|Is downloading copyrighted music tantamount to stealing? Lawrence Lessig, an expert on Internet law from Stanford University's Law School, and Matt Oppenheim, senior vice president of business and legal affairs for the Recording Industry Association of America, answer your questions about this heated debate.|
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued four students on April 3 for allegedly operating music-sharing Web sites, accusing them of enabling large-scale copyright theft. Although the RIAA initially asked for $98 billion in damages, it settled the case on May 1, with the four students paying fines ranging from $12,000 to $17,500.
Marking another victory for the recording industry, a federal judge on April 24 ordered Verizon Communications to reveal the names of two Internet subscribers accused of illegally trading music online. Since that decision, Verizon received subpoenas for information on two more Internet subscribers.
Verizon turned over the names of its four Internet subscribers on June 5 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. rejected the telecom company's request for a stay while it appeals the lower court decision. Verizon plans to appeal that ruling.
Meanwhile, on April 25, a federal judge in Los Angeles delivered a setback to the entertainment industry by dismissing lawsuits against two file-swapping services, Streamcast Networks and Grokster. Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the two services were not liable for copyright violations that may have occurred while people were using their software.
Although the ruling does not legalize the downloading of copyrighted media online, it shields companies that provide peer-to-peer software from liability for the actions of their users.
Does the entertainment industry has the right to prevent the "sharing" and downloading of digital copyrighted media? What methods should it employ to deter, or stop, the downloading?
Is music sharing tantamount to online theft? Or is it the consumer's right to have unfettered access to online materials, including copyrighted media? Should online music, film and other media be available for public use?
Two leading experts representing the two sides of the debate
answer your questions about consumer rights and media copyrights in the digital