P2P - legal or illegal?

The on going debate about what is legal and what is illegal shows no sign of clarity or agreement.
Two things to think about:
I asked on the NME forums about what was the best p2p for music on a dial up connection. I got quite a few votes for kazaa lite,[the one without the adverts and spyware], and a couple of enthusiastic users of soulseek. I was also told I would 'be arrested', and had one post of an american girl cop, ready to get me. The surprising thing was that my post was allowed at all, when as we know, NME is published by 'the Man'. They have always taken quite a brave stance when it comes to p2p, almost encouraging it. In America, on the other hand, record retailers who would otherwise be cool characters, suddenly turn into slavering anti technical luddites, who expect everyone should 'do the right thing', and never download freely available music tracks for fear of putting the record shops all out of a job. The funny thing is, only deeply unpopular people such as Courtney Love have ever rallied for the support for fair pay for the actual bands and musicians, who have been royally ripped off for the best part of forever, the fatcat labels taking every last penny they are owed before any musician is entitled to their share of the dollars.

The second thing is the recent news from Canada, our colonial cousins, who seem to have a better idea:

Canada deems P2P downloading legal
But uploads aren’t; fees tacked on price of MP3 playersBy John Borland

Updated: 6:04 p.m. ET Dec. 12, 2003
Downloading copyrighted music from peer-to-peer networks is legal in Canada, although uploading files is not, Canadian copyright regulators said in a ruling released Friday.

In the same decision, the Copyright Board of Canada imposed a government fee of as much as $25 on iPod-like MP3 players, putting the devices in the same category as audio tapes and blank CDs. The money collected from levies on "recording mediums" goes into a fund to pay musicians and songwriters for revenues lost from consumers' personal copying. Manufacturers are responsible for paying the fees and often pass the cost on to consumers.

The peer-to-peer component of the decision was prompted by questions from consumer and entertainment groups about ambiguous elements of Canadian law. Previously, most analysts had said uploading was illegal but that downloading for personal use might be allowed.

"As far as computer hard drives are concerned, we say that for the time being, it is still legal," said Claude Majeau, secretary general of the Copyright Board.

The decision is likely to ruffle feathers on many sides, from consumer-electronics sellers worried about declining sales to international entertainment companies worried about the spread of peer-to-peer networks.

Recording industry unhappy
Copyright holder groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America had already been critical of Canada's copyright laws, in large part because the country has not instituted provisions similar to those found in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. One portion of that law makes it illegal to break, or to distribute tools for breaking, digital copy protection mechanisms, such as the technology used to protect DVDs from piracy.

Indeed, a lawyer for the Canadian record industry's trade association said his group still believed downloading was illegal, despite the decision.

"Our position is that under Canadian law downloading is also prohibited," said Richard Pfohl, general counsel for the Canadian Recording Industry Association. "This is the opinion of the Copyright Board, but Canadian courts will decide this issue."

In its decision Friday, the Copyright Board said uploading or distributing copyrighted works online appeared to be prohibited under current Canadian law.

However, the country's copyright law does allow making a copy for personal use and does not address the source of that copy or whether the original has to be an authorized or noninfringing version, the board said.

Under those laws, certain media are designated as appropriate for making personal copies of music, and producers pay a per-unit fee into a pool designed to compensate musicians and songwriters. Most audio tapes and CDs, and now MP3 players, are included in that category. Other mediums, such as DVDs, are not deemed appropriate for personal copying.


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