My kids really want to download music from peer-to-peer services, but I've heard this is a really bad idea. What should I do?
You’re right that it is a bad idea. Using peer-to-peer (P2P) networks for file-sharing can potentially expose your children to all kinds of problems such as cyber crime, child predators, as well as civil and criminal penalties.
Downloading music is dangerous for your computer and your kids. Cyber-criminals are increasingly scouring P2P networks for personal information, opening your children up to the risk of identity theft as well as child predators.
P2P networks also run on many servers at once, increasing the distribution of virus and malware-infected files. Meanwhile, encrypted P2P technology is designed to bypass the firewalls that normally block these computer threats.
Illegal downloading from file-sharing sites can also expose your children to civil and criminal prosecution. The U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) says copying copyrighted music other than for your own use is illegal, punishable by up to three years in prison and $250,000 in fines. It's legal for you to purchase a CD and download it to MP3 files for your own use, but uploading or downloading these via P2P networks is a breach of the law.
In addition, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has won millions of dollars in civil settlements from students and others for copyright infringement over the past few years.
There are some legal and low-cost alternatives, like iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, Napster, and other websites where you can buy music online. For as little as $5 per month, some of these sites let your kids listen to all the music they can handle, while keeping them (and your computer) safe from malware, predators, prosecutors and attorneys.
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