Before your teenager heads off to college, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with him about copyright law. In high school, your child undoubtedly learned about plagiarism, which is an academic crime of pretending to be the creator of someone else’s work. The punishment for plagiarism is generally determined by schools, but can be as severe as failure and/or expulsion.
Copyright law is a little different, and the infringement of a copyright can be an offense punishable by heavy fines and legal repercussions. Copyright protects literary works, which your child is surely aware of, but it also protects sound recordings, works of art, musical compositions, computer programs, and architectural works.
So how does a student infringe upon a copyright? For those about to discover the wonder and excitement of living on campus, the quickest and possibly most common way to violate copyright law is to illegally download music, movies, computer games, and other protected works. Peer-to-peer file-sharing programs can be downloaded for free and used to download and share protected works that you would normally have to pay for. Moral implications aside, this is bad behavior for your student to partake in because he can get caught!
While your child may already be using a program to illegally download copyrighted material from the internet at home, the risk of getting caught can be substantially higher on a college campus.
College campuses are often targeted by corporations, such as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, because of the prevalence of copyright infringement taking place there. And depending on the college’s policies, your child could be singled out for his crimes and required to pay heavy fines for illegally downloading or making copies of music, movies, and more.
What’s the best way to avoid getting caught? By not downloading copyright material, of course! Discuss with your child what programs he currently runs on his computer, and how he plans to obtain music, movies, and computer games. A direct, honest discussion can go a long way in helping your child avoid copyright infringement.
As an alternative to illegal downloads, suggest these options:
- Renting movies and computer games from the library
- Listening to music on a live streaming program, such as Pandora or Last.fm
- Pay a monthly fee for a subscription service that allows you to download and share unlimited files, such as Napster
- Watch shows, movies, and more for free on YouTube and Hulu
- Hosting or attending dorm movie nights where students can screen purchased or rented movies with friends
In the end, the decision to avoid illegally downloading copyrighted material is up to your child. But by discussing the repercussions, moral issues, and alternative options, you may be able to help your child make a good decision.
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