Legal Ramifications:

 "Federal law provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, rental or digital transmission of copyrighted sound recordings. (Title 17, United States Code, Sections 501 and 506). The FBI investigates allegations of criminal copyright infringement and violators will be prosecuted."

What the Courts Have to Say

For all the public confusion, a long series of court rulings has made it very clear that it’s against the law both to upload and download copyrighted music without permission.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with sound recordings, pictures, software or written text. The courts have consistently ruled that P2P and other unauthorized uploading and downloading inherently amount to copyright infringement and therefore constitute a crime.

Facts One Should Know

-The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) can sue for as much as $150,000 per song illegally downloaded.

-Almost 2000 individuals have been sued by the RIAA for illegally downloading as  of March, 2004.

-More than 400 individuals have settled, paying fines averaging $3000.

-The Department of Justice recently announced the creation of the Intellectual Property Task Force, which examines all aspects of how the Department of Justice handles intellectual property issues.

-Criminal penalties for first-time offenders can be as high as five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

-Civil penalties can run into many thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees. The minimum penalty is $750 per song.

-Criminal penalties can run up to 5 years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines, even if you didn’t do it for monetary or financial or commercial gain.

-If you did expect something in return, even if it just involves swapping your files for someone else’s, as in MP3 trading, you can be sentenced to as much as 5 years in prison.

-Regardless of whether you expected to profit, you’re still liable in civil court for damages and lost profits of the copyright holder.

-The copyright holders can sue you for up to $150,000 in statutory damages for each of their copyrighted works that you illegally copy or distribute.