Music fans who want be safe and legal on the internet are today offered a new freely-available software programme that will help them stop their computer being used for illegal file-swapping of copyrighted music and movies.
Digital File Check (DFC) is a simple educational tool that aims to guide computer users, many of whom might be new to the world of online music. DFC helps to show how they, or their families, colleagues and friends, can enjoy music and film legally and responsibly without risking legal action by copyright holders.
Digital File Check (DFC) helps to remove or block of any of the unwanted „file-sharing“ programmes commonly used to distribute copyrighted files illegally. It also allows the user to delete copyrighted music and video files from the „shared folders“ of the computer from where they are commonly swapped illegally on the internet. Finally, it goes through a simple inventory of all music, movie and picture files on the user’s computer.
DFC is an initiative tool aimed at all computer users, as well as organisations. It could be especially useful for parents who want to encourage their children to enjoy music responsibly on the internet. It is free, voluntary and for private use only and does not tip-off any anti-piracy organisations.
Digital File Check can be downloaded here: http://www.ifpi.org/dfc/downloads/dfc.html.
What does Digital File Check do?
You can use Digital File Check to delete or block any or all of the file-sharing programmes Digital File Check finds. If you choose to do that, you will avoid being a conscious or unconscious illegal file-sharer.
If you want to go a step further, you can use Digital File Check to search and delete individual files from the „shared folders“ part of your computer. Keeping any copyrighted material in these folders is likely to be illegal.
Finally, you can just use Digital File Check to find out more information about what files are stored on your computer . Digital File Check will make a list of all the music – legal or illegal – film or image files on your computer- whether you want to do anything about them or not.
How can I distinguish between legal and illegal files in my shared folders?
First, use Digital File Check to check the files in the ‚shared folders‘ section of your computer. The shared folders highlighted are used by the file-sharing software on your computer to distribute music, videos and other files on file-sharing networks, often in huge quantities.
If copyrighted files are sitting in your shared folder, it means they are likely to be available to people far and wide on the internet. They are also likely to have been illegally copied or downloaded.
So, if you have copyrighted music or videos in your shared folders, you are likely to be breaking the law. You may wish to delete these files.
How can I distinguish between legal and illegal files in my other folders?
If you are concerned about whether files in other parts of your computer might be illegal, there is only one sure way to find out – ask the person who downloaded them or put them there?
Digital File Check can easily show you all those files, but working out whether they are illegal or not is not as simple as with the files in your shared folder. It is possible that there will be music and video files that have been downloaded or copied illegally that you will want to delete.
Will Digital File Check find all the file-sharing programmes that have been installed on my computer?
Digital File Check searches for all the most common file-sharing software programmes. You can update the programme manually or automatically – see ‚DFC User Guide‘ in the Help menu.
Why would I want to block rather than delete P2P software?
„Blocking“ means that you restrict access to the file-sharing software to everyone except yourself, by using the DFC password. You may want to do this, for example, if you want to use the file-sharing software in a way that is legal, such as sharing your own photographs or the music you have created. When you ‚block‘ the software, only the holder of the DFC password can unblock it and then access the programme.
Do I risk accidentally deleting files using Digital File Check?
It is unlikely you will delete files by accident. In general, you must actively make a mark against each file you want to delete before you press the delete button.
It should be noted that some file-sharing programmes themselves delete all of the contents of their ‚shared folders‘ when the file-sharing software is uninstalled; this may also occur if you use remove that file-sharing software using Digital File Check.
Are all file-sharing programmes illegal?
The technology itself is not illegal – indeed one day there may be a way to swap files in a way that respects copyright laws. However, several file-sharing networks are alleged to have made huge profits by encouraging systematic copyright infringement.
Networks aside, the vast bulk of file-sharing done on the internet is illegal, because it involves copying and distributing copyrighted material without permission.
Is file-sharing illegal in every country?
File-swapping copyrighted music and videos without permission is illegal throughout the world.
Who is responsible for anything illegal taking place or stored on my computer?
Any person who has engaged in illegal activity on the computer is responsible. If you own the computer or are the named internet account holder, you may also be held responsible even if you are not the one engaged in illegal activity. This is why it is important to know what is happening on your computer.
Are the music and film files I find through Digital File Check legal or illegal?
Digital File Check will show you both legal and illegal files. It won’t automatically delete illegal files, but it will give you basic information to judge for yourself whether files are illegal or not (see ‚How can I distinguish between legal and illegal files‘). It is then up to you to decide whether to delete them or not, if you want to avoid breaking the law.
What does ‚copyrighted‘ mean?
‚Copyrighted‘ music or films just means any songs or movies where copyright or other rights apply. The vast bulk of all music and film files on file-sharing services are copyrighted.
Digital File Check will point you to music and video files in your shared files before anything else. If there are files there which clearly contain copyrighted material, you would be advised to delete them.
Why does copyright matter?
Copyright laws provide incentives for creativity. Copyright exists to protect all kinds of creative expression. It allows people to ‚create‘ and ensure they get paid for the work they do.
Could some of the files in my ‚shared folders‘ be legal?
Yes it’s possible, if they are not copyrighted files, or if they are files that you created yourself (for example your own photos). This is also allowed if the copyright owner has permitted you to distribute his works. Otherwise, ‚sharing‘ copyrighted material in this way is illegal.
In any case, you should be aware that any files stored in these shared folders are not private: the file-sharing software on your machine shows the files in your shared folder by default to thousands of other people on the internet.
Are there other ways to tell if a file is downloaded legally or illegally?
There are some pretty strong general indicators on whether a file is legal or illegal. For example, if the file comes from a total stranger via a file-sharing service, it is probably illegal. But a music track which has been bought with a credit card from a commercial internet music service like iTunes, Napster or MSN Music is definitely legal (but note it is not legal to share that track with anyone else unless given permission by the rights holders).
For a comprehensive list of legal sites go to www.pro-music.org.
Why do I need to use Digital File Check to search for the files in my shared folder if I can delete the whole file-sharing programme?
You can use Digital File Check to delete or block any or all the file-sharing programmes Digital File Check finds. If you choose to do that, it will stop you being an illegal file-sharer. But it won’t actually delete the files from your computer – it just stops them from being uploaded to the internet.
If you want to go a step further, you can use Digital File Check to search and delete individual files from your shared folders. Any copyrighted material in these folders is likely to be illegal. The benefit then is that you will not only have avoided illegal file-sharing – you will also have got rid of all the illegal files on your PC.
Finally, you can just use Digital File Check to find out more information about what music, film or video files are stored on your computer – whether you want to do anything about them or not.
If I do copy my CDs on to my computer, am I breaking any law?
The laws vary by country, but you are unlikely to be sued or prosecuted for this kind of personal copying.
You may, however, get sued for ‚sharing‘ copyrighted music around the internet. That is because, even if you’ve bought the music from a record shop or legal digital service, it doesn’t give you the right to ‚share‘ it – i.e. make it available and distribute it to other people.
By looking in the first instance specifically at your shared files, Digital File Check helps you deal with files that are being made available illegally – potentially to millions of people on the internet – whether they were copied from your own CDs or not.
If I download this programme, will anyone be ‚tipped off‘?
No – Digital File Check cannot spy on or police anyone in any way. Use of the programme is entirely private and at your own discretion. No-one will know that you have downloaded the programme or what you have used it for, unless they have access to your personal computer. Digital File Check does not ‚tip off‘ anti piracy groups or law enforcement officials, or report back any information whatsoever regarding the files on your computer.
If I use Digital File Check to help remove illegal copies of files from my computer, does that guarantee I won’t be sued for illegal file-sharing?
The music and film industry do take legal actions against people uploading music illegally on to file-sharing networks. There have been plenty of warnings and information campaigns about this, and the main targets are the large-scale file-sharers who are distributing hundreds of files or more.
If you find and remove any unauthorised files in your shared folder using Digital File Check, you will obviously be much less likely to face potential legal action.
Are the ‚shared folders‘ for file-sharing the same ‚shared files and folders‘ which are installed on the operating system of my computer?
No – the shared files and folders that Digital File Check searches are folders which are set up by the file-sharing software itself. These allow music, video and other files in that folder to be shared with millions of other users of the software. These are different from the ‚shared files and folders‘ which are commonly installed in your computer’s operating system which don’t connect you to a file-sharing network.
Will Digital File Check remove the spyware, adware and viruses that sometimes come with file-sharing software?
In many cases it will, but it depends on the file-sharing software’s uninstall routine. If you want to be sure they are gone, you should use one of the publicly-available anti-spyware and anti-virus software tools to sweep your machine and remove them.
However, the spyware, adware and computer viruses you may get from file-sharing software can be very difficult to remove and in extreme cases, to do a thorough job, it may be necessary to erase your computer’s hard drive and re-install your operating system and other software and files. In the event of serious problem, you may need the help of a computer professional.
Will using Digital File Check to remove file-sharing programmes damage my computer?
Using the software to delete file-sharing programmes and media files should not cause any computer function problems. The programme has been extensively tested and subject to quality control. However, as with any computer software programme, glitches are always possible.
De-installing some file-sharing programmes can cause problems which have nothing to do with Digital File Check but everything to do with the file-sharing software itself. You are recommended to back up your important software and data files, which is good practice in any case.
The use of Digital File Check is subject to the license terms and conditions which you reviewed when Digital File Check installed and which you can find under Digital File Check’s Help menu.
For further info. see: http://www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/digital-file-check.html.