movie but actually contain malware such as viruses, trojans and ransomware. Downloading the file also downloads the malware to a device, which can lead to a device malfunctioning or to theft of personal data stored on the device.
  • Using P2P networks can also lead to safety risks or other illegal activity. Groups of child abusers have been known to use thesenetworks to disseminate illegal child abuse imagery. Images can be encrypted and hidden inside other files, often popular music tracks or movies. These images can then be distributed across the network without being detected and be decrypted by those who are aware. Distribution and possession of child abuse imagery is illegal.
  • There have been cases of the entertainment industry pursuing individuals for illegal downloading and copyright infringement. Although rare, if a record label pursued an individual through the justice system, that individual could be found liable and face financial penalties. These cases have typically been brought against those who seek to use copyrighted content to make money (either by selling it or hosting it for free on websites/services where they may make money through displaying adverts or collecting data).
  • Remind your students that although lots of content is offered for free online, some content has to be paid for. Explain that downloading paid content for free (without permission from the creator) is considered illegal downloading.
  • Discuss with your students the possible consequences if creators don’t receive any revenue for the content they have worked hard to create. A lack of money might stop them from making more content in the future. Movies, TV shows, music and video games are created by teams of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people whose jobs could be under threat if the content they make is illegally downloaded. Discuss with students how they might feel if they were in that position.
  • Explain to your students that offering copyrighted content for others to download is illegal and is treated more seriously if it is done in a way that makes money. Some social networks and video sharing services will automatically take down copyrighted content to prevent this happening, or allow the content to remain if the original creator can monetise it through displaying adverts.
  • Although streaming paid content for free is unlikely to be considered lawbreaking by a person watching the stream, it is an important area to consider and discuss with your students. Some may have strong views on this subject but it is important to remind them that choosing to stream paid content for free will encourage people to continue to illegally stream others’ creative content.
  • Encourage your students to always use official app stores and websites to buy, rent or download digital content. Using official stores means it is more likely that the download is legal, that the content owner is paid for their work and that the app is also free from malware or other illegal content.
  • Discuss with your students the pressure they may receive from peers to use illegal downloading sites/services. Talk about how they can say ‘no’ or even persuade their friends to use legal services. It can also be useful to discuss the reasons why people choose to illegally download content.