The Wired article, Rude Awakening for File Sharers, highlights the common misconceptions that people have over ‘paid’ and ‘legitimate’ software and files.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has demonstrated that the two terms do not necessarily equate with each other, by proceeding to take action against paid subscribers of Kazaa, who are now surprised and confused:
Kazaa has a very pretty, very professional-looking Web page. I paid them a fee and assumed it was a legitimate way to buy music…
But take a look at Kazaa’s end user agreement, and you will see that subscribers are not supposed to use the service for lawsuit-inducing activities:
What You Can’t Do Under This Licence
You agree not to use the Software to:
2.5 Transmit, access or communicate any data that you do not have a right to transmit under any law or under contractual or fiduciary relationships (such as inside information, proprietary and confidential information learned or disclosed as part of employment relationships or under non-disclosure agreements)…
2.6 Transmit, access or communicate any data that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights of any party…
4.1 You are responsible for paying all applicable taxes and other costs you may incur in connection with your use of the Software including but not limited to all hardware and software costs and providing all equipment and software necessary to connect to our web site and to use the Software via the Internet and any royalties or other charges relating to the use of data owned by third parties…
The Kazaa Media Desktop program is a “peer-to-peer” program; this means that it communicates with other peers (other Kazaa Media Desktops or compatible programs). Other users may download files that you have stored in the My Shared Folder and other folders you have selected to be shared. Don’t share files which are confidential, such as financial information, or which you do not have the right to distribute.
Kazaa have, in short, cleverly covered their tracks by transferring the liabilities to their subscribers. And as always, many people do not bother reading user agreements because they are often too lengthy. Besides, companies with user agreements must surely have consulted a lawyer, so their products must be legal too, right?
Also, I have noticed how people differentiate ‘pirated’ and ‘original’ software. The former, as many of us know, is packaged in a cheap plastic wrapper and can be purchased for several dollars from dodgy street vendors. That is ‘bad’, we know it, and Singapore has hefty fines for companies which use unlicensed copies of software.
However, many people still think it is legitimate to install software that you have purchased a licence for, on multiple computers (home computer, work computer, laptop). Unless the Licence Agreement stipulates otherwise, you aren’t supposed to do that. One licence = one computer.
Naturally, in such a situation, ignorance is bliss. After all, if you don’t know it’s wrong, why should you be liable for your actions?
But for users of Kazaa, reality has set in.