This year I (again) had the privilege to watch many of your kids locally graduate from High School and prepare to live the life of freedom! Well, that is unless you count work and going to a place of higher education as freedom. While realizing that – to many high school students – freedom is defined as getting out of the house/away from where they live, the fact of the matter is these folks are about to embark on the experiment of life.
By that, I mean they have been taught at home, church, school and by their friends what it means to be free. And – responsible. At least that is my prayer for them, that they also learned that there are consequences to their choices (both positive and not so positive – it really depends on the choices they make).
This article was brought on by reading the article “New rules bring online piracy fight to US campuses” by Eric Gorski (click here for the article link at Yahoo or click here for a PDF). While I have written about piracy and doing the right thing previously, I’m certain we may not have thought about this from the perspective of what our kids learned from us.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are many cases where our kids haven’t learned ANYTHING from us in this area. Many in my generation have no idea how to share files (music, movies, software, etc.) illegally. In fact, many struggle to get stuff legally (hey, just telling it like it is, no harm intended)! They may have seen us loan out a CD or DVD, but we probably never sent them a bit-torrent or directed them to our limewire share.
Let’s talk about their generation. Sharing (files, movies, music, software, etc.) is a way of life. They have no money – so they couldn’t purchase items others had. In the days of the dinosaur, they would have asked to borrow the item (a 45rpm, LP, Cassette, VHS, etc.). Today, technology gives them the ability to share files with a few clicks of the mouse.
But what about the responsibility that comes with it? I have written about the efforts of various groups (like the RIAA) to enforce copyright laws. I would guess that many that read those letters have strong opinions about that group one way or the other, but the fact remains that ‘sharing’ brings consequences. And the article above shows how far some colleges are going to both educate students and protect themselves from potential loss of finances (from being sued for violations or losing federal funding).
Perhaps now is a good time to honestly look at your habits in the area of sharing files, music, movies and other mediums that could bring undesired consequences into your life. Is taking the risk worth the reward? If you produced software (or music, movies, etc.) and derived your living from that line of business, would you want others (easily millions…) to deprive you of the $$$ you should have earned by folks breaking the rules to obtain your product?
Why not do the right thing in this area. It’s easy to do, just pay for it. Wow…if we did that, we may be forced to not grab everything that is available! True, and you won’t be opening yourself (and your digital life) up to badware, viruses, hacking, trojans, malware, adware, all the headache that comes from cracked ware. And I didn’t even mention lawsuits, judgements, blacklists, IP banning, disciplinary action from your school / employer, and even the loss of your job.
Will doing the right thing diminish your standing among your peers? If the answer is yes, perhaps you need to look around at those you are hanging with! Do the right thing…
My most recent ‘sick’ machine came in to be examined right before the holidays. What a joyous season, one of eating, giving thanks, and looking forward to the birth of The King. This season found a family with a machine that would not boot, the BSOD (blue screen of death), and concerns that something caused this – namely, the download / playing of free games.
I’ve got to confess, I have a free game player here in my home, and some of the adware I find on that machine is annoying. But we haven’t had the machine die because of it. So, with my curiosity meter pegged, I started to troubleshoot.
Once I cleaned up some errors on the hard drive (by removing it, slaving it into my laptop using a nifty device that turns it into a USB accessible device – Sabrent USB-DSC5 Serial ATA or IDE 2.5-/3.5-Inch to USB 2.0 Cable Converter Adapter with Power Supply) the machine would boot into Windows XP. Then, it’s off to update and run some of my favorite free tools that I have touted in an earlier post.
Hello – what’s this? 15 virus alerts, numerous spy, ad and malware alerts. The culprit? A P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing program. Now, before I get to busting on P2P networks, I want you to understand that these are not evil, and actually they are good! Used for specific purposes, they are very necessary and useful. But my guess is the lure of ‘free’ stuff (music, movies, games, etc.) was the use in this instance. And while P2P in itself is not evil or illegal, it often is used for exactly those things that are (making music available for free downloads, games, software, movies, pornography, etc.). And while we’re being honest, we need to be up front in saying that many of the users of these networks may not be the most noble intentioned folks on the planet.
The software that was installed on this computer was Limewire. For a good look at the settings you may want to use if you choose to use this software, review the article LimeWire – More Things You Need to Know (previously titled LimeWire Users – Read This to Avoid Danger) written by Pascal-Denis Lussier. Again, I’m positive the person in the family that used this was not meaning any harm – I believe they wanted some free song or music. But what happens in the P2P world is that you open your machine up for all kinds of information theft and malware attacks.
If I could convince adults to read a single article on this (preferably other than this one), it would be P2P Networking – Kids Know! Do Mom and Dad? by Jerry Ropelato. That is what started me writing this post! Since I have a child, a family, and operate my own computer network at home, I make sure I stay as up to date as possible with changes in the technology and industry. But I also make it a point to talk to my family (and through my readers here) about issues. P2P is one you need to have awareness of. Why?
It does not take someone much time or effort to put in spurious code into a file that could reek havoc on your computer or the network it is on. My standard preaching in this area is have a virus protection software package installed on your computer and keep it updated with the current definition files. New viruses are created and unleashed every day – don’t neglect this important aspect of computing, no matter what your platform is.
Once you have the software installed, use it! If you have downloaded something using a P2P program, take the time to go to the downloaded file and scan it with your virus program – don’t assume that this was done automagically!
Malware / Spyware / Adware
While you may think you’re getting something for nothing, more often than not you are getting more than you bargained for. Many of the files shared have been altered to give you gifts that keep on giving! Is it really worth all the extra gifts?
Immoral / Illegal use
Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Is it worth breaking the law to get that song / movie you don’t have? If that song / movie is so important, don’t you think supporting the group or people that took the time to write, act, sing, produce it is the right thing to do? Why not purchase it instead?
You see – times have changed. I’m old enough to remember when ‘those magazines’ were behind the counter of the local store and wrapped in a brown wrapper. Now, those same images are very accessible on the web. And if that is your cup of tea, more than likely you know that you can find much more than still images using any P2P network. The same goes with music – we’ve moved on from the days of purchasing a 45rpm for singles or 33-1/3rmp for the full album! Why should I pay for this when I can get it for free? After all, all my friends are doing it…
If It’s Free, It’s For ME!
I’m not going to give you a story of starving artists, because many are living quite comfortably. But doing the wrong thing is not right – so no excuses allowed. If you find the software useful (in the shareware world), pay for it. If you like the song, pay for it. It’s simple! But trying to find other ways to get these items can (and often does) lead to troubles for your machine. Read the EULA of the software, realize the FBI Warning Screen before movies is there for a reason, and recording artists have copyright warnings on what they produce for a good reason (see this 2005 article on Kazza).
To conclude, this article is just food for thought. The family member that I’ve written about is not fictional, and the machine issues they experienced were real. And I’m certain they had no ill intentions, just wanted some tunes. But there was a price to pay. And I can’t tell you (or them) the extent of potential risk they were at or what files may have been accessed due to the use of this P2P software. The issue is the users on the network of file sharing, not file sharing itself. And that should give all of us enough to think about – who do you want rootin’ around in your computer files?
Have other insight or comments? Feel free to leave them here, and thanks for reading.