A Fundamental Guide to Music Sharing for Today’s Parents

download-35When was the last time one of your kids (or you, for that matter), bought a music CD? A month ago, six months ago, a couple years ago? Over the past couple of years, more and more of us are turning to digital music and away from CDs – a trend led by our youth. W

While the digital trend in music is definitely a convenient one, it can be tricky one for today’s parents to keep up with to make sure our kids aren’t doing anything illegal (does Limewire mean anything to you?).

The Good

Social media sites and paid-for music services like Itunes and Rhapsody are the safest options when it comes to sharing music online.

Sites like Imeem, Ilike, and Pandora are social networking sites (like Myspace) that allow users to upload music, create playlists, and interact with others in a music-centric setting. It’s free to sign-up and listen to other people’s playlists or uploaded music tracks – so as long as your teen is uploading and sharing music that’s paid for, they’re safe.

Pay services like Itunes and Rhapsody (and general merchandise sites like Walmart.com and Amazon.com and others) sell downloadable tracks of almost every conceivable musical artist. With these options you’re paying for your music, so everything is legit and the feds won’t come knocking on your door for copyright infringement.

The Bad

Peer-to-peer (p2p) allows connected users to share files (including mp3 music files) via the internet. Software applications like Kazaa, Limewire, and Ares (among several others) handle the communication among the various “peers” on the network.

For example, if you download and install Limewire (the basic version is free), you connect to the Limewire “network” where you can search for and download files (often copyright protected music files) from other “peers” on the Limewire network.

Several different technologies and protocols exist in the peer-to-peer realm (check out Wikipedia for some good bedtime reading material on the topic), but the important thing to realize is that downloading and sharing music files via p2p often violates copyright laws. That being said, p2p music file sharing, particularly Limewire, continues to grow in popularity among teens as one of the main ways of sharing and acquiring new music.

The Ugly

Not only is p2p music sharing illegal, the files you receive through it can contain malware. Files containing malware are disguised as music files – once downloaded, your PC could become infected. Just as bad, Kazaa is known for being stuffed with adware (one of the pesky variations of malware), so you don’t even necessarily need to be doing any file sharing to get an infected PC.

If your home PC contains any of the p2p file sharing applications mentioned in this article, or any other application that you are unfamiliar with, take a few minutes and search the web for some information on it. If you find that you do have a p2p program installed, I’d recommend removing it.

Follow that up by talking with your son or daughter about the dangers of p2p file sharing. The paid music services available really are relatively cheap, and as an added bonus, they’re perfectly legal.

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