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Are Free File Download Services Really Safe

by: Drew Straub

On Monday June 27, 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that Grokster and Streamsoft, two free file download services, were operating illegally because they were allegedly encouraging illegal downloads of copyrighted material.

Encouraging it...that was what the Supreme Court said. These were free services that were encouraging illegal activity.

Would this have happened if they had had paying customers? In other words, would a paid file download service be better than a free download service?

I think so, and here's my reasoning why...

If you consider that every dollar paid is like a vote, then it becomes clear the paid file downloading services are much more accountable than free file downloading services.

If you follow my metaphor so far, then you may see how a paid file download service is like an elected official, and a free file download service is like a dictator.

Here's how they differ:

  1. If an elected official doesn't get enough votes, the elected official doesn't get re-elected and is "out of there".
  2. A dictator doesn't care about votes. A dictator does whatever they want. And, if you get hurt by what they do.... well, it's YOUR problem.

Basically, it's all about accountability.

A legitimate business has to make money to survive. If a business hurts people, customers will stop buying from that business and go elsewhere. And, if people stop buying from that business, then that business is "out of there" (just like the elected official which loses votes).

But a free file sharing service can "do what it wants", just like a dictator, and if they even go to the level of encouraging you to do things that are illegal, even lying to you by telling you that it's perfectly legal... well it's no skin off their nose. It's your problem!

Or so they thought...up to now.

For the first time, the Supreme Court has made these shady liars legally responsible for their bad behavior.

They got away with it in the past by "advising" people to do things that were potentially illegal. They rationalized it by saying "Hey, we aren't the ones actually doing it, so we shouldn't be held responsible."

But the Supreme Court has finally cleared this up. They are responsible, and can now be sued for their actions. Even if they did it for "FREE".

"FREE"... that was the draw that got so many innocent kids downloading songs, videos, movies, games, etc. illegally without knowing it. The "FREE" file downloading services were just exploiting these kids' ignorance.

Paid download services can't afford this kind of behavior. They look at this as a business. If they start getting their customers in trouble, word gets around pretty fast on the internet, and their business will become toast!

Think of this like NetFlix, who doesn't sell download services, but sends out CDs and DVDs through the mail. What would happen to them if they "encouraged" purchasing illegally copied movies or music from them? Yeah you got it... toast!

But the "FREE" file sharing services that are encouraging kids to do this thought they could get away with this indefinitely because "they weren't making any money off of it, and after all, they weren't the actual people doing the downloading."

Nice legal trickery... good thing it won't work anymore!

So... the question still begging to be asked is:

"Are paid file download services better than free file download services?"

I'll let you take it from here... ;^)

 

 
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