Copyrighted material: All that can be downloaded is not free

HURLBURT, FIELD, FLA -- Copyright infringement occurs when people use or distribute information without permission from the person or organization who owns the legal rights to the information, according to the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

This includes illegally downloading music.

The Recording Industry Association of America estimates that illegal downloading cost the recording industry $300 million dollars a year.

An Airman assigned to Hurlburt Field, shared he was fined $3,750 dollars for downloading music through a free shareware program.

“No one actually knows anyone who has been fined, none of my friends did before it happened to me,” said the Airman. “That makes people think it can’t happen to them, but it can.”

Although copyright infringement among Airmen at Hurlburt Field has not been a major problem, according to the 16th Special Operations Wing Legal Office, everyone needs to be careful not to violate copyright laws.

“Cutting and pasting is so easy, but more research needs to be done to ensure that the work is not copyrighted,” said Capt. Glen Miller, 16th SOW legal office. “People need to suck it up and spend the money on the CD rather than ‘borrowing’ it and copying a copy for themselves.”

If copyrighted material is needed, it is imperative to get permission in the form of a license from the owner. This is especially important when material is copied on government computers for official use.

Individuals can be criminally prosecuted if infringement is willful and for commercial advantage or private financial gain.” said Captain Miller. “For ordinary cases, infringement can result in the maximum sentence of one year imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000.

In the event a military member finds himself needing copyright infringement advice, the legal office can help. The legal office can provide guidance relating to personal civil matters. If an individual is being sued for copyright infringement, the legal office can provide assistance with research and advice. However, legal assistance attorneys may not represent them in court if the individual is being prosecuted for criminal copyright infringement.

For more information, call the legal office at 884-7821.

(Editor’s note: Capt. Glen Miller contributed to this article.)