I love getting these sorts of e-mails:
I have a 9-year-old who is utterly hell-bent on defining himself as a "Super Mega Nerd," and naturally, I am attempting to integrate digital rights and ethics into his brain now, rather than in a few years when the FBI comes knocking at the door.
Here's my problem --
Specifically video game music, and various niche-market televisions themes.
Some video game studios release accompanying soundtracks, but usually for very high budget games, such as the Halo trilogy, Gears of War, etc. Some TV shows release soundtracks, or the occasional single MP3 or ringtone.
What do you do about the games/shows that do not?
Case in point: Microsoft's MechAssault 2. He owns the Papa Roach album with the theme song, "Getting Away with Murder," but wants additional music from the game.
Second case: He wants the Torchwood theme as a ringtone on his phone, but it is available only in the UK as a 3£ download, as a direct download to your phone to prove you are only in the UK.
My issue isn't in cost -- it is in availability. He is having trouble with the idea that he cannot simply rip the files because it isn't ethical despite the fact that an "official" version is not available.
This is an interesting question. First, let me tell you that I am not a lawyer so any advice I give should be verified. Maybe twice.
I posed this question to my 22-year-old son who is not a lawyer either, but who is a video game fan and works in a large video game retail store. This was his reply:
As for the game music, if you already own the game you already own the game soundtrack. Therefore if you download ripped files on your computer it's just fine. This is the legal loophole a lot of websites use to get away with emulators, roms, and other files. Like this one called Kingdom Hearts Insider. http://downloads.khinsider.com/ They have virtually every game soundtrack known to man.
As for the TV shows and foreign music, they sell imported albums on Amazon and Ebay. I'm not sure of any other sites or the legal/ethical issues behind downloading these.
OK, that’s a Net Genner's view (who is thoughtful and knowledgeable). Here is my take:
In general, when it comes to intellectual property, a difficult concept for most people, especially younger ones, is that the creator does have the right to control the use of his product. He does not have an obligation to sell it or make it available for use if he chooses not to. If I make a chair and even let you look at my chair, there is nothing that requires me sell you my chair, a copy of my chair or the design plans for my chair. I can legally stop you from making a copy of my chair if the design has been copyright/trademark protected, I believe.
As far as I am concerned, if the music is not on the owned game disk itself or available commercially, acquiring and using it would be illegal and certainly unethical. And we can’t always get what we want. (Hey, that would make a great song lyric!) Not a bad lesson to learn at an early age.
I have no idea if converting a legally owned mp3 file to a ringtone is legal or not. But I am guess not, since it is changing format. I hope there are other Blue Skunk readers more knowledgeable than I about this issue.
Having said that, we need some perspective here as well. As a boy, on more than one occasion I stole apples and watermelons from neighboring farmers. Obviously illegal, but in the view of most rational people, more in the realm of mischief and youthful indiscretion than a grand theft punishable by a stint in juvie. Now had I stolen cars or television sets, the nature of the crime would have different – at least in my view. Where one draws the line as to what is serious and what is mischievous varies by individual. Dollar amounts do figure in, I believe, when it comes to determining legally the degree of a crime.
As a parent, I tended to turn a blind eye to the personal use of music of dubious provenance by my son. I did draw the line at having any computer in my house used as site whereby others could obtain illegal music via a peer-to-peer network.
Readers? A better response for this conscientious mom?