Many questions have arisen concerning the legality of MP3 files on the Internet. There have been a number of court rulings, and there are many cases still pending on this issue. No doubt, this issue is at the heart of what will emerge as one of the most contested issues surrounding the Internet.
In many ways, MP3 will serve as a testing ground for how the United States courts and other legal entities of the world will respond to and shape their decisions concerning the future of Internet distribution. For now, the outcome is still unclear. However, certain aspects of this contested debate have begun to take shape.
The first question that must be addressed is one that many are still unsure of: “Is MP3 legal?” The answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” MP3 is simply a file format, and the legality of a file format is not in question. MP3 files can be used either legally or illegally. The question is simply one of copyright infringement issues. MP3 merely magnifies the issues because it makes copyright infringement so easy, and because the stakes are so high.
Copyright infringement is a civil offense, punishable by fine. Distributing music to which you do not own the copyright is copyright infringement. Moreover, it’s a criminal offense to copy music illegally and redistribute it for financial gain. You can be imprisoned for this sort of offense.
The bottom line is as follows: if you don’t own the copyright to a piece of music or you are unsure ...