Consumer Alert: Illegal music downloads

(National-NBC) October 4, 2006 - The music industry has dramatically changed from the days of picking up your favorite record or CD at the local store. New ways to download, collect and play your favorite music have opened up a whole new world of promise and problems.

In less than ten years, portable MP3 players have gone from novelty to music lovers' necessity. Paul Carter became one of millions of iPod owners.

Paul installed iTunes on his computer and started buying songs. He also became part of another group, one of thousands of people sued for music piracy.

"The first contact was from Time Warner. They had been, uh, requested to release details of my account," said Paul.

The Recording Industry Association of America had subpoenaed his cable internet provider records to show illegal music downloads to his computer.

The suit alleged he had downloaded 2,495 songs. The fine was $750, for each one.

"I'm angry," says Carter. "I've never done this. I know it's illegal. The only thing I would do is use iTunes, which is a paid for service. I have a very small iPod that only holds 250 songs."

He says the recording industry attorneys offered to settle out of court for a few thousand dollars. Before that, he insisted on documentation which proved quite revealing, "I'm concerned that maybe somebody's tapping into my wireless signal cause it's a pretty strong signal and this is a building with many people in it."

That means his unsecured computer enabled others within signal range to pirate the music and send it elsewhere by remote control.

Paul's wireless signal had been hi-jacked, and after it was brought to the attention of the Recording Industry Association of America, the lawsuit was dropped.

There are several steps you can take to to protect yourself. If you use a wireless connection be sure to encrypt your signal, if you are unsure how to, contact the manufacturer. When creating your passwords use creative passwords with a mix of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers. Be sure to keep your antivirus software updated, and find reputable sites to download music from.

Of course, the best bet is to stick to downloading legal music only.

Posted 2:10pm by Bryce Mursch