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Audio & video software forum: 5/6/05 What's safe and legal to download using a file-sharing program?

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) May 5, 2005 4:24 AM PDT

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5/6/05 What's safe and legal to download using a file-sharing program?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 5/5/05 4:24 AM

Thanks to all of you who contributed to this past week's Q&A topic.
Gretchen, I hope this week's members' advice give you some direction to your concerns. Whatever your decisions may be, please take extreme cautions when downloading programs, we really don't want you to return and have to submit another question on how to get rid virus or spyware contracted using a file sharing program. grin So good luck!

Members, if you have more questions, or additional advice for Gretchen and other members wanting to use a file sharing network, by all means feel free to post them in this thread below. Its all up to you as a community to contribute and learn from one another. So keep on posting.

Thanks everyone and have a great weekend!
-Lee Koo
CNET Community


I'm a new user of Kazaa and am looking for some guidance. Is there any reasonable way to know when I'm downloading a file that it's legal and safe for me to download? I'd love to get some good peer-to-peer stuff, but I don't want to break the law or accidentally download any viruses. Thanks.

Submitted by: Gretchen G.


Since your question really has two parts: legality and security, I will answer them separately.

Simply put, there is no easy way to know for sure that what you are downloading is legal. You would need some way to determine the owner of the copyright and confirm that they have made it available for download. However, you can determine with reasonable certainty a good portion of that which is illegal to download:

1. Virtually all major software (this excludes open-source software such as Linux). With software, you can check the product homepage to find their licensing conditions. Anything by Adobe, Microsoft, Macromedia, and the other big makers is almost certainly not legal.

2. Motion picture releases. Essentially any motion picture backed by a major film studio is the property of the studio, and they're not likely to let it go on a peer to peer network.

3. Music by "known" artists: This is the area with the most uncertainty.
Known artists generally don't want their music on peer to peer networks.
Unknown artists may actually be trying to use the peer to peer network to gain publicity, so it is POSSIBLE that their music is legal, but I would still be wary. If you'd like to download music legally and free, check out's free downloads:

As far as the security of your downloads go, the most important things are the normal mechanisms for securing a computer:

1. Run a well-known anti-virus product and keep its definitions up to date at all times. Scan all files you download immediately.
2. Don't run programs of unknown status.
3. Use a firewall: Windows XP has one built in, and there are a number of other good ones out there.
4. Be careful of what you download and think if it seems reasonable: there are few software programs out there under 100 kilobytes, but plenty of viruses and worms fit the category.

Good luck with your downloads!

Submitted by: David T.

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