Downloading Music Off the Internet: Copyright and Privacy in Conflict?

18 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2004

See all articles by Megan Richardson

Megan Richardson

University of Melbourne - Law School


Since the development of cheap and simple tape recording technology in the seventies and eighties of the last century, copyright law has struggled to reach a balance between persons wishing to tape copyright material for their own personal use and owners of the copyright material who claim that this is breach of copyright. With the development of peer-to-peer copying on the internet, which allows for the downloading of perfect copies, the issue has become more urgent and more complex. The article follows developments in the battle by music companies in particular to prevent private copying of their copyright material from the internet and the threats to privacy which have resulted. Recently, the companies have targeted individuals who have been involved in frequent copying and sued them for breach of copyright with the aim of publicising the breach of copyright involved in such copying and to deter others. They have hoped that through successful court actions they may be able to convince the public that private copying off the internet is a serious breach of their rights. Two threats to privacy have resulted from the companies' actions. First, they have subpoenaed internet service providers to release information about customers who have used the internet to breach copyright. Secondly, they have sought to publicise cases against those whom they have sued as serious violators in order to shame them and to make the case against private copying. The article discusses the moral and legal arguments for and against these threats to privacy, concluding that compelling internet service providers to provide evidence about the activities of their customers does not infringe privacy rights to a disquieting extent but that using evidence gained by such methods to name and shame offenders may be a misuse of the discovery process.

Keywords: copyright, music, internet, privacy, technology, copyright law, intellectual property

JEL Classification: K1, K11, K19

Suggested Citation

Richardson, Megan, Downloading Music Off the Internet: Copyright and Privacy in Conflict?. Available at SSRN:

Megan Richardson (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics