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Watch out! – Swap networks on the Internet

2 minutes reading time
11-17 years
© photothek.net

The neighbor told me about it the other day: She found a warning letter in her mailbox saying that she should pay € 3,000 in damages. Allegedly, the family’s Internet connection was used to illegally download a game that is usually only available for purchase in online stores.

Adults, teenagers and even children use the Internet to access music, games or movies. There are many streaming platforms and online stores where you can access a wide range of media for a fee. But the Internet also offers opportunities for those who do not want to pay for them. You exchange files with other users over a network without money.

What are swap meets and how do you recognize them?

File-sharing networks (also known as “filesharing” or “peer-to-peer” systems) are computer programs that allow people to share digital content such as games or music with other users online. To do this, you install a free program on your computer. This is not forbidden for the time being. But downloading games, music or the like that are protected by copyright is not allowed!

Most creative works are protected by copyright. That is, whoever created the work gets to decide what to do with it. If you do not have permission from the copyright owner (or other rights holder) to use a work, you are not allowed to reproduce or download that content.

There are file-sharing networks where it is not clear where the individual content comes from and who has the rights to it. So, before downloading content from file-sharing sites, you should take a close look at them according to the following points. If some of these apply, it is better to leave them alone.

  • The offer is free, although you would have to buy it elsewhere.
  • The technical quality is poor.
  • The operator of the offer is unclear or a dubious address is given.
  • One should download a special download software.
  • There is aggressive advertising on the site.
  • Content is offered that has not yet been officially released, e.g. a movie is not yet shown in theaters.

Dealing with file sharing and warning letters

Do you suspect that your child (secretly) obtains or offers music, games or other content via an illegal file-sharing site. Then you should definitely talk to him about it and explain that this is prohibited. There may even be criminal consequences, such as a warning letter with (sometimes high) fees.

If you have already received such a letter, do not simply respond to it, but do not ignore it either. Contact an attorney or the consumer center in your area for advice. The demands are not always reasonable.

Files from illegal file-sharing networks can also spread malware or viruses. To be on the safe side, you should research and use legal streaming services online together with your child. You can also search for listings that fall under a “Creative Commons” license. This is so-called “free content”, where the author himself grants his work extended rights of use. You can find more information on this at iRights info and Klicksafe, for example.

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