How do you know which computer files are legal to share?

Author's Note

As I researched this article, I kept thinking about how much the music industry has changed in the past 25 years -- not only for artists and record companies, but for music fans and consumers. Back in the day, it was the ultimate compliment if a friend or new romantic interest made you a mix tape filled with new music they wanted you to hear. I can't even count how many new artists I learned about through these homemade compilations, or how many dollars I spent buying their albums because I loved the song or two I had just heard for the first time. Today, I'm more likely to discover new music through Pandora than anywhere else, and I have really conflicted feelings about the lawsuits over illegal file sharing. I still pay for any music I download, maybe because I've known a lot of talented and starving musicians, and I believe that illegal file sharing takes money from their pockets. But it's the recording companies -- not necessarily the artists themselves -- who profit most from huge legal settlements and jury awards. Meanwhile, the example-making damages sought and the never-ending court appeals tell me that when it comes to finding a balance between the rights of artists and the interests of music fans, our copyright laws haven't yet caught up with our technology. What will the next 25 years bring? It will be fascinating to find out.

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More Great Links


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